7th Grade ELA
A Brief Bio
I am a native of Greenwood, SC starting my 30th year of teaching. I spent my first 10 years at Brewer teaching 5th through 8th graders a variety of subjects ranging from ELA to Drama and Dance. I also served as the director of the dance program at Lander University from 1994 - 2000 and 2010 - 2013. I left the Greenwood area to teach middle school in Columbia's Richland One district and then settled for seven years in Anderson to teach third grade in Anderson District 5. I returned to my hometown a few years ago where I taught 4th and 5th graders at Woodfields Elementary, and now I have planted roots at Westview, back in middle school where I started.
I am the proud father of two wonderful Lander graduates. My daughter lives in Greenville, SC where she works with Hope Academy and is an actress in the professional theatre circuit. My son lives in Pigeon Forge, TN where he works as a performer at Dollywood. When I'm not busy with my family, I am busy with my love for the visual and performing arts, yard work, and fishing.
Learning should be FUN!
Technology is making it harder and harder for teachers to "hook" children into loving learning in a school setting. So I say, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" A traditional learning atmosphere is a thing of the past, but does not need to be dismissed as something that should be put on a back shelf in an antique store. I like to mix things up in my classroom. Utilizing modern technology with traditional techniques allows me opportuntities to keep my students motivated, engaging them in the learning process. Internet research, digital storytelling, and digital presentations are awesome tools to introduce and explore literature and subject content. They allow students to experience the art of writing in a way that allows them to be expressive and creative in "their" era. But we don't stop there in my classroom. Arts integration is a key element to success in my room. We bring literature to life by creating different voices and mannerisms for our characters. We search for music to fit a mood of a story. We paint abstract portraits, create collages and sculptures to show what literary characters are feeling. We create wonderful new worlds to connect to a setting an author has whisked us into. We retell stories through movement. We don't just read the text in books, we study the illustrator's contributions, not just through the realistic appearance of the paintings or drawings, but through the medium he or she utilized to pull us in. We might take time to create our own illustrations the same way as the artist, or write in the same style as the author.
Debating is a big part of my 7th grade ELA world. It gives middle school students an opportunity to do what they love most - TALK! Debating teaches them how to argue professionally, not disrespectfully. It gives them a real reason to conduct relevant research to support their ideas and points of view. It also guides them through the structure of argumentative writing.
There is no one right way to learn.
I believe we all learn in different ways. It is my job to tap into every child's "success strategies" to help them achieve. In order to do that I work hard to present my students with a wide variety of activities to give them a repertoire of traditional and nontraditional methods of learning new material and retaining it to become life-long learners. It is my goal to instill confidence in my students which will inspire them to look beyond what I am providing them and discover new ways of learning on their own. I believe if a child can learn independently, he or she can accomplish anything.
Learning is a team effort.
Before a child can become an independent learner, he or she must have a positive support system from which to build confidence. "It takes a village to raise a child." This support system comes from the teacher, the home, their peers, the school community, and the community at large. Children need to know they are not alone. Everyone is always learning, children and adults. We are all part of the same learning team and no one should be afraid to ask for support.
Learning is very personal.
We all learn for different reasons and in different ways. What we choose to learn and how we choose to learn it involves very personal decisions. We each bring our own personal experiences to the table. The choices we make as learners must be respected and supported. Guidance through the learning process is the key, not force. (Do not get "force" confused with high expectations for getting work done and following correct procedures.)
Learning is what you make of it.
Attitude is everything in education. If a student comes into the class believing he or she can't learn, then learning will probably not take place. We must return to the "team effort" and "personal learning" points. Everyone wants to learn. Everyone wants to be smart. With the right support and respect, everyone can achieve and grow. Only when the attitude is right can successful learning occur. Sometimes, especially by middle school, children feel beaten down when it comes to learning. Their behavior is less than desirable. They do everything they can to destroy the positive learning atmosphere we work so hard to create. This just means we must all work twice as hard to turn attitudes to the positive. We must all help that negative minded student find the right strategies and set personal goals that he or she believes in. And then, the most important part, support them until they feel confidence in what they are doing. Show them we believe in what they can achieve.
As you have read, my classroom is a very busy place. The work load in class is very rigorous. My expectations are extremely high, and they must be in order to create a safe and positive learning atmosphere to accomplish everything. However, I am a realist. I know that children work at different paces. I do not expect everyone to create literary masterpieces or professional critiques of literature. I do, however, expect every child in my classes to work as hard as they can. Success in my room will occur if every child tries his or her best. I expect parents to instill this into their children and set equally high expectations from home. I also expect parents to review Google Classroom frequently with their children. This is a wonderful way to communicate with home, informing parents and guardians of assignments, goals, deadlines, etc.We do not have time to waste. Many students "act out" when they are struggling. They don't try, turn in any work, or constantly disrupt the learning process, therefore creating an unsafe learning environment. If you feel this is the case with your child, please speak positively about the importance of respecting the classroom environment.