Monthly Archives: August 2012

Accountable Talk

Accountable Talk: speaking clearly, respectfully; increases quality of talk.

Accountability to Learning Community:

  • listen
  • paraphrase
  • build on ideas
  • use sentence stems
  • respectful disagreement

Accountability to Knowledge:

  • specific and accurate
  • resisting saying ‘anything’
  • getting facts straight
  • challenging questions that demand evidence for claims

Accountability to Rigorous Thinking:

  • building arguments
  • linking claims and evidence
  • checking quality of claims
  • working to make statements clear

By increasing students’ reading comprehension, vocabulary is expanded, word conscientiousness takes place and students are able to take part of rigorous thinking.  Expectations for students are incredible. I am humbled by the fact that some students are better accountable talkers than I am at this time. Well, they say learning is a lifelong process!


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Selective Mutism

Today I learned there will be a student with selective mutism in my classroom. She can read, write, and speak to family. But when she comes to school, she is overcome with such anxiety that she is unable to speak. It will be an interesting challenge working with her and implementing strategies that will help overcome this. Because selective mutism is reinforcing, treating it as early as possible is important. Self-modeling, providing motivators, stimulus fading, desensitization, shaping, and spacing all help contribute to treating this social anxiety disorder.

Funny thing is, when my family arrived in the United States I went straight into kindergarten. I experienced some sort of selective mutism. I learned the language but was terrified to say anything, even to ask permission if I could use the girls’ room. I became less anxious towards the end of the school year.  After I went into first grade, my anxiety returned again because I didn’t know anybody. I remember having an assignment at the beginning of the school year to draw a favorite television show. Well, we didn’t own a TV. And I didn’t know any TV shows. When the teacher asked me why I wasn’t drawing anything, I cried. Not only did I feel anxious and scared to speak up, but I couldn’t even complete an assignment consisting of drawing! In second grade I met a girl who spoke Russian; she became my best friend. This contributed to the lessening of my social anxiety.

I’m curious to see how interacting with the student will be like.

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Food Concept

I am a huge fan of food! Granted, I have the set of items which I refuse to eat because I am a little bit picky. I refuse to eat mayonnaise, sour cream, ranch, most salad dressings, mushrooms, and all seafood except grilled salmon. If any of these items are cleverly disguised in a particular dish, I may let it slide. I have always thoroughly enjoyed bread. Anything bready. Banana nut muffins, cakes, cookies, biscotti, bagels, Krispy Kreme original glazed donuts, poppy seed pirogi, and last but not least, French Bread. Yes, it deserves to be capitalized. Oh, and pasta. Carbs were my favorite. And I was always unhappy about my weight and my acne-ridden face.

Long story short, I was about to get married, I went on a strict diet, I lost weight, my face cleared up.

However, I didn’t ever feel good about eating. I would eat a small amount of food and would feel bloated. My stomach would hurt, my digestion was slow, I felt sluggish, and my skin was dry. I tried cleanses and low carb diets and so many different things that it’s embarrassing. One day, I came upon a book called “The G-Free Diet”.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. After reading through possible symptoms of gluten sensitivities or intolerances, I decided to experiment and eliminated gluten from my diet. To me that meant no bread, no pastries, and no pasta. Ack!!!

I am happy to report that I felt amazing within a few days. The symptoms listed above disappeared. I made a mistake twice (ate an ice-cream cone at McDonald’s and a piece of bread at church communion) which resulted in symptoms returning for two-three days. Thus I conclude I have a gluten sensitivity.

I realize it’s a self-diagnosis, but it worked for me, so I’m sticking to it.

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My Babushka

For a Social Studies class, one of the assignments consisted of interviewing a grandparent. I learned a lot.

I interviewed my grandmother, or babushka, from my mother’s side. She was born in February of 1942. The historical information she provided me with was similar to her husband’s, who was born in 1935. Since my family had already immigrated to the United States in the early 1990’s for religious freedom, we sponsored my grandparents to emigrate from the Ukraine.

My babushka was more than happy to share her experiences. She said life was so different when she was growing up, that she is still in shock over how children are raised today. She lived in a small village where each family had their own garden or farm. The gardens, she said, aren’t the size we see in people’s backyards, but rather about a hectare, or “length of a whole street and the width from the driveway to neighbor’s house”. Converted, this amount equates to 2.5 acres, or the size of at least two football fields. This village was a friendly community where each family cared for each other, helped each other out, and shared products, such as meat from a butchered animal, milk, cheese or breads.

My babushka went to school at the age of seven, and was expected to attend until the age of 13. She said that some villages had more or less schooling, but it depended on the village, the farm-work that needed to be completed, and if a teacher was available. Her village had two sessions: the “early school” from about 9 until 2 P.M., which she attended, and an “afternoon school” from about noon until 5 P.M., which older students or those who weren’t able to attend because of the war were catching up on. If the school day went as planned, my babushka would walk two kilometers home and begin her daily routines. This consisted of working in the garden, which had potatoes, grains, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots and strawberries. This took up a fairly big chunk of the day. Each season had different types of work that needed to be done. A form of agricultural management in the village was a collective farm (kolhoz), where land, equipment, livestock, and seeds were shared. If the collective farm of the village needed help, students would be taken there straight from school, or leave school early, or even omit classes altogether to go work in the farm. Boys and girls were equally expected to pitch in and stronger ones, usually boys, tended to the heavier loads or picking up wheat bushels.

Because farm life was a way of survival, most chores and after-school activities revolved around that. Items harvested were dried, canned, and put away for winter. When my babushka was not working on the farm, she picked berries or mushrooms in the forest or chopped wood. Something that really put things in perspective for me was that washing dishes was not considered a chore, but rather like an in-between activity because it didn’t require as much physical labor. Sunday evening was the time of week to look forward to! My babushka could finally participate in playtime: hide and seek with other children or play catch. In the winter, working on a farm was not very possible, so my babushka spent her time sledding and skating. By the time my babushka was 14, she was employed at the local cafeteria where miners would come have lunch.

In the village where my babushka lived, there was not much time or opportunity for relaxation. She had to help with her family’s garden, the collective farm of the village, and prepare for the 30° F winters.  A concluding comment my babushka made was that even though life had been so physically demanding, it was a more meaningful way of life.

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Student Teaching Anxiety

The first day of school begins next week on Tuesday. I am one week away from that day. The day when I am a student teacher of a first grade class. Tomorrow I have several meetings: with staff at the school, my supervisor and cooperating teacher, and all first-grade teachers.

I don’t know why I am so ridiculously nervous! The first few days, weeks even, I will be observing and helping out. Helping with papers, tedious work, working with groups, working one-on-one, etc. I won’t be standing in front of the classroom lecturing. Plus these are first-graders! They are too cute and precious to even have a sarcastic attitude! I don’t need to know rocket science to teach lessons at the first grade level. By the time I will need to prepare and teach lessons, I will be there for several weeks, so I should be fine. This is what I’m nervous about:

  • I’ll make a fool out of myself
  • I won’t be able to remember any of the students’ names
  • My Russian/Ukrainian accent will come out
  • I won’t know what I’m talking about
  • I’ll forget what I’m supposed to talk about
  • I won’t know an answer to a question a student may ask me
  • I’ll trip
  • My cooperating teacher will be disappointed with me
  • I will sound stupid when supervisor or principal are observing me, or when video recording will take place
  • The other teachers won’t like me
  • I won’t fit in

Wow. What a pathetic list. I’ve been in classrooms plenty of times. I’ve taught Sunday school classes for years. I’ve worked in banking and have acted as an interim supervisor and processed and approved multi-million dollar transactions. I’ve helped hire and fire people. I completed a half-marathon. I don’t know why this next step is so nerve-wracking for me! My eye has been twitching all day long today. Ugh.

My husband tells me that it’s because I genuinely care about this next phase. If I didn’t care at all, I wouldn’t be so nervous. But because I want to make a good impression and I want to teach the students well, I am feeling uncertain of my abilities.

Of course I will make mistakes. The process of learning is often a painful one.

Dear God, please give me strength and confidence to step into the student teaching world and do my best.

Categories: School | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What is an Effective Teacher?

Harry and Rosemary Wong wrote a book titled “The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher”. Here is a brief rundown of what makes an effective teacher:

  • impacts lives
  • establishes good control
  • continually acquires knowledge/skills
  • produces results
  • designs lessons for student mastery
  • exhibits positive expectations
  • begs, borrows, and steals ideas
  • works cooperatively and learns from colleagues
  • seeks out a role model
  • goes to professional meetings to learn
  • has goal of striving for excellence
  • is an adept critical thinker and competent problem solver
  • understands research process; uses research-based teaching practices
  • teaches and shows students that school is a place to gain knowledge, give and receive love, become successful; school is a concept, not a place
  • helps organize a First Day of School celebration
  • is dressed for success
  • is a role model for students
  • thinks and acts globally
  • has an inviting personality (works at being intentionally inviting)
  • addresses people by name
  • says “please” and “thank you”
  • has a classroom with little confusion or wasted time
  • prepares, prepares, prepares
  • cultivates a positive reputation
  • arranges seats to expedite the task at hand
  • has assignments posted daily in a consistent location
  • does not disturb class during roll taking
  • knows what results should be recorded
  • designs or modifies grade record book to record these results
  • keeps running progress of student work
  • has detailed records to allow for assessment and learning
  • uses discipline to help teach young people self-discipline and responsible behavior
  • teaches procedures for each activity early in the year
  • rehearses the class so procedures become class routines
  • reinforces a procedure when appropriate and reteaches a procedure when necessary
  • has a classroom that can run itself
  • writes objectives that tell student what is to be accomplished
  • knows how to write objectives at all six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation)
  • uses formative tests to determine the appropriate corrective help
  • grades and remediates for percentage mastery, not on a curve
  • creates learning plans using Backward Design (identify desired results, determine acceptable evidence, plan learning experiences and instruction)
  • constructs scoring guides aligned to lesson objectives
  • uses scoring guides for formative assessments
  • teaches students how to use scoring guides for personal assessments
  • implements and is part of a learning team
  • analyzes student work and instruction as part of a team
  • contributes to and helps maintain a shared vision
  • never gives up

Ok this wasn’t quite as brief as I imagined it at first, but a good reminder and guide.

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This Blog


The reason for this blog spot is to record information that I feel is important for me know. I come across so many things, learn so many facts, become exposed to so many ideas… but I lose them if I don’t use them (or forget where they’re located). Information here will be ranging from what I learned while at college majoring in elementary education and minoring in psychology, reflections and ideas of student teaching experiences on a regular (hopefully!) basis, challenges I encounter, dealing with people, students and lesson plans, my journey on gluten-free living and easy-to-convert recipes, and anything else that may come to mind. I suppose this could be something like an organized shelf of what’s in my brain. Au revoir!

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