Thursday, July 7, 2016

Making Progress

I went ahead and registered to take the Gifted and Talented CST exam. Basically, this is a computer exam to get the certificate for a gifted extension in teaching. I did all 12 credits of required work a year ago and have been putting it off, mainly because no one seemed to care. My coworker who was hired a year after me is going to take it this summer so I promised she wouldn't take it before me. Signing up is most of the battle. I guess I am nervous I won't pass because that would be upsetting but honestly you can retake it and more importantly, I have never not passed a standardized test. I mean maybe I won't get perfect score but I have taken many bubble tests to get certified as a teacher and I passed all of them the first go round.

I went from not wanting to do this to being like, 'oooh there is a test on the Autistic Spectrum?' Like, more certificates! Yay! Of course sadly none of these imply a pay raise, but a minor accomplishment in my academic career none the less.

Setting the test date soon, or at least they have my money!
If I set my testing date by July 25th (which isn't a problem for me) then I will have results before school starts.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Watershed Insitute

Sunday I will be off to the Watershed Forestry Institute at the Taconic Center! I am very excited and was reviewing the materials. Look at this exciting schedule! Also my Urban Advantage friend Chris will be attending so we can hang out at talk 6th grade science.


I have basically resigned that I am not winning this award, but gosh darn it the southern manners is me is really annoyed at how delayed they are. As you can see on the website:

Empire State Teaching Ambassadors

This program had a clear time frame, something I really respected. You had to be nominated by the 6/1, complete the application by 6/10 and then on 6/17 - presto- winners!

Of course it is now 7/5 and they have yet to do anything. Of course I already emailed back in June to be like..'hi.. you guys there? Did I lose and you forgot me?' because that is how an anxious mind works. Instead of it being an honor to be nominated, etc it becomes, "you hate me and totally forgot about me.. whaaaaaa."

They did email me back promptly to be like, "uh... no, we just need an indeterminate amount of time."

SO EMPIRE STATE EDUCATION PEOPLE do whatever I am not ignoring you and not worrying about this anymore. I know I got to finalist level so I am going to be happy with that and honestly if you were someone I was considering dating I wouldn't call you back over this kinda behavior.

That being said I will post when I actually hear something.

Advice on College

I checked my DOE email today, which I rarely do, but I am hoping to hear from the Empire Awards (one way or another.) I got this email this morning which I found very interesting. I am going to share the email and my reply. I was really interested that this person found my name on the list from the 2016 Gifted and Talented Symposium. I was on a panel of educators speaking about best practices. It is interesting that this was useful even after the fact for someone to find me. Granted, this person asks about college so all the credit really goes to my mother because I teach middle school. So this parent was fairly lucky that my sister just happened to finish her associates degree this May after going through a long process of navigating the college experience as someone who is twice exceptional. I of course sent the email along to my mom to see if she comes up with similar advice. I have to hand it to my mom that although her training is as a social worker, she is a natural special ed advocate. They must go hand in hand. 

As a note, after reading this I did go check myself out on this website. I did make a point of saying I work with twice exceptional students. What a nice moment.
Symposium Bio

From: Bonnie XXXXXXX
Sent: Tuesday, July 05, 2016 7:04 AM
To: Eck Elizabeth
Subject: Twice Exceptional College Student
Dear Ms.Eck,
I came across your name on the 2016 Gifted and Talented Symposium website.  I would greatly appreciate your insight as to how to help my son. He is gifted with learning disabilities.  He graduated from high school and has been struggling to stay afloat in College.  He was dismissed from Drexel for poor academic performance and is currently on academic probation at Hofstra University. He has about 1- 1 1/2 years worth of credits left to complete, but he is seriously considering calling it quits.  The emotional toll of these academic failures has been extensive. Please let me know if you have any suggestions as to how he can improve his academic abilities so he can focus on his incredible talents.  My son’s dream is to pursue a career in Computer Science. 
Thank you for any insight you can offer.
Bonnie XXXXX


I appreciate you reaching out to me. While I work with middle school students, my sister is twice exceptional and just finished college after much struggle. I am going to forward your letter to my mother as well since she walked my sister through the whole process fairly recently. 

From my sisters experience, being autistic and gifted, her issues were about executive functioning. So she really suffered with organizing herself, setting deadlines, etc. Also, getting help and clarification can be hard. You would have to tell me more about your son's experience if you think it is something different for him. This takes management, but using a calendar like google calendar that has alerts can help, everyone procrastinates but sometimes exceptional students just need more reminder tools. 

Firstly I would look at what resources you are using at the school. Hofstra I believe has services and they are mandate to meet the IEP that he graduate with in high school. Of course, if you want the school to do anything, it means going in yourself to meetings because the counselors are extremely confusing and talk in circles which can be overwhelming. 

My suggestion is also to go part-time at least until he gets on his feet. My sister did this her entire experience, but it made it more manageable for her to deal with two classes at a time. My mom constantly had to keep track of her assignments and make sure she got to class (she was living at home.)

My sister was at a community college and they actually had classes on how to go to college. They were not really worth core credit, but taught into common problems I will address below. 

There are also the resources that are not obvious to twice exceptional students. So, going to the math or writing lab to get peer help. No one really wants to do this, but those students really know how to help you go over your work and the expectation. I think understanding the work expectation is one of the hardest things. For example you understand the topic you are writing about but then you have to apply MLA formatting or meet some other arbitrary criteria of citation. This can be frustrating and confusing. 

Getting a teacher to provide rubrics or criteria upfront is great. I don't think this is an unrealistic expectation as I do it for all my classes, so going to a teacher and saying, 'how will this be graded, can you give me an example and or a rubric?' Also, finding out the policy on resubmitting work. Most teachers will allow you to improve and resubmit work. Again, find out exactly what they want improved and when it needs to be in to improve the grade. This is probably easier than getting it right the first time. 

Finally, being savvy about signing up for courses. I think offices at schools are semi-worthless because they frustrate even me. However sites like ratemyprofessor 
They give reviews on who to avoid. So you can try and register for classes with more understanding and engaging teachers. Some teachers are just going to give you a hard time at the college level. 

Finally setting realistic goals, like passing and resubmitting assignments. Maybe balance your schedule to take an art credit along a class you find intimidating. I would talk to your son about what he finds difficult and try and pin point a few improvements you can make. It is also ok to take a little longer to get through college. It is better to take your time and be comfortable than drop out. 

I hope this was helpful. I will send any additional things my mom thinks of. 

- Betty Eck

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Woman On A Mission

This is not going on the goals list. This is a mission. I am talking Blues Brother mission from God, police car chase ensuing mission.

I am going to get my administration to open our Google Education settings. I cannot share outside our school domain, so I can only share with staff and students. One of our core values is inclusion. This is not inclusion. I am trying to update my teacher website to help parents understand my expectations but they can't see any of the documents! I understand not wanting students to be tackling the whole world wide web for safety reasons but it would sure be great if I could at least share files with their parents. Already this year I had to zip files and try to email them, fail and then share them from my personal Drive, which makes no sense! I like to share photos with parents and slideshows of student events. This is a joyful thing that should be promoted. I am not sending them classified information, and honestly I don't think any of that is on my computer anyways.

Next year I will make the case that teachers should have open access on drive to share files to whoever they want.

Summer Goals

I already have a lot planned for this summer. I don't do well with unstructured time and summer is really the time to find new resources to support the upcoming school year.

Professional Commitments
So far this summer I have a lot of professional commitments including:

Algebra for All Initiative - Two weeks of paid training
Curriculum Development - Three days of paid time to write my own curriculum (yessss)
Hopefully at some point training with the Hudson River Snapshot Day folks because I already signed up to participate in that!

and most importantly...

The Watershed Institute which I am very excited about since it means basically going adult camping.

Another great part of this institute is that is means opportunities for grants. This year I applied for the Watershed Bus Tour grant through the same organization but I did not get it. It basically pays for the charter buses needed to go on an overnight or day trip. Having gone to this institute though I will be able to apply for the Trees for Tribs (tributaries) grant that lets your students go up by the reservoir and plant young trees to protect our watershed. A major goal is to get a day trip established as a regular part of my 6th grade year.

SO, on top of these things I already committed to (and <3) here are my actual goals for the summer.

1. Take the gifted and talented certification exam.
I took all the coursework (12 credits) last year and then took a long vacation from dealing with it. No one has seemed to cared, but a year is long enough. It should be easy since I am already coming to it with experience teaching gifted kids, but who is excited about a 3 hour exam??

2. Become a Google Certified Education (level 1)
I use Google Education apps and love them so why not be certified. I started the online tutorials and study guide and already learned a lot of things that are very inspiring and some that were kinda obvious things I should have known, like I can auto post an assignment to both my classes without having to duplicate the post.

3. Streamline my student and parent communication for the fall.
I started a website for my class, which is really geared to parents since they can't see the inner workings of Google Classroom. I am going to use this to post photos of labs and field trips to create more community with family. I also want to set up better list serves for myself and clear resource folders for students so from day one everything is transparent.

4. THIS BLOG. I want to document the work I am doing as a teacher to help me reflect and possibly connect to the void out there. This is a theme overall. I went to a mixer for Big Apple Award Finalists (cause I was one) and the Teach to Lead summit and both were really about making contacts. This is something that has never been a big thing at schools I work at. I know especially that for me communication tends to be a one way street. My former admin told me years ago that I give amazing advice but I don't take advice from others enough. Firstly, this is true but also (and what I told her) I am not offered good advice very often because when you are just standing next to someone and they need to come up with advice for you on the fly, it isn't very good. You need good connections to get meaningful advice and help. The people that I trust give me great advice and they really spend time thinking about my problem, my resources and who I am. So I guess having more people like that in your life doesn't hurt.

5. What I am not looking forward to, but I want to work on my assessments and write all my interim assessments for the year (ick.) We will see, it is last on the list.