Saturday, November 29, 2014

Building Leaders...Building Memories

Post by Sarah Roeder: Sarah has been teaching Business classes for fifteen years, the last eight years at Bettendorf High School. Sarah also serves as adviser to FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) You can follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahroeder68

When I first joined the BHS team, I knew nothing about Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).  Of course being the newbie, I jumped in with both feet guided by Kristy Cleppe (@kriscleppe) and Jen Like (@JenniferrLike) not sure what to expect.  With only about 15 members our first few years, little did I know what an impact FBLA was making on our students.  Throughout the years, our chapter has grown to at times over 57 members, and the structure has changed for organizational purposes, but the basic premise of leadership, involvement and making memories has remained the same.

When kids (or adults) ask, “What is FBLA and what do you do?” it is hard to describe all that FBLA encompasses.  If you ask the members, the describe it as “one big family”, “work and fun”, “we compete and eat donuts.”  But for me, FBLA is a place where all students can excel and learn not only about business and leadership, but also find a purpose and a place to belong.

The early 5:30 a.m. mornings to pop breakfast casseroles in the oven before the kids get here for their meeting, standing in line at Schnuck’s to get three dozen donuts for the Thursday morning meetings, sleepless nights while chaperoning one of our many trips, it’s easy to get run down and at times feel unappreciated.  That’s usually when I hear the kids say “wow did you make this” or “thanks Nana Roeder”, reminding me why I do it.  When former students stay in touch after years of moving on, and talk about how much FBLA did to bring them out of their shell, build their network, and let them be part of something big, it reaffirms why I (and all of us) do it; for the kids and to create great high school memories.

We as advisers spend countless extra hours helping prep for state, holding events and chaperoning, but it really isn't about us.  It’s about the look on our member’s face when their name is called to the stage for the competitions, the excitement in their eyes when they finally experience the opening or closing sessions-- with all the lights, music, and over 7000 other students that share the same passion and goals as they do.   To see these young men and women dressed in professional dress: suits with ties, blazers and pants.  They look and feel like a million dollars, and exude confidence, ready to take on the business world.

We have been blessed to have former members come back and share with our current members, volunteer at the state competitions and visit classrooms, sharing their experiences and all that FBLA has taught them or the doors it has opened through a passion to learn, lead and explore.  FBLA is about leadership, but more importantly, building lasting memories.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Worst Teacher Ever

Post by Rodger Wilming: This is Rodger's 3rd post on TSLG1440. Rodger is in his 15th year of teaching Language Arts at Bettendorf High School. 

The worst teacher I ever had left me with the longest lasting lesson of my academic career, both as a student and as a teacher. The year was 1977; I was a junior at Davenport West High School. I loathed school (except for certain language arts teachers, all young and pretty as I recall). I would do anything to avoid the daily, bell-to-bell grind. Fortunately, I was able to take an afternoon, off-campus electronics repair course and spend less than half a day at Old Davenport West running from bell to bell with nearly 2,000 other beat-down students. All we did the first two weeks was pass around boxes filled with dusty vacuum tubes from obsolete TVs and radios and take lecture notes. I was more bored doing that than running from bell to bell.

Finally, about a month into the course, we were assigned a topic to research and report on in a formal paper. Now we were talkin’ my language. I was an Ace at formal essays. My young/pretty language arts teachers had told me so on numerous occasions.

My topic was Guglielmo Marconi, The Godfather of the Wireless Radio. I spent the weekend crafting and editing my masterpiece. I proudly placed it on Mr. M.’s desk Monday afternoon and waited with bated breath for its triumphal return. When I arrived to class a couple of days later, my paper was resting at my place in the electronics lab along with everyone else’s. I eagerly snatched up my magnum opus only to discover a serious mistake had been made. My teacher had scribbled a bright red “C-” on the top of the first of four, well-crafted pages. When I asked about his obvious oversight of my paper’s genius, he grumbled, “That’s the score and that’s that.” Then he walked away.

I reacted the way any rational, red-blooded, sixteen-year-old boy would: I ripped the paper horizontally, creating a new, eight-page paper. Then I tore it vertically, magically turning eight pages into sixteen. Then I crumpled it up like a ball and tossed it into the nearest circular file I could see from my seat. In it went, swish. No rim.

Just as I leaned back to bask in the glory of my accomplishment, I felt myself being lifted from my chair. Someone had a hold of my arm from behind and was pulling hard… wrath of God hard. Of course it was Mr. M. Now, I had developed a reputation of being a bit of a BA back in the day; obviously Mr. M. hadn’t gotten the memo. Fortunately, my best friend at the time saw the whole thing and quickly said, “You better let go of him, Mr. M.” Mr. M. liked my buddy and decided he might be right about letting go of my arm.

Everything worked out.  The principal of the school (who happened to attend my church at the time) talked to me. Then he talked to my teacher. My paper was returned the next day (magically taped into four pieces with a much higher grade at the top). My semester grade was awful, but I knew there would be paybacks.

Fast forward twenty years. I had an old truck. It had a broken radio… a tube-type radio. Yep, I needed the last person I should have ever considered to repair an obsolete radio for me. I called Mr. M. (he was in the book), told him my name and set up a time to drop off my radio. When I showed up at his house he answered the door with a framed photo in his left hand. It was then that I remembered how he’d told us that he had taken a photo of every class he’d ever taught. I realized, right then and there, that it was clearly time for me to eat some major crow. Before I could say a word, he held up the picture and said, “We had some trouble when you were my student didntt we?”

I had to think quickly. In just a second or two, I heard myself say, “Yes, sir. Yes we did.

“What was that about? Do you remember?” he asked.

And then it hit me. I said, “Yes, yes I do. You asked me to write a paper on Marconi’s wireless radio and I wrote a paper on Guglielmo Marconi, The Godfather of the Wireless Radio.” I had nothing more to say. Neither did Mr. M.

Finally, he stuck out his right hand, shook mine and said, “I thought it was something like that.” He set the picture down, took the truck radio from under my arm, smiled and said, “Come on in. Let’s take a good look at this old girl.”

I saw Mr. M. just twice more after that day: once to pick up my perfectly repaired tube radio and once when my parents and wife had taken me out to dinner. They were perturbed at me, I recall, because I couldn’t tear myself away from a serendipitous conversation with Mr. M. and his wife who just happened to be dining in the same restaurant we’d chosen that night.  I stumbled across Mr. M.’s obituary in the newspaper a while back. It reminded me that most ugly situations can be resolved, if not completely avoided, with just a small measure of understanding.

Monday, November 17, 2014

There Is More Than Meets the Eye

Post by Joe Newcomb: Joe is in his 3rd year of teaching special education (Level II BD) at BHS. You can follow Joe on Twitter @jnewcomb32 

From the time I began my college education, I knew I wanted to be a teacher and coach. What I did not know is where I would end up or where I would have my first opportunity to help make a difference in students’ lives.  After graduating from Cornell College with an endorsement in Physical Education, I quickly found out how difficult it is to find a job in the education field.  I moved to the Quad Cities to be closer to my then, fiancĂ©, and began substituting in a couple of school districts. 

After subbing throughout the 1st semester, I felt like I was creating relationships and connections with people at several different schools.  I was hopeful that I would be given an opportunity the following year in some sort of teaching role.  However, one early December day my phone rang asking if I was interested in interviewing for a Special Education long-term substitute position.  I told the person on the other end that I was and that I would be there to interview next week. At the interview, I learned more about the position and learned that it would be in the area of working with students with behavioral needs.  Knowing very little about the field of special education, in particular BD students, I was nervous, but excited to begin my teaching career. 

When I was asked to substitute in this role, I knew this job would be different.  I had no idea what to expect when I walked through the doors on day one after the holiday break, but I quickly learned how similar this job was to any other teaching job.  As I walked into the self-contained classroom, I was greeted with questions and looks of confusion from the students in the classroom.  They wanted to know who I was and what I was doing there.  As they slowly warmed up to me and we were able to break the ice by talking and getting to know one another, I learned how they were similar to all of the other students in the school.  The students I worked with wanted to be cared about, connected with, and given a reason to buy into school.  Many of them had not been given a reason to like school or want to be in school for several years.  Although most of these students want to succeed in school, it is very difficult to help them succeed because these students require more time to create relationships with others, particularly with adults.  I learned this the hard way as a couple of the students refused to talk to me or give me a chance to get to know them for several weeks.  These few students continued to observe my efforts to help them in the classroom and with controlling their emotions.  After several days, they opened up to me and gave me a chance.

After being in this role for almost three years, including my long-term substitute time, I have learned an incredible amount from the students I encounter every day.  I have learned that every student wants to have success on a daily basis.  While some students may never vocalize that they want to be successful, it is the times that they are successful that you see that these students want to perform well.  When a student struggles to complete academic school work, pass classes, attend school on a daily basis, or show respect to the adults in the building, one moment of success in one of those areas of struggle can portray the student’s pride or happiness as they learn that they can succeed similar to their peers.  While these successes may be days or weeks apart for some students, I still have comfort in knowing that they can and will achieve success which keeps me upbeat and excited to come to work on a daily basis.  I have also learned that growth for each student can be different on so many levels.  While we all want our students to be successful by passing all of their classes, attending school each day, and staying out of trouble, I have been lucky enough to see and understand that success for one of my students is different from the success of other students.  For my students, success can be determined by the amount a student goes to class, how often a student arrives on time, or passing at least one class each quarter.  Although success for each of my students appears to be different, I have learned that growth on a consistent basis is the most important aspect of helping my students increase their successes.  With that said, growth from the students I work with may not be easily seen from those who do not work with them on a daily basis.  At times, I am even guilty for not recognizing the improvements my students have made.  However, unlike others, I have the benefit of reflecting back on past experiences with my students and can then identify how each of them has grown.

As I look ahead, I have no idea what my future may hold as an educator, person, husband, or friend.  Nevertheless, I do know that I have been blessed and feel honored to have been given an opportunity to work with the students that I do on a daily basis.  I learn so much each day and feel that this teaching experience is making me a better person and educator as I learn how to work with students who face daily obstacles that I have never had to encounter.  While the job may be different each day or class period and filled with challenges, what job is not?  I am thankful for my students for teaching me skills that I now know I lacked and was unaware that I needed, and I am hopeful that I can teach my students the importance of being understanding, working hard each day, and creating relationships built on trust.  I continue to look forward to the opportunities and challenges that I will face throughout the school year, and I have no doubt that we (our classroom and program) will continue to grow and show success as we head deeper into the 2014-15 academic school year.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

See the Stars...Not the Mud

Post by Vera Betts: Vera has worked for the BCSD for 21 years. She currently serves as a secretary in the attendance office with her long time partner Joni B.

"Two inmates stare through prison bars. One sees mud, the other...stars."
             - Robert Stroud (Birdman of Alcatraz)   

Occasionally my husband will share this quote with me and our family. Sometimes we need to remind him, too. 

When Mr. Casas asked me to write something for his blog, I just wasn't sure what I could add that hasn't already been stated. Those who know me well, understand how difficult it is for me to express myself. Sometimes my tongue gets in front of my eye teeth and I can't see what I'm saying. But I told Mr. C that I'd give it a shot. So, here it goes...

I'm a proud, full-blooded Italian, wife, mother and grandmother. I carefully nurtured a son and three daughters, through the Bettendorf school system...and with much love I can proudly say they are all healthy, wise and productive citizens.

I started my career with the Bettendorf School System in 1993 as a Food Service Attendant. So I guess you can say I started out washing dishes. The next 10 years were dedicated to Project Ready (now The Edison Academy). I was patiently mentored by a group exceptionally talented teachers from three school districts and emotionally bonded with several of the students.  I've now been 12 years in the Attendance Office at Bettendorf High School. 

Perhaps, many of you can recall the physical and functional changes that have occurred since 2003. Back then the Attendance Office was pretty much a support office for the rest of the school. Visitors and students went to the main office first and were, then, referred to attendance for various reasons.

With the newly constructed offices, came a physical and mental metamorphosis, involving abrupt changes and urgent adaptations. Joni, my co-worker, and I have now become the "Gate Keepers" for our hallowed institution. Buzzing folks through our doors, answering busy phones, retrieving voice messages, assisting visitors and granting passes seems a daunting task at times. At the same time, these new duties and challenges are exhilarating. On the up-side, we get to meet and greet (briefly sometimes) just about everyone who enters the building. Fortunately, working with administrators who understand, provide a nurturing environment and motivationally empower us to do our best during the transition.

I know that, unfortunately, some folks show up and pass through our gates seeing mud instead of stars. We "Gate Keepers" have a mission to help those few see a star now and then. That's why I keep a bowl of mints on my counter. I choose to think that mints can do more than relieve a students oral halitosis. Perhaps, in a small way, it can relieve that pesky mental halitosis, too. Who knows for sure...and why not? To keep up with demand, I've had to resort to the JUMBO BAG.

Well, welcome to the Attendance Office.  Stop by and say hi to Joni and me. Grab a mint, too!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Learning to Love the Mess

Post by Laura Hesse: Laura is in her 4th year of teaching social studies, the last three at Bettendorf High School. You can follow Laura on Twitter @LauraJHesse

When I was a freshman in high school, I had Mr. Lapish for 9th grade Honors English. He was skinny, dorky, and kind of weird, and he was my inspiration to be a teacher. In his class, I learned how to work hard. Every assignment required a great deal of thought and effort. At the same time, I learned how to be goofy and explore learning from new angles. We played baseball with a cardboard poster tube and tennis ball. We acted out short stories and Shakespeare. We made videos on various chapters of Lord of the Flies using Barbie dolls and construction paper backgrounds.

After high school, I left my hometown north of Chicago for a small town in northern Iowa. When I arrived at Luther College, I was ready to take on the world. At the beginning, I was a proud English and History major with a minor in secondary education. Then, in January of my sophomore year, I spent some time in a classroom, and I began to question my life. Classrooms were so messy. Students are dealing with emotions while you are dealing with facts. How do you reach out and engage students who do not even want to be in the building, let alone your classroom? How do I teach students the history of the world when all they can focus on is the drama within their own lives?

I quit.

I switched my major to Anthropology and set my sites on a distinguished career in archaeology and museum work. I convinced myself that I was making a much better choice by switching to a career that made more money and dealt with no emotions. But I felt empty.

That summer, I emailed a former education professor and poured my heart out. Instead of replying, he called me into his office. He sat me down and told me, “Laura, teaching is not for everyone. It takes passion and commitment. It takes the understanding that you will fail and you will fall, and it takes the dedication to stand back up and try again. Is it easy? No. Is it messy? Yes. But if you let it, it will make your life beautiful. Are you strong enough to let it?”

I started over in education. This time, I embraced the mess. After graduation, I ended up in the Quad Cities teaching Social Studies. In my time teaching, I have learnt that mess is the best part of teaching. Really, mess is the reason I fell in love with teaching in the first place.

Now, I try to bring mess to my daily teaching. My classes experiment with new programs and activities. We embrace new technology. We act as guinea pigs for new ideas. We hold mock town meetings to discuss peaceful protest. We take on the roles of UN peace negotiators. We explore the slang of the 1920’s. I am constantly changing lessons that fail and even lessons that succeed. It is not perfect. I am not perfect. In fact, I am far from perfect. What I am is a teacher, and I love the mess that goes with it.