Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Continuing My Research: Driving the Vision: GREAT NEW IDEAS

I know not many have visited this blog at all, but I am thinking to myself, Persist, and let people know about all you envision. This has been something I have never attempted before in the least, publishing my thoughts about something I have such a deep passion for. Here are some discoveries that are continuing to drive the vision.

1. I found a phenomenal local program called Wholesome Tummies. Honestly, I never knew such a company existed, but it is a result of two mothers (Debbie and Samantha) who had a vision for healthier, "more wholesome" school lunches. The food they offer looks delicious, and it is different from a traditional school lunch program because families order meals from the Internet. The meals get delivered right to the school. Healthy meals are prepared in creative ways with organic and whole-grain products. The foods never contain high-fructose corn syrup, artificial trans-fats, artificial flavors and colors, or artificial nitrates. Additionally, their recipes are nut-free. Their weblog (also hosted at Blogspot) includes recipes as well. Additionally, they are on social media and have wonderful pictures of their food options.

2. Writing Fix is a website the elementary teachers and middle school language arts teacher would be familiarized with. Needless to say, I have known about Corbett Harrison's website for about four years or so. The school's reading program would focus around rich examples of literature, non-fiction, and mentor texts, and some of the writing assignments would serve as a creative extension. Also, students would learn about the components of non-fiction writing from the youngest years.

For reading and writing, there would not be textbooks because students could learn "inferential, insightful reading techniques" with various literature the teacher models as well as personal choices. The teachers at our school would be exposed to the Lucy Calkins Units of Study. My friend, Angela Bunyi, has followed her program while teaching at Discovery School: Reeves Rogers in Tennessee.

Students would also have access to periodicals, though: preferably ones like Scholastic Storyworks and Scholastic SuperScience for grades 3-5 and Junior Scholastic and Science World for grades 6-8. Something age-appropriate and interesting would be found for grades K-2 as well.

Older students would have access to lists like these as well. 

3. The 6th-8th graders would ideally be a part of the IB Middle Years Programme (or have exposure to curriculum that parallels across the curriculum). IB focuses on inquiry and self-reflection. Math Exemplars is also a program I have been quite impressed with over time and offers materials for students in grades K-12 (and would be offered to all grades at our school). My desire would be for the students to learn to be critical problem-solvers who are encouraged to expand their mathematical schema. NCTM standards are addressed in each lesson, and Common Core standards are addressed as well. Students progress through levels: Novice, Apprentice, Practitioner, and Expert. Our students would also have access to numerous math manipulatives. Math would likely have a textbook as well.

4. For science, I have read about schools that focus on environmental science (for example Gamble Rogers Middle School's PEAK/IBMYP program in St. Augustine, Florida). Some students choose to participate in a Marine Science program during the summer. I do not know which approach we would take, but the students would possibly focus on different components of science (like astronomy as a main focus for two years) as they progress through their years at the school.

5. Our school would also focus on elements of Character Counts, having a presentation six times a year that focuses on the qualities of character. As I mentioned, students would learn about community service, reach out to others on at least a local level every year, and have pen pals within the state as well as internationally. I have read about classes who have communicated with pen pals in England and Japan; I would want our school's students, even in the youngest grades, to understand the scope of our world.

6. There would also be some tremendous clubs, most of them meeting after school once a week. I have researched a lot about different programs that can prove beneficial for kids, but it would depend on our population (their interests), what teachers would be interested in sponsoring, and even what parents or community members would be interested in sponsoring. We would have to find a program that would approve each parent or community member who desires to help as registered volunteers. As for sports, it would depend on who is willing to help, though we would likely be at only a recreational level.

7. Science and Social Studies would be exploratory, but include materials for teachers to incorporate both subjects effectively in their rooms. Visiting interactive websites would help students to understand concepts a great deal. A plethora of non-fiction (and fiction for Social Studies) literature would be in our school library for teachers to use with their students. There would be different science demonstrations at our school throughout the year to engage students, and they would learn how to complete an appropriate science fair project.

8. Students would also have the chance to be proactive like in many other schools (serving on the Student Council and contributing to the school yearbook). Older students would learn photography and how to organize something the faculty, students, and families of the school would want to purchase.

As time moves on, I want to take all these elements to develop a mission statement, philosophy, and vision. Every day, the vision of what this school would be (or will be) is getting clearer.

Honorable School: Laurence School in Valley Glen, California

I found a school online that embodies so much of the school I want to start. Laurence School is a K-6 school that has been in operation for six decades. Not only do they have wonderful journalism and performing arts programs and a greenhouse as well, they have a very well-rounded curriculum.

My friend Rebecca told me yesterday that designing a school was a part of her Masters program- not something I have considered yet for numerous reasons (time and finances, in particular). It made me smile that envisioning your own school is a component of professional development.It also makes me smile that I am doing my research and seeing the results of those who DREAMED, who had a VISION.

There are differences in the types of facilities I desire to build,  but their general vision coincides with mine almost completely. Mark me impressed.

And the journey continues! If you visit their website, you will likely be impressed as well! There is so much to be inspired by, and I will continue to develop my this project. Thank you for any input so far. I have only exposed the tip of the iceberg.

p.s. I know it is so off-topic bringing up the Dick and Jane Baking Company, but even the prospect of Smart Cookies (also served at our school, or have been served, to my knowledge) make me smile. They are a very wholesome, personable company with delicious, educational treats.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Floor Plan: This is what I have seen in my mind, on and off, for a long time.

This is a sketch of the floor plan I have envisioned, on and off, for a few years. 
  • First, I love the thought of having a K-5 pod and a 6-8 pod. Each pod would have couches, a meeting area, and study corrals to either study/take an assessment or use laptop computers. The area is large enough where multiple grade levels can work together, but small enough that it is still personal. Teachers could easily differentiate and meet with small groups. Obviously, the two age groups would be separated because of age and different learning demands. 
  • The cafeteria has some booths and tables to seat approximately 120 during lunch periods. The stage at the front connects to a drama and music room behind it (with ample storage space). As you can see, there is a student kitchen with an adult demonstration area as well. Not all components were included in the drawing, but it shows the basic envisioned format. 
  • There would not be an art teacher, but there would be an art studio so students could use materials along with their class for exploration. Ideally, we would have a spinning clay wheel and lots of materials for 2D art. 
  • Last, the library would have beautiful windows to let in some natural light. At first I said floor-to-ceiling windows, but then a friend stated it could cause the books to fade and limit shelf space, so I may revamp that idea a bit. Nonetheless, though, I can envision the library and think it can be one of the nicest places the entire school has to offer. 
  • Not shown: Greenhouse, playground, basketball courts, and open grassy field (behind the school)

Why maintaining an organic greenhouse and having a student kitchen may empower kids to make healthy choices...

I am very much obsessed with the greenhouse visitors to EPCOT are exposed to in "The Land". Though I do not need something as elaborate, it is an extremely good idea to have students maintain a greenhouse.

I think my fascination with student gardening began when I was interning in second grade in St. Augustine. The teacher maintains a fall and spring garden. I remember snapping photographs of the kids plucking and tending to the garden. However, I have not gardened much since and have thought about the importance of an organic greenhouse for my K-8 school.

Ideally, I want the size of the greenhouse to accommodate approximately 20 students so students can work in there simultaneously.

The fruits and vegetables grown would be used in different ways: in the school's cafeteria (by putting them in salads, offering Ziploc bags with a small variety in line) and with the school's Cooking Club, which would meet once a month. Students would learn how to prepare one healthy treat or meal a month. Each grade group (K-2, 3-5, and 6-8) would focus on something different that is appropriate for them. On our website, we would have a "recipe book" so students could prepare the meals with their families at home.

We would start with simple tasks like making sandwiches and increase the challenge as the kids progressed.

Most importantly, having the students cook would review fractions and following directions in a more hands-on manner.

We would also offer healthier choices in our cafeteria as a result. We would try to prepare meals that are organic that have delectable fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads, and gluten-free options. Ideally, I would love to maintain communication with a company like Whole Foods.

Next to the "adult kitchens" in the school would be student kitchens where students could cook with adult supervision. Whether kindergartners would be baking a few batches of cookies or eighth-graders would be preparing organic veggie pizza, they would always have an adult nearby. The student kitchen would not be that large, but it would have a separate area available for demonstrations.

I remember when I was in eighth grade and was a part of Family and Consumer Sciences (also known as Home Economics). Mrs. Sigler taught us how to prepare snickerdoodles, breakfasts, and various cultural dishes. It was a pivotal time in my life because I learned how to follow a recipe. I also felt validated and affirmed that I could at least (somewhat) prepare a dish.

I was recently reading an article titled "Is Home Economics Class Still Relevant?" It was written only a few months ago, and it is quite an interesting read because cooking is most certainly NOT a gender-specific job. The article covered how teaching kids nutrition is so important because there are so many "fast fixes" in today's society.

Know of other places (besides Ron Clark's school, which I found out just yesterday) that offer greenhouses for their students? I would love to see some links to schools around the nation and world following this model. Again, thanks for reading.

Links I Have So Far:

8 Life Lessons I Learned by Teaching 8 Years in Jasztalville...

Me (left) and my best friend Heather in 2009 right by the Castillo de San Marcos on the St. Augustine field trip.
I know, I know. I said I would discuss organic greenhouses and food preparation next, but I began thinking about what exactly has fueled my vision for starting my own school. Even greater, what has fueled my vision for starting a blog about my hopes and dreams for constructing an excellent place for kids to learn.

I have never known of a blog that shared architectural sketches, plans for curriculum, and thoughts about how to making a hypothetical school an engaging, personal experience, but I have never been exactly... conventional. Perhaps it will strike a chord somewhere. Or maybe even a few chords, making a symphony.

Yet despite any visions I have, everything starts with all the lessons I had to learn first by teaching eight years. Eight life lessons in eight years.

Some of those lessons are not conventional, either. Then a few are common sense, of course, and then the others were (pretty much) life-altering.

#1: "Ba-da-da-da-da, I'm lovin' it" moments need to be created more often. 

It was April 2005, and my very first fourth grade class was leaving St. Augustine, Florida. I was a first-year teacher who had taken my eighteen students clear across Florida to see the historical sites that symbolize our great state and nation. As the bus left St. Augustine, a gregarious, hilarious boy named David randomly sang out, "Ba-da-da-da-da!" as we passed McDonald's.

Afterward, my entire class responded, "I'm... loving it!" Looking back at the class that was housed at the back of the school library in a storage space that had been converted into a decent classroom for 9 1/2 months, they were certainly a cohesive "family" of sorts.

The same goes for the class I have now. I teach advanced fourth grade, and most of them have been together since first grade. They understand and appreciate one another's quirks. Cohesiveness is needed in education today because students should always feel accepted and appreciated. Students should feel like they are a part of a learning community where they can laugh and share thoughts freely without being ridiculed. Someone could have told David to be quiet on the bus seven years ago, but they rather chided in because they appreciated his personality. Everyone then continued chanting "I'm... loving it!" as they passed every other McDonald's on the way back to our small city of Brooksville.

#2: Students need to know that their teachers are their creative role models. 

The following year, around February 2006, I sat down and typed an entire play about St. Augustine and a few other events that affected the founding of St. Augustine. Ponce de Leon would be "pierced in the thigh" with a "reed arrow" by the Calusa Indians on the west side of the state. The Timucuan and Calusa natives would respond to the arrival of the Spanish explorers. Pedro Menendez would also be a major part of the play because he founded the city in 1565. As the years progressed, Sir Francis Drake's, Thomas Alva Edison's, Henry Morrison Flagler's, and Jean Ribault's roles were added for a more comprehensive performance.

I remember the second class' reaction to that play. That class was able to perform at their pen pal's school in front of the students I had interned with two years earlier. I remember how challenging it was to coach my students in bringing the words to life, yet it was rewarding when I actually saw them perform. I made it humorous as well. Never will I forget Tori as the raging Indian and Ben as Ponce de Leon. As the years progressed, the play was brought to our school's stage, sometimes in front of larger audiences, sometimes in front of just the parents.

I have continued to share from the children's novels I have worked on as well as short stories (one about an unforgettable jungle adventure that has made the kids laugh). Sometimes, I see my students work just a little bit harder because I have let them know I eventually want to be a published children's author (and yes, school director as well).

#3: Go at it always, full-force. 

I remember when I worked with a math class one year who exerted their all on the state test. And when I mean their ALL, I genuinely mean it. A few students who had not passed the math section the year before earned a 3.0 in fourth grade that year, which was considered to be passing. I remember the 2006-2007 school year was the first time I considered teaching students in small groups on the floor. I also remember making mistakes on purpose so the students could point them out.

That was also the year I had a student win the district science fair for all of fourth grade. I had to help him develop a vision, but we worked diligently. He understood mathematical formulas and numerous science concepts. I remember when he recalled our discussion about anthocyanins earlier in the school year to put in his report. Seeing I worked with numerous students that year who really needed the assistance, I remember being so proud of all who made it to the district level. I also recall the shock on his face when they announced his name to receive the trophy, but it was well worth it. A lot of thought and effort went into that project. He (and I, inspiring him) went FULL-FORCE.

That was also the year I went full-force by reading Fountas and Pinnell for the first time, incorporating my very beginnings of reader's workshop principles.

#4: Be strong, always. The kids really care about what you are feeling. In your classroom, you are never truly alone. 

I remember two years prior to my fourth year of teaching how difficult it was to lose my grandmother. The smile had completely faded from my face, yet my students brought joy back into my life. My fourth year, too, was where I learned to be very, very strong. Perhaps I had to see that there was a reason for everything before I encountered one of the most difficult moments of my entire career.

It was September 2008, and now my fifth year of teaching. I had driven to school a little earlier that morning, and it was incredibly foggy outside. I recall driving past a street barricaded by police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks with lights piercing the dim sky and sirens wailing. It is a haunting sight and sound for me now. That morning, a co-worker came by and asked if I knew about the eighth grader who had passed away immediately after being struck by a pick-up truck on the way to the bus stop. Obviously, I had not; I was in the middle of a writing lesson describing spaghetti and meatballs with vivid vocabulary words. Soon after, I called the front office and discovered it was a former student from my very first class, the "Ba-da-da-da-da, I'm lovin' it" group that defined the beginnings of Jasztalville.

I had to be strong for my students the rest of the day as well as for Dillon, Chelsea, Jalisa, and Brandon who joined my class the following day.

I think the most emotional part of all was seeing Kaitlyn's writing and artwork on display in one of the rooms at the funeral home. It made me realize the potential of a student and how they can change the world with just a single word or sketch. She was so strong, and I have been a stronger teacher ever since.

#5: Capture photographs. 

For my fifth St. Augustine field trip in May 2009, I let my friend Megan professionally photograph my class at the Castillo de San Marcos. The kids looked phenomenal. As I have acquired my own professional equipment since, I have snapped some unforgettable shots. If I have the chance to start my own school, I hope to display some of them because they vividly bring special memories to life. Memories that shaped who I am as a teacher.

#5, part B. 1-2-3... JUMP! 

2009 was also the year I started the "jumping photo" in front of the Castillo de San Marcos where kids jump in the air after the photographer counts out, "1-2-3! JUMP!"

Photos like that one reinforce cohesiveness and the close-knit, "family" environment I do my best to establish every year.

#6: It is never too early to visit a college. 

It is NEVER too early to visit a college. I learned that from Heather Renz in Oregon, who takes an early college awareness field trip annually. Inspired, I decided to incorporate my very own field trip to the University of Florida in Gainesville with the fifth-grade teacher across the hall. Writing about planning the awesome trip in the spring of 2010, those who visited my "Classroom Solutions" weblog at Scholastic were hopefully inspired as well.

I have taken one other college field trip since then- to the University of South Florida- and the adventures were truly unforgettable.

#7: Push, but don't prod. 

As an aspiring school director, I know how important it is to assess students. Never will I operate a school that does not assess, yet assessments do not always have to be formal to be effective. Obviously, my own students will test at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year, yet test results are not always a true indicator of how much a student knows. Perhaps a child fell ill. It is critical to have a purpose when you teach, encouraging your students to develop strong understandings, yet it is even more critical that you do not place your students in a pressure cooker.

Students should be encouraged, starting at where they are currently performing. A realistic timeline needs to be developed for each student to grasp a topic.

I have figured out that sometimes you need to cover a topic in multiple ways, and with your very own teaching style, hopefully your students will develop more and more confidence. Obviously standards need to be covered, and students need to meet them in order to progress in his or her education. Always encourage your students to do better and better, but do not sacrifice their feelings in the process.


That is what I am hoping for in developing a school: a group of colleagues who are not afraid of being quirky, humorous, or ermm... nerdy. Don't worry, I call myself a "nerd" all the time because I am. (Perhaps that should become a post.) I have a "Nerds Rule" tote bag from Disney and rainbow shoes from New Balance, talk in numerous accents when I teach, and interject dramatizations whenever the opportune time arises. I am also a master of facial expressions.

Despite (or due to?) all those idiosyncrasies, I function quite well in the world of education. I try my hardest to realize all the time how important it is to be yourself (because of course that encourages your students to be themselves as well).

More coming soon.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Students have a VOICE...

The first component I will discuss for my dream school is HAVING A VOICE and not being afraid to use it, knowing that writing to an author or taking a risk like putting together a compelling performance is not impossible. It is not impossible doing something that reaches many people, capturing their hearts and earning their respect.

In 2008, the students at the Ron Clark Academy wrote a song about the presidential election set to "Whatever You Like" by T.I. I recall it being on the news and being QUITE impressed with their understanding of civics. Watch the interview from CNN after the students performed below.

The deal is: I want to be able to open a school where the students are articulate and know how to communicate through words. They need to understand how our world possesses numerous views and how to stand strong despite compliance. Middle school students need to understand why, for example, the upcoming election is a critical turning point in United States history. They also need to understand that citizenship begins with kindergartners who understand how their communities work. As students get older, they will be exposed to pressing issues like the economy and job market, funding for education, healthcare, and the environment.

I would love having kids who would say something to the effect of, "Is there a way I could communicate with NASA and explain how I have always admired the space program? I have read about their vision for the space vision in ten years and am quite impressed!"

I also would love students to think of other children, whether they are in other countries, victims of a natural disaster, or in the hospital.

The thing will be getting them to think in a divergent manner, which will start with kindergarten. A kindergartner should have a basic understanding of what a president, governor, or mayor is. They should also understand that they can communicate with people easily using technology, which will begin with pen pal communication (within the state as well as internationally). I would also want them to understand traditional communication such as letter writing. As the years progress, they will engage in inquiry with their peers and contribute to our school's "Make It Happen" wall, which would be prominent in our cafeteria.

Our school would also have many display cases and walls. If a student felt excited about her letter from her Japanese pen pal, she should be able to display it.

Also as students, parents, and staff would enter our school, there would be a wall with individuals' photos with their autographs. Students from the years would be up there as well to show that once they step through the doors, they are always a major part of the school. Over that display would be the words in huge print: "DREAMS COME TRUE FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE."

Hopefully it would be a phenomenal place for people to think... an incredible dream come true.

Here are some other resources about kids developing a voice:

To prepare for the next post: "Organic School Gardens and Cooking at School":

A Woman Who Dreams Big

Tonight, I was reading about Tim Tebow and how he was once a boy who dreamed of becoming a respected football player.

Also, I was watching Diane Sawyer interview the 31-year old gentleman who started the newest Internet phenomenon, Groupon, which reminded me of how Mark Zuckerburg started Facebook as a college student, which is now visited by over 400 million individuals a month.

I have also studied admirable educators like Ron Clark who started world-class schools (which, in his case, is the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia).

All over the United States, there are stories about phenomenal individuals who made their dreams come true by being just a little bit proactive. You may not realize it, but a few of my dreams have already come true. Ever since Beth Newingham was Scholastic's grades 3-5 teacher advisor, I wondered if I would ever have the opportunity to do something as incredible. Three years later, during the 2009-2010 school year, I followed in her footsteps. Additionally, I have had the courage to begin writing a children's novel called Etola's Keeper, which I hope to get published a little bit down the road. I know I am not the next J.K. Rowling, but it has been a dream of mine to even begin such a project. Also, I wrote a grant a few months ago so the fourth grade students at our school could receive incredible science materials. A month before, I attended a NASA tweetup and toured the Vehicle Assembly Building, which I remember staring at in awe when I was a fourth grade student on a field trip to Kennedy Space Center. Then of course, I started a website called Teachingvision.org in 2005 that I did not expect to become a well-known site that is visited by thousands of people every year. When I graduated from Flagler College in April 2004, I never thought I would accomplish this much, but I guess I had something in me all along. A very strong desire and will. Persistence. Passion for what I do.

Yet enough about what I have accomplished since 2004. Those accomplishments do not even come close to this... potentially unattainable... vision. When I was five years old, I mapped out curriculum for my stuffed animals, and later on in elementary school, I was fascinated with floor plans, so I sketched out school floor plans every once in a while. By the time I graduated from high school, I had developed an entire imaginary high school named "Northside High School" with over 2,000 students that was the focus of many of my short stories back then. I remember sitting in classes over the years thinking about educational possibilities.

Even in fifth or sixth grade, I dreamed about a computer where I could upload pictures and reach out to other people, yet society did not have digital cameras, photo cards, flash drives, or even the Internet like we have now. I thought about how that "computer" could make learning so exciting, yet I was a young girl from Hernando County, Florida who did not have a voice.

At age 10 or 11, I knew there were people who made their voices well-known, yet I did not have the vehicle to speak. I was a bullied outsider who daydreamed about the possibilities of education and technology (and a school where I would be embraced and not ridiculed). A lot. I did not want people to think I was flying the coop, so I kept my mouth shut. I did not have the confidence nor the know-how to speak up.

Not until after I began teaching fourth grade did I officially begin thinking about starting my own school. The idea may have sprouted about three or four years ago. I don't remember how I began thinking about it, but I remember all I imagined. Entering through the doors of this school, approximately 300 students in grades K-8 had access to superior academics and were able to develop their character in compelling ways.

Here are some components of my dream.

  • It does not matter whether my school would be private or a charter school (though I ideally prefer a private school). However, I would have one class per grade level (18 in grades K-2, 22 in grades 3-5, and 25 in grades 6-8, totaling 54 primary, 66 intermediate, and 75 middle school). 
  • No matter what, I desire for my teachers to focus on the Sunshine State Standards. It is my prerogative for the students at the school to meet and exceed the state's expectations. Technology and hands-on learning will also be a priority. Students would have access to laptop computers, where they would visit websites that brought their textbooks to life. 
  • Students would have access to superior literature (fiction, non-fiction, periodicals). They would also learn critical thinking skills so they could respond to literature in numerous ways and make text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections. 
  • There would be a strong focus on food preparation. K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 students would assist in maintaining an organic greenhouse. They would then take fruits and vegetables prepared in the greenhouse to prepare one healthy meal a month for their class to enjoy. They would also learn how to prepare smoothies. Ultimately, the food preparation component would address multiple math standards in a hands-on way.
  • Students would learn about podcasting and green screen technology. They would have the opportunity to publish their podcasts as well as digital storytelling pursuits on our school's website, which would be formatted like a magazine. 
  • Continuing the focus on technology, we would have access to Skype and as many tools as possible to communicate with people all over the world. Each student in each grade level would have two pen pals, one from Florida and the other from a foreign country. I would check up on classes in other countries that have access to Skype. Additionally, students could communicate with authors, museum directors, NASA scientists, athletes, and other individuals who make a difference. I like how for example the PS22 chorus from New York City has been able to share their passions with so many individuals. I would love for people to connect with our school's vision and communicate with us. 
  • The students at the school would have access to a few clubs. The clubs would focus on science, history, drama, art, writing and journalism, and running and exercise. Soccer and basketball would be available for all students as well. With the running and exercise club, students would participate in a few "fun run" races offered in the Tampa Bay area. Additionally, Odyssey of the Mind would be offered for any interested students in K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 as well as American Heritage Girls. Parents could also inspire the initiation of other clubs.  
  • Each older student in the school (grades 4-8) would mentor a student in grades K-3. It would be different than a regular Book Buddies program offered in schools now. Students would meet with their "buddy" one-on-one to share an accomplishment or work on a small project together. For example, an eighth-grader could help a third-grader to write a story. 
  • I would want to bring back a few components of the education I had growing up. One of the most influential was the Young Authors program. I am still obsessed with blank books to this very day. I would find ways for students to connect writing to ANY curricular component and develop the students' creativity. I also remember when I was a first grade student meeting famous comic strip artists and children's authors. I attended two other times as well, the last time being eighth grade. Several years later, the program has been phased out. 
  • Middle school students would have the chance to go to Washington, D.C., which is a field trip one of our local schools goes on annually. Students in grades 3-5 would be able to learn a lot about America's Oldest City, St. Augustine. There would be many opportunities for science and history trips. The largest trip for grades K-2 could be one like visiting Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, only an hour south of us. 
  • The ultimate vision for our school would be "having a voice" (communication and being proactive). Students in all grades would complete a project every year where they would reach out to others at a local level or higher. They could develop websites, write literature, write letters to prominent individuals, or develop a long-term science project, for example, where they would focus on local environmental issues. For example, a student may find a way to help an orphanage on the other side of the world, help hurricane victims, write a book where they reach out to children with disabilities, write to government officials, develop a script for students to perform at a community level, express interest in careers (writing to Disney, for example, asking their advice on how to start a career as a ride engineer (or as they call "Imagineer"). 
  • In these respects, I would try to instill a strong desire for the students to love learning. All eighth-grade students would hopefully graduate as more self-confident individuals with a broad schema of what is going on in their world. 
I am glad I was able to express my desires with YOU. Thank you for reading. Currently, I love my job as a fourth grade teacher and have the foremost respect for public education, but I have the freedom to dream and communicate what I have only envisioned in my mind until now. Honestly, I do not know where to begin, but I know any vision can become a reality. In this difficult economy, I hope I reach out to the right people and communicate numerous visions I possess through this blog. 

If you would like, follow me to read future updates. I am going to try to cover as much as I possibly can with you. I know I am a 29-year old woman who graduated from college only eight years ago, but I know that this day and age encourages me to have a voice.

(Addition: This is the Montessori school my cousin started in New Hampshire a while back. I just thought about this and how it has inspired me for quite some time. Though I am not seeking a Montessori mission, I admire her so much for establishing an ever-expanding school.)