The Calling

I find myself in this place of awe and wonder. I wholeheartedly believe that education/teaching is a calling. While many can teach or are in education, not all have been called and anointed to do it. I ran away from the calling for years before I accepted it in 2015. I grew frustrated at what I believed to be the politics in education, when in reality it was warfare that was attached to breaking generational cycles off of the youth. In 2017, I found myself running again. I was done with the classroom; I was mentally drained and exhausted from trying to fight battles that were not mine to fight to begin with. There was this tug on my heart that I needed to be doing anything, anywhere that involved me making an impact in the lives of children.

I thought to myself, well what if I get into the nonprofit sector, maybe that would fill this burning desire and ache in my passion. What if I help other educators see what I see and assist children in bondage? Only to realize, the ‘politics’ are everywhere. Then, I took a step back and realized that I am my most passionate, purposeful, peaceful, and impactful when I teach to empower, teach to cultivate, teach to inspire, and teach to establish/confirm my student’s identity. In the classroom is where it’s never about me, never about status, never about an applaud, but all about God getting the glory. I serve in humility, not desiring anything in return.

I believe that as an educator; God has anointed me to change the lives of my students, shift atmospheres, and be a light in the lives of those that I encounter. He’s given me dreams and visions that align with what he has called me to do, but first I have to stop running. Prior to this pandemic, there was a huge tug on my heart in this area, and I felt like it was pulling me backwards. Only to realize, it’s bringing me full circle. During this pandemic, I stopped running and I started praying. I challenge you to surrender to the call, The Educator’s Call.

Things to Consider for the Upcoming School Year

2019-2020 School yearAt the end of each school year, educators and administrators are either tired or excited; after all, it is closer to summer break, and I’m sure your school year may have been met with both challenges and rewards. However, there are still a few things to consider prior to the first day of the new school year. I encourage school faculty and staff to consider the following:

  1. Your school’s foundation must be established; I know that changes may arise, but if you have a solid foundation then nothing, not even change, can shake the foundation of your school.
  2. Train teachers on relationship-building. Students come first, regardless of what it looks like.
  3. Train teachers and staff on what at-risk means, how to identify at-risk learners, and the factors that impact their learning; remember to provide teachers with strategies to redirect at-risk learners. Some strategies can be found in differentiated instruction, social and emotional development (ie. morning/class meetings as a tool to address concerns or needs of students.)
  4. Be sure that faculty and staff understand a child’s hierarchy of needs and strategies or resources to assist students.
  5. Consider partnerships with mentoring programs or developing an advisory program. This can be beneficial in providing referrals for at-risk youth or apart of a disciplinary infrastructure (positive reinforcement).
  6. Train all staff on Response To Intervention (RTI). RTI is a powerful tool, when used properly, that prevent students from falling into the academic achievement gap.
  7. Create ideas or plans to help get parents involved; parent training and teacher training on the components of parental involvement.
  8. Consider having teacher empowerment professional development sessions. Educators pour out knowledge and patience daily; let us make sure that they are being poured back into.
  9. Develop activities and events to establish a sense of community at your school (ie. dances, cultural events, pep rallies, etc.)

Your Classroom is Your Ministry

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My heart goes out to those people that have this strong desire to be an educator just to teach the content. Unfortunately, teaching is more than just imparting content knowledge into students and going on about your day. You can say, “well that is why schools have counselors and social workers and so forth to help deal with student challenges, there is no place for that in my classroom.” Let me let you in on a little secret; no one knows your students outside of their parents and close relatives better than you. In fact, you may see a side of a child that their own parent may not be aware that exists.

Educators have more responsibility than those outlined in a job description. You see there is so much power in the position that we hold. That power can be a tool or a weapon. It is up to you to decide the way in which you use it. May I submit to you that your classroom is your platform to create a catalyst of change? We cannot choose the students that enter our classroom each year, and our students cannot choose who teaches them. Regardless, we have been assigned to each other.

We each enter the school building with factors that impact the way we teach and for students the way that they learn and even interact with others, which may sometimes be beyond our control. The difference is as professionals and hopefully compassionate adults, we have a greater advantage than the youth we serve. You see, we can control if we bring our emotions in our classroom from the things that are happening in our personal lives, they cannot. This does not mean that you won’t be met with frustrations or challenges; however, your response is dependent on your maturity and knowing that there are people, little people, that you are leading and that are depending on you to be the example and the difference in their lives. You may not want that responsibility, but this is apart of the calling, not the profession. Children are not as mature as you, they have not even encountered and dealt with experiences such as you; so, we cannot expect them to know how to deal with their emotions or feelings in a healthy or positive way.

I’m not asking you to allow student’s outside circumstances to be an excuse to unacceptable behavior or classroom disruptions; I am asking you to get to the root of why they are having unacceptable behavior and why they are disrupting the class. Does this mean you have to be a counselor or a principal? No, it means that you are a compassionate individual seeking to understand an individual, so that you may share your story if similar, provide wisdom, and help them to develop resilience and grit.

Your classroom is your ministry; your words can cause hope or despair. You have the power to plant seeds of positivity, wisdom, love, peace, and hope into a child that may not be experiencing any of those things. You also have the power to plant word curses that can lead to the destruction of their developing identity.

I challenge you to use your authority for good and the betterment of each individual you have been assigned to, even on the days that they make it absolutely impossible to do so. You cannot love everyone the same; you cannot treat or handle everyone the same. Think about the relationships that you have in your own life, do you have the same conversations or share the same dynamics with them all? I doubt that you do. I encourage you to get to know the individual, develop a relationship with them all. Remember, plants do not grow the same day you plant the seed. You may not see the evidence of your pouring, but sooner than later you will see the fruit of your harvest.

Differentiating Instruction to meet the needs of ALL Learners

📚I remember my first year teaching; I would hear the word differentiation or differentiate instruction. I was clueless to what that actually meant; unfortunately, I had no one modeling how to do this or help me understand what it meant.

📚Heads up: No, I did not take the traditional route to teach. My undergraduate degree was in Biology, not education. This is a challenge that many new teachers encounter that choose an alternative teaching route. •

📚Feel free to use the following resource (Bracey Teaching Resource (2)) as a guide to implementing activities that speak to the different learning styles present in your class.
#learningstyles #differentiation #teachingstrategies
#elementaryed #secondaryed #curriculuminstruction

Science Teaching Resources

MENU FILE EDIT BOOKMARKS HISTORY VIEW OPTIONS HELPHave you been searching for more scientific tools to use to help enhance your classroom and engage your students? Have no fear, a few resources are here! Ha! I also added mini descriptions and how I could utilize each resource. Hopefully, you find at least one of these resources helpful. Enjoy 🙂

  1. Environmental Protection Agency

This website is filled with so many valuable teaching and learning resources. I love the section on community service project ideas for environmental project ideas. I have a youth nonprofit organization that has a focus of empowering the youth to be servant leaders, and one we that we implement this focus is by having youth participate in serving and service projects. The volunteer for change ABC guide can be of great use in determining potential service project ideas.

  1. Department of Agriculture:

This site is great for an environmental science teacher, botany teacher, and even a health instructor. I did find a Backyard conservation lesson resource. In one of our 7th-grade science unit, we discuss composting, and this resource had some great composting background information and directions for a sustainable compost bin.

  1. U.S. Geological Survey

This website is great for concepts within earth and space science. One resource I like specifically is the section on plate tectonics for my 8th graders. I like the plate tectonic tennis ball globe project. This section has a complete guide that has multiple activities and explanations that are useful for the teacher and the students.

  1. National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Association

 This website is great for pulling resources related to weather, climate, oceans, and atmosphere. In 8th grade, the students learn to analyze and interpret weather maps; this site has lesson plans and activities that help teach this objective such as the Drawing Conclusions: Weather Map lesson that includes downloadable weather maps.

  1. NASA

The NASA website is amazing, to say the least, and extremely handy when conducting astronomy or space-related research. This was my go-to site when I taught Earth and Space Science. I also use the NASA website for my middle school students when I teach about Manned Space Exploration. Not to mention, the section that is dedicated to Earth Day with the posters made my heart smile. My former students were inspired by these posters that led us to have Earth Day classroom door competitions.

  1. Smithsonian Institute

 I love the ‘For Kids’ section of this website; they have very good interactive games that are engaging and informative. A student can also learn virtually about different concepts. I must say I had a little too much fun play the Disaster Game (natural disasters); I believe this is something that students would like to do and would be a good concept builder while doing a unit on factors impacting the environment.

 

The ABCs of Language Arts

The ABCs of Language ArtsThe amazing thing about completing my Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction is that I get to learn and experience pertinent information for all core courses. My Language Arts Curriculum (1-8) course opened my eyes so much, especially from a cross-curricular perspective. Language Arts is used in every subject. This class challenged me to examine the components that shape language arts and think beyond the science curriculum. Our final exam was to create an ABC book about what we learned and gained from the course.

I was intrigued by the approach my professor took; I wasn’t so thrilled at first because it was time-consuming. However, it caused me to really reflect and acknowledge what this class taught me. This is an awesome idea for a comprehensive exam option for our students. I would recommend it for an honors class (middle school) and high school students.

It includes a term, what it means, why it is important, how and when it can be used, and what language arts component it is apart of.

I encourage you to take a look at this ABC Book and feel free to download it!
Bracey The ABCs of Language Arts

Shaping Science

SCIENCELast semester I took ‘Science Curriculum Grades 1-8’ course. My professor really provoked our thinking and our view of ‘science’. I decided to share some of the guided questions he asked at the beginning of the semester and how my response changed from day one of our course to the last day of our course. Being a Science Educator, I thought I knew what science is and all the components that makeup science. However, this course helped me to shape science. Take a look below:

  1. What is science and how is it different from other content areas?

Original: Science is so broad, and it is so many different things such as the environment, health and wellness, organisms, research, exploration, earth and space, genetics, theories, etc. Science is different from other content areas because it is not limited or cannot be scaled.

Added: Science surrounds us in our everyday activities, science is the products that we use, science is everything in our natural world from the ingredients that make up our toothpaste, to the structure of trees, and the air that we breathe. Science is constantly developing, even when we sleep. Science is our body, genetic makeup, our environment, our bodily functions, our brain, and our natural developments. Science is different from other contents because it helped to create other contents.

  1. What science is not? What is not science?

Original: Science is not just experiments and research.

  1. How do I feel about science and science teaching?

Original: I could not imagine teaching any other subject. I’m naturally curious, creative, a critical thinker, and constantly wanting to explore the world around me, and those things that I cannot see with my physical eyes.  Science gives us the opportunity to tap into the known (research, discoveries, theories, interactions, life, etc.) and the unknown (astronomy, new discoveries, the mind’s limitless abilities, etc.). Science teaching allows educators to engage and empower our student to use their curiosity to think critically, scientifically, all while being engaged and making connections.

Added: This semester has confirmed my original thoughts and feelings about science and science teaching. Science teaching is making concepts visible even when our students cannot hold these concepts in their hands.

  1. What is science teaching? What is not science teaching?

Original: Science teaching is teaching beyond the content to help students make connections, it is introducing students to guide their curiosity and build inquiry skills, it is exposing students to content that they may have wondered about or never know, and it is a matter of building scientific knowledge. Science teaching is not feeding students information for the sake that they need to know certain concepts. Science teaching is not taught from a traditional teaching approach.

Added: After all the concepts that we have been introduced in this course, I have learned that science teaching is a process and there are so many ways that one can teach science effectively and with engagement.  Science teaching is understanding how powerful science tools are to our students when they are taught and explained properly such as argumentation, inquiry, and participation to name a few.

  1. How can I grow as a teacher of science?

Original: I can grow as a teacher of science by learning more about inquiry-based learning/teaching; learning more ways to engage my students; continuing to develop professionally; stepping out of my comfort zone.

Added: This course has truly helped me grow as a teacher of science. Prior to this class, I did not know what the four strands of science learning were. I was teaching content, not really teaching science itself. I now understand scientific explanation, what it means to generate scientific evidence, how to encourage and implement reflecting on scientific knowledge, and what it looks like to participate productively in science. I’m excited to implement so many strategies and wisdom that I have gain in my classroom. I am extremely fascinated by the idea and power of scientific inquiry.

Leading Verbs

Teacher LeadershipThe Seven Verbs of Teacher Leadership by Wendy Pillars article also focuses on teacher-leaders, but it does so using seven verbs that are more so a reflection of leadership characteristics. I would like to focus on the fact that these are all action verbs, each word represents something that we must do and possess that make you an effective person, educator, and leader.

The seven verbs are invite, take risks, grow, act, fail, catalyze, and respect.

Inviting is something that I must do more of; I often do not like to bombard or bother others with helping with tasks, but I must understand that collaborating is not bothering others, more of many minds working together to accomplish a common goal.

Taking risks is not an issue with me, but I usually take calculated risks, so I do not take a risk head-on; I know this can be a good and a bad concept, honestly, I would like to challenge myself to take more risks.

Growing is necessary for all areas of our life, we must constantly be put in situations or environments that foster our growth. We are not getting better if we stay the same. Acting is a must; execution in education is a part of who we are and what we do, and our students cannot risk us not performing to the best of our ability, especially when their education and their success is on the line.

Failing is a part of life, failing and growing work hand and hand. To be successful, you are going to have to take risks, that sometimes may not yield our expectations. This is a characteristic that we must instill in our students, that just because you failed does not mean you did not learn anything or grow, it is only when you stop trying that you have failed.

It is vital to catalyze, always make decisions and create opportunities based on the bigger picture, which is our students, or us; To catalyze you must develop a servant mentality, and understand that what you do is no longer about you. This can sometimes be a challenge when you feel like how you feel, or your ideas are being pushed aside. I am learning that serving is a way of life, and the individual reaps the reward of serving. The last verb is respect.

Respect for yourself, students, administration, and staff will take you places that a lack of respect cannot; it will allow others to see you in a different perspective, students will give you respect, and your administration and staff will give you access to resources and support that can help make your students successful. Respect in education can make or break your teaching experience. These verbs have helped me to reflect on how I use them and areas I can grow.

Interview with an English Language Learner

ellBeing exposed to a new culture and language can be scary, overwhelming, and frustrating; however, it is also beautiful once you begin to embark on the journey. I was honored to interview a beautiful young lady by the name of “O”, who is currently in the seventh grade. Her family is originally from Gambia, Africa; she was born in the United States, but only lived here for two short years, before going back to her mother’s native home. It was not until she came back to the United States at the age of seven did she begin the journey of learning the English language. “O,” said that her mother decided to come back to the U.S. for better education and job opportunities. Her journey of frustration and reflection really showed me a different side of what it means to embark on a new culture and journey.

The Experience

“O” shared her experience(s) on learning how to fluently speak English. We started off discussing how she came to the U.S., and I found that she was born in the U.S. and relocated back to Gambia prior to learning how to speak English. Her story of how she came to learn our language is beyond impressive and remarkable. Her native language is Wolof. Before entering second grade, she told me that she would watch television for days, as she watched different shows she began to mimic the words that she would hear. It was not long before she became frustrated with not being able to understand what these words meant; here is where things get remarkable, this young child, only seven years old was encouraged through her frustrations to learn to speak these words and find out what these words meant. The fact that she allowed herself to really focus and zoom in on finding out what words meant without being told to do so was impressive within itself. She officially began to learn the language on an academic level in second grade through a program called ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages). She spoke of her frustrations in this class; her frustration came from not having any students that spoke her language, and most students spoke Spanish. She said that she grasped words quicker than the other students, and became frustrated when she had to learn at a slower pace. She also did not like the concept of the speaking test, because she speaks fast; when it comes time to her having to do her speaking exams, she becomes shy, which interferes with her testing scores causing her to retake the test. I have not personally experienced this level of shyness, because she is so vibrant and easy going. Once she became comfortable around me, she spoke more. Overall, her most difficult part of the journey has been not getting words right the first time she is introduced to them. I can see why this may be frustrating for her, especially being that she encouraged herself to learn the language simply by looking at television and wanting to understand what was going on in the show(s).

The Culture Shock

            “O” and I spoke briefly about aspects of U.S. society and culture; she stated that there were not many aspects of our culture that was difficult to understand; however, it was her culture and the misconception that we have in the U.S. that was difficult for her to wrap her mind around. She spoke that Gambia, Africa was beautiful, and many of the stereotypes that we see in the media is not a reflection of her country. She mentioned how many media outlets and people have the perception that there is a clear majority of people experiencing homelessness in Gambia or other places in Africa; however, there are more homeless people here than in Gambia.

Conclusion

            As an educator, I got to experience for a short moment what some of my students who are not native in the English language experience, both academically and culturally. I was so amazed at the drive this young child had/has and determination to learn two cultures and languages at such a young age. It is important that we take time to truly understand what goes on in the minds of people who are trying to learn English, but may run in to obstacles; conversations such as the one “O” and I had can help to enhance ELL programs for our students or even make adjustments to meet the needs of our students.

My Cultural Memoir

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A memoir is defined as a narrative composed from personal experience. These personal experiences can create, enhance, promote discovery, or destroy certain aspects of our lives. Often, we go through life allowing certain events, objects, circumstances, or even people to shape our perceptions of who we are and what we will become. We fail to really examine how this can play a vital role in our lives and the lives of others. In this memoir, I viewed several objects while closely examining each and how they relate to me on a personal level, cultural level, and how they have played a part in my perception and my reality. The objects examined were an image of me as a child standing in front of a small Baptist church in my Mississippi hometown, my college degree from an HBCU, and a picture of my former students and me from grades seventh through twelfth. Each of these objects holds a great significance and allowed me to discover cultural values, who I am, and provided me the opportunity to make connections on the expectations I have for myself and classroom.

Discovering Cultural Values

Examining several objects, I have been able to discover some known and unknown information regarding my culture. I noted an image of me as a child standing in front of a small Baptist church; this picture represents my first time being exposed to religion, black struggle, and oppression. I remember growing up hearing the pastor talk about “the struggle,” but he never really addressed anything about prosperity or abundance in general; I also can recall hearing religious rules, references, and condemnation regarding money and other areas of living, but never anything about hope, love, forgiveness, etc. It inflicted more oppression into my mind than anything else, and all, of our maybe fifty to sixty church members, looked like me. At an early age, I believed that because I was black, I would always encounter some struggle or be left behind. This church is where I first developed a perception of what being black in society, well…being black in the south, meant. In the African-American culture, the church is a major deal and a part of our DNA. My reality was being shaped before I had an opportunity to choose for myself.

The next object was my bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University, which is a historically black college and university. Attending this school has been pivotal in my life, circumstances, and beliefs; during my attendance here, I witnessed the beauty of being a minority in a diverse society, black and brown excellence, and I discovered my spirituality and developed a more personal relationship with God. For the first time, I could see minorities from all regions of the world, and not just African-American students, enjoying each other’s presence.  We were learning about our history after not being told our history in high school. We were all working together to achieve greatness and desired more regardless of what walk of life we came from, unlike what was and still portrayed in the media. Attending this school was a surreal experience and culture shock to me. The poverty mindset was broken from my mind after completing my matriculation here.

The last image was a picture of me surrounded by my Latino, Hispanic, Ecuadorian, and African-American students on our last day of school, which was also my last year teaching them. This picture signifies purpose, a fight for social justice, equality in education, and bridging the achievement gap. I gained a new-found respect and love for the Hispanic and Latino culture; I had a genuine opportunity to witness the richness of a culture other than my own daily. For the first time on a secondary educational level, I saw how a diverse group of students interacted and desired to learn more about each other’s life and culture. I witnessed how they helped each other academically and emotionally even amid poverty and violence; with these students, I discovered my purpose, and they realized they wanted more for themselves and their families, not what societal statistics had determined for them.

Discovery My Truth through Life Experiences

Over the course of my life, I have learned who I am, whose I am, and what I am not. With each life experience mentioned prior in this paper, I recognize that I am not a statistic, not average, and I never have to conform to society’s perception of my race, environment, or circumstances, and that my culture is beautiful. Although growing up I saw more people struggle first before thriving in my culture, and the fact remains that even in the struggle, it did not define them as an individual, but instead fueled them to keep working and believing greater exists and is possible. This has created a sense of urgency and importance for me to be a ‘light’ of hope, faith, tenacity, and fearlessness for those around me; it is also important to me to help others discover their identity and be a part of shifting and changing lives and mindsets. As an educator, I believe that it is my responsibility and purpose to build, restore, reach and teach all students beyond the classroom. I value being a servant-leader, humility, love, faith, and tenacity. None of these values happened or developed in me overnight.

Many people in my life including my close friends, peers, mentors, strangers, and students have challenged the weak areas, limitations, and beliefs that I once held; these challenges helped me to see and break free of limitations, become more open-minded, and understand life from a different perspective.

Relocating to a larger and more diverse city and state also allowed me to see more opportunities outside of what I was exposed to, does exists within our society and culture.  I have learned that it is okay to be culturally conscious, but it is also important to be open to learning and understanding the culture of others.

Conclusion

After completing this memoir and discovering my cultural values and how it has shaped my perception, it is evident why I am the student-centered educator I am today, and why I hold very high expectations for my students.

I challenge my students to not focus on their circumstance, rather focus on what they desire for themselves. I expect my students to understand that it is up to them to determine where they go in life, not the media, not their teacher, circumstances, social class, or ethnicity.

I encourage them to acknowledge the gifts that they hold on the inside and expect nothing less than greatness from them. I do not believe in allowing them to stay average, because they are not. I know this has much to do with the way I grew and came into knowing who I am. I also encourage them to seek knowledge, not just be told what to find. I also believe in allowing them to make mistakes and not chastise them for those mistakes, but instead encourage them to try again and redirect when necessary. I think that it is crucial for everyone to develop an open-mind, and be respectful of cultures and beliefs that do not resemble their own. My values have shed light on the issues that exist in social injustice, the beauty in others, and encouraged me to reflect on the difference that we seek. This memoir has given me the opportunity to reflect on my past and present perception and reality consciously.

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