Hello and Welcome!

This is my first attempt at blogging. I simply want to write and share stories about teaching, traveling, family, and life. As a Spanish Teacher, I was also torn between writing in English or Spanish, but decided not to do both on one blog. Therefore, this blog will be in English and a separate blog, Mama Rains – Viajes y Vistas [http://mamarainsviajes.blogspot.com/], will be written in Spanish.

I was born and raised in Mtn. Home, Arkansas with a nearly idyllic childhood, then moved to Amarillo, Texas as a sophomore at Tascosa High School. I first attended Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, but transferred as a Junior to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville when my parents moved back to the state. I graduated from the UofA in the summer of 1990, got married in October, and had my first child in June of 1991 – pretty fast life changes!

Thanks in large part to Dr. Margaret Clark, I soon became a Spanish Teacher. I am now in my 24th year, have 4 children, two step-children, and have traveled to Mexico (more than any other place), Spain, Costa Rica, Canada, Switzerland, Morocco, and many of the United States. My parents taught me to travel, appreciate both similarities and differences, and to share those experiences with friends, family, and strangers.

I’m just old enough to start reflecting on everything I’ve done, dreaming about all the things I still want to do, and being appreciative of an abundance of blessings along the way. Maybe every World Language Teacher dreams of being a writer, or at least of writing to share ideas with others. It’s probably the survival mode of having to create so many materials of our own, depending on what level or who we teach; we already feel like published authors at times. However, the grammarian perfectionist in me is afraid of the “Publish” button, going against my advice to my students to not worry about perfection, but the sharing and conveyance of ideas. Yikes!

So, please don’t read my blog expecting perfection or the best ideas or any sort of perspective of knowing now that I’m older. The one thing I have definitely learned from having children and teaching is that no one has your answers for you, there’s never one right answer, there’s no magic pill: for parenting, teaching, loving, losing weight, making decisions, and there’s most definitely not a “please give me patience now” pill! This knowledge can be good or bad: I don’t know anything, I don’t have to know everything [both liberating and humbling, maybe humanizing].

My thoughts are to write something on each blog every other week during the school year; I don’t think I can consistently write more and still do my jobs (teacher, wife, mother, friend, tennis player), well.

Welcome to my life.

~Ellen Rainey

Ellen and Fred

My sister Kim and I always loved playing basketball when we could do it for fun. In college I learned that you could join teams to play for fun (Intramurals), and I was hooked! I participated in flag football, frisbee golf, tennis, softball, basketball, and volleyball – ladies and mixed whenever possible. Because of my sports mania I was a gym rat, first at the Mabee Center at Hendrix, and then at the HPER Building at the UofA.

One day playing pick up games a the HPER I was wearing my very favorite outfit: flowery jungle print shorts and my yellow t-shirt my best friend Kathy Henry Baltz, gave me when we were at Hendrix that saii-be-ellend “I BE ELLEN” on the back. At dances my friends would sing/rap “You be Ellen” when dancing to the Run DMC song “You be Illin’.”

After one game a handsome guy came up to me and said, “Good game, Ellen.” Wishing to demonstrate my intelligence as well as amazing ball skills (?) I replied, “How do you know my name?” He replied, “It’s on the back of your shirt.”

According to this cute basketball stud, he went back to his group of friends and told them that he was going to get me – I would be his. This story was actually verified by our mutual friend Larry Butler because, well, I wasn’t certain of his veracity:-)

Thus began the story of Ellen and Fred. We just celebrated our 26th anniversary in October and I could not be happier to be with this man today. We have had what I believe to be more than our fair share of problems, pitfalls, and hurdles, but God has pushed us kicking and screaming at times through it all. The highlights are our children, the fact that my family, immediate and extended, love and adore my children and support my family (mixed though we may be), and inheriting the name Rainey from Carl & Icie…along with 14 siblings, their spouses & children, mounting to well over 40 immediate relatives on the Rainey side.

We continue to hit bumps as our lives change, as our children grow up, and we ourselves change as mature adults. Actually, when does the mature part actually take hold? I still feel like that 20-year-old girl in jungle print shorts trying to figure life out. The exception is that I have this confident man by my side to try to figure things out along the way.

Here’s to 26 more – minimum – Fred!

Social Media and District PD

…is causing schizophrenia. Marzano quote on Twitter recently: “too much content is the #1 issue in education today and teachers cannon solve this problem.” While I do not agree systematically (poverty, equality, funding, etc), I do agree from the PD perspective if you add to the “content” idea “resources.”

So many ideas, so many directions, so many expectations, so few clear, precise resources, or resources that “include it all.” Try this! Try this! I’m living in one, long infomercial!

Much like the need to clear out my house after years of being a pack rat, my teaching basket is overflowing and it’s not necessarily a good thing.

Technology is great, but being pushed to use it simply because it’s there when a simple, quick, effective old-school activity could be managed on scratch paper or on a white board (I think old-school would actually be a chalk board – anyone remember those?), is ineffective and bothersome. This particular phenomenon has also limited my normal spontaneity between class periods of the same subject in some ways.

What is the answer for me?

For example, this year I have one class of first year Language Academy students; they have been in the United States less than one year and are immersed in English all day, save their one period of Spanish with me for language support. By and large, they have little to no exposure with high-tech devices, so am I beating my head against a wall by trying to do digital exit-slips when it takes 20 minutes to get them logged in, find the right place to go, and then to slowly type a reflection, which in itself is a foreign concept for most? What is the point of the exit slip? Is it for them to use technology or for them to reflect and for me to understand what they’re understanding from a lesson? Also, I could use this digital exit slip with my other two classes of the same Native Speaker level, but then I would have some paper results and some digital results which to me is inefficient and unhelpful. I try to tell my Language Academy students that I’m pushing them so hard with technology so that they will feel competent when they eventually move to mixed classes with the general population, but in the meantime I’m failing them in their language instruction because we spend entire class periods, even with the help of my excellent TA, volunteers from Spanish 3 and their teacher, and volunteers from my AP classes. Again, I must reflect on the true goals of the class to find my responsibility as I’m drowning in ideas.

Do their grades, assessments, and evaluations reflect learning, development in the language, or the ability to complete tasks digitally? I’m the one who has to balance this and have not managed very well so far. I have improved on asking for help from the younger gurus who, luckily for me, are both geniuses and have great perspective for such young educators, but I also feel like I can only manage so many changes in one school year: Genius Hour, Advisory, 45-minute classes that are constantly interrupted, Redesigned Classroom, district technology help/suggestions, new District Curriculum, new District Assessments, Twitter, Facebook (talk about old-school!), Instagram, EdTech, Webinars, etc.

All these changes don’t even take into account any changes in my personal life – wait, I’m supposed to have a personal life? Darn! Now I have to start all over again, because to keep up with all the technology suggestions alone I have to either work past my normal 12-hour work day if I want to spend any time on my content area and/or collaborating with my colleagues about my content area, or ditch content and hope that all this cute technology distracts from the fact that my students are not actually learning. “But look at all the entries I have posted in gClassroom!” My new personal change, a dedication to being healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually, now takes a back seat! No way! So what goes in that back seat now? This is my idea of professional schizophrenia, I guess.

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Though I’m excited and pleased with many of the changes currently shared and popularized through Social Media, the bottom line is still that human factor. I can’t hide behind the computer screen or other device and pretend that I’m building relationships by sending a Remind or posting comments on a gDoc, or even providing more feedback than ever before because it’s easier digitally -remember sensitivity? It’s so much easier to critique digitally rather than face-to-face; no taking into account how the student may feel. I must remember to speak to my students, live and in person, to see their heart in their reactions and to encourage them to be human and step back from the technology and engage, not as an android, but as themselves, human beings. We do complain often as teachers that “those kids are constantly looking at their phones!”, but then, usually in the same breath as we turn red in the face, tell them to get on their Chromebooks or other devices and learn. Ironic? Who’s in charge here? Oh, wait! That would be me=)

“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” –Albert Einstein

Maybe that quote will help be find the balance?

**Disclaimer: none of my comments are intended to be a reflection on my district, my friends, or any Social Media, but rather demonstrate my own incompetence at filtering through it all and finding balance in my professional and personal life.

Ellen Rainey ~Writing

As of November 2020 I am a Teacher, mother of 4, step-mother of 2, traveler, wife of 30 years, daughter, sister, aunt, grandmother, tennis player, and aspiring writer.

I’m sharing my many writings and interests here: Spanish, teaching, marriage, tennis, weight loss, parenting, love, impatience, and travel experiences.

As I approach retirement – who knows when – I try to focus more and more on my writing ideas. I hope you enjoy what I have shared, but definitely welcome positive comments and constructive criticism!

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