First 2017: Not Your AVERAGE Conference

Summer 2015

I had the opportunity to attend an annual conference, The Institute for Better Learning put together by the kind folks over at First Educational Resources, LLC. This is my second year attending the conference so I knew that a great conference was in store. After briefly reading through the pre conference materials, I was surprised to see that this year’s conference would be set up in a format that allowed for the participants to choose sessions that would best fit their needs and have time to collaborate at the end of each day. Amazing presenters such as Todd Whitaker, Garth Larson, Tom Hierck, and Myron Dueck to name a few, embraced sessions sharing their wealth of knowledge and providing learning experiences that can be put into practice at all levels.

With my Ipad, notebook and pens, and an open mind, I approached this opportunity ready to take back ideas and much-needed clarification into my next school year. I also came with a yearning to create a new recipe that would be sufficient for both the workplace and personally. The conference began with one of my personal favorite presenters, Todd Whitaker who spoke on What Great Educators do Differently. He provided advice and real life experiences that seem to have had the crowd nodding and praising throughout the quick keynote. Many points that Todd touched on resonated well with me for many reasons both in and outside of the workplace.

  • Teach others how to be effective, don’t tell them
  • Cultivate society, don’t reflect it
  • Have high expectations for your students and even higher expectations for yourself
  • Treat ALL People as if they are good
  • Study both effective and ineffective leaders…practices, yourself, etc…know how you are perceived by others

I could literally go on and on about many points that were made that I see as an ability to make greater growth in my district/school, but these stood out the most. I feel as though taking the time to reflect on how effective we are in our own buildings…throughout the district would give educators a chance to make necessary changes and begin to put the I that is cleverly hiding in TEAM back. Doing this would definitely help us go from great to AMAZING by putting more effort into creating great students that are ready to make a positive impact on this world.

Another great session that I attended that offered another view of classroom assessment was presented by Tom Schimmer. His session was all about instructional agility or making real-time moves when assessing students. Simple reminders such as training kids to assess themselves, planning with precision, and assessing day by day and minute by minute reiterated the true purpose of not just posting a learning target but making sure that students understand the target and the progression.

Throughout the conference. I stayed busy talking with peers throughout the region and sharing my thoughts on presentations given. Many conversations were sparked around topics such as homework, effective feedback, and assessment for learning. These topics combined with the increasing student achievement made great lunch and parking lot conversations. I was surprised at how many educators I encountered who could not get over getting rid of homework as well as those who still administered stickers and written notes for feedback. On the other hand, I was intrigued with those who were ready to put some of the practices discussed in place as soon as August/ September hits.

Overall, I was impressed with the presenters and how cohesively each presentation worked together, the session formats, and the powerful conversations that were sparked. The last day pretty much summed up the conference with a presentation presented by Garth Larson on student learning and a closing keynote by Myron Dueck that highlighted the importance of understanding students. Garth reiterated the importance of building a relationship with students and focusing on the #1 initiative in education which is LEARNING. This presentation really puts things into perspective when I reflect on how much time many educators spend on bickering with partners and staff, finding fault in any and every initiative put forth, as well as generally complaining instead of “focusing on less and getting better at what they do”. Furthermore, Garth discussed how building relationships goes beyond simply building relationships with students…we also have to ensure that we are doing this with ALL staff. We have to learn how to treat our colleagues before we can truly engage in teaching our students how to treat each other. Myron, of course, had the crowd engaged with his ups and downs of building relationships with his students. My favorite quote from his closing keynote was “answers divide, questions unite”. Many times we as educators are only given answers…a practice that we do with our own students. Often times there is no time to explain or go through the questioning process. How do we embed the importance of questioning into our current practices? How do we make questioning the norm? Of course, my only reasonable answer is to “Just Do It”. Adapt to the times, embrace change, never settle for less, and be ready to give your all at all times…my recipe for the new school year.




Friends come in all different shapes, shades, and ages. Some come and go, some stay for a season, and some just put up with your …and stick around for the long run. Some friends are there for you ALL the time while others are there at their convenience.  It took me awhile to realize it… but I have the greatest group by my side. I see many of my friends on a daily basis, others… a few months at a time.  Always good to take a moment to acknowledge your friends and thank them for being by your side. I don’t have the largest group of friends. Friends that come from every walk of life. Take time to acknowledge and thank your friends for simply being by your side.


Shut Up Tupac

Monday was our day to enjoy Vegas. I woke up well rested after our long drive to Cali and ready to enjoy Las Vegas before our friends would begin to arrive. We grabbed our sugary drinks and headed to our first stop…food. As many of you may know, there’s always something interesting to see on the Las Vegas Strip. From Olaf to a very tall awkwardly shaped Minnie Mouse, every impersonation of a character that you could possibly think of was well-represented. We were having a great time laughing, taking pictures, and hotel hopping. There is one thing I love about Las Vegas… It gives people the freedom to be whoever they want to be whether that’s long term or temporary. Everything was going great until we met Tupac. A man dressed as Tupac standing on the corner of where Tupac Shakur was killed was yelling at us from a distance. I could not make sense of what he was saying until we got closer. Finally, I was able to hear what he was saying and I was not pleased with it. He was continuously  repeating ” that relationship needs some color.” A few people looked at us and snickered while others completely ignored his racists comment. I held Ed’s hand tight and my purse tighter… ( thinking to myself, I would hate for my purse to accidentally hit him across his face). Las Vegas is this great place where everyone is allowed to be free and who they are ( or want to be), but you would be surprised at how many people are still against interracial relationships (not just in Vegas).  There were a few other comments that took place on the strip, but we did not let that get to us. We continued to hold hands, laugh, and enjoy our sugary beverages. Besides, Monday was our day to enjoy Vegas. 

Ford Mustang….

Yesterday was such an amazing day. We started at approximately 7 a.m. and did not return until 1 a.m. Our goal was to Explore a few places in California and then officially begin our party in Vegas. Our first stop was Laguna Beach. Boy, was it a beautiful sight to see! From The Amazing beach scene to the Happy People, Laguna Beach is everything that I had thought it would be. We enjoyed a quick lunch oceanside at La Bristas and set off to our next destination. We then drove to Hollywood. We let the top back on the Mustang and began our journey. About two minutes into our drive, this beautiful grey bird with a brightly colored orange and pink beak came out of nowhere. It was actually flying pretty low. I remember making eye contact with the bird before the bird ran into the Mustang windshield….yes the bird ran into the windshield. The bird’s poor little wing hit the Ford sign and through the rearview mirror all I could see was the birds feathers flying all over the expressway. R.I.P. little birdie. I pulled over for a moment, pulled the top back up, and continued the journey. We finally made it to the Hollywood sign. Our intentions were to hike to the top, but due to parking restrictions, we didn’t make it. We did enjoy winding up the hill and looking at all of the beautiful houses. We even thought about visiting an open house just to have a midday snack. Finally, we set off to enjoy Hollywood Boulevard and Rodeo drive. I had made reservations at Sur, but after such a long day we did not feel as though we were dressed appropriately enough to dine with stars. We settled for an amazing 24 hour diner called 25 Degrees. Hollywood Boulevard was our least favorite place. All of the stars on the ground were dirty, there were people everywhere performing and asking for money, and it smelled bad. Nothing like what it had look like on TV. At one moment, I was holding on to my purse so tightly that the emblem imprint was on my hand. After a short dinner, we jumped back into the  Ford Mustang and began our four and a half hour drive back to Las Vegas Nevada. Aurora, I love California. I’m glad that I got to visit other areas this time around. Hoping to finish my California tour this year.


I remember my first flight like it was yesterday. My ears popping, anxiety building,  awful thoughts running through my head… I second guessed everything.  Finally,  the plane landed.  It was all over.  I made it. Since then,  I have flown all over.  It is definitely one of my favorite things to do.  
I gently sneak my seat back before the announcement is made, pop my headphones in, and fall into a happy place. 

I’m In my happy place.


That Face

I have a resting *B* face that I don’t believe I’ll be getting rid of anytime soon.  As a matter of fact,  many of my friends, coworkers, and family members have that face too.Often,  a resting *B* face can be misconstrued by people who may not know you. Yesterday, I had a resting *B* face and didn’t realize it until I went into the bathroom for the first time. Honestly,  there were many things that I didn’t realize including the oily makeup and static ridden hair. I wondered why some people had looked right past me…it was the face. After looking in the mirror, I immediately smiled,wiped the oil from my face, and watered my hair (literally). I really had so much running through my mind that I did not take the time to acknowledge the look that may have been stuck on my face.

I think that you begin to understand the faces of others when you actually take time to get to know the person behind the face. Next time you see someone with a twisted face or one eyebrow up. Make sure that you take the time to speak to them. You never know what may be running through their mind or what type of day they are having.  


Bucket List


Image result for roller derby


I am adding two new activities to my bucket list. For some odd reason, these two activities made me think of women empowerment and Rosie the Riveter… Longboarding and Roller Derby.

A few weeks ago, I was watching trash T.V. and I noticed a woman pull out her Longboard to relieve some stress. I was totally engrossed in her skateboarding skills. Skateboarding is something that I have tried to stay away from. I don’t like falling, scabs, broken bones, etc. For once, I don’t care. So what if I fall a couple of times (indoors). Wait! Did I mention that I was going to try this indoors first? I just ordered my Longboard and did not order a helmet…reason being that this will begin as an indoor sport. When I get good at the basics I’ll take it outside and invest in a really protective helmet and kneepads.

Roller Derby girls are just amazing. I watched a group of housewives participate in this sport (trash T.V.) and I knew that it was something that I wanted to try. I already have skates and would need the additional equipment. After looking this sport up I realized that there is a team in Chicago called the Windy City Rollers. The ladies on the site look pretty intense. On the other hand, maybe I’ll just go watch a meet first and then decide my fate.

Happy Spring Break!


SOL 17 Classroom Slice

 slice-of-life_class  My parents  

My parents mean the world to me

I am as happy as I can be

You make me feel happy when I’m sad

You make me happy when I feel bad

Without you there is no me

Without you I wouldn’t believe

Without you I’ll be sad as can be

You are the best in the world

You give me a twirl

You are a sparkling bay

Happy proposal day

Victoria 1-24-17  

Love you mom and dad

Happy proposal day!!!