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Vol.#23: What’s at YOUR Teaching Core? [Cross-Post]

pixlrI was afforded the opportunity to have “blogging training wheels” in the way of writing a few Guest Posts for Scripted Spontaneity throughout the year before I started Teaching Speaks Volumes this past June. One of these posts from about a year-and-a-half ago still remains one of my own personal favorites that I’ve written on education.
So, I hope my readers don’t mind a cross-post as I include on my own blog, and will perhaps even provide some fresh perspectives in the comments.

“If our core belief is based on what other people think, then we eventually will allow their opinions to become our reality.” ~Darren L. Johnson

image credit: Wikimedia Commons user unununium272
image credit: Wikimedia Commons user unununium272

Our school is currently developing Core Belief Statements. First, each of our interdisciplinary teams and elective departments generated their own and submitted them to administration. Now these statements have been compiled and shared with the staff. They’ll be used to create Core Belief Statements for our school.

It’s wonderful that this process has opened dialogue, but it begs the question: Does something so personal coincide with asking for a standardized consensus? Perhaps I am borrowing trouble and these statements will be vague enough where everyone can agree, but some people have very passionate beliefs when it comes to teaching and education.

Scripted Spontaneity followers know there’s been recent discussion here about standardization of teachers’ practices. But what about standardization of Core Beliefs? Even if teachers can all agree on a statement like, “We value what is in the best interest of the students,” . . . what if we don’t agree on what that should be? What happens when caring, brilliant teachers who work daily with purpose and precision … don’t agree on what these practices are?

Case in point.

Continue reading Vol.#23: What’s at YOUR Teaching Core? [Cross-Post]


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.


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.


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. #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.#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

Vol.#6: Changing the Core

As a multi-track  year-round teacher, I’ve just completed the first week of school: a new administration, a new demanding schedule, a new PLT, a new batch of seventh graders, and many other new challenges. However, this group of students is wonderful, my new PLT is off to a great running start, and this new administration has expressed unwavering high standards for its staff. If your undergo a change in your surroundings, I think it’s safe to assume you’ll change as a result as you adapt.

So looking ahead to this school year, I realize this new context coupled with the unique and intense Kenan Fellows experience will be nothing shy of completely transformative for me. Continue reading Vol.#6: Changing the Core

Vol.#5: The NCCAT Experience

As Volume #4 mentioned, I attended NCCAT in Cullowhee, NC the last week in June with the other Kenan Fellows. Kenan asked us to write about our NCCAT highlight  for our third post to our Kenan Fellows’ Blog. Here’s my response.


I’m what you call “indoorsy.”   ~Jim Gaffigan

I hesitated long and hard before submitting the survey about paint-balling and whitewater rafting. In fact, I was on the list of Fellows to which they’d had to send the survey a second time. This was not because it had slipped my mind. However, Paul Cancellieri finally put it this way to me:

“Do it. When else will you? And…it’s where the memories will be made.”

This turned out to be ingenious advice.

Honestly, the scariest part for me about paint-balling was signing the waiver. “Possible serious injury and death.” I read this and glanced around. We’re all signing this? Seriously? Well, okey-dokey.

As each paint-ball scenario went on, I got better at knowing my strengths and weaknesses, and in which way I would best serve my team. (We initially played in the woods, then moved to a little city built just for this, with cars and three-story buildings.) I much preferred the city’s required strategy over the unpredictability of the forest. I’m sure this says lots about myself, and could go on here to analyze it.

falls0001_1-e1337353864916However, the prompt for this blog assignment asked for the NCCAT highlight. I’ve already discussed my Top Ten Tech Takeaways, and individually and as a whole, they are an invaluable, amazing highlight. But looking at the experiences outside of those classroom-altering tools, what was a highlight for me? That would have to be jumping the rock.

For starters, I was certain I was going to fall out of the raft. In fact, if I hadn’t grabbed poor Robin, I know one time that I definitely would have. Our guide, whom the rest of the Fellows all knew by his lack of rafting attire but we came to know as “Dan”, was really great. (Dan was in a black Speedo.) Caroline jumped in and went for a swim at one point, and Dan was teaching Kristine to steer as our guide during much of the trip. Tammy is an experienced rafter who’s conquered class five rapids before. And nothing seems to bother Kenny. I was certainly the most nervous “fish out of water” in our raft.

When we got to the jumping rock, it looked pretty high even from the ground. I’d decided against it. I watched many of the fellows jump off confidently, and many others hesitate. I started to consider doing this. Then, I saw Ryan G.

Ryan went to the edge…and stopped. He paced. He shook his head, as if to say, “Oh, hell no!”. Then, people stared to cheer him on. From my perspective back on the shore, I would say it looked like he was probably not going to do it, but for the encouragement of his fellow Fellows. We cheered as he finally screwed up his courage and jumped.

Ryan just did this. I can do this. *deep breath*

As everyone started to head back to their boats, I nervously edged up to the top of the rock. Holy mackerel, but it’s high. Again, my resolve wavered. Then, like with Ryan, I heard some of the Fellows, and then more still, start to cheer me on. I looked back and saw wet Fellows who had met this challenge. I saw Lisa H. had jumped, and was smiling. More Fellows started to cheer, “You can do this!” “Go Erica!”

I jumped.

I heard everyone cheer all the way down. The water was so cold, it seized all my senses on impact. When I surfaced though, they were still cheering.

Dan had us spinning like a washing-machine as we went over the class-three falls, and I didn’t fall out. I didn’t grab Robin. Something within me had changed.

We are all going to have experiences in this adventure that will be new, and difficult, and even scary. But, the rock taught me we also have each others’ backs. We are each others’ support, encouragement, and example of success. Pride grows from expecting more from ourselves than we thought we ever could accomplish…and then rising to the occasion.

So, what was the highlight of NCCAT for me? That it was the perfect storm of experiencing confidence-building adventures, acquiring new tech tools for the classroom, and cultivating powerful professional contacts and amazing new friends. The power of this storm will surely reshape the landscape of myself as an educator and a person.

Vol.#4: My Top Ten Tech Takeaways from NCCAT

I attended NCCAT in Cullowhee, NC this past week along with the other Kenan Fellows. While lots of experiences were built into our stay, the instructional focus was on educational technology.

It. Was. Amazing.

I am passionate about learning educational technology and integrating it into my classroom. Therefore, I was thrilled to be immersed into such a rich technology training environment over several days.  It was the most powerfully intensive technology training I’ve ever experienced. Continue reading Vol.#4: My Top Ten Tech Takeaways from NCCAT