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Teaching is hard. I don’t pretend that I am an expert. I operate under Tom Newkirk’s idea that each year, we should change at least 5% of our teaching, and after several years, these changes are exponential. I am always trying to do better and be better. In the section below, I share a few of the things that I learned as a beginning teacher. However, I want to emphasize that I am always learning and growing.

*Let me start by saying that I learned many of the items below in my teacher preparation program. Many of them didn’t quite sink in until I had been teaching for at least a few months.*

1. Initiation and Closure are very important.

Getting students into the mood of your class is important to frame their thinking. Further, I learned quickly that closing class quickly with the homework assignment isn’t enough. Students will leave class unsure of what they learned. I dedicate at least five minutes (ten to fifteen, if possible) to frame and close class and ask students, “So What?” I try to make this as student-centered as possible.

2. Learning Targets (or Objectives) are critical. Posting them is helpful.

I try to start and end each class by asking a student to read the learning targets posted on the board aloud. This allows me to talk about the day’s objective and how we will meet (or how we met) it.

3. Every Learning Target (or Objective) should have a matching assessment.

Even if it means walking around and informally checking in with students, I learned that it is important to measure whether the students met the learning target by providing an (SMALL) assessment each day. Often, this came in the form of an exit slip or an artifact that emerged from classwork.

4. Differentiation is Easier than We Imagine It To Be

Differentiation seems scary. I imagined this dark day where I was creating 5 forms of every test and assignment. But differentiation is really about student-centeredness. It’s allowing students choice in process and product, it’s allowing students to choose texts that match their learning needs and interests, it’s grouping students purposefully, it’s creating a classroom environment that supports individualized learning.

5. When We Need To Get Students’ Attention, Talking Louder Is Not the Answer

I respect students’ voices. If a student is talking, I ask students to stop talking and listen. The same goes for me. If I am giving directions, it is important to wait until everyone is focused. Everyone should respect those who are speaking (and hopefully, this isn’t me, most of the time!).

6. Write Everything on the Board

Directions, homework, etc. Working with a co-teacher, I learned that if I am saying it out loud, it helps students to have it written on the board, too. This is particularly helpful for students with special needs and for students who are emergent bilinguals.

7. Ask for Help

I always tell students, “If you feel it, steal it. (And cite it.)” Teaching is about sharing, so we learn and grow together. Ask colleagues for ideas and search the internet. Adapt ideas to become your own.

8. Take Home a Few Papers at a Time

If you take them all, they will likely remain in your teacher bag. Taking home small chunks makes grading feel less overwhelming.

9. Stagger Your Assignments

Don’t assign the same due date for all of the essays and projects for all of your classes.

10. Ask for Student Feedback

And be open-minded to their criticism. This is how I grow.

11. Find Your Personal Learning Community Online and Find the Positive Energy within Your School

Find your people. Feed off of each other’s positive energy. Ignore the negativity within your school.

12. Keep a Drawer of Happy Things

If a lesson doesn’t go well, open the drawer and eat the chocolate and read the thank you notes from students.

13. Be Flexible

As much as I may have loved my pre-planned lesson plan, I often have to adapt it to fit students’ needs. I learned that it was important to pay close attention to them and adapt the lesson as it occurred.

14. Student-Centered Learning

While I might want to do a unit on a theme, my students might not be interested. As I learn from them, I try to shape unit themes and topics to meet their interests.

15. Learn About Students

I start the year by asking students about themselves, and I ask them to share dialogic journals to stay connected with them and show them how much I value their voices and learning needs. In my calendar, I make notes about their sports games or activities, so I am reminded to ask them how it went. I care deeply about my students, and I try to remind them of this through my attention to their lives.

 

What did you learn as a beginning teacher?

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Teachers, I have a secret to tell you. Come closer…. clooooser…

CLOSE READING ISN’T ANYTHING NEW!

Phew! It is so good to get that off my chest.

My district has been focusing on close reading this year through a District Professional Learning Community, and this is something I’ve realized the more I learn about close reading.

Before I continue, let me define close reading as I see it:

  • Close reading has to happen with a short piece of complex text.
    • Complex text is defined as any text where you are having students critically think. It DOES NOT mean only Lexile. Even Common Core who started this specific terminology states that you need to look at different components of the text as well as the task being completed and the reader completing the task. Almost any text can be complex.
    • Texts are inclusive of visuals, music, multimedia, and anything else that can be analyzed.
  • Close reading then has the reader look at the same text multiple times to help them get a deeper understanding of the text.
    • Each read (or view) of the text should have a different purpose with the final read ending in a final task.
    • The final task is standards-based task.

And let’s clear up some some misconceptions of close reading:

  • A whole novel should never be close read.
    • So if we label a novel as “Close Read/Analysis” that means we feel there are aspects of the novel that could be pulled out to used for a close read, not the whole novel.
  • Close reading doesn’t need to take multiple days.
    • It just depends on the text, task, and readers.
  • Close reading can be done with independent reading.
    • A complex task can be given that can be applied to multiple texts.
  • Close reading doesn’t have to kill the fun or love of a text.
    • My students actually like close reading (in small doses) because it makes them feel like they understand the text better and better. Think about when you read a poem multiple times with a teacher until you finally “get it.” That is how my students feel about close reading.
  • It can only be done with an article or poem.
    • It is done with every piece of music that a musician gets. It is done with athletes when they watch game tape to analyze their playing. It is done when looking at artwork to truly understand its meaning. It is done every time a student breaks down a math word problem to truly understand what it is asking. And these are just a few examples.
  • It is only for English class.
    • See above ^
  • Close reading should be done every day.
    • Oh man, no! Please. That’ll just completely kill it. Close reading, in my opinion, is for the end of a unit as you get to a standards-based final task. However, that is not the only time it can be used.

That’s it. Close reading is something that if you are teaching students to think deeply about a text with a focus on one task or standard, you’re already having students close read. It is just a name for this best practice.

Now, is close reading important? Absolutely! Should teachers consciously plan close reads? Definitely! But should students hate it and teachers avoid it? NO! If this is happening, then some close reading remediation needs to happen because without close reading, in my opinion, students are not deeply thinking about text.

Please continue being the kick butt teachers you are without the fear of the term close reading!

 
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Teachers Who Inspired Us

Kellee

I’m very lucky to have many graduate level teachers that helped give me such a solid foundation during my first few years of teacher. Then, when I started teaching I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor who would never answer my questions, only would question me back, teaching me to reflect and learn. And now I am surrounded by so many teachers that mold and shape and inspire me. But it is my high school senior high school English teacher that means more to me than any other teacher I’ve had. I originally shared my story about her here on Unleashing Readers in June, 2016, but I cannot share it enough.

Ms. Haley

I was a straight A student in middle school, but when I moved to Lakeland, FL a month into 9th grade, I struggled with much including school work. I just didn’t find joy in school any more. I’m just glad that teen Kellee kept a goal in mind (I WAS going to college!), so I kept my GPA enough to still be doing okay. But I definitely wasn’t a stand out student; however, I was still a bit cocky because I knew I didn’t have to work hard to get by. But then I entered Ms. Haley’s classroom.

Let me give you a bit of a background on Ms. Haley. By the time I had her, she was 82 years old and had been teaching for over 60 years. She was teaching in a building named after herself. She was Lawton Chiles’s English teacher. She didn’t get married because she was “too smart” to be a wife. She took off two weeks in December every year to travel to an international destination. She showed the “Romeo & Juliet” movie that had a breast in it. She meant everything she said and said anything she wanted to. She was a legend.

Right away, Ms. Haley and I butt heads. She was not going to put up with what I’d been giving my other teachers. For some reason, she decided to not ignore me, to not put up with my C+ work, and to challenge me. And I took her challenge. I don’t remember exactly what happened (I was probably passing a note or talking in class), but I got in big trouble, and I remember her talking to me and telling me that I wasn’t dumb, and that I had a chance to be something. That I was an excellent reader and writer. That I had a real future. I’d always known I’d go to college, because that’s what you do…, but I’d never had a high school teacher tell me that I was exceptional at something. This easy statement from her to me changed everything. I let her TEACH me instead of just talk at me. And that woman could teach; I am forever lucky to have spent a year with her, and I chose English as a degree because of her. There is a chance that I would have continued down a very different path without her.

(To learn more about Hazel Haley, visit The Ledger article about her, the NPR segment about her, and her obituary.)

Ricki

Wendy Glenn

This woman inspires me personally and professionally. Before I entered the teaching program at the University of Connecticut, I knew about Wendy. Her positive reputation was far-reaching. My peers and I were, quite simply, enamored with her pedagogical prowess. She taught in ways that were inspirational. Wendy showed she cared deeply for us, and we cared deeply for her. Several of us joked that Wendy was “Mama Glenn.” She was fiercely protective of our needs and helped us throughout the program in anything that we needed.

When I became a high school teacher, I thought of her daily. After speaking with other graduates, I realized that I was not alone. We agreed that we were constantly “channeling Wendy” as we worked to develop responsive, engaging lessons. She welcomed us to join her during presentations at local and national conferences, and we all gathered to learn and grow through professional development. It didn’t matter which cohort we came from. We’d all had her as a professor, and we felt a sense of unity because of this. After six years of teaching, I realized that I wanted to go back to school for my doctoral degree. After asking Wendy a few hundred questions, I took a big gulp and applied.

In the four years that I worked toward my Ph.D., Wendy met with me weekly. She listened to every concern and question I had, she wrote with me, she helped me learn about the world of academia, and she taught me so much more than I could name in a blog post. I would not have gone back to earn my doctoral degree if Wendy hadn’t been so wildly inspirational to me. It was the best decision I have made, and I am so grateful for this woman’s impact on my life.

I hit the jackpot, and we both work in Colorado at different universities. This means that I am fortunate to be able to continue working with this woman by my side. I recognize that this makes me the luckiest woman alive!

Who is a teacher who inspired/inspires you?
And remember, say thank you to teachers. It means more than anything else.  

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Approximately 480 minutes of my life over the last couple of weeks has been circulating a room while students took their standardized tests. I not only accumulated approximately 20,000 steps, I had many random thoughts. Here are some of them:

Exercise

  • Does circulating a room in a regular circle or a zig-zag pattern give more steps in one lap? (Zig-zag.)
  • What ways could I get extra exercise while circulating and not being distracting?
    • Answers: Toe raises/calf raises, squats, glut squeezes, wall sit, standing crunches, seated leg raises, standing leg curl, lunges, and I’m sure there are more!
  • Do I get more steps on testing days than on normal days now that we have Lanschool to monitor computers instead of having to circulate our rooms as much? (Yes.)

Technology

  • Since the world is so technologically embedded, is testing students on a computer the best even though some studies have found that reading paper-based texts is still more efficient?
  • Are these studies ignoring the future? Isn’t it counter productive to focus on how the past may have been better when the world is moving in a forward, not a backwards, direction?
  • Instead of saying that one-on-one or technology isn’t as good as ____, couldn’t we instead just teach students how to use new tools as well as we were taught to use the old? For example, there are many complaints about kids not knowing how to take notes; why don’t we teach them? Or kids not knowing how to research; why don’t we teach them? We were taught to do those things. Just because kids are technology natives doesn’t mean they don’t need to be taught the best ways to use the tools.

Change

  • So many adults say things about “kids these days,” but weren’t we “kids these days” at some point? Doesn’t every generation complain about the changes in the next generation?
  • Isn’t change what makes the world get better?
  • Just because things are done differently doesn’t mean they are bad.
  • For example, the SAT is now more text-based instead of random vocabulary and analogies–that is pretty awesome! And I wish it was like that when I took it.
  • Some change isn’t necessary though. Was our education system so bad when I went through it? The push for “rigor” is so intense now pushing kids into AP classes as early as 8th grade, but I feel like that takes away the growing up part and doesn’t give kids the foundation needed to be successful.
  • And what happened to kids having the chance to be kids?!

Disney

  • The Little Mermaid came out when I was 7 which was 29 years ago. Hundred and One Dalmations came out about 28 years before The Little Mermaid, so how old 101 Dalmations seemed to me is how old The Little Mermaid seems to them.
  • Frozen came out when these kids were 7. Elsa and Anna are their Ariel. These girls had princesses that were pretty kick butt to look up to their whole life while Ariel changed EVERYTHING about her for a man.
  • Or it could be looked at as Ariel had a dream and wouldn’t give up until she attained it and wouldn’t let others tell her she couldn’t do it.
  • Belle changed Disney princesses though. Except for Pocahontas, ever since Beauty and the Beast, the princesses are more than just someone looking for a man.
  • Was the book that Belle was reading during the song “Belle” her own story and the song writers were putting in dramatic irony for the audience?

Science and Pop Culture

  • If we now know that dinosaurs are more related to birds than reptiles and it is pretty common-scientific knowledge, why hasn’t the look of dinosaurs in pop culture changed? For example, a new Jurassic Park is coming out, but the dinosaurs still look like how we thought they looked before.
  • Though I do know that it takes a very long time for pop culture to catch up with science. For example, Curious George is still called a monkey even though in the 1940s or so the distinction between apes and monkeys were found, and scientifically I think everyone would agree that he is an ape.
  • Monkeys and apes are different animals and people can just not figure out the difference. We don’t get pachyderms or canines or felines or other groups of animals confused, why do we get primates confused?
  • But I wish big companies and movies wouldn’t help spread the ignorance. For example, Coca-Cola should be ashamed of themselves for spreading the ignorance that penguins and polar bears live in the same area. (P.S. They don’t! Not even the same hemisphere!)
  • This must be how Neil Degrasse Tyson feels about, well, everything.

What random thoughts do you have while monitoring testing (or any other time)? 

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Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
Author: Alice Kuipers
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Expected Publication May 1st, 2018 by Chronicle

Summary: Polly loves words. And she loves writing stories. So when a magic book appears on her doorstep that can make everything she writes happen in real life, Polly is certain all of her dreams are about to come true. But she soon learns that what you write and what you mean are not always the same thing! Funny and touching, this new chapter book series will entertain readers and inspire budding writers.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Activities for Polly Diamond include:

Color Poem

On page one, Polly says that her teacher said her color poem was fantastic.

Have your students use the Read. Write. Think. template to create their own color poem.

Template: http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson375/PoemTemplates.pdf

Finish her perfect house story

On page 3, Polly is interrupted while writing her perfect house story.

Finish her story with what your perfect house would include.

Wishes

When Polly realizes her book is magical, she thinks of many things she can wish for such as a cell phone, not frizzy hair, more books, a flat screen TV, and world peace.

Using a brainstorming graphic organizer, have your students think of all the things they wish for.

After brainstorming all of their wishes, have them circle your top three.

Using the five-paragraph format for informative essays, have students write explaining their three wishes.

Measuring

For Polly’s grandmother’s recipe for pancakes called for a cup of flour and a cup of milk. Many times, when baking, you do not have what you need to make the recipe, and not just ingredients—you may not have the right measuring cup.

Bring in one cup measuring cups along with 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4, tablespoon, and teaspoon measuring cups/spoons. Break students into groups and give each group one of each measuring cup/spoon as well as something to measure (water, rice, flour), and have them answering the following questions:

  • If you only had 1/4 cup, how could you get one cup of flour?
  • If you only had 1/3 cup, how could you get one cup of flour?
  • If you only had 1/2 cup, how could you get one cup of flour?
  • If you only had 3/4 cup, how could you get one cup of flour?
  • If you only had a tablespoon, how could you get one cup of flour?
  • If you only had a teaspoon, how could you get one cup of flour?

Favorite words

Polly has a lot of favorite words: words with double letters like doozy and mutli-meaning words like basil.

Have students make a list of three words that they really like.

For each word, they should define it and also explain why they like the word.

When finished, students should do a word meet and greet. Using clock buddies or some other buddy system, have students meet with other students in the classroom and learn about their favorite words. They should add the favorite words they learn about to their list.

Paint names

On page 29, Polly makes up names for paint that describes the color such as muddy pond, lunch bag, and baboon butt.

First, have students look at the colors Polly described on page 29 and find the corresponding color in either a crayon box or a color exploration site online.

Then, have students create color names using imagery. Either have them use the color exploration site online or the colors from Microsoft Word.

Affixes

Show students how there are different word parts (affixes) that can be put together to make new words. They are like puzzle pieces! Share with them the different types of word parts (prefix, suffix, root, and base) and how they fit together.

On page 56, Polly explains how adding un- to the beginning of a word gives it an opposite meaning. The word she uses as an example is unobservant. Share with your students that un- is a prefix that means NOT which does make a word the opposite. Have student brainstorm a list of words with un- at the beginning and define them using NOT as the definition for un.

Extension: dis-, il-, im-, in-, and ir- also mean NOT. Students can also explore words with these
prefixes.

Extension: On page 57, Polly also talks about adding –fully to the end a word to make it bigger,
but it does more than that. Share with your students that –fully is actually a combination of ful, a root word that means full of, and –ly, a suffix that turns an adjective to an adverb, so her example of sorrowfully means full of sorrow (adv).

After showing students how words break apart and how affixes help with word meanings, give students words with un- and –ful (or any other affix you taught) and have them mark the different word parts and define the word.

Coloring Sheets

Coloring sheets can also be downloaded from Chonricle’s website here.

See the Teaching Guide Created by Me (Kellee) for even more activities! 

You can also access the teaching guide through Chronicle’s website here.

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Teaching is unlike any other career. The community expects certain standards of teachers; however, often they are not always respected as professionals. Some teachers feel like they are always being questioned about their expertise. Others feel immense pressure when their pay is linked to test scores. Teachers work long hours, and the career can sometimes feel exhausting.

Despite this, most teachers express pure love for their jobs. For today’s post, we wanted to share some of the ways we practice positivity (or share positivity with our students). Over the years, we’ve learned that focusing on the positive is wonderful for our sustainability and happiness. We invite you to share your approaches or ideas for remaining positive, too.

Kellee

 

CONFIDENCE & JOY

Each year I pick one word that I am going to focus on professionally (in August) and another personally (in January), and I work very hard on reminding myself of these words. Part of what affected me negatively professionally was always questioning myself, so I focused on confidence professionally. At home, I question myself a lot also but there it is more about how others are being affected, so I chose to focus on joy personally. By having these two words at the forefront of my mind, I am making sure that I am focusing on my happiness all the time.

“It’s going to be okay.” 

I have begun repeating this often at work. Sometimes things can seem so devastating and stressful, and we know that stress affects the brain in a negative way, so I have tried to become even more of the cheerleader around my stressed-out colleagues. I remind them, “It’s going to be okay.” Because, you know what? It is. Hopefully this little reminder can help them remove the stress fog and remember that for real it’ll be okay.

Do what you love.

If you are not happy in your current position or your current school and you are past the honeymoon stage (which can be tough), then change. Change is scary (trust me, I know! I’ve been at the same school my whole career), but it is also what will make your life more fulfilled and happier (although at the same school, I’ve taught 6 different things, am the reading coach, and sponsored 4 different clubs). Talk to your administration. Be truthful with them. Ask for help if you need it. Be honest. Move schools if you need to. But remember, you have to be happy at work to be happy in life.

Surround yourself with positivity.

Yes, even at lunch try to focus on the positive. I know that it is the time to vent about the rude kid or the teacher who keeps holding kids into other classes, but this venting session can also lead to a focus only on that negative energy. I know we need to vent and we need a break, but is this negative energy in the middle of the day actually helping or is it hurting? Just ask yourself that.

Schedule YOU time.

Yes, put it in your calendar on your phone with an alarm and a reminder. Get a pedicure, go on a staycation, go on a date, go to happy hour, read in bed… whatever you want to do. But schedule it and make it a priority. And yes, that means not bringing grading home on the weekends! You are important–remember that!

Keep your empathy for students

This and the next one are things I’ve really started to realize since I’ve gotten past 10 years in the classroom: Being a teacher is so much more enjoyable when we listen to our students, when we remind ourselves that they are kids and humans, and when we remember the difference between tough and mean.

Let your students know you are human

We’ve all heard, “Oh, you don’t just sleep here, miss?!?!” But it doesn’t have to be that way. Students should know we are human: I let them know when there is stuff going on in my life that may affect my attitude or interactions with them; I talk about my family, hobbies, life, etc.; and I listen to them when they talk about theirs. This small difference can really help with respect as well. Since my students know me and feel respected by me, they respect me. And we all know respect equals a much easier time in the classroom!

And don’t sweat the small stuff!

🙂

Ricki

 

Switch the Content

Whenever I feel a lull in my teaching or career, I switch it up. If I am not learning right along with the students, then I am not happy. I love to explore new topics and new ideas with students, and I am constantly seeking their input about what they’d like to learn.

Connect with Colleagues

My colleagues invigorate me. I am a part of multiple teaching social media groups, and I love going to conferences. Each time I attend the NCTE conference and ALAN Workshop, it feels like a shot in my arm. I am jittery with excitement because of the new ideas that I’ve learned.

Read

I try to regularly read the latest articles within the journals of my field, and I pop onto popular teaching websites regularly to try to get new ideas. Every year, I try to improve my practice and hone my philosophies, and I love reading the writing of those in my field.

Research

I love doing research in my classroom. This always gives me a strong sense of purpose. Studying my students (or others’ students) teaches me so much about teaching. This makes me feel fulfilled as I work to improve myself.

Pursue Other Passions

I’ll admit that this often means immersing myself in the newest YA books, but sometimes I take time to paint or pursue a passion that is outside of my job. I try to avoid feeling guilty that I am not doing work for my job 24 hours a day. If left alone, I’d probably spend every waking hour planning and grading.

What are your coping strategies for staying happy and positive while teaching? 

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Yesterday, I shared some words about my classroom after Parkland and how I am talking with my students about this tragedy because I think it is so important that we as teachers talk with our students about how to deal with the emotions they are feeling about Parkland. Today, I am going to share how my school chose to honor and mourn the Parkland victims.

I was so proud of my school for giving students the option to take part in the National School Walkout today that was organized by Empower, the Women’s March Youth Initiative. Thank you to our Student Government; their sponsor, Ms. Harriss; and our administration for setting up our walkout for today.

At 10:00am today, approximately 1,000 of our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders chose to walkout to mourn the 17 murdered in Parkland and to show solidarity against school violence.

I think any teacher that was worried about students not taking the walkout seriously were greatly surprised with the maturity and solidarity that our students showed. These thousand preteens and young teens were silent as we remembered the lives that were lost and to show we stand with our fellow Eagles of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

After the music that signaled our time to enter the courtyard stopped, our principal and Student Government representatives spoke on the PA system about our purpose:

“The majority of those who died in the Parkland shooting were children, bright teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers and coaches who devoted their lives to helping their children fulfill their dreams.

This evening we will all go home and hug our families a little tighter. But there are families in Parkland who cannot do that tonight. And they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, as Eagles, and as fellow students. Because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours.”

-Principal’s speech inspired by and adapted from President Obama’s address about Sandy Hook

Student Government representatives then took over:

“Let us remember the victims…

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, was a student at Stoneman Douglas and a soccer player for Parkland Travel Soccer. Lori Alhadeff, Alyssa’s mother, dropped her daughter off at school and said, “I love you.” When her mother heard about the shooting, she hustled to school, but was too late.

Scott Beigel, 35, was a geography teacher who was killed as he tried to usher students back into his classroom when the shooting broke out. One of his students said that he died saving her. “Mr. Beigel was my hero and he still will forever be my hero. I will never forget the actions that he took for me and for fellow students in the classroom,” she said. “I am alive today because of him.”

Martin Duque Anguiano, 14 was a very funny kid, outgoing, and sometimes really quiet. He was sweet and caring and loved by all his family.

Nicholas Dworet, 17 was killed in the shooting, he had been recruited for the University of Indianapolis swim team and would have been an incoming freshman this fall.

Aaron Feis, 37, an assistant football coach, was killed when he threw himself in front of students to protect them from oncoming bullets. Mr. Feis, suffered a gunshot wound and died after he was rushed into surgery. “He died the same way he lived — he put himself second. He died a hero.”

Jaime Guttenberg, 14 was among the victims, according to a Facebook post by her father, Fred. “My heart is broken. Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school. We lost our daughter and my son Jesse Guttenberg lost his sister.

Chris Hixon, 49 was the school’s athletic director — as an awesome husband, father and American, according to his widow Debra.

Luke Hoyer, 15 was an amazing individual. Always happy, always smiling. His smile was contagious, and so was his laugh.

Cara Loughran, 14 danced at the Drake School of Irish Dance in South Florida. “Cara was a beautiful soul and always had a smile on her face,”

Gina Montalto, 14 was a member of the winter guard on the school’s marching band.

Joaquin Oliver, 17 was born in Venezuela, moved to the United States when he was 3 and became a naturalized citizen in January 2017. His interests included football, basketball, the Venezuelan national soccer team, urban graffiti and hip-hop.

Alaina Petty’s, 14, family said she was vibrant and determined. She had volunteered after Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September. She was a part of the “Helping Hands” program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,and was also a member of the junior ROTC at her school.

Meadow Pollack, 18 had been accepted at Lynn University in Boca Raton. Meadow was a lovely young woman, who was full of energy.

Helena Ramsay, 17 was a smart, kind hearted, and thoughtful person. She was deeply loved and loved others even more so. Though she was some what reserved, she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies, and her soft warm demeanor brought the best out in all who knew her.

Alex Schachter, 14 participated in the school marching band and orchestra, playing baritone and trombone.

Carmen Schentrup, 16 was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist.

Peter Wang, 15 had been a member of the junior ROTC program, Friends said Peter was shot while holding a door open to let fellow classmates get to safety. Thousands of people have signed a White House petition asking for him to be buried with military honors. “His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens.”

We join together today, in this courtyard, to make a promise and a commitment to say NEVER AGAIN.”

-Information for list of victims taken from various CNN articles.

Student Government members then read some responses to the tragedy written by our students. I do not know the specific ones that the SGA chose to read, but here are some of, what I felt were, the most poignant responses our middle school students wrote in reflection of the tragedy:

Fear and guns have no place in schools. No kid should worry about going to school and not coming back. Those kids were just like us, they had their whole lives ahead of them. It is not fair for anyone to take that away. We can’t just sit around and wait for someone to take action, we have to stand up, for us and for those who lost their lives.If not us, then who? We HAVE to be the one we’ve been waiting for. We can never forget what happened, and we need to do everything in our power to not let it happen again. -L.M.

What a tragedy that has happened. School is supposed to be a safe place, but now some people are afraid to go to school. My prayers go out to the families who lost their loved ones that died too soon. This horrible event was so close to us it’s scary. All these shootings are happening it makes me wonder what this world has come to. Instead of just talking about it, we need to do something about it, because this could happen to us. We need to stand up against gun violence, and that is why we walk out today, for the 17 people that died in the Douglas High School shooting. -C.D.

What happened at Parkland High is a terrible tragedy that should’ve never happened. Students go to school to attain a education. Students go to school to hang out with their friends. Some students think of school as their “safe” place. If something bad happened or hard stuff is going on at home, some students go to school to escape that hardship and have some fun. School should be a safe place to go no matter what. You give 10 months of the year to go to this place for 7 hours a day to learn and socialize. You leave your family to come to this place. They will do anything to take care of their children and make sure they are safe. School is a place where they send their children as they believe it is or should be a safe place to go. I believe that the gun violence that has occurred recently needs to change. It is unacceptable. People are brought to the world for a reason and no one deserves to have to face that action that occurred on February 14. I personally knew a few people who went to that school and thankfully survived. Their stories are insane of how they did everything they could in their power to live that day. Gun laws should be stricter as that man should not have attained a gun. Background checks are greatly needed to see why that person needs a gun let along an AR-15. What the students have done so far to try to get stricter gun laws is amazing. Now the government needs to do more. Background checks need to happen. The lives of students, teachers, administrators, literally anyone should matter and no one deserves to have to go through that. -S.K.

This tragedy should not be taken lightly. This was to close to HCMS. We need to take charge of this and not let it happen again. We need to support them in every way possible. Many people lost friends sisters brothers. Gun violence needs to stop. My mom is a Kindergarten Teacher and the day she told me of this shooting she was in tears, She said “I should not have to teach 5 year old’s how to run or hide is someone is trying to shoot them.” I feel no kid or adult should have to go through a tragedy like this. They will have to keep this in their memory for a life time and its not fair for them. We need to speak out and make a change. A school shooting should not even be a possibility or something we have to worry about, Unfortunately it was a reality and it has happened enough that its time to stop and now we need to take a stand and stop this from happening! for Parkland and Hunter’s Creek GO EAGLES!! -A

I’m glad that this has woken us up. This shouldn’t be a problem. This should have never happened. People like this shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun and the fact that these weapons are so easily accessible isn’t helping. We need stricter gun control. Whats more important, the 2nd amendment or our lives? Most gun owners have guns to protect themselves from other guns. So many precious lives have been lost do to guns being in the wrong hands. Pulse, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Virginia Tech, Stoneman Douglas High, the list goes on. It upsets me that there is a list. It seems inhumane to have a list. There shouldn’t be a list. All of these victims should have been alive and living but some psychos ended those lives. Lives we will forever miss.

Young lives.
Ready to thrive.
But instead,
They lay in a hospital bed.
With wrapped up wounds,
They will see the end soon.
One man with a gun
Ended all of their high school fun.
Even though our hearts are filled with sorrow,
Hopefully, it will bring no guns for tomorrow. -S.R.

I’m tired of all this violence on the world, and I feel we need stricter gun laws. There are some people that don’t understand how serious this is, they don’t understand the fact we can lose 17 young lives in only one day. Those people that pull the trigger wouldn’t be able to do it without a gun. This has to stop, all this violence is making the world worse. Today I pray for those who were affected at Parkland and I pray nothing like this keeps happening. -J.A.

The time is now to act on this. It doesn’t take a debate to determine that we should stop selling such dangerous guns. If we don’t, who will? -I.C.

Its sad that kids cant go to school without have to worry about getting killed or injured by other people because of their life problems. I feel sad for these parents who lost their children at school. Where they should be learning not dying. -J.M.

And there were so many more heartfelt, truly emotional responses that I was so proud of our students for writing.

The last two minutes of our walkout were spent listening to “We Are the World” played by our Chamber Orchestra.

When we returned to class, there was no way to easily transition back into the day, so I knew that we had to spend a moment. I was crying, they were crying…no one was going to get any learning at the moment. To help the transition, I took a couple of minutes to just talk about using our sadness to have courage to continue standing up for those who cannot. And to be okay with the sadness and anger they are feeling, but to hold onto it and remember to focus on taking those feelings and making them productive. I then said, “And we get to go on, but let’s cherish every day.”

This was one of the most emotional moments I have ever spent with my students, and the sadness, empathy, and anger that my students feel about this are real. They are the future, everyone, and they don’t like how the present is looking.

#NeverAgain #Enough

Teaching Tuesday on a Wednesday

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