“19 people in the south side of Chicago were shot since dinnertime.” – NPR, 7 am (shootings occurred within a mile of my school)

“We drove one of our graduates up to college in Michigan yesterday.  When we went to pick her up, she had 3 measly garbage bags that fit all of her worldly possessions.  This is the first time she will have a bed and a house without broken windows.” – Teacher at my high school in charge of getting 100% of our students to college and supporting them there, 12:30 pm

“Success.”  “Challenging.”  “Purdue.”  – Freshmen girls answering the question, “What one word comes to mind when you think of college?” after 1 day in high school

This is why I teach.  I never knew I could be so driven, passionate, and motivated to change the world.  I have seen how 4 years of an incredible education- the word “education” can’t even begin to describe how much support and love my colleagues pour out to these students and their families- can directly change a child’s life.  I just finished my first week teaching freshmen; they are shaking in their uniform black shoes because we follow through with an incredible strict but supportive discipline system, but so many of them have shown how badly they want to succeed.  Students taking three different public buses to receive a quality education, checking to make sure their polo is tucked in the whole way.

When a college admissions expert came to talk to the head of our charter network, they said there was no possibility of students on the south side of Chicago reaching a 21 on the ACT.  He took great pleasure in informing the expert that we already had.

This year isn’t about me surviving the demands of teaching; this year is about infusing my classroom with the belief that they WILL graduate from college, and becoming an advocate for my students outside the classroom.

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Year 2

Before spring break last year, I couldn’t fathom going back into the classroom for another year.  By May, I  thought I might survive another year, but you couldn’t make me like it.

It’s July- and I’m pumped.  



(Watching the Olympics is the ultimate motivator.)

In all seriousness, starting my second year is drastically different.  I know what questions to ask, a little bit more of what to expect, and I feel significantly more confident in my teaching abilities.  I am so lucky that my school has incredible support systems in place, particularly around discipline and teacher motivation.  It will be hard- the expectations for my second year are drastically higher, but I feel confident in the more basic teaching skills.  I am so excited!!!  More on this as professional development…develops.

Additionally, this has been the BEST SUMMER EVERRRRRRRR!   Legit.  I am surrounded by family, friends, and the best city in the world, which has rejuvenated me.  I have attended so many amazing events, surrounded myself with so many loving people, and accomplished a number of important goals, like hosting a Wellness Fair!  I had the opportunity to coach swimming again, and learn about special education law in my graduate class.  I just returned from the most beautiful reunion with my college family in Birmingham, where I stood up for my dear friend at the wedding of a lifetime.  Now, to plan my next adventure….can’t even pick a picture for this because the world is full of possibilities!


Note: In a recent conversation N, a past student, has promised to think about her actions before fighting others so that I can watch her walk across the stage next year when she graduates 8th grade.  I can’t wait!

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Disability in Disney

I just wrote about disability in popular media for a grad class, so I analyzed Disney movies.  None of my friends could think of a person with disability (not a disabled person, I’m working on people-first language) portrayed in a Disney movie.  Upon further research, I came up with the following:


A clownfish with a “lucky fin” from a barracuda accident while in the egg.

Nemo succeeds despite of his disability, which is not a particularly supportive message.  While this representation still plays into the “inspirational” viewpoint of disability, it still seems to be the best representation of disability in a Disney movie.


Quasimodo was told he was a monster since childhood, and that society would reject him, so he hid in a bell tower.  While the movie does attempt to send a message that inner beauty is more important than out

ward disabilities, it instead seems to say that you have to prove yourself a man in order to miraculously gain acceptance.  Save the village, Ta Da!  Everyone loves ya, kid!

Seven Dwarfs

Here we see an example of disability being portrayed as entertaining.  Not only are they dwarves, but they represent a broad spectrum of disabilities: selective mutism, severe allergies, narcolepsy, vision deficiencies, emotional/behavioral disorder, social anxiety, etc.  The audience laughs along with Snow White at their silly and seemingly inept behaviors, the motley crew who has banded together to fend for themselves.  The message portrayed is that “normal” people can come into their living space, laugh at their disabilities, and then expect them to save you from the evil queen.  The dwarves are far more forgiving than I may have been.

Captain Hook

An evil, yet laughable, villain with one hand, who has a terrible fear of crocs.

I still love Disney movies.  I am just more critical of them, and hope that they are more inclusive in their character choices in the future.

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I am going to be teaching high school next year!  The school is amazing, I am so excited.  It will be a crazy amount of work though, so expect some crazed/stressed/anxiety-ridden posts in a few months.  More details to come.

And below you will see why this is the best summer ever.

Food: Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs, Pesto Chicken Sandwich (basil from our garden), Grilled Mango and Sea Bass with Honeydew Cucumber Mint salad

Activities: Pride Parade, Hey Rosetta at festival, Biking around Chicago with my new bike (apologies if the pics show up multiple times, struggling with technology today)








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Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy….

Hey kids!  Time for a post about how much I love……CHICAGO FOOD MUSIC BLUES BBQ SUN BEACHES EL SWIMMING FRIENDS JETSKIS BOATS DUNES POPSICLES POOLS……This summer I am coaching swimming with kiddos in the morning, taking grad classes some evenings, training for a triathlon, and generally having a blast.

Music Events I am going to:

BluesFest- Free in Millennium Park, already happened, watched Mavis Staples perform like a boss.  Last time I was there I saw the King.  He practically crawled onstage, but when he started to play, it was magical.


Grant Park Music Festival- Picture this.  You are walking up to Michigan Ave. after work surrounded by the city, when you decide to cross the street into Millennium Park before getting on the El.  The sound of classical music wafting across the city draws you closer to the lake, where you find a grassy oasis full of picnickers enjoying Prokofiev or Dvorak. What’s not to love?


Know of any good Chicago food festivals (other than the Taste)??  Send them my way!!

Grilling- Yes, we have a fantastic grill on our porch.  And yes, I love to feed people.  I will be frequenting the Food Network Grilling site and Pie Recipes for ideas.  Please send some my way!  Also, Mr. Freeze pops/ Freezy Pops/ Iceeees are the best ever.



Michigan- Sand dunes, jetski, grilling, friends, hammock.  See background pics of this blog for proof.

Birmingham, AL- I’m a bridesmaid!  And it’s going to be hot as Hades, but the most fun everrrrrrrrrrr!  I can’t wait to get my Southern on and party on with my best ladies.

So pumped.

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End of Year

I left school today thinking about how much I love my students.  I was grinning like an idiot, walking all around school grounds because I forgot I parked my car further away.  They are truly the greatest kids- this morning two of my male students came in crying because they knew some of the kids who were shot and killed last weekend.  By the end of the day, we were all reading together, and everyone left with a smile on their face.

We finished the Hunger Games!  Many of my students have never completed a novel, and none of them have read a book over 300 pages.  Super pumped!

Almost all of my students passed the Constitution Test, which is about 80% better than the general education class (through no fault of the teacher).  We reviewed like craaaaaazy and it showed in their scores- two students only got 1 question wrong!

However, I will not be with these students next year.  Below is how I may feel…..

And I sincerely hope I don’t see students like this……..

Because I will cry.

However, summer is coming (Winter is Coming……Starks…..nerd reference), update coming soon on all the fun Chicago things I’m doing this summer!!!

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Educators live for the “Eureka!” moment, the lightbulb moment, the “I get it!” moment, the “This is easy!” moment.  It keeps my heart in the work.  And when you can quantify that moment, and even correlate teacher actions with student results (there’s some education lingo), then you win.  Or whatever.  A sage feminine product once inspired me- “Feel like you just won.”  Well, I feel like I just won a small victory.

Teach for America’s mission is to close the achievement gap.  Some quick facts: “For example, special analyses by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2009 and 2011 showed that black and Hispanic students trailed their white peers by an average of more than 20 test-score points on the NAEP math and reading assessments at 4th and 8th grades, a difference of about two grade levels.” (Education Week, 7/11,  Two years behind- that leaves minority at a 6th grade level when entering high school, and about a freshman level when applying for college.  Average reading growth in minority populations is .75 years of growth per year.

My 6th – 8th grade students started this year at an average of a 1st grade level in reading.  I recently pushed up my glasses, opened some spreadsheets, put in my pocket protector, and crunched some numbers.

Are you ready?

My students made an average of 1.65 years of growth in reading, math, and science.  Eight of my 9 students grew by 2 years or more in one or more subject.

And this is how I feel.

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Summer’s Coming…I Can Just Taste It!

Quick life updates!

Delicious things I have made recently:

– Dates stuffed with goat cheese wrapped in bacon in a balsamic reduction (ok I didn’t make this)

– Grilled steak fajitas and watermelon

– Sweet potato, onion, apple, bacon hash

– Papaya and banana smoothies

– Rice pudding (from local Mexican grocery) with fresh mango on top

I love summer food!!!!


Other excitement: I am officially signed up for the Chicago Triathlon!  (Which is NOT spelled triathAlon apparently.)  I have been running 10 miles and swimming 2 miles weekly.  I’m pretty impressed with myself too, I know.  However, the bike I assumed I would ride is actually from when I was about 9 years old.  I would look like this.


Also, I have a flight booked to Birmingham for the wedding I’m in this summer!  And I hope my workout regimen will help me not like the man above in the wedding photos!


QUESTION: How do you prevent your shoulder from hurting when you run??!?  I asked my trainer friend and he said it’s because my shoulders are too big to be a runner.  Darn swimming.  

Note: My employment is currently a little messy, more details to come when things are sorted out/ calm down/ school is out so I can put my life together.  Additionally, this is not the face you want to see on a teacher resume website… reassuring.

Candace Davies


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As soon as I acquire a bike, I will be a triathlete in training! The most I had ever run at once was 3 mikes, and that was back in high school. I’m not fast on land. But I’m starting to understand the runner’s high…. Sometimes. Last week I ran 9 miles total, hitting a personal best distance of 4 miles at an 11 min pace. This week, I hit 10 miles total, plus 3 miles of swimming. On Tuesday I ran 4.5 miles (why does it autocorrect to mikes?) at a 9:56 pace! And then swam 1.5 miles right after!

Only downside- many pairs of skinny jeans now refuse to go over my giant calves.

(insert picture of Dwight Schrute from The Office) “I’m a calf man myself. “

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Bag o’ Tricks

“Hey- I had fun today. ”

The words every teacher wants to hear after a good lesson. I heard them today from one of my silly boys. I win.

Every teacher has a bag of tricks that they pull from on a daily basis. This bag takes a long time to develop, and I finally feel like I’m getting starting mine!

Special education + middle school + boys – recess – gym only once a week = need for fun, kinesthetic learning activities. Realized that my students didn’t understand the coordinate plane during a lesson on rotations and reflections- so we created a human coordinate plane on the floor tiles! (note- dry erase marker does not wipe off linoleum easily- tape next time) It was pretty awesome, and they mostly understand it now.

Other fun things- government branches jeopardy, acting out book scenes, making character hats and Facebook pages, reading about Iron Man vs. Batman, making shapes out of Bendaroos (waxy colored sticks- $4 for 500!)

Maybe I’m just absurdly sleep deprived, but fun classroom activities let me have fun too and be silly. I’m no good at being serious- I’m just as bad as the kids!

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