Posted by: jacquelinedennis | July 30, 2016

Before You Start Your Year with PBL… — PBL in SGF

I am of the opinion that we have to know so much more about the content and instruction before beginning PBL. I worry that when curriculum and instruction is not a high expectation out of the administrators hired, then we have the blind leading the blind.

Posted by: jacquelinedennis | July 30, 2016

PBL beginnings

I love project-based learning. This is probably important since it’s part of my job title! As a result, in the last year serving Springfield Public Schools as the PBL Coordinator, I have had the opportunity to witness a lot of amazing teaching and learning taking place. It’s really exciting to watch students becoming super-engaged by the work of […]

via Before You Start Your Year with PBL… — PBL in SGF

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Posted by: jacquelinedennis | September 2, 2012

School Choice???

Recently, I have been hearing a lot of reports of how school choice is expanding across the nation.  I have been hearing on Christian Radio commentators say that they hope the government is listening. The commentator goes on to say that there should be more school choice because it makes such a difference in education. I want to challenge your ideas and thinking about school choice.

I know many people, including myself, have gotten frustrated with the recent outcomes of test scores from the public schools.  I also understand that many have become disillusioned with the lack of morals within the school. So many parents have decided that they should take matters into their own hands and move their children to a school that shares the same morals and values that they want for their family.  What they are leaving many times are children that have had little exposure to church or God’s word.  So, when the family that is involved in the Church and God’s word leaves the public school, who will expose those without a church to God’s Word? Who will expose these children to Christian morals and decisions? Many of you may be thinking, “It is not MY job to teach the love of Christ to other children, I am supposed to show the love of Christ to my own children.”

Now, I ask, what would Jesus do? Would Jesus move his own children away from the threat of bad influences? Would he try to shelter the little ones or would he stand beside them and preach about how we should stand up and make good choices.  Jesus would quietly speak about loving your enemies and turning the other cheek. Scripture tells us that we should go out into the world and make disciples of ALL nations (Matthew 28:19-20) not just the ones who are “like” us. Jesus also confronts the Pharisees when they ask why Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners.  In Matthew 9:10-13,

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus cautions us that there is a lot of work to do, but there are few workers to do it.  Does God want you to stay in your comfort zone and “feel good” or is God calling you and your family to step out and handle the school challenges together?  Wouldn’t you as a parent prepare your children for the unknown challenges ahead if you were there to help guide them in Christian living while they are growing up? Wouldn’t that prepare your children more for times when you are not there?

Now think about the impact you could have not only on your own children, but on the lives of other children as well. In Psalms, chapter 8 verse 2, God tells us that we can create a stronger community if we take time to praise the children. The verse states, “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” So God tells us that if we take care of our children and raise them right, we could spoil the bad intentions that other countries have against us. How could that help the next generation?

One of the prime examples in the Bible of a person that God showed favor was David.  In Psalms, David shows us a little glimpse of the faith that he has in God. This is what David thinks God does for those who work for the needy.  In Psalm 72:12-14, he says, “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. 13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. 14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.

So, now I ask, how could you help God’s children? Not your children, but God’s children? What gifts could you share with the children of your community?  What passion could you share with others? Do you love photography? Can you help bring photography to kids who would not have the opportunity without your help? Do you have a gift with the written word? Can you help some of the kids who have had unique experiences share them with others in their writing? Are you good at debating? Are there schools that need debate clubs?  Are you passionate about good sportsmanship? Could you coach a little league team?  What can you do? How can you leave a mark?  God already expects you to leave a mark on your own child.  That is why he gave you children.  He also expects that you make an impact on the greater community.  Please do not be so quick to move your children away from negative aspects of public school.  Your child will need to work with people of all backgrounds with grace and humility.  You as adults can begin to set the example in the daily life.

Posted by: jacquelinedennis | June 9, 2012

Changes…

Well, I have gotten my dream.  I have always hoped that I could move back home at some point in time. What I didn’t remember is that every dream come true comes with challenges.  Do you remember when the Fairy Godmother tells Cinderella that the spell ends at Midnight?  Well, the clock has struck midnight and I have forgotten the challenges that come from living in the same town as your family.

I have always given a lot of credit to the Tuscaloosa community for raising me.  I think Tuscaloosa as a community does a good job of instilling the desire for service in their citizens.  I can remember multiple times that a school organization was collecting canned goods or other items for the needy.  The churches did it as well.  I now have a sensitive awareness for donating to others because of this instruction.

I was raised in a city where race was not an issue.  As long as you worked hard and tried your best, you would succeed.  So, now as a teacher, I try and instill that belief in my students.  That was something that I received from the Tuscaloosa community more than anyone else.  Neighbors were always encouraging me in team sports, teachers were always encouraging me in academics, and friends were always encouraging me in life.

I am so greatful to be going home.  I hope to instill in the next generation these same wonderful qualities that the city instilled in me.  I hope to re-connect with some of my classmates and help the community understand that little things can make a BIG difference.

These are the things that I need to focus on.  IF I focus on the challenges, I might second-guess the decision to move home.  Having a mother who is so involved with a boyfriend that she no longer welcomes her children into her home.  That is hard.  The thing that I have to remember is that things do change.  Moms change their focus and begin to think of their own happiness and not how they can help their children.  Sad…but God gives us the best example of unconditional love. Everyone else is human.  They will make mistakes.

So, here’s to the changes… the good and the bad.  Tuscaloosa, I have a debt to re-pay and I intend to re-pay it.  Thank you for all that you have done to make me who I am today.

Posted by: jacquelinedennis | March 12, 2012

Living on the Edge

   So, recently I have been noticing something odd at the house across the street from where I work.  The house was on the market for over a year.  Now, there is a black van parked there all the time.  There is some kind of sheet or curtain that separates the front seats from the rest of the van.  I drive to work before 7:00 in the morning and sometimes I don’t leave in the afternoon until after 5:00.  After picking up my child from daycare, I drive past the school after 6:00.  The lights are still on in the van.  There is an extension cord that leads from inside the van to a plug outside the house.    There are always different cars parked in the driveway. They come and go at different times of day.  But, never are there any lights on in the house.  The only activity is around that black van. What keeps that light on in the van, the extension cord?  What goes on in that van that the lights need to stay on that long? Are people living in the van?  I have heard on the news about people using vacant houses as “drug houses” and I wonder is that what is going on at that house.   Who lives that life?  The “drug house” life? Is is the waiter trying to get more hours?  Is it the construction worker who has had his project halted?  Is it the painter who has no houses to paint?  Are some of our parents in that category? 

      When I was 9 months pregnant, my husband lost his job.  It was three weeks before I delivered.  He was out of work for over two years.  We struggled to make ends meet.  So as I think about the struggling economy, I wonder how many families are in our shoes? How many people are wondering if they will have enough money for food until the end of the month?  How many people drive their cars with the fuel light on just hoping that today will be the day that gas prices go down 3 cents a gallon.  What would you be willing to do to make ends meet?

       I was on my way to do some consignment sale shopping the other day and I noticed that I was low on gas.  I stopped at the next QT and filled up my tank with gas.  It wasn’t that hard for me.  I had a credit card.  All I had to do was swipe.  As I finished putting the gas pump into the neck of my gas tank, a scruffy man said, “Excuse me.”  I turned around and there was this pale, unshaven man who said, “Can I borrow a few dollars to drive my friend home to Acworth Due West Road from the hospital?”  He said, “I only have two dollars to my name.  I don’t think that is enough to get us all the way up to Acworth.”

       As I help the man fill up his truck with gas, I found out he is in the fencing business.  He has been out of work for 7 months.  He has talked with all the other fencing companies in the county and the are low on work as well.  He gives me a business card and asks me to pray.  When I tell him that I will pray for him to find work, he says, “No, don’t pray for me.  Pray for my friend, Jack. He has stomach cancer and it doesn’t look too good.  They are living on the edge.  Who else is living on the edge?

Posted by: jacquelinedennis | October 25, 2011

Data Driven?

This year, I serve as an EIP (Early Intervention Program) teacher for half the day and Academic Coach for the other half of the day.  This is the first year that I am serving the whole school as Academic Coach.  I was already having doubts that my tenure as Academic Coach was still effective and each week something happens that confirms that notion.  One of the things that is expected is taking data and using that data to drive instruction.  So, we collect data on reading, writing and math.  Our state mandated Spring testing says that our school is not performing as it should in English Language Arts.  So, we are all trying to find a way to raise the bar in our performance.  One of the things suggested is to have a skill to maintain in English Language Arts. Each grade level would choose a skill or two to work on and track data to see if the instruction is working.  But as with everything, when shared decision-making is involved, there is never total agreement.  I wish I didn’t have to work with the whole school.  I wish I could just work with the teachers who want my help!  I do not want to spend my time having conversations with teachers that administration should be having.  It is not my job to try to convince teachers to get on board with what administration is asking.  So, I tell the team that they should meet with administration to discuss the issue.  I wonder, if they are teaching the standards expected, how do you know whether the students have learned the information if they don’t give some kind of assessment? Oh well, it is my  birthday! So, I’m taking the night off!

Posted by: jacquelinedennis | August 31, 2011

Education…Are we missing the mark?

                  So, I work as an Academic Coach at an elementary school in a suburban area of a large southeastern city.  I have been Academic Coach for three years.  I have started questioning whether this is the right job for me.  I love to work with teachers.  I love to work with students.  However, when people stop listening to you, isn’t it time to leave that particular job?  I’ll give you an example.  So, it is my job to help the school decide which direction we would like to go for staff development.  We have been discussing how we will learn more about the new Common Core standards that will be implemented next year.  However, many people are saying that we need to focus on this year.  But, if looking at the Common Core will raise our awareness of what is expected, why shouldn’t we be looking at it now?  Well, for one thing, there just isn’t enough hours in the day to do ALL the training that is needed.  Second, teachers are becoming so overloaded that they can’t absorb what we are giving them. What do we do?

                     Writing is an area of weakness for our school. We have had instruction on writer’s workshop, but there are some who still choose not to implement it.  What will be their consequences? I don’t know.  I don’t have any.  You would think that if your students are not learning that you would begin to think there was something wrong with the teaching.  But, we blame parents, environment, society.  And yes, those areas do share responsibility.  We can not do our job as teachers without the help of others in our community. But, we are placing blame on a lot of people.  Instead, we should be focusing on what we can do better.

                        This week I have tested three students who are coming into the third grade and can not read.  They have some basic issues like directional confusions.  I know there have been spoken complaints about the special education instruction they were getting.  But, if you are a good teacher, yes, it will take time, but it shouldn’t be that hard for you to do.  Once you realize that this is a problem fix it.  Instead, we spend time and energy fussing about who hasn’t done their job before you got them.  I am happy to teach them.  But, I can’t get to them all.  So, I present information in an effort to help.  But, instead, we just keep complaining about what they are missing instead of focusing on fixing it.  How do we re-focus our attention on the things that we can change?

Posted by: jacquelinedennis | August 11, 2011

Johnny Isakson says NCLB is not to blame

                       A recent investigation found that over 180 teachers in the Atlanta Public school system promoted and facilitated cheating by students or cheating by other colleagues on the Georgia Criterion Referenced Competency Test.  Many people alluded to the fact that the federal law No Child Left Behind was encouraging such behavior.  Johnny Isakson, who helped write the bill that became law said that No Child Left Behind was not to blame for the teachers bad decisions.  On one level, he is right.  No Child Left Behind does not explicitly say that cheating is acceptable.  However, No Child Left Behind has created an environment that is so critical of the teaching profession that teachers would feel that they “needed” to cheat to get the money they deserved.  Teachers emotionally involve themselves in the lives of their students.  They think, and rethink, and rethink how to get children to understand subject matter and concepts necessary to be successful in the school environment.  They see little glimmers of success that no one acknowledges. They move on in their instruction only to have to go back when the child doesn’t move the “learned” material into long-term memory.  So, NCLB comes along and says, “Okay, if your students make a certain percentage, we will reward you.” 

          Many teachers think, “Reward? Yes! Finally, just what we have been needing.  The recognition for all the hard work that we do to try and prepare these students for the challenges of the future.  Okay, what do we need to do?  Tutor?  Okay.  Yes, I would be happy to stay late to help students improve in reading and writing.”  Then the teachers begin to prepare.  They pull guided reading books on five different levels to make sure that all students enjoy and feel comfortable with the reading they are doing.  Why do they teachers have to maintain high interest? Because the society doesn’t encourage them to think that education and reading is fun.  Many students do not see their parents reading books or newspapers.  Instead students see their parents watching things such as reality TV shows such as Big Brother or Jersey Shore.  What does that tell our children?  Students receive the impression that if you make it on TV, you will have everything you need.  Do we see students that have worked hard living in mansions talking about business.  Typically not.  So where do the students get their motivation?  Teachers.  Teachers must help draw comparisons to real-life experiences to historical events where society placed value in totally different things.  Teachers become frustrated because they feel like they are the “only ones” who care about the education of children.  Government officials  only appear to be interested in the bottom line.  It doesn’t matter that the students made a great deal of progress.  If they didn’t get to the percentage, then your instruction isn’t enough.  You, th teacher, will need to do more.  But what?  I will continue this conversation and many other ponderings throughout the year on this blog.  Stay tuned and I hope that I don’t bore you too bad.

Posted by: jacquelinedennis | May 3, 2011

So bin Laden is dead.

        First of all, thank you President Obama for bringing to justice one of the most dangerous men in our world.  Second, thanks to all the men and women that made decisions along the way that brought us closer to catching the guy.  Third, I appreciate the way that the US handled his body and burial with discretion.  No shrines can be erected.  The Intelligence community should give themselves a big thumbs up.  I know you all worked long, tireless hours.  I know that you all will not get the much-needed rest and break that you deserve.  So from this southern scardy-cat to the CIA, thanks for making my life a little more peaceful.

Posted by: jacquelinedennis | March 31, 2011

Hello world!

I am using this blog as a way to journal my thoughts about life, religion, polictics, and profession.  I am disturbed about the direction of our country.  I think we have a lot of politicians that have lost touch with the strugles of normal Americans.  And when you take the time to write, there is no response.  Check out the following article:

http://savannahnow.com/column/2011-03-28/moore-whats-teacher-pay

I think we are in such a hurry to make decisions, that we aren’t doing the research needed to make good decisions.  I hope the aides of the Georgia Legislature catch this!

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