29 June 2012


Long time no blog….

I couldn’t blog last week.  Every bit of writing that I did had to be concentrated on my portfolio.  While, admittingly, I did not concentrate as much as I should, I did avoid blogging, which is something I would enjoy much more than writing about how much I have learned in a program.  I sometimes felt like I was writing a “how awesome am I?” paper, and let’s be honest, I know I am awesome, but documenting awesomeness is sometimes more difficult than an upload.  I had to write about instruction, learners, content, professional development and research and what I have done in each of those five fields since being at Elon.  I know that I am not the first person to do this.  I know that there are many people who have passed and failed before me.  However I think the process needs some revision.  I understand the point of writing the synthesis papers and providing documentation.  While I sucked at it, I get it.  I wished, however, they provided more pointed questions to better guide the process, similar to National Boards.  The whole process is similar to National Boards, but a lot more vague. 

It was also due the week of camp at Elon.  We held a camp through my masters program for gifted students.  I worked with my fellow math nerd Liz.  We helped students make awesome Rube Goldberg machines, simple machines put together to make illogical, yet working machines to accomplish a task.  They could feed a dog, capture a dinosaur or land a frog on a lilypad.  They all chose not to deal with the cool jumping frogs we bought.   The kids were amazing but I came to the realization…I love high school.  I don’t know what I am going to do when I have kids. Thank goodness that is not happening for a long time (just so rumors don’t start….)

I enjoyed camp because I got to guide investigations with little to no time limit.  The problem with class is that time is crunched.  Camp it wasn't.  I got to see students in their element learning what they wanted to learn.  You can see my video that I made (YES MADE!) recapping the week: Flex Camp.  You can also watch some of our machines working...for the most part.

So anyways, we were all wiped from camp each day and writing portfolio entries each night.  When we brought this to the attention of the higher ups the response was “you have known the deadline since you started”.  We always knew it would be due the second week of summer school.   However, as our professor said, it is human nature to work up until the deadline, so why not set it earlier.  It wasn’t that we didn’t have enough time, it was that the deadline was the same time as another deadline….and hello, my name is Carissa and I am a procrastinator.  I work better under pressure.  I personally think that statement is not true for anybody, but we say it because we have all succeeding under circumstances when we worked under pressure.  But I digress….

So anyways….I’ve been writing a lot, just not blogging.  

14 June 2012

Back to Bahrain

I got the weekly gazette this week.  First of all the graduation looks amazing, second of all...I see some knees!  I have also contacted a couple of other teachers...I'm getting really excited!

11 June 2012

The one with too many sidenotes...please forgive me

Whose responsibility is it to educate our children?  Is it the parents?  Is it the teachers?  Is it the community members?

Well my question is why are we educating the children?   What is the point of teaching children responsibility, academics and proper attitudes?  I firmly believe that we are raising our next generation so that they can be the leaders of our country and provide for the future.  I do not have children but I still would like a competent president, knowledgeable doctors and businessmen and women to help me in the future.  I believe that we all pay taxes to education to ensure that society is educated to serve the needs of the country. 

As a teacher, I guess you could say I’m a little selfish.  I am teaching students to act and behave the way I want them to-respectful, but with a sense of humor.  I believe that mathematics is important, not because everyone needs Pythagorean Theorem in their life, but because they need the logical reasoning sense it takes to solve problems.

So my Dad says he hates the phrase “it takes a village”.  He believes it takes away all personal responsibility of parents from raising their children.  I think it should put more responsibility on all individuals involved.  If I’m apart of the raising, I need to do my part.  We are each responsible for the actions that take place in our daily lives.  Any thing that happens to us is for a reason, even things we say are because of someone else’s fault.  We allowed them in our lives. 

Anything I’m blamed for I accept….almost to a fault.  If it’s not my fault, I will still try to rectify it.  Example: At the restaurant I had an order come to the window made incorrectly.  I told the kitchen that it was wrong.  They told me I rang it in wrong.  We looked at the ticket, and it was rung in correctly.  They apologized and fixed my order.  Had I rung it in wrong I would have apologized.  But here’s the thing, this generation, would have blamed the computer for making them ring it in wrong. 

I blame myself for perpetuating the cycle.  I never tell the students they are wrong.  Instead I say something encouraging like “That was a good try but let’s see if we can get a closer answer.”  I admire the teachers who teach students responsibility and ownership.  However, I blame the parents for perpetuating that cycle. 

I have a really good friend (sidenote: he is probably too good of a friend to me, but that deserves another blog post in itself) who teaches at some high school that I have a certain affinity for and he is one who believes that people need to take responsibility for their own actions (sidenote: he is good at doing this in his own life, even if I have to point it out for him).  He had a student who avoided turning in a project worth 20% of their grade.  Avoided the teacher for one week, then they blamed the teacher for not being where they said they would be (in his classroom).  When he finally got it, the student emailed it to him…was his email not where it said it would be for a week? The student should have taken responsibility and said that they had not finished the assignment and needed more time, but no, instead, they blamed my friend for not doing his part.  Well my friend took points off of the final grade for it being late.  Then he thought part of it was “too good”.  He googled it…and there was the student’s project!  So he did not give the student credit for that part.  This caused the C student to fail the class (sidenote: he’s a hardass). 

Of course he had to call home to the parent.  As a parent, if my student had turned in a project a week late, and plagiarized, I would have felt like a failure for not have hounding her for her assignment and for not teaching her that printing things off the internet is wrong.  But what was the parent’s reaction?  “Why did my child fail, when other students cheated too?”  They had to have a meeting regarding the grade and about how this student didn’t do anything wrong…………(sidenote: my friend was pissed).

Honestly, what has society become?  I believe that it takes a village. The student needs the parents to raise them to be ethical individuals.  The student needs their peers and mentors to advocate for completing school-work.  The student needs teachers to teach them what ethical practices are for completing work.  No matter what, the student, nor society need cop-outs and excuses.  Excuses are tools of incompetence (sidenote: my friend is a hard ass like Mr. Burke).

So in the end, what did this student learn?  Was she properly educated and/or raised?  Well if the teacher flunked her, she was taught that average work for a year, and bailing in the end, gets you nowhere.  If she passes, she was taught that average work and messing up can be forgiven.  What if she had been an excellent student all year?  She could have not turned in the exam and passed.  What lesson does that teach?  What if she had been a horrible student all year and passed the exam with flying colors to pass with a D?  D stands for Diploma.  Which would you rather teach, parent or be friends with?

We all have to be responsible for our actions, but who taught us that?  Surely, it was not just your parents.  I hope that you see it all around you, modeled by graciousness, strong characters and responsible actions. 

Back to the question, “what did the student learn?”  If she walks away from this experience and realizes that she disappointed people, then this was a good problem.  Everyone messes up.  We all have low points in our lives and if not for forgiveness we would all be miserable people.  But what if she hasn’t learned? What if she does the same thing again?  What if she has the same teacher next year and is a problem child because she resents him?  Where do we learn forgiveness? 

We learn it from having others forgive us.  By the actions we are shown.  So remember to be an example for everyone.  Be gracious, be generous, be responsible.  If people put their prides aside and thanked their neighbor for something small, helped a stranger with simple task and held themselves accountable for their own actions the world would be a much better place.  By the way, it’s not too late to start doing these things, or forgive or apologize. Our actions today may influence who we are tomorrow but they do not define who we are…at least I’m hoping I was a better person today, than I was yesterday, and I strive to be a better person tomorrow, than I was today.

07 June 2012

light me up like a bottle rocket

Tomorrow is the last day with students.  I'm not sad.  I'm not excited.  I'm apathetic.  Pretty much the same feeling I've had all year.  I am sad to see the year end with some teachers.  I am sad that I won't see some of these students continue to grow up.  However, after leaving my favorites at Northeast last year, I feel like I can leave anywhere...a job's a job.

However leaving Burlington may be another story.  I have lived here for 10 years (minus the one year in Charlotte with Ann).  I have known where to get food, airports to fly in and out of, roads to take in traffic and roads to take when I want to drive.  I have had friends surrounding me and I know where to go to meet new ones.

So with tomorrow being my last day, it is also my last day of familiarity.  I have ended 6 school years now.  However this time, when we end, I am pausing a career in North Carolina.  I don't know where I will be in two years-do I come back to NC or move to Minnesota?  Why not just put my finger on a map and pick a new place?  Do I think administration or keep teaching or get out of education (stop laughing, I can do other careers!)

Part of my thought process for moving was a fresh start-what will my fresh start look like in two years?  I know no one can answer these thoughts.  I know part of the awesomeness about it all is that no one can or will answer these.

"I ain't here to do anything half-way
Don't give a damn what anyone might say
I just wanna free fall for a while...

Usually the end of the school year signifies my break, my time to recuperate from the year and prepare for the next school year.  This summer is so different because I cannot prepare for next year. I can pack and I can sell all my belongings but mostly it will just be living every moment to the fullest so that my memories of people and places can hold me until I come back...where back is...

...That rebel moon is shinin'
Those stars burn like diamonds
Hell bent on chasin' down that crazy spark
I'll follow you where you're leading
To the first sweet taste of freedom
You got me runnin' baby,
wild at heart."

05 June 2012

A Walk To Remember

I watched that wonderful horrible wonderful movie on Sunday right before work.  Bad move. I may be a CHB, but I still cry like a little baby when Landon hugs his dad at the end, and when they get married.  Well then that evening at work two co-workers informed me about a guest of the restaurant who lost her husband in a horrible plane crash.  If I had not been so caught off guard I would have cried again. I may have privately.  I don't know what it is but the idea of losing someone, or finding them again, is just overwhelming.

I leave in 80 days.  I have my plane ticket information, my class schedule and I have discussed plans with my colleagues.  I am so excited.  I really am.  But you know the adage, you don't know what you have until it's gone?  Well I kind of wish people told me how awesome they thought I was before I decided to leave.

I feel like I have a lot of doors open in DPS and when I leave they will all close.  I didn't know I had multiple doors though. I'm not saying that I would stay because Durham is awesome, just saying, it's nice to know that people respect me as an educator.  I have amazing friends, and I knew they were amazing, but I didn't know how much I needed them.  My MGC crew has carried me and I wouldn't be where I am today without them.  Much to their hatred, the strength they gave me is part of why I know I can leave, and come back and still have my people.  They know what I mean by this.  Having so much family across the US I knew that going a year without seeing them wouldn't be "new" for me...but when your family is bigger now than it used to be I worry about losing pieces.  I consider my DVT people-family.  The people I work with, the guests that visit us, they have supported me and have truly become more family for me.  I worry that I will lose them.

Facebook, Skype, Facetime, will keep me in touch.  People will read my blog and feel like they know what I'm up to-I'll read status' and find who is engaged, pregnant and has other news.  But then there are things...

Do you have a happy place?  A place where you feel completely comfortable, safe and peaceful.  It may be your parent's house, where you grew up and had family dinners.  While I love my fam-this isn't it for me.  Maybe it's your car, driving down a country road with the windows down, blasting country music.  That is such a relaxing time for me-but I do have a bit of a car phobia. My happy place is Elon.  It is where I became an adult, first in my early 20's, and now again, in my mid late 20's.  I'm a very different person now, than I was as an undergrad.  I've had good times on campus and bad times.  I have happy memories and bittersweet ones.  But I know that who I am today is happy, and Elon's campus confirms that for me.  So when I move, I will miss the opportunities to walk on campus....I will miss Walks to Remember.

I won't miss that damn movie though...or The Notebook.  Nicholas Sparks is totally ruining my CHB reputation.

01 June 2012

Tie it all together

Short and sweet.  Read a blog post from this fall.


Then come back here and read about Common Core.  I love the quote "We can't fix society, so we'll fix education."

Only problem is we are not "fixing" anything, we are glossing over the real problems.  I sometimes get so frustrated and caught up by the hypocrisy of education reform that I cannot see silver linings or the good.

There are several good things about the shifts for the new standards and driving students toward resource based answers and comprehension.  I do believe that.  I just cannot see past monopolies and corporate looking takeovers.  Someone please point me towards the good again.

What happened to this?

This is a post from a previous blog I wrote...Where did this enthusiasm go?  Is it because it's June or is it because this really wasn't the job for me?  I will say that the website I created worked wonders.  I still believe in challenging each other professionally and personally-my new saying for this is "light a fire".  However, the classrooms that "just work", continued to "just work".  My schools did "just fine".  I learned so much from my teachers and principals, but I'm not sure I gave back as much as I received. I'm looking forward to the classroom and being a true "teacher leader".  

Thursday, September 22, 2011
I'm asleep by 7, it must be Thursday
I've been an IF for approximately 12 school days (full time).  I have yet to manage the time of getting everything done in a working day.  I still stay up late working on things for the classroom, but this time it's not my classroom.  Finding useful resources for others to use (or throw away) takes so much more time.  I've created a website for all my "tools" and it is incredibly difficult to figure out what would be helpful for others, not just me.  

I am working with some awesome teachers, those that want to try new things, revamp ideas, engage the students using technology and games.  However, just like in the classroom, it is not those "students" I am concerned with.  I am trying to grab hold of the teachers whose classroom "works the way it is."   If it didn't work they wouldn't be teachers.  However, if we all settled for fine, or "it works", we would have a lot of mediocrity in our lives, but I Dweck-gress.  

We must keep challenging ourselves and our students.  Through showing interest in their joys, through making class interactive, and basically by loving our jobs.  

Wait, not jobs, careers.  No, more than careers, our profession.  We are professionals who strive to do better in our lives to enrich our students lives...or do we?  

My naivety has gone out the window.  But it's Thursday night. I've just woken up from a nap (I crashed at 7 with my dinner still in my lap) and I'm back to work.  The thing that I don't get about myself is that I haven't accepted defeat.  I'm still excited to go and try to make things work.  As my friend said when he learned his "easy" deployment wasn't so "easy"..."Heck yeah, let's do this."  Just to clarify he didn't say heck, he is a marine after all.  

But just to clarify again, I did say heck.  I am excited to grow professionally myself, and to help others grow and develop.  Are you?

OK, so it may be a stretch, but just go with it....

If you read David Wees’ blog and were appalled by the statistics and the comments at the bottom, then you must be a teacher.  I would also like to reference that the McKinsey Report is from McKinsey and Company, a group that David Coleman worked for with public health information.  On the note that teachers are the lowest group of graduates from college-Most of us are double majors, which have multiple practicums.  Not saying it allows us to make lower grades, just acknowledging the fact that time can equal grades.  Anyways, what do you call a doctor who graduated last in his class?  Doctor.  You do not know if your phycisian was first or last, you just know if they can take care of you well.  Same with teachers, it does not matter if they graduated with a 4.0 or 2.0, as long as they can teach.  The real problem with the system is that too many teachers are not in it for the right reasons, and are giving teachers “bad reps”.  The Common Core does nothing to improve teacher quality and instruction, leave that to McREL, but that is another corporation overhaul for education...

One thing that I failed to mention in my previous post about succeeding in business is networking.  It was instilled in me through Teaching Fellows and I try to make as many connections as possible.  I am a name dropper.  I’m sorry if it offends you, but who I know, may get me to know who you know.  Where did I get my great bank job?  From my step mom.  What about my summer job in college?  Oh yeah, my step dad’s old company.  So obviously when I look at the list of people working on the Core Standards, there must be networking….

David Coleman says he comes from educators.  His mom, Elizabeth Coleman, has been president of Bennington College for 25 years.  She is popular amongst the TED group for revolutionizing higher education.  With 822 students enrolled on campus and $43,000 tuition (sans room and board) you have some freedom to try new things.  Not discounting what she does at BC.  I thought about applying there in high school.  I would just like to make the point that what works for her, will work differently at UNC. But I digress…

Having a mom who is president of a college, but has little to no classroom experience is not a line of educators.  Also the fact that your teammate, Jason Zimba, worked for your mom, now makes our National Standards, a Bennington College mastermind?

Now again, I’m all for networking.  It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  If you go to Achievethecore.org and read, it is about how awesome Common Core is from Student Achievement Partners, Coleman and Zimba’s company.  If you read their teacher testimonies, they are all America Achieves fellows, which is a fellowship granted through Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies that supports teachers who support Common Core. 

While I’m talking about who ya know…who does David Coleman know at Collegeboard?  He will be the president of the educational company responsible for Advanced Placement (AP) tests and the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs).  Makes sense that the guy who is writing our standards and telling us how to teach them, would also be the one to write the tests.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/education/david-coleman-to-lead-college-board.html 

Remember my financial policies?  I really hate how I pay sales tax on everything in NC, and only on “non-essentials” in MN.  It should be the same in every state.  Not only am I going to get my friends in college who were business majors to help me, but then we are going to design the software for your POS or Sysco station to calculate the tax.