Always Affirming the Person

At the end of September I began to work as ESL teacher of secondary level (in my school this means middle and high school) at a special education school. So far, I love it. I have six groups, mostly multiple grades groups (grade 5, grades 6-7, grade 7, grades 7-8, grades 9-10, grades 11-12). The biggest group has six student. The smallest group has only one student. Most of my students have behavorial special needs, so I must adapt my teaching methods and my disciplinary methods to meet their needs in the classroom. In total, I have 23 students, plus one more on the way (I have not meet him yet, but he will be in my classroom soon and I am already being informed of what needs he will have to be prepared when he arrives).

Although I should call it “special education”, I prefer to aim a “person-centered education.” With “person-centered” I do not mean exactly “individualized”, although sometimes I must individualize my lesson plans due my student’s needs. What I aim is “learning by forming”: teach them ESL through helping them to grow and to learn how become the best person they can be (this is what I mean with person-centered education). I could called it “learning by growing” too. I do have class books to follow, but I have a wide creative range to determine how to apply each lesson. Besides lesson plans, that are mandatory (of course they are, I would never deny their importance) I am designing “growth plans” to promote the best personal growth possible in the classroom. Designing something like this from scratch takes intellectual creativity, patience and time. Right now the only thing I can say is that with a person-centered approach almost all the attention issues and the discipline issues are avoided… but it is very, very important that students understand the importance of being person and of becoming the best persons they can be. That part can be tricky sometimes. Why? Because my students tend to reduce the definition of person to his or her behavior: we are how we behave. If you realize that special education students are constantly being evaluated according to their behavior, you understand their personal formation view perfectly. Teaching them that they are not their behavior and that the person is first and foremost a human being called to grow and be best is crucial to integrate a “growth plan” and to pursue a “person-centered learning” successfully. Right now I am working on that aspect while I keep developing the “growth plan” design. It takes time and resources, but it is worth it because you truly respect your students as persons when, instead of limiting yourself as teacher to give them certain information and skills, you keep looking how to help them to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as the best persons they can be.

Whatever I teach in the classroom, I teach it through affirming the person. It is like positive behavior, but I don’t limit myself to behavior: I affirm the whole person, so let’s call it “positive humanity” or “positive growth”. That means that my respect to the student and the opportunities that they are given to grow won’t change according to their behavior, so they learn they are valued unconditionally as human beings. They may loose privileges, but they won’t never loose “growth opportunities”. The main problem with a behavior-only approach is that the student learns to value himself or herself according to how he or she behaves, and I want them to learn to value themselves as whole human beings called to growth. I am not denying the importance of behavior: I am just integrating it to the whole person.

So far, I only have had one instance when this “growth approach” has not worked to avoid a discipline issue. One. My students have many behavior difficulties due being special education students, so having only one instance when it has not worked can be considered quite a success… but let’s see how it keeps going. I need to observe more and to refine more my methods to make more concrete conclusions. I recognize that the “growth plan objective” (value) it is not always fully reached because the students are unconsciously more focused in the “grade objective” (the lesson plan objective: the one that is graded summatively or formatively)… That is one of several of my current dilemas in the “growth plan” design: how to integrate the “growth approach” to the assessment. Right now, I am not assessing it formally, I am doing it just with observations, because I am not sure how it should be assessed. Should I make it part of the grade? But how they will learn to aim to be the best person they can be outside of the classroom if they do it only for a grade and not for life?

I can resume the difference between a “lesson plan” and a “growth plan” very easily: the lesson plan is what I must teach (the content) and the growth plan is the how I must teach it (how to help them to grow as human beings and to become the best persons they can be with the content I teach). Right now the growth plan has a “growth objective” and four phases: integration, action, realization and projection. As I said, I am designing it yet. So far, the growth plan works wonders as discipline method, although that is not its main aim. It’s main aim is affirming the person. As teacher I truly believe in always affirm the person, but it requires creative space, structure and… sometimes it also requires to skip what the book says we should do, because how the book teaches certain stuff can be truly abstract sometimes. Whatever I teach, I must apply it to the personal formation’s growth of my students, it can’t be abstract. This is impossible if you are required to prepare the students only for a standardized test.

The best part of the “growth plan” is that the teacher doesn’t wait that a student misbehave to give him or her help: you always keep seeking how to offer him help to become the best person he or she can be, no matter what. When the misbehavior occurs, it is addressed too, but the approach is not only disciplinary: is a whole-person growth approach. What this means? First: all students receive support wherever they need it most (this eliminates the view that only those who misbehave need support). Second: as teacher I am not only teacher: I am also a mentor who seeks to help my students to grow as the best person they can be, according to their own view (that is important: a mentor never imposes his or her own view but help others to develop their own view and their own growth choices). The mentor factor is important. A psychologist deals with learning or emotional difficulties only. The person in charge of discipline deals with behavior difficulties only. A mentor helps to grow as the best person the student can be, integrating the whole person, including all the difficulties that the student may have, but not from a difficulty approach, but from a affirming-the-person approach. This is a “positive growth” focus.

I will keep sharing how the “growth plans” adventure keeps going. I am truly grateful of being in a school that gives me as teacher the creative space to develop this kind of approach to deal with discipline methodology and teaching methodology.

Let’s keep growing!















An Immense Joy

Yesterday was my last day of teaching practicum. We danced the weekend song for a last time. After that I had an activity with my students, titled “Celebrating being the best persons we can be.” We discussed why is important to aim being the best persons we can be (we can change our community, our country and the world by being the best persons we can be!) and how we can become the best persons we can be (be brave, be kind, be yourself…). After that I gave them ceramic medals (they made them weeks ago) that celebrated what they do best, according to themselves, so they could learn to recognize the best in everyone. Here are some pictures of the medals they modeled (I painted them and tied the ribbons):

We had “best sleeper” medals, “best dancer” medals, “best scientific” medals, “best artist” medals, “best student” medals, “best loving my mom” medals, “best gymnast” medal, “best at playing” medals… They were the best in many different things! Here are some pictures of them with the medals:

Finally, after I gave all the medals, including one medal of “best English teacher” to my mentor teacher, I gave a gift to my mentor teacher. I modeled a ceramic plate for him, with his name, inspired in the colors and forms of a world map, because that is what he did: opening a new world, a new horizon, for me. I was very thankful for and I wanted the students to know the meaning of that gift. Here is a picture of that ceramic plate (I also made a similar plate for my supervisor professor and for the dean of the Faculty of Education, who was in my final evaluation as student teacher):

This was my last class of my teaching practicum. I will be going on Monday to the school, but classes ended yesterday.

I admit that at the beginning of the teaching practicum I had fears about if I would be able to do this. Being able to teach for me is not only a matter of passing classes and mastering the subject’s material. Being able to teach is also being able to give the best of yourself, giving who you are, what you do, how you grow, what you project… in a concrete way that serves your community. That is not easy at all. As a matter of fact, I had been trying to do that since long years ago, first as philosopher, and after as a theologian. I failed both times. I had all my past failures very clear in my mind. I had very clear in my mind that my learning style is quite exceptional, that I am an intellectual woman (daring to think by your own and with your own cognitive style is always a risky business, but that is especially true if you are a woman), that my reality vision is also quite exceptional (I will write about that tomorrow)… Those are some of the biggest obstacles I faced in my past in order to accomplish learning how to serve my community.

I expected to have many troubles during the teaching practicum. The first trouble I expected were the students themselves: learning how to manage them and adapting to their level of knowledge (in the pre-practicum I needed to adapt A LOT and when I was a religion teacher I had many problems with class management). A second trouble I expected was problems with giving a class following a lesson plan (during the pre-practicum I was totally unable to do that). Another trouble I was expecting was losing things like tests or students’ stuff (I lost a test and some students’ stuff while I was a religion teacher). Other trouble I expected was problems with obeying my mentor teacher (I am not a naturally obedient person). Besides those “expected troubles”, many other things could go unexpectedly wrong, like not get along with my fellow student teachers, not get along with other teachers, methodological discrepancies or simply not being liked by my students. I had been so used of not being able to serve others that I was simply expecting that something, anything, would go wring this time too, and I wouldn’t be able to pass the teaching practicum after I passed all the necessary classes.

Another thing I expected during the teaching practicum was the need of relying in my reasonable accommodation in order to be able to do things as everyone else, as I had done through all my teaching courses.

Well, everything ended way better than I thought. I really did not have any trouble at all. I really enjoyed it and I will miss my students. I did not need to “obey” my mentor teacher: he always gave me creative freedom. Most surprisingly, I did not need to rely on my reasonable accommodations for functioning like anyone else: I had fewer attention problems while giving classes, and everyone use technology, some even more than me, so it was not an exception made only for me. There were no tests, so there was no anxiety neither.

Being able to finally discover a way to serve my community is an immense joy. After so many years discovering what I am not able to do, I had been finally granted the opportunity to discover something that I am able to do creatively and professionally, something in what I can work and give the best I can give, something in what I am not perfect (for example: my pronunciation was corrected by my own students sometimes) but in what I can learn to become better through the years, as I get more experience.

No matter how good I had been told I did this teaching practicum. I am prepared to the possibility of not finding job for August. Things are very hard in Puerto Rico right now, there are a lot of people that have more experience and talent than me. I will start the master’s degree in August and if I don’t find a job in the next two years, I will move to USA. In order of priority, my favorite places to move are Texas, Florida and California, states that are in the south. I do not get along with the snow and temperature changes!

I am very grateful of everything I have learned. I did not only learn to be a good teacher: I also learned to be a better person, to teach human beings, not only students. For me that is very important.

I expect to complete the process of my teaching certification as ESL teacher in July, once I have my teaching certification tests results (they should have arrived already, but they haven’t) and after I come back from a travel to Miami, Mexico and Central America. I also expect to keep serving my community and practicing my teaching skills with some kind of voluntary work while I get a job as ESL teacher.

I am very grateful to God for the opportunity and the blessing of receiving a teaching vocation. As a “memory” of what I lived during these last months, I got the PBL project of my students: ItsHardToBeASentence

Let’s keep growing!

A Very Joyful Time

This week we began to study our last unit: verbs. I planned a lesson plan that is a little bit different from my own usual style: this time I did not use a Power Point presentation to explain the whole lesson or part of it. I choose to not use technology this time in order to create a more kinesthetic learning environment. This lesson plan has more movement and game time and less technology and “screen time”. Here is the lesson plan: Verbs Lesson Plan

I gave them a pre-assessment instrument before beginning the verbs lesson plan. I realized that they know the definition of a verb, but they need help to apply it in a sentence. They also need help understanding what a mental action verb is, and understanding what a verb tense is and how to distinguish them.

For explaining the verb tenses, I went with them to the basketball court of the school. I brought several kind of balls: a basketball ball, a tennis ball and a soccer ball. I wrote several regular verbs in a portable whiteboard: play, kick, dribble, bounce… and explained each tense through asking them to do the action of each verb with the ball they choose. The past tense should be used when the action already happened, the present tense should be using when the action is happening, and the future tense should be used when the action is going to happen. They got it quite fast. I avoided to use irregular verbs because they are not expected to know that yet, but they suggested to practice the verb tenses while using the balls with the verb “throw”. Although it was not in the lesson plan, I needed to explain the definition of irregular verbs and then let them use the verb “throw”. I will ask the definition of irregular verbs as a bonus in the test.

There was another tricky issue while teaching this. My plan was teaching them the simple verb tenses only: the simple past, the simple present and the simple future. However, when I asked them to tell me the verb in “present”, most of the times they told the verb in present progressive, not in simple present. That required to teach the difference between the progressive verb tenses and the simple verb tenses, although that was not planned neither.

On Wednesday I was evaluated by my teaching practicum supervisor professor. I did some minor mistakes, but despite them the class was quite good. I integrated the enduring understanding (why our actions are important), I helped the students to recapitulate what was taught in the previous days, I created a verb spinner for the students, so they could demonstrate that they know how to apply what has been taught while playing with the spinner, and I let them explain me the simple verb tense and how to distinguish each verb tense. The verb spinner thing was so fun for them that the students that were not able to participate due lack of time asked me to let them do it in the next class. The grade of this evaluation was higher than the first one.

I prepared a review handout for the students, for helping them to prepare for next week’s test, and a test announcement, so their parents could know when checking the notebooks that their kids have a test. Here are the image of the review handout and the test announcement:

Verbs Review.jpg

Verbs Review 2

Test Announcement Verbs

I learned some lessons during this week. One of them is that a teacher must be flexible with the schedules, so I should not get frustrated due not being able to follow the “expected schedule” because my class time must be moved of period, or because I finish my class a few minutes late, or because a student required to be given extra time to finish a work, or because I needed more time to complete a document properly. The class calendar is a necessary guide, but it is not written in stone. It must be flexible enough to give everyone the chance to teach and learn properly, but without losing its discipline. Another very important lesson is that students can really surprise you if you give them the chance to show you what they can do better, you just need to give them the opportunity. Other important lesson was learning to offer help only if the student wanted it, because if they don’t want it, they may feel that they are not allowed to do things by their own. I apologized to the student that explained me that he felt I was not letting him to do things by his own when I asked him if he needed help from a classmate. He surprised me with his thought because he usually is a very shy boy. I believe in asking and giving help, but only when it is needed, without interfering with each one’s capacity of independence. Everyone must be allowed to do what is able to do by his or her own. A final lesson was that it is especially important to give some space to exceptional students to do things in their own way, because you may cause a crisis if you try to force them to follow a specific pattern that is unfitted to them. Giving some space doesn’t mean to allow them to not follow the same rules than others. It means letting them to do in their own way what others do with a different method. Everyone is following the same system, but through different methods. I call this “methodological flexibility.”

Fourth grade had a very heart-warming activity for teachers this week. In their math class they made a very particular exercise: they estimated and calculated how much time each teacher spent for teaching them. After calculating those hours, they planned an activity for saying “thank you” to the teachers for all the time dedicated to them. In their activity they offered the teachers, including the student teachers, a hand massage with smelly creams. They also offered us coffee, a cheese-and-fruits healthy snack and a handmade bookmark. They even had nice background music while giving the hand massage! The teachers truly enjoyed and appreciated it.

The “what-do-you-do-best medals” that we did during the ceramics workshop are already fired. I spent some time in the arts workshop painting them with yellow glaze because for me yellow is the color of joy. They should be ready for next week final activity. I can’t believe I am almost saying “good bye” to these kids. All the time spent teaching them had been a very joyful time for me. It had been a gift and a blessing  learning how to helping them to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as the best person they could be and become.

Let’s keep growing!

An Amazing Journey

During this week my third grade class completed the Project Based Learning (PBL) unit plan. Last Wednesday most students of third grade gave an oral presentation about the page they created. They presented themselves, presented their pages, explained why they created their pages the way they did, explained what media they used to create their pages, explained what they would do better in a next time and gave thanks to their classmates for their attention. Most used crayons and color pencils to make their pages. The most common details they said they would do better a next time is writing a bigger text, coloring the background and align the drawing better.

Yesterday we had the read-aloud of the product of the PBL, the e-book, with the third-grade students of the Luis Muñoz Rivera Elementary School, a public school that is just besides the UPR Elementary School. We had a lot of fun learning together! The Arts teacher was kind enough to let me give my class in his classroom. First, we discussed together what is a sentence and how do we usually recognize a sentence. Then I explained the process of creating a “sentence” as a protagonist character for our story: Mr. Sentence. Then I presented the tittle of the e-book: It’s Hard To Be A Sentence! I began to read-aloud the e-book with the help of the students, discussing how we can make Mr. Sentence happy. Through the story we discussed the characteristics of a written sentence, the parts of a complete sentence and the kinds of sentence of sentence. The kids participated actively from the beginning to the end of the read-aloud. After the read-aloud, some students wrote in the whiteboard examples of sentences that would make Mr. Sentence happy. They verified that each example was a complete sentence, they identified which kind of sentence each example was and they corrected the sentence If necessary.  After that they had a time for sharing together a simple snack: gummy worms candy, bananas, Cameos, Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Capri Sun juice, besides the water that is always available at the classroom. I thought they would not eat all the bananas, but they did ate them all, around 25 very big bananas! Actually, they ate everything, as any happy kid would do.

Here are pictures of the read-aloud:

Read-Aloud 1Read-Aloud 2Read-Aloud 3Read-Aloud 4Read-Aloud 5Read-Aloud 6Read-Aloud 7

A few students that were not able to give their oral presentation on Wednesday gave it today. Today the students, all of them, also danced the Weekend song. Here is a video of part of the Weekend song:


We had a few free minutes today in class, so I asked the students to take a photo together for the e-book. They had casual day today, so today was a perfect day for a photo! Here are the pictures we took together:

Besides sharing it with the students of the nearest elementary public school, the final product of this PBL, the e-book, will be shared with the student’s parents also, via email. I am in the process of gathering all the emails.

Now I am preparing to begin the final unit plan: verbs. It will begin on Monday with an effect of instruction instrument: an instrument to measure how much they know about a theme before beginning to discuss it. Those results are compared with the student’s results of the summative assessment, the evaluation after the theme had been discussed in class. I am enjoying so much my teaching practicum that beginning my last unit plan is a true pity to me. This semester had been truly short for me!

As a personal note, I must say that I am discovering that for me teaching is not only can be a professional vocation: it can be also a faith-based vocation. I believe that being able to teach is a gift given by God to serve others a Jesus did. As I had told in other blog posts, I usually do not talk to the students about my faith in order to let them embrace their own preferred beliefs, but even if I do not say nothing about my faith, I am “radiating” it through my personal formation, through my growth and my works. Discovering this way of living my faith, a way that is not ideological at all but “integractive”, based in helping to be, in helping to do, in helping to grow and in helping to radiate every human being unconditionally (as God does), beginning with my students, had been an amazing journey! I thought all this yesterday, while contemplating how the students were participating in the read-aloud and how to help them to understand better what we were discussing (they were having problems to distinguish between an imperative sentence and a declarative sentence because both may end with a period. I helped them to distinguish the content of an imperative sentence and the content of a declarative sentence). Yes, I am able to pray and teach at the same time without the students noticing it! This doesn’t mean I am perfect, I have a lot of things to improve, but that I am choosing to embrace teaching as a faithful service to my students, as Jesus served His disciples through obeying His Father in unity to the Holy Spirit. I am discovering that teaching can be an amazing way to cultivating faith, to live the works of mercy, to form my personal formation as a work of God’s Love and to grow in communion.

Let’s keep growing!

Two Amazing Opportunities

Last week was the school’s English week. The third grade celebrated it with a poetry recital. The ten students who won the place to be in the finals during the try-outs made an outstanding recital of the same poem (The Voice, by Shel Silverstein). The ten students did it great, but a jury composed of three ESL student teachers chose the three students that did it best: two girls (first and third place) and one boy (second place). The first three places won a medal, besides the book I bought for the first three places. The others won a participation ribbon. They did the poetry recital in front of some parents and all their third grade classmates. After the poetry recital, we enjoyed a cookies-and-juice snack together.

Here are some pictures of the poetry recital and a video of the student who won the third place:

In the night between Friday and Saturday third grade had a sleep over night. That night was full of activities! Look at the pictures of the snack tables prepared by their parents, they were amazing!:

The first activity of the night was a living museum (students dressed like some historical people). After that they participated in a play. After the play, they had a music recital with flutes. You can see in these photos how packed was the music classroom were all these activities happened!:

After the music recital they had dinner, and after that I made an activity with them: a ceramics workshop. We created a clay medal to celebrate what we do best. For example: some made a medal with the inscription “best singer”, or “best student”. There were varied medals. At the end, I kept them in ziploc bags in order to prepare them for the clay oven. My ceramic’s professor helped me a lot with the process of designing the workshop and simplifying my ideas. We had a lot of fun, and they learned to apply the superlative “best” (almost all of them got that superlative adjective wrong in the comparative and superlative adjective test because it’s irregular). Here are some pictures of the medals they sculpted in the ceramic’s workshop:

After the ceramics workshop they had a movie night with popcorn included. They chose to see “Lego Movie”. They began to fall asleep during the movie. I stayed awake until 2 am and there were still voices speaking in very low tones at that hour, but they were very few. Almost most of them were already sleeping.

They woke up at 7:00 am (the parents and teachers woke up around 6:00 to help to prepare everything they needed) with soft hits of pillows given by the teachers. They were too tired to fight the teachers back. After they woke up we suddenly became sleeping bag packing experts: the parents (some parents stayed with us, but not all of them, some arrived early in the morning to prepare the breakfast) and teachers needed to pack around 15 sleeping bags (they were 19 students, and most of them brought sleeping bags) as fast as we could to re-organize the classroom. Meanwhile, the students changed clothes and had some hygiene time. After parents, teacher and students finished to do our respective things, the breakfast was ready. We shared everything with a great joy due being together. We all helped to clean and leave everything as it was before the sleep over. The students played a little bit, received some gift bags, and shortly after we all left.

At the beginning of this week the students kept working with their Project Based Learning (PBL) activity. My mentor teacher explained them that his is a good example of team work, because creating this e-book needed the participation of everyone to be a success. Each one created his or her page, and then began working in their tomorrow’s oral presentations. I created a graphic organizer for helping the students to prepare their oral presentations. Here is a picture of the graphic organizer:

Oral Inform Graphic Organizer

The sleeping over and the PBL had been two amazing opportunities for us to experience how to teach and learn with a different approach. I am very grateful for both opportunities!

Let’s keep growing!

It’s Hard To Be A Sentence!

On Friday I prepared a cause and effect summative assessment for my students to conclude that theme. Instead of giving them a test, I gave them an multiple intelligence exercise: writing a cause and effect from the story It’s Hard To Be A Verb!, making a drawing about each one of them and then writing a sentence describing them. Here is an image of the exercise and of the rubric I made to grade the exercise:

Cause and Effect Summative Assessment

Cause And Effect Rubric

For me is very important to do a diverse assessment: to evaluate my students in different ways, not only through tests. For me test should not be more than 50% of the summative assessments. That way I give the students the opportunity to demonstrate his or her learning through different learning styles. I have planned four summative assessments for the time of my teaching practicum: two tests (one about comparative and superlative adjectives, that I already gave, and one about verbs, that will be given during the last week of class), one multiple intelligence exercise (the one I gave yesterday) and one Project Based Learning (PBL) product that they will be creating during these two weeks.

My students of third grade are going to have a sleep over in the school at the end of this week, and I will be with them. I need to have an activity for them, and I thought about a very cool activity. At Saturdays, I have a ceramics class at the University. I have almost completed the two required projects for the class, and I still have one whole bag of clay to use. I have thought to use that bag of clay to give my third-grade students a ceramics workshop during their sleep over. We would be creating clay medals. I have always dreamed about giving a ceramics workshop, I love to teach by modeling things. We would be creating clay medals. For doing this I would need the permission of my ceramics professor, because I would need to review some teaching techniques and he must agree to fire my student’s medals with the University’s clay oven. I asked him this last Saturday about this, showing he a lesson plan for the activity, and he agreed to help me to give a ceramics workshop during the sleepover. I will be modeling the clay medals with the students and he will fire the medals in the University’s clay ovens. I am very happy about giving this workshop!

I am also very happy because today we begin our PBL. I structured it a lot in order to be able to complete that kind of learning method with third graders. Here is the lesson plan of the PBL: It’s Hard To Be a Sentence PBL Lesson Plan

The product of the PBL will be an e-book, we are going to create it together and share it with a read-aloud with third grade students of a public elementary school that is nearby. Today I introduced the PBL with the following Power Point presentation: Its Hard To Be a Sentence! PBL

We also discussed the driving questions of the PBL and designed the e-book story (it must be related with the driving questions) and delineated the PBL schedule. We titled the story “It’s Hard To Be A Sentence!” Here is the story design of the PBL, for a group of 19 students (each student is supposed to design and create one page of the e-book): It_s Hard To Be A Sentence! Story Design

The hardest thing of today’s class for my students was understanding the homework: to bring ideas about “imagining” the sentence as a character. I mean: usually, when we want to visualize a sentence, we write just it, but in this story the sentence is not just written text: it is a character, so it needs to have a concrete image, a body, two eyes, a mouth… They got the idea of “visualizing” the sentence as a character after the third time of explaining it, when I explained it with an example.

Today we were told that on May 3 we are expected to go to the University students’ general assembly, so we should not be teaching in the school that day. I already have a coordinated an activity for my students for that day: the read-aloud of their PBL product (the e-book) to the third-grade students of the nearby elementary public school. Because the activity was already coordinated and it took some effort to choose a day and an hour in which both groups could be together, I was told I could come that day to the school. I had barely come to students’ assemblies, I came to two the last year and I had a lot of anxiety when I was there because I am usually against strikes, and my University campus is very well known for its students’ strikes. I had rarely agreed with doing a student strike, although I had collaborated with food to those students who chose to make a strike because no matter how disagree I could be with that they are human beings and they need food and water. Some people insist we should behave as victims of the powerful, of our limitations, of our lack of resources, of what we can’t do, of all the kinds of crisis that our society faces… I don’t agree with that. I think that we all are always able to keep working and shape ourselves according to what’s inside of us and according to the best person we can be in every circumstance, and by doing so, not by engaging in strikes, we are able to create a better outcome for everyone and for our country. I believe that all my students have the capability to define themselves as person according to who they are meant to be, and my duty as student teacher is not participating in strikes, but to help them to be the best person they can be. This is my opinion. I understand that each student has his or her own approach to strikes and I never have sought to impose to anyone my anti-strike vision. My style of fighting for a better learning community is by investing my class time in affirming the best personal growth possible of those who I am called to serve and teach, not by investing my class time in opposing to someone or something with a strike.

I probably will be going to the students’ assembly as soon as the PBL read-aloud is over. It is important to go, because part of being an University student learning to hear all voices democratically and respectfully, even if you don’t agree with each other.

Let’s keep growing!

A Risky Adventure

These days I had been teaching cause and effect and planning a PBL for the next week. It was supposed to begin today, but the students had been arriving late to my classroom (they have music, physical education or arts before my class) and we lost a class day due another power outage, so I needed extra time to finish the previous lesson plan.

Planning a PBL for third graders is a risky adventure. It needs a lot of structure, and that takes time. I first planned a one week PBL. Due the lost time, I reduced that lesson plan to four days and presented it to my mentor teacher. I still have two more things to cover before classes are over, so I couldn’t extend the PBL more than four days, or so I thought. When my mentor teacher read it, he told me that I could merge one of the next themes into the PBL and extend it to seven days. For him was important to extend the PBL because in the classroom quality is better than quantity. He is right: a seven days PBL is way more better in quality terms. The product of the PBL will be shared with the third grade students of a public school nearby. I want my students to learn to serve others with their learning, and to socialize with kids that are not of their own learning environment.

Today we had the Poetry Recital try outs: all the students recited the poem “The Voice,” by Shel Silverstein, my mentor teacher and I scored them with a rubric and the ten best scores received an invitation for their parents to the Poetry Recital in the library at May 25. The student who got the eleventh best score began to cry when he knew he would not be able to recite the poem in the final Poetry Recital. I talked with my mentor teacher to see if we could squeeze one student more, but my mentor teacher thought that it was better to help that student to learn how to lose. I am a student teacher who still needs to learn a lot about children, so I did what he suggested me. Learning how to lose is a necessary lesson in this life. Some learn it sooner, some learn it later. These are the kind of lessons that are necessary for helping our students to grow as person, not merely helping them to know some skills.

Let’s keep growing!

Growing Opportunities

Today I had plenty growing opportunities. The first thing I did today was completing and correcting the Power Point presentation for tomorrow’s class (it was supposed to be for today’s class, but they came late to class and I used another shorter material), that is aimed to discuss the reading of It’s Hard To Be a Verb! from the cause and effect perspective. This presentation integrates the enduring understanding of the lesson plan: knowing the causes of what we do can help us to change our behavior.

Later I printed, folded and prepared the invitations to our celebration of English Week: the poetry recital of Shel Silverstein’s poem The Voice. Here is an image of the invitation:

PoetryRecitalInvitationEnglish Week Invitation 2

When I went to the library for printing I discovered that the school is having a book fair this week. I love book fairs! I was among the first ones to see the available titles. I went to the classroom to tell my fellow student teachers about the book fair and then I went with them to pick some books. I saved some money last week by eating Chef Boyardee at lunch instead of buying food, so I was able to buy three books for my students: one of National Geographic about famous failures, a graphic novel of Shakespeare and a coloring book about the Dalai Lama. These books will be the prizes for the first three places of the English’s week Poetry Recital. I liked the famous failure’s book so much that I wanted one for myself, but there was only one copy left in the book fair. I ordered it and the librarian will tell me on Wednesday if it is on stock. Here are pictures of the book fair and of the books I bought for my students:




At English class, we first talked about how much we all enjoyed the field day, about what we did on weekend and about the English week. This Wednesday they will have trials for the Poetry Contest (only ten students can participate in the final Poetry Recital) and they need to know it for practicing the poem prior that day. Some of them already know it! I showed them how to recite a poem by reciting myself a poem that I wrote when I was in high school for reciting it in my graduation. The poem is in Spanish, but it works to show how a poem can be recited. The poem is titled Desideratum. I recited it to my students by memory because I still remember how I recited it when I graduated from high school:


Yo creo en mis sueños

Vivo, lucho por ellos.

Cada instante en vuelo

Me remonto alto al cielo.


Ser estrella es mi fin

Siempre seguir, vivir

Proseguir, feliz ir,

Cual el viento existir.


En mi ser tengo fe

Hallo fuerza y poder

Yo digo “lo lograré”

Todo, sé lo podré.


Me Abrazo a Su mano

Y de Él yo me fío

El camino trazado

Recorreré sin desvío.


Sea bueno, sea oscuro,

Será lección, será paso

Cuando llegue el futuro

No miraré el ocaso.


Mis ojos contemplarán

El albor de otros sueños

Y alas me surgirán

En pos de sus destellos.


Con el alma engrandecida

Y el espíritu aventurero

Emprenderé nuevas vías

Recorreré nuevos senderos.


Mas mi corazón aquí queda

Entre sueños y quimeras

Ya mi niñez se aleja

El futuro me espera.


Cuando mire hacia atrás.

Y vea el camino andado.

Mi alma con gozo gritará.

“Lo logré, he triunfado”.


After talking about the Poetry Recital, we discussed some vocabulary words of the reading and some details of its story elements. They wrote in the white board the words they didn’t understand and we learned their meanings together. There was a word that was particularly problematic: the word “sitter”. They all thought it was a person who cares a child, like in “baby sitter”. However, in the story it means something else. I asked them to read the sentence where that word that used to see if they could discover the word’s meaning with its contexts. They read the sentence and they were able to discover the word’s meaning: in this story, “sitter” means “chair.”

I was supposed to be interviewed last week by the professors of the Differentiated Education master degree as part of my process of admission, but then the power outage happened, the Faculty of Education student dean told me that all the activities were cancelled and I left the University without being interviewed. They called me later to let me know that they would be making the interviews in another place, but when I got their call I was too far away to come back to the University. Well, after today’s class that interview was rescheduled for tomorrow at 3:00 pm. I will take it as another growing opportunity, no matter if they admit me or not.

Let’s keep growing!


Today’s Adventure

The first thing I did yesterday at the school was correcting my student’s tests. In general, they did amazingly well, I even had several perfect scores. While correcting them I discovered that three students did a part wrong simply because they did not understand the instructions correctly. In the way they did it, their answers were correct, but in the way that the part was supposed to be done, their answers were incorrect. What I should do? After consulting it with my mentor teacher, I went to the third grade classroom in the morning and asked the three students to come to the English classroom during their lunch break to complete that part of the test again. When the break time came, I waited them patiently during thirty minutes. When I realized that they weren’t coming by their own, I went looking for them in the school playground. I found the three students in the library: they totally forgot that I asked them to come to my classroom during their lunch break! They made the test part again, but this time they followed the correct instructions. The three students did the test part almost completely correct!

When those students completed their tests, I could finally grade all the tests. I did it, and I wrote the test results in an excel table that I use as a grade book (I don’t have a physical grade book, all my grades are supposed to be kept digitally).

At the class time I discussed the test. My mentor teacher have an amazing and very practical protocol for doing this in order and avoiding the loss of any test during the discussion, what is important to me because years ago, when I worked as teacher (before studying to be a certified teacher), I accidentally lost a test and I had an awful time due that. How is my mentor teacher’s test discussion protocol? First, the teacher remembers the students that their grades are private and they are only supposed to share them with their parents or guardians. My mentor teacher explained me that I must do that because in third grade they are still learning to take tests and they constantly forget that their grades are private. Then the teacher gave the students their test face down, in such a way that only the student that completed the test could see the test’s grade. After that the teacher discusses the test, asking the students why their answers were correct. It took me so long to discuss the test that I almost did not finish on time for doing the next steps! The next step after discussing the test is asking the students to sign the test in a space, a small circle, provided to them to write their initials after they discussed the test and are agree with the grade. That way there is evidence that they saw and discussed the corrected test. After that, they write their test score in their English notebooks, in a table glued in the end of each notebook. Then they are supposed to give the teacher (me) the tests back in alphabetical order to file them in a plastic document filing box where all their summative assessments are, but I had no time for doing this. Instead, I asked them to give me their tests in alphabetical order and I would file them after the class.

After they left the classroom I took the plastic document filing box and began to file each test in their respective file. Suddenly I realized that one test was missing. I freaked out first but began to think coldly almost immediately: where that test could be if I always had in my hands the folder where I placed all the tests when the students gave them? I thought in several possibilities. The first one, the easiest one, was that the student forgot to give me the test, so I went to ask her. She told me that she gave me the test, so I eliminated that possibility. The next thing I did was checking the working tables to see if there was a test in any of them. There was no test in anyone. Then I realized that I could have filed the lost test in the precedent file in alphabetical order (the students gave their tests in alphabetical order). I mean: if the last name of the student of the lost test begins with “B”, her test could be in the file of the student whose last name begins with “A”.  I checked the files of the last names that begin with A, and I found the lost test! The big difference between the time I lost a test years ago and yesterday is that yesterday I did not spent time feeling awful due losing a test. Yesterday I kept myself thinking were the test could be until I finally found it.

That’s why I did not write a blog post yesterday after my class, as I usually do: I was busy searching for that test.

I made several things for today. First, of course, the new lesson plan for reading and discussing It’s Hard to Be a Verb, by Julia Cook. I will be using that reading for discussing several topics. The first one of them, the one I am discussing in this lesson plan, is the cause and effect reading comprehension strategy. You can see the lesson plan here: It’s Hard To Be a Verb Reading Lesson Plan

Second, I made two handouts for today’s class: one for discussing the story elements and one for discussing the new vocabulary words. These are the pictures of those handouts: Story Elements.jpg

My Vocabulary Words.jpg

Finally, I made a poetry handout for a poetry recital that the students are going to have on April 25 to celebrate English week. The chosen poem for the recital is the one that I proposed, “The Voice,” by Shel Silverstein. They need a handout of the poem for memorizing it for the poetry recital. Here is the picture of that handout:

The Voice.jpg

About thirty minutes before my class the school (along one million of Puerto Ricans) had a power outage, so my lesson plan needed to change because I couldn’t use the Smart Board to show the You Tube read-aloud video. Instead of using a You Tube video for making the read-aloud, I practiced making the read-aloud myself. Two days ago I transcribed the whole story in a single Word document and printed a copy for each student for use them in case of any technological failure, like this one, that do not allowed me to use the You Tube read-aloud video that allows me to show the book pages to everyone at the same time. I practiced the read-aloud by hearing the You Tube read-aloud with my iPad (my iPad has cellular internet). I also practiced the wiggle dance of the story, so I could do it while reading the book to make my students laugh. At the end, giving the class without power made it more fun. I gave a printed document with the story to each student so they could follow the read-aloud, I showed them the images of the story as I read it, and we did the wiggle dance. Another student teacher was so kind she took pictures of me giving class today and sent them to my What’s App. These are the pictures of today’s adventure without power, as my mentor teacher called it:




Although I give class to the third grade, I usually work in the fourth-grade classroom because that is the English classroom. Tomorrow is the school’s field day, and the whole school is going to wear the same t-shirt but each group is going to wear accessories of a color. I was told, very seriously, that if I come tomorrow with the color of fourth grade and not with the color of third grade I would be considered a traitor. Oh my goodness, I can’t be considered a traitor of my own students, I told them. I asked them which is third-grade color, and I was told by them that their color is marine blue. Then I asked fourth graders (I will be with them tomorrow for an extracurricular activity after the field day) which is they color. They answered: marine blue. I raised an eyebrow: the two groups have the same color? I asked further among teachers and I was told that there are two competitions in the same field day: one for kindergarten to third grade, and one for fourth grade to sixth grade. That’s why both groups wear the same color: they are in different competitions. So, I told third graders, tomorrow I will be wearing something marine blue (I still didn’t know what at that moment) and I cannot be considered a traitor by anyone because both groups wear marine blue.

I was given the school field t-shirt today. My mentor teacher gave me it as a gift (he paid for it) and I am really thankful for that gesture. I don’t know if there is a competition for student teachers, I hope not, but I will be there for cheering my group of third graders. I will be with the fourth graders tomorrow in the afternoon, but I will write about that in one of the next posts.

Due the power outage, I needed to take the bus until Bayamon because the urban train didn’t work. I took three very crowed buses to arrive there. Once in Bayamon, the bus left me in a small mall where things are very cheap. I managed to get a pair of tennis, earrings, a headband, a bracelet, a feather boa and some hula necklaces for my third graders (one per student), all in marine blue. I also found some giant bubbles to have fun. Here is the picture of everything I got today for under 40 dollars:


Tomorrow will be an exciting day! Let’s keep growing!

The Voice

Today my students had a test. I talked with them during their snack break and they have studied the review and seemed prepared. They only asked me if the test had many “different adjectives” (they mean irregular comparative and superlative adjectives). I told them that each multiple selection had only one irregular adjective each. You can see the test here: Test 1.

At the time of the test, my mentor teacher helped me with learning how to give all the test’s instructions with clarity. All students were able to finish the test during class time. The first finished the test in about half the class time and the last student finished three minutes before the bell rang.

Today I also attended a meeting for planning English Week. We planned different activities: a picture bee, a verb bee, a debate… My third graders are going to have a poetry contest. I proposed for them a poem that is relatively short and that has a great message: The Voice, by Shel Silverstein. If you haven’t heard that poem before, here it is:

There is a voice inside of you
that whispers all day long,
‘I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.’
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
or wise man can decide
what’s right for you – just listen to
the voice that speaks inside.

I like this poem a lot because it talks about something we all must learn sooner or later, to listen our own consciences, and because it inspires a richer, deeper and more human learning environment. It can help my students to become better human beings, as I became a better person today by teaching them about resilience with a test!

Let’s keep growing!