Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hello Teacher Blogger World!

Hello!  So this is my first post here on Blogger.  I guess I will start by sharing a little about myself.  My name is Libby.  I am a wife, mother, and 2nd grade teacher.  I started my career teaching in San Antonio, Texas teaching 5th grade.  I was at an inner city school, with students I adored.  I learned very quickly that collaboration was not encouraged, it was everyone for themselves.  I had no idea what I was doing, and I had no mentor.  So, as you can guess, it was a rough year.  

While in Texas, I started dating my (now) husband.  He lived in my hometown in Illinois.  He was not keen on Moving to S.A., so back to Illinois I went.  I interviewed in a small town near my home and got a job as a reading specialist for grades 3-5.  I knew nothing!  I remember going into my "classroom", which was an office/telephone room, and I met with groups of students there.  My books were kept in the furnace room.  Um.. fire hazard?!?!  I had 45 students on my caseload, with no understanding of reading.  I don't know what my principal saw in me, that's for certain!  I spent the summer reading a lot of professional development books about running records, comprehension, and teaching reading strategies.  I also applied and was accepted into a Master's Degree program.  

So off to teaching I went, having the same feeling I did as year one: My students learned in spite of me, not because of me.  I constantly felt all year I was doing a disservice to the students, the staff, and myself.  But with each Master's class I took, I learned.  Holy Cow!  I learned!  **Side note: I didn't take my undergraduate program all that seriously.  I was quite immature, and was on my own for the first time.  I had uninspiring teachers, and I had no desire to learn.**  I realized I LOVED TO LEARN!!!!!  I got excited for grad class night!  I was excited to be with professors who were genuinely interested in their subject matter AND the students they were instructing.  It took me 4 long years (one class a semester), but I finished.  With each class, I felt like I was starting to become more effective in my classroom.  

After my graduate program was done, I realized I missed learning.  I made the decision to continue.  I talked to my colleagues and chose books to continue my learning.  There was one problem.  In grad school, there was a built-in collaborative group.  Researching and learning on my own, while wonderful, was lacking that community-learning aspect.  I worked with my reading specialist colleagues and participated in professional book clubs.  It was great to read and discuss with others, especially in an environment where I was the only reading specialist in my building.

Fast forward about 10 years and a set of twins later, and we come to the time in Illinois called "budget cuts."  Some of you may know that Illinois is dead last in its ability to fund existing programs, including education.  The state was not paying districts the money they were due, and there were some other complications within my district.  My position went on the chopping block, and I suddenly found that I was no longer going to be a reading specialist.  Oh God!  Thankfully I had tenure, so I was placed in the classroom in second grade.  WHAT?!?!  I haven't had my own classroom for 15 years, and I only taught in a classroom setting for ONE YEAR!  ONE YEAR people!  That was it!  I was a first-year-teacher all over again.  I worked my tail off that summer learning and reading and talking and reading and researching and reading and reading and reading!  I read 10 professional books, I would spend days at the library reading picture books.  I don't even know how many I read!  

That first year was a blur.   I was in an environment where collaboration was encouraged AND EXPECTED!  I have a wonderful principal and assistant principal who puts students first, and they believe that the best way to help students is through collaboration.  Boy did I collaborate.  I had a wonderful mentor who guided me every step of the way, and a team who understood my situation and helped me every chance they got.  

Last year, my mentor became a reading coach, and I became team leader.  I tried very hard to bring that collaborative environment I experienced last year to the team this year.  Sometimes there was success, and other times there was failure.  But... there was always learning.  

This brings me to present day: Here I am, maybe team leader, if the board approves the funding for the position, and definitely classroom teacher.  I am finally at a point where I feel like I can blog and talk about my personal learning, my classroom, reflect, and maybe create!  

Thanks for hanging in and reading this whole post.  Wow.  I didn't realize I had this much to say!


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