All posts by Erica Speaks

Erica Speaks teaches language arts at a multi-track year-round public middle school in North Carolina. She earned her National Board Certification in 2004 and renewed in 2014. Named a Class of 2013 Kenan Fellow in NC State’s Kenan Fellows Program for Curriculum and Leadership Development, she is tasked with Creating a Virtual Library of Common Core Concepts for Site-Based Professional Development. DPI will use these materials in training educators throughout the state. Before beginning her journey as a educator in the classroom, she earned her B.A. in Psychology and her M.A. in Teaching in 1999 and 2000, respectively, both from The University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. She and her husband have two young boys and live in Raleigh, NC.

Vol.#19: Raleigh Charter High School


In Volume #17 I discussed my County’s many options for parents. My year round school’s track outs provide an opportunity to visit the several types of these public school options while they are in session.  This is the second school in a series of four.

IMG_3123

Ms. Kristine Chalifoux  (Shall-if-oo) is one of those English teachers from whom both light and energy seem to radiate in an almost palpable aura. She is creative and energetic and dazzling, but make no mistake: she is also razor-sharp and an expert in her content. She has unapologetically and uncompromisingly high expectations, and when in her class, you’d better be up to snuff.

As a language arts teacher, you just can’t help but feel like a slouch next to Ms. Chalifoux.

IMG_3132

An older remodeled building that’s now industrial-chic, Raleigh Charter High School is home to a little over 550 students, where 21% of the students are in Advanced College Prep Courses (AP*, IB**, Community College, University). The state average in North Carolina for students enrolled in Technical or Community College is 15% of the high school population, however at RCHS it is 0%. Zero. A total 100% of their student population is college-bound.

Though Raleigh Charter is a public school, Continue reading Vol.#19: Raleigh Charter High School

Vol.#18: Enloe High School

In my last post I discussed my County’s various options for parents. My year round school’s track outs provide an opportunity to visit the several types of public schools while they are in session.  This is the first of the schools I will discuss in a series of four.

IMG_5252

I visited my esteemed colleague and fellow 2013 Kenan Fellow Priscilla Chappell at  one of the magnet options: Enloe High School. She has an ease and rapport with her students that is obvious immediately upon seeing her interaction with them. A theme emerges if you peruse her online reviews; while not considered “easy”, she consistently has top marks for being helpful and clear. (This, in my opinion, should be the goal of all teachers.) It’s no wonder she was a Teacher of the Year semifinalist for Wake County in 2011, which any teacher in Wake can tell you is no minor accomplishment.

Enloe Hall

So, onto what makes Enloe…Enloe. Continue reading Vol.#18: Enloe High School

Vol.#17: A Choice Education

“My neighbor’s kid has been in Wake County schools for six years, and his school has changed six times. He has no childhood friends. Why does the county do that?”

I have no answer for this stranger who, upon learning I am a public school teacher for WCPSS, demands it. His tone is curious with only a hint of accusing. He knows I personally did not set any policies, but he’s grappling for a logical reason. Some counter argument which I cannot provide. This county is infamous known for the sometimes contentious board meetings and how it repeatedly rearranges student reassignment. Though the news has explained they are touting choice and address-based models and assuring students will be “grandfathered in”, it does not always seem to coincide with the stories from some parents like this one speaking to me now.

Actually, as a parent I know little about it as well. I am fortunate that the county accommodated my request to have my son at the year-round elementary school that is adjacent to and feeds into the middle school where I teach. There’s even a bus that runs to and from the school to bring him from and deliver him to my school. Therefore, I missed much of the agonizing analysis many parents experience.

Image Credit:http://artschools.com/resources/how-to-choose-an-art-school
Image Credit:
http://artschools.com/resources/how-to-choose-an-art-school

This past week, letters went home to parents about the 2013-14 school year assignment and their choices. I sent them home to my homeroom, as well as received one from my son’s teacher. I decided to go to the Wake County Student Enrollment & Assignment page myself. There’s lots of information on choices and many, many magnet programs. Curious, I entered my own address into the page provided to look up base schools we’re assigned. Continue reading Vol.#17: A Choice Education

Vol. #16: Five 2012 Reflections & One Resolution for 2013

When I started this blog in June, I had great fear that the pressure of “deadlines” (which in reality I realize are an invention of my own making and I imagine only really matter to me anyway) would add stress to the already stressful world of a young mom and public school teacher. Truth be told, I also was skeptical that anyone out there was really interested in what I had to say. However, I couldn’t shake that I wanted to say it, anyway. So here we are.

The nagging worry of not publishing good enough material or often enough was a warranted one. It’s been weeks months since my last post. Eleven drafts sit in my queue, not ready to see the light of day.

And after these first seven months as a blogging educator, I have reflected on the following:

1. Blogging provides me with a clear vision and purpose.   Writing my thoughts (or apparently, even just drafting my thoughts) has resulted in more methodical teaching and more confidence in my purpose. Sharing those thoughts has garnered a growing online PLN. At my own school, topics I’ve blogged about have started conversations with colleagues and my administration.

2. Tagxedo of Topics   Using my URL, tagxedo provides a look at these topics at an artful glance. The more often a word appears on my blog, the larger it appears here:

Screen Shot 2012-12-31 at 9.24.12 PM

Continue reading Vol. #16: Five 2012 Reflections & One Resolution for 2013

Vol.#15: The Edmodo Education

I started using Edmodo over the past couple of months. Specifically, I offered it as one option to complete a reading project. I’d thought having a smaller group of students to start would help me ease into it, however over 75% of my 109 students opted for the Edmodo choice instead of the more traditional alternative.

 
I used the Edmodo quizzes as part of the assessment for the project. Now having used them, I see the quiz feature as having a likely future in my classroom as formative assessments, such as homework, as opposed to actual “quizzes”. Edmodo does not allow retakes easily and both the timed feature and occasional glitches in the system make quizzes that “count” stressful. However, the instant feedback it provides would be very vaulable in the formative stage and would reduce class-time reviewing answers on completed assignments, allowing for more time on new, engaging tasks and collaboration.

While pondering the future of this possibility, I had my students complete the following Consens-o-gram. Continue reading Vol.#15: The Edmodo Education

Vol.#14: Technology and the Common Core [2]

In my previous post on technology and its role in the Common Core curriculum a couple of months ago, I described an integrated approach. Tech should be infused in the instruction, while the content is the educational objective. However, upon further reflection I worry that I under-emphasized a seismic shift in this curriculum as it relates to technology. Namely, that Common Core also expressly states technology as part of the curriculum. This is to say, technology IS now an overt educational objective and not merely a by-product.

For example, on page seven of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts document it states:

Students who are College and Career Ready in Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Language: “…use technology and digital media strategically and capably. Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.”

This gives a picture of a capable student as one who knows how to acquire and communicate facts, not one who has memorized them. Our children live in a world where they hold the entire sum of man’s knowledge in the palm of their hand. They will (rightly) find a quiz about the dates of World War II rather a waste of time.

Further, Continue reading Vol.#14: Technology and the Common Core [2]

Vol.#13: Metamorphosis

met·a·mor·pho·sis

a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism

This past week marked the third and final Professional Development Institute for myself and the other 2013 Kenan Fellows. It will likely be the last time we see each other until the celebratory events planned at the end of the year when the Fellowship is completed. It was wonderful to see everyone, though it was far too brief. As always, I learned so much more from them than it feels I must ever give back. (I’m looking at you Karen and Vance.)

I don’t know if other Fellows have been experiencing some of the same seismic shifts at their schools that Continue reading Vol.#13: Metamorphosis

Vol.#12: Social Media @Classroom #Revolution

As I continue my work this week at the North Carolina Department of Instruction with the Kenan Fellows program, I have been presented with the following intriguing question:

“As some districts ban the use of social media in and out of classrooms, and others encourage its use, how do you explain such polar viewpoints?”

Welp, in a nutshell: Continue reading Vol.#12: Social Media @Classroom #Revolution

Vol.#11: Instructional Smackdown

Back in July, I read a wonderful post by Edutopia titled “Ten Ideas for Teaching Teachers :Technology“. In early August, I forwarded it to my colleague Luke Miles who is widely heralded as our school’s resident techie guru. I stated, “I bet we can get Drew to agree to #4.” Continue reading Vol.#11: Instructional Smackdown

Vol.#10: Technology and the Common Core

Considering the significant curriculum changes taking place as a result of the Common Core and NC Essential Standards, do you think that the Common Core or the NC Essential Standards is more likely to positively influence the use of technology for learning or is it another impediment to implementing digital tools? 

The Common Core came about due to the fact that students leaving high school were not college and career ready.* [see below] Therefore, I cannot fathom it is in the spirit of the Common Core to exclude technology, as surely students will need to be technologically literate in college and the careers of the future. Other countries have figured this out; 100% of first graders are learning to code…in Estonia. [source]

I envision the best model for threading technological skills through the Common Core metaphorically like light through a prism. The Common Core is the white light passing through a prism of technology, thereby creating multiple wave-lengths which differentiate for abilities, cultivate 21st century skills, and generate relevance and student-interest.

Technological agnosticism is important, as well. Continue reading Vol.#10: Technology and the Common Core