College Ready

Sharing strategies for student success, college readiness and academic coaching


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Read, Write, Connect. 18 Weeks in the Life of an English Prof: Week 1, Day 1

CONNECT

Week 1, Day 1 of the semester. Welcome to 18 weeks in the life of a college English professor…or, what I’m affectionately calling “High Heels & a Highlighter.” I have committed to sharing my experiences with all of you. You’ll have a front row seat here in my college English class this semester. As an “Insider” you’ll be privy to lesson plans, learning goals, successes, and (likely) some occasional bumps along the road that happen to us all, not so much failures as, oh, let’s call ’em “learning opportunities.” 🙂

We spend a lot of time at the very first class establishing connections, getting to know each other, and laying the foundation for our Learning Community. One active learning exercise we do is called Common Ground. Students get into groups of 6 and come up with a list of 10 things they all have in common. It is a great way to get students interacting from the very first class!
Fast & Fun Ice Breaker

Fast & Fun Ice Breaker

And of course, I introduce myself, the course objective and overall theme. Along with all of that, I also introduce my students to the concept of Metacognition: thinking about your thinking, or learning about your learning. When students use metacognition strategies, it increases their learning outcomes. Students need to recognize that the brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, and flex it, the stronger it becomes. You can literally build the brain you want. The very latest neuroscience backs this up. Here’s what Judy Willis, MD, had to say in a recent Edutopia article:
“To reduce anxiety about new “stuff” in the classroom — whether related to Common Core State Standards, struggles with reading, or something else entirely — you can find opportunities to emphasize students’ ability to literally build the brains they want. Remind them that, when they turn in a story, demonstrate a science principle in a skit, or even raise their hand to respond to a question, they grow more dendrites and add new layers of myelin to their axons. To them this may sound gross, but it’s actually good news. By activating these brain networks, they continuously use their executive functions as they apply new learning. Like a muscle, the brain responds to interaction and activity.”
Sure, there’s more, but I’ll be keeping these posts more like a “snapshot.” So, that’s a taste of Day One in my classroom. We Read, Write and Connect. In fact…that’s the title of my class! Post a comment on what you do on your first day-I’d love to hear from you. xo~Lisa


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At Semester’s End: Closing Thoughts from an English Prof

Keep Moving Forward.

As a college instructor, beginnings and endings are an integral part of my life. Each semester, I meet a new group of students, in each of my classes, and we get to know each other. We connect and we learn each others’ stories, if you will. 18 weeks later, we part ways, having shared the classroom experience. Although I occasionally have a student for another semester, for the most part I won’t see many of them again. Our time together is brief but significant.

I believe that the way you begin a semester is absolutely critical. From day 1, you’re teaching and you’re leading and you’re setting the tone. But on the flip side of that, I believe that endings are equally crucial. One part of their journey may be over, a class checked off a list of requirements, but the next steps are still to be taken, and the finish line of graduation, still a long way off. By ending on the right tone, you set your students up for taking that next step. You set them up to keep moving forward.

For a sense of closure and to mark the end of the semester, I always have a class party, in the form of a potluck and a mega-trivia challenge, based on the course content. These are celebrations of all the hard work, critical thinking, sharing of ideas and ok, blood, sweat and tears, that students have put into their writing and learning for those 18 weeks. These parties are so much fun. Students bring in all sorts of amazing delicacies, and this semester, one of my students even brought in homemade tamales-cooked by none other than his abuela–for the entire class. Another student made 2 different types of cake pops, while another did a homemade pie…we are never lacking sweet treats at these shindigs! Far more important than the food though, these gestures show the students that they have meant something to each other, and the connections made have been important.

I also write a “Final Thought” blog post, to reflect on the semester and wish my students well as they continue on their path towards their academic goals. I specifically tell them “Don’t ever give up.” Students do need to hear that message, early and often, during their college careers. So much of student success comes from resilience, grit, and a belief that it is possible. As instructors, we are teachers. But, we are also role models, mentors and messengers, and when we believe in them, students start to have a stronger belief in themselves. Here’s this year’s post, called On Endings, Broad Margins, and Moving Forward.

How about you? What do you do to mark the end of a semester or school year? Do you have certain traditions or rituals that help you to wind down, say goodbye, and move ahead in a positive way? I’d love to hear from you.

All the best for a restful Winter Break~

Lisa xo


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Wise Words Wednesday: Positively Positive

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As educators, we need to fill ourselves up with positive thoughts, so we can pass that on and pay that forward to our students. It is essential.

When students are discouraged and disheartened, they do not learn at their full potential. One of the sometimes daunting but always awe-inspiring aspects of being an educator, is that what you do every day matters. In the life of a child. And that’s a crazy, hard, challenging, but yet oh-so-rewarding responsibility, right?? Because every time you fill a child’s bucket, so to speak, with a positive thought, or an affirmation, that he or she can figure that challenge out, will make sense of that problem, and can and will make it to the finish line, you are propelling them forward. Yep. What you do. What you say…

You Empower.

You. Change. The. Trajectory. Of. A. Child’s. Life.  One word for that: Wow.

So to all you amazing educators out there, please take a moment, and remember…

that quite simply & in so many amazing, wonderful, complicated ways…

you matter.

Thank you for that.

xo, Lisa


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3 Ways to Stop Bullying: Stand Up, Connect, Care

October is Bullying Prevention Month.

“Nobody likes you. You can’t play on this court. Not at this lunch table. You talk funny. You’re not one of us. Too short. Too tall. Too fat. Too dumb. Too smart.” Hurtful words that cut deep. And in the rapid-fire age of social media that our kids live in, these words become wounds that spread quickly. 

We must all work to prevent bullying–in our classrooms, our communities, and our homes. October is Bullying Prevention Month. No, it’s not fun, it doesn’t have a catchy ring to it, and sometimes, adults are actually afraid to talk about the issue. But, it’s our job. We need to stand up, be role models and work for change.  

STAND UP. Be the Change and Stop the Bullying: We all need to be a part of the solution. Do your part. Stand up and speak up when someone is being a bully—whether it’s an adult, or a child. I found out that my child was teased at school recently, and I can tell you, it wasn’t a good feeling. Luckily, she told me about it, and I was there to make sure something was done. But lots of kids are silent, ashamed, or don’t know who to turn to. Be a Hero. Be a role model. Don’t shrug and say “kids will be kids.”

Let’s give our kids some tools to talk about bullying, to prevent bullying, and to come to us if & when they have a problem. The best way to make sure that happens is to remain open, caring and truly engaged. 

Connect. Create a Culture of Respect:  James Dillon, a retired elementary school principal who now speaks at workshops on this issue, recently told education website Edutopia that: “Little things can make a big difference. Simple and genuine gestures, such as regularly greeting students, talking to students, and addressing students by name, help to make students feel connected.” 

When students are connected to a school, a classroom, or even the community, they are less likely to engage in bullying behaviors. When children know educators and adults genuinely care about them, they are more likely to report bullying at the early stages and get the help they need. 

Care. Participate in the Movement: This infographic gives a snapshot of ways you can reflect on and participate in the anti-bullying campaign, this month and beyond. There are facebook pages, an anti-bullying pledge, and even a text-based game. It can be as simple as having a “Unity” day on campus, where students are encouraged to wear orange, the color that symbolizes taking a stand against bullying.

Educators: Do your part. October is bullying prevention month. We need to all care enough to be part of the solution. Kids must feel safe at school.

Let’s make schools safe and inviting for all students. All students deserve that.

Want more resources? Here’s a link to the article from Edutopia called “5 Tips for Bullying Prevention” with different ideas for principals, teachers and parents. And here’s a lesson I’ve posted before, from Squarehead Teachers, which even the youngest children will understand and be strengthened by. The National Bullying Prevention Center has teacher toolkits, resources, and a listing of events designed to raise awareness and get everyone involved to…

Help Stop Bullying: Stand Up. Connect. Care.


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Cowabunga!!! 1000 Visitors to my Blog! #Happy!!

I am so #Happy. To celebrate, I’m having a party…

Ok, it’s a virtual party but consider yourself invited. This milestone is a big one:  over 1000 of you have stopped by College Ready, making it the “Little Blog that Could.”

Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could... | A. A. Milne Picture Quotes | Quoteswave

THANK YOU! I am so thrilled with the support that you have given me over the past 2.5 months. I wish I had something profound and meaningful to say to mark this occasion. Instead, I’ll just say THANK YOU. For reading, for visiting, for “liking,” for following, for sharing, for commenting and again, for reading what I had to say. I hope that something in what I call my “Ed Soup” has been useful in your professional or personal life, or just to warm your soul.

I also want to thank all of you for inspiring me. The blogging community is sassy, smart, and full of ideas that launch conversations. And so many of you do it so well! While making it look easy. Anyone who writes knows that push and pull of fear, and risk, the anticipation of audience reaction. And the writer’s block, and the deadlines that you missed hours before the clock read 2 am. Far from easy, but you all write on.

WRITING ADVICE: At my last milestone (500 visitors on 9/30), I posted some writing advice from Hemingway. I’ll continue that tradition with one of his better-known quotes on the writing process:

Here’s what Philip Roth said of the writing process: “You build a book out of sentences. And the sentences are built up out of details. So you’re working brick by brick. And the bricks are heavy.”

And finally, here’s a post, courtesy of the amazing Brain Pickings where Jack Kerouac cites his 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life.

As I continue this journey, I look forward to working & writing alongside so many inspirational colleagues, who happen to be damn fine writers, creative thinkers and bleeding edge thought leaders. I am so lucky to know you all, whether F2F, or just here… In the Soup.

GOING FORWARD: College Ready Coach is a resource for parents and students who are navigating the college admissions process. We work together to evaluate what the student needs to be prepared. Academic coaches serve as mentors, and have been found to be the key ingredient in a successful college “launch.”

MY PART: In addition to working with a small number of clients each semester, College Ready Coach–hey, that’s me :)–commits to mentoring one student from a traditionally under-served population each semester, free of charge. We simply have to provide educational equality to students, and this is one small way for me to give back and “walk the walk.” Please do contact with me if you wish to nominate a highly-motivated high school student for this mentoring opportunity.

AND THEN, THERE’S YOU: You can be part of the journey by following the blog here, or liking the College Ready facebook page, and learning more about helping your students or your own children be “college ready.”

Together, let’s turn the crazy maze of college admissions into a road map to success. 

xo, Lisa


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Collaboration Is King of the Classroom

Such Simple Truth, but so powerful.

Collaborative learning leads to amazing discoveries.

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Thanks Venspired for the image & the important reminder.


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Live Dangerously. Read!

 Celebrate Banned Books-read one of these 40 books that have been banned or otherwise challenged.

Biggest surprise? Charlotte’s Web. But maybe an even bigger surprise…the #1 Most Banned Book of 2012. Think you know what it is? Post your guess in the comments and I will let you know on Thursday.

For now, I’ll give you a hint–it *is a children’s book. Ok, I’ll give you two hints–it is not pictured here. Good luck!

Please consider becoming a CollegeReadyCoach follower. Help us spread the word about student success & happy teachers!! You can follow us on facebook. You know the drill, just click that little blue “like” button up there on the top right. Easy Peasy. Or, you can follow the blog as a subscriber. Just enter your info in the box and join the over 400+ other amazing folks in the tribe! Please and thank you. 🙂

xoxo,

Lisa (aka, The Happy Teacher)

Teaching with Soul

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Teaching with Soul

I Learn Everyday. I Teach.

Every teacher knows this. We are Always Learning. In fact, we learn from our students each and every day.

We know that teaching is not about the teacher, it is about the students. The students are the focus of the classroom, and the students are why we are there. Each one of them comes to us with dreams and it is really a gift that we are given to be there to help them find their path to pursue those dreams.

Teachers–you are truly golden.

xo, Lisa


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7 Ways to Retain College Transfer Students

This post is a re-print from Jo Hilman of Noel Levits. For the full post, click Campus officials rate retention programs for college transfer students less effective than first-year student retention programs

7-point checklist for retaining college transfer students, by Jo Hilman

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Understanding transfer students’ attitudes, receptivity, motivations, and level of satisfaction with services is important in supporting their needs. The key is to tailor student success programs to these needs. Below are ideas to consider.

Does your institution offer:

1.  Orientation programs tailored specifically for transfer students, including segments that address concerns such as transfer of credit, finances, major-related internships, and meaningful work experiences?

2.  Programs beyond the usual classroom and advising services that connect transfer students to faculty, staff, and native students within academic or co-curricular interest areas?

3.  Peer mentors for transfer students?

4.  Assignment of students to an advisor within the student’s major/area of interest with an early focus on confirming or further refining a written academic plan?

5.  An advising center devoted to transfer students?

6.  Career fairs for students who are undecided about a major?

7.  Academic support services based on areas of student need and receptivity?

All of these areas are solid ways to support transfer students and increase transfer student retention.


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Sunday, Smiling, and Why Being Nice Matters!

This is important: Be Nice to Yourself! Image

Sunday is a good day for a little reflection, a little relaxation, and a whole lot of being nice to yourself. Smile. Breathe. Take a minute to recharge and get ready for the week ahead. Remember, studies show that the brain on positive is over 30% more effective than on stressed, or even neutral.

How to get and stay positive: Be Nice…to YOU! Take some time to do at least one thing each day that is just for you. Even if that one thing is only 5 minutes in your day!

Have a great week. xo~Lisa