Saturday, April 12, 2014

Field Trippin!:Take Me Out to the Ball Game- No Educational Experience Required!

Sometimes kids just need a day out and away, an escape from
Common Core, Standardized testing, close reading, non-fiction, an escape.
Teachers need it too.
And when we are out together, having fun, it just makes for a good day!:)

fresh air.
baseball. (Have to be honest, out of 9 innings, I only saw 4 plays.)
conversation- student to student, student to teacher, teacher to parents, and teacher to my now middle school babies who attended the game as well.
food - hot dogs,  Crab fries-Can you say yummy?
selfies- never saw so many selfies being taken in my life! (Ok, yeah,the teachers took one too)
real world math - "Look, Mrs.M, (pointing to scoreboard), decimals!" (LOVE it)

Discover paid for our kids to attend a Minor League baseball game. Just a day out, teachers, students, and parents chillaxing at the ball game. It was great! A chance to get to know each other away from the confines of the classroom. Nice.:)

My babies will blog about it, so that others can share in their excitement. Stuck all our pics in a Google folder, and shared it with them all. So, even if they didn't take pics, they have access to them. If they took pics, they added them.

Also, going to work on creating a Narrable of our trip.(HAVE to find the time!) We have our headphones from DonorsChoose, so it will be easy to have students record their voices.

fresh air

We were field trippin, and we loved it!:)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Childhood, Where Art Thou? Why Can't Kids Be Kids?

My girls are coming in with highlights in their hair.
I'm not even thinking about the damage coloring can do to one's hair, it just seems to me to be one of those things you wait to do when you grow up.
You know.
Like going to the spa.
Traveling the world.
Hotel parties.
Having boyfriends and girlfriends.
Getting a mani-pedi.
Staying up all night.
Seeing R-rated movies.

Our kids are doing all these things as children, and it makes me wonder what they will do when they get older.
What will they do for excitement?
If you have done all the things you wanted to do when you grew up, what do you yearn for when you grow up? What do you wish for?
Is anything left?

I know.
We want to give our kids what we didn't have.
I can see the pros and the cons of that want.

You know what I want? I want them to go outside and play.
I want them to enjoy movies appropriate for children.
I want them to have something exciting waiting for them when they "grow up."
I want them to understand that there's nothing wrong with laughing at something dorky, or singing a silly tune.
I want them to know they will be a child once.

And I just hope that no matter what goes on outside of school, they know that they can be a child, just a child, highlights and all, within our classroom walls!

photo credit: roseannadana via photopin cc
Kids: conversations

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Custodian Made Them Walk: School as a Community!

The other day I was on my way to pick up my students from Special. Our custodian, older gentleman, was speaking to two kindergartners.

He stated firmly, "Ok, now walk down the hall."

The two kindergartners looked at him, looked at me, and began walking.

He turned to me, shaking his head, and said, "They were running down the hallway!"

I said, "Good for you. They could have hurt themselves."

Another adult might  have watched those kids run, and thought, "They're not my kids."

Too often, our school is just that, a school. A place where everyone has a position, and they don't budge from it.

The custodians clean, administrators lead, lunch staff serves lunch, teachers teach etc...

But it shouldn't be that way, we should all be involved in the well-being of our students. Not just the ones in our classroom, but the students in our school.

I speak to every student I see in the hallway, even if they don't answer. Sometimes, I get a big, cheery, hello. Other times the eyes are averted, or downcast, and a squeak of a hello comes out. And then there are the times, I get no answer, but I still speak, because I consider all of the kids in the building my own.

One of my colleagues "mentors" a student in a lower grade, trying to get him to be successful. Not because she was asked, but because she saw his struggles and wanted to help.

One of our custodians is a coach, so he makes a habit of talking  to the kids while he's in the lunchroom waiting to clean up.

A parent, who don't even have kids in the school anymore, reads to students.

And forget about our secretary, she is everyone's mother!:)

I attended a union conference Saturday, and the president stated, "When I talk about the union, I'm not just talking about teachers. I am talking about custodians, lunch personnel, bus drivers, any, and, everyone who supports the schools."

"It takes a village..."(African proverb)

It does. And that's the way our schools should be, everyone, from the administrator to the custodian, should have a sense of  responsibility for the success and well-being of all our students.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I Wish I Could Clone You: A Teacher's Dream Child!

I have at least one every year.
That child  I wish I could clone.
The kid that is so sweet, respectful, polite, works hard, helpful, gets along with their peers, an absolute delight!

Sigh. I wish I could clone them.

But you know what? I would have a very boring classroom.

Each one of our students is an individual complete with their own idiosyncrasies. Love it or hate it, we have to accept them for who they are.

However, we do have the option of tweeking them. Not so much that they lose who they are, but enough so that they can be a positive influence in our classroom family.

There's nothing wrong with trying to make the disrespectful, respectful.
The needy, self-sufficient.
The slacker, a hard worker.

That's part of our job. We can't throw back the ones we don't want, and we definitely can't clone them. But we can work with what we're given, and hopefully, make a difference!

photo credit: Blue Skyz Media via photopin cc

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Questions for a Standardized Test: Maybe Your Creators Can Answer!

  • See the picture above, that's my first question.
  • Why am I told to make anchor charts that my students use throughout the year, and then told to take them down during testing? Do you really believe that any of my anchor charts have answers on them?
  • Why are we told to use technology to enhance instruction, become paperless, etc.., and then told our kids cannot use the computers once they are finished the test? What are they going to be able to do, give another student answers?
  • Why must I force my students to sit for hours taking a test that proves...?
  • Why do my students' show growth on these tests, but are still made to feel like failures because they did not meet the "target"?
  • Who created these "targets"? What are they based on? Made a call to DOE 2 years ago, still waiting for an answer.
  • Why am I giving a Science test based on the K-5 curriculum? Seriously? Have you ever heard of the Summer Slide? Now, consider 4 years!Oh wait, I forgot, I can just review when I am not teaching the current curriculum.
  • Why is my effectiveness as an educator tied to a single test score? And now, a "target" test score!
  • Why are we forced to focus on the "maybe they might pass it" kids and give them intensive test prep, ignoring the rest?
  • Why do we hold Pep rallies in your honor?
  • Why do my kids become a statistic based on gender, race, special education, etc... because of the scores they receive?
  • How does a test score prove that my students are not learning from me?
  • Why do I let you make me feel as if I am a failure because my kids don't pass? (At times)
  • Why are you important? What do you tell me about each child, each individual, in our classroom? 
Why don't you just go away and let me teach?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Seniority Has No Privileges:Eliminating Teacher Tenure!

I've always equated age with wisdom, thus, leading me to believe that a veteran teacher has a lot to offer.

Of course, there are older teachers who refuse to change. They are teaching the way they used to be taught, and see the changes in education as
just another phase.  But there are a number of older teachers, myself included, who have changed, and shouldn't be thought of as someone who should be put out to pasture.

In the past few years, tenure has been under attack. When tenure is attacked, many veteran teachers fall victim. This article about tenure explains what tenure really is. Tenure is not a way to keep "bad" teachers in the classroom. That is a myth. Tenure is a way to make sure teachers receive due process. Unfortunately, this process is being taken away from teachers.

Two instances stand out for me. North Carolina is being battered.  They are a right-to-work state, they are suffering from pay cuts, and tenure has been removed. "Teacher tenure has been replaced by a merit-based system that rewards long-term contracts to the top 25 percent of teachers, and shorter contracts to everyone else."  When I asked the question regarding the criteria for the top 25%, one of my Facebook followers said that there is no criteria. Are you as scared as I am? I'm thinking of two ways off the top of my head that a teacher can be placed in the top 25%.  Test scores or your daddy is a good friend of an administrator. Can you say cheating scandal and/or nepotism? Cases like these, those who are really the top 25% wouldn't benefit.

In California, there is a lawsuit against tenure by students, and a Silicon valley mogul. This mogul set up a nonprofit group called StudentsMatter. The students say it is too easy to keep "bad" teachers because of tenure. Of course there are "bad" teachers. But does this mean you should strip away a process that benefits "good" teachers? They are also worried about seniority rules which allows the newest teachers to be fired, even if their performance is adequate. Of course, how teachers should be evaluated, is not part of this lawsuit.

There are many groups that have been formed to "get" teachers. It's unbelievable that a profession where the majority of its employees work hard, and go above and beyond for their students, are so reviled. StudentsMatter and other groups are already talking to people in other states about lawsuits to eliminate tenure. Think about it, if you were trying to destroy public education, and replace them with money-making charter schools,would you want unionized employees?

 If they win the lawsuit in California, watch out! No tenure and/or seniority may be coming to a district near you!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

If You Tell Them They're Stupid: Our Kids Hear Every Word!

Sometimes I get frustrated with my class when it seems as if they are not listening to me.

You know. When 6 of them ask a question which had already been answered. Or when they ask you for directions after you have just given them.

I have my methods for dealing with those situations, but, it is frustrating, nonetheless.

The other day we were watching a video.

Let me backtrack. This year I started this "thing" that whenever we watched a video or read a story, when applicable, I would say, "This is a career!" I know they're 5th graders. I know they're 10-12 years old. I know some of them don't have a clue what they want to do when they grow up. But I want them to know that any number of careers is open to them. Therefore, I follow up with, "This is a career!"

Back to the video. So, we're watching this video on Wonderopolis. I can't remember what it was about. The video finished and my kids yelled out, "This is a career!"

"Yes, yes, it is!"  You know I was beaming.

They listen. Not only were they listening to me, but they were applying what I said to their lives.

Which made me think.

We need to be careful what we say about, and to, our children. They are listening.  And just as they listen to the positive, they hear the negative as well. And the negative probably digs in a lot deeper than the positive.

If you tell them they're stupid, (words and/or actions), they hear you.
If you tell them they can't succeed, they hear you.
If you tell them they're losers, they hear you.
If you tell them they will never be anything, can't do any better, they hear you.

If you make a habit of telling them what they aren't, instead of what they can be, they will own it.

Tell them the good. And if you have nothing good to say, don't say anything. Our kids are listening.

My kids are listening, and I am watching what I say!

photo credit: The U.S. Army via photopin cc

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Those Teachers Just Want a Day Off!": Are Teachers Ever "Off"?

"Those teachers just want a day off!"

She didn't know that I was a teacher.She laughed it off when my husband and I told her. "Well, I guess I better 
watch what I say about teachers then, huh?"

Too late.

My hubby and I found ourselves in the emergency room before school closings were announced. (He's good now). The nurse did not know whether schools were closed. The above was her response after I informed her that her son's school was closed.

Of course, I had to school her. :)

1. It's not the teachers who decide to close schools due to the weather.

2. The schools are closed for the safety of your child.

3.  Multiple snow days become unbearable for us because our students are missing work, we start thinking about all the days we have to make up.

Her response was so typical of the perception of teachers. How could she possibly think that teachers have the power to say whether schools are open or closed? Why did she naturally jump to the conclusion that this is what teachers wanted, another day out of school?

And you know what? I bet there were many teachers doing what I was doing. I mean besides sleeping late. :) 

I planned lessons, posted assignments online, prepared my Digital Learning Day, reached out to my tweecher peeps, set up Mystery Skype dates, posted a project on Donors Choose, found videos and resources that correlate with Common Core. (Thank you Power My Learning, Share My Lesson, and WatchKnowLearn,

And while you may not have been doing exactly what I was doing, most teachers were probably doing something related to school, at some part of the day. 

I'm not going to lie, I love a Snow Day or two. But whether I'm here or there, I'm rarely ever "off.".

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Are Teachers Too Tame?The Hijacking of Public Education!

Public education  has been hijacked!

It has been taken hostage by "ed reformers", standardized test creators, and "teacher accountability".

How did this happen to a profession full of intelligent, passionate, outspoken people?

Are we uninformed?

 Are we choosing bliss via ignorance?

Why is this happening?

I have some thoughts...

  • Teachers love their students and their jobs.Those of us who do not just see this as a job, are the worst offenders. We love our students. And because we love our students, we put them first. Because we love them and our job, we come in early, and leave late. We grade papers anywhere and everywhere we go. We make ourselves available as much as possible. We spend money we don't have buying supplies. We write grants and enter contests trying to get things our students should rightfully have.  I remember when our union rep asked us to fill out forms depicting all the hours we work outside of school. There were so many hours, I just stopped doing it.

  • We don't follow through. Perfect example of not following through in the above bullet. If all the teachers in my district had filled out those forms, can you imagine what the impact could have been? But like me, many teachers probably started, and never followed through. Thus making something that would have made a statement, worthless.

  • We don't trust our unions. I don't fit in this category, but there are many teachers that do. I am not saying the union is perfect and always has our best interests in mind. But, there are times when they do. If we fight with them, instead of against them, we might stand a chance.

  • We take the blame. We allow others to label us as the problem and we accept it. How many posters are out there ask the same question in different forms? "Would someone blame a doctor if his patients stayed sick because they did not follow his/her advice?" What happened to the parents in this equation? And why is there something wrong with teachers who stand up and say, "What about the parents?" I remember some of the backlash I got from teachers when I wrote a post asking for parent accountability. We can't do it all, and if learning doesn't begin at home, if we have no parental support, and we bend over backwards trying to get it, why should we blame ourselves?

  • We don't want to be "that" teacher. I have a bumper sticker on the back of my car, "Testing to Despair." A colleague told me I was brave. Not really. Brave is telling administration you refuse to give a standardized test. But I fight the fight the best I can. I blog, march, sign petitions, and spread the word. I don't mind being "that" teacher. And yes, we all fear the repercussions, or ending up on the "list" (because we know what payback is, don't we?) But we can't continue to hide behind fantastic lessons, edtech, and passion for our students, and pretend we aren't being held hostage.

  • We don't speak up. I have found myself guilty of this on more than one occasion. We sit at a meeting and listen to the next "ANT" (another new thing) burden that is unloaded on us, and we don't say.a. word. Until we get outside the meeting, to our friends' classroom, the Teacher's Lounge, or our spouse's ear. My hubby always tells me, "I am not the one you should be complaining to". But again, with speaking up comes the fear, will I lose my job today? Will there be repercussions? But if enough of us speak up, or shout, they can't knock us all down, right? Just signed a petition our union sent out, and it was great to see a good number of signatures!

  • United we stand, divided we fall...right on our faces. I remember when BATS  (Badass Teachers Association- 39,000 strong!) started. I joined. What bothered me were teachers/educators who publicly criticized and/or  mocked them .Yes, I am sure there is friction within the organization, people who just aren't right, but I am sure many of them  are getting things done. Maybe not the way some would like, but they are getting it done. I remember when Jose Vilson wrote a post about people calling him out about something he posted  because he did not attend the march on DOE. When we attack each other, we leave ourselves open to attack.

  • It's not happening to me. 
Are teachers too tame? Should we take some of the blame for the destruction of public education by our silence?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

For Data's Sake!:Teaching Interruptus!

It's the middle of the year, and that means only one thing. It's data collection time! We have to STAR, ORF or DORF, WTW, universally screen, and commonly assess our kids all by the data collection deadline! My poor babies.:(

The other day we were told we would have to DORF (Dibels Oral Reading Fluency) our students. This is comprised of giving them 3 stories to read. Each story is read for a minute. We then find the median of the three stories read,and use the resulting data to...

I'm sorry. I am just a teacher who does not believe in testing fluency. I don't care what the research states. (Just my opinion) If you can read 200 words a minute and you don't know what you just read, what good is assessing fluency. Fluency good. Testing it, bad.

But the point of all this is not to go off on a rant about ORFs or DORFs, but to point out how it is messing with my purpose. My reason for being in the classroom.

I was told, no sorry, it was suggested that I DORF my students while they work on their Natural Disaster projects. Let's see, 20 kids, 3 minutes each, add in any interruptions that could possibly take place in a class of 20 5th graders, and that adds up to "too much time wasted giving a DORF test. "

When my students are work, the majority of the time, I am involved. I am a facilitator, guide, sounding board, suggestion maker, I am there for the taking. So I figure if I am spending 3 minutes per child, assessing DORF, and yelling things like, "Don't bother me for 3 minutes, NO interruptions!", I am not doing my job..

If every 3 minutes I say things like, "Ok, now you can talk to me  until I start the next student",  I am not being effective. I assessed 3 students and I couldn't do it anymore, I just couldn't. So yesterday, and today, I helped them with their projects. I read the work they had done so far, I showed them how to insert videos in their presentations, I introduced Thinglink, I praised the work they were doing, and I didn't assess.

Of course, I am going to have to "get with it", and give those dang fluency tests, but at least I enjoyed the last two days giving  my kids what they should have, my full attention!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Removing Recess: Test Scores Trump Play!

Let me begin by being  completely honest. I hate recess. I hate being out in the cold. I hate being out when it's hot.  I am not fortunate enough to work in a school where teachers have aides that monitor recess. I , and my teammates take the kids out for 15 minutes a day, unless of course it's too hot or too cold.
I read an article, "Losing Recess", written by a parent who noticed changes in her child.  She attributed these changes to the fact that her kindergartner was not going out for recess.  The teacher told her that they had too much work to do. Kindergartners? 
As much as I despise recess, I have to agree with the points she made in her article. We have to give our kids a break. At some point, they have to be able to go outside,  run around,and breathe.  In the last few years, my former principal had toyed with the idea of getting rid of recess entirely, but we teachers did protest too much! That idea was canned, instead it was shortened by 10 minutes. 
Another point made in the article was that recess isn't  just recess. There's more to it than, "Go outside and play." It teaches socialization skills, leadership skills, gives the new kids a chance to make friends,  gives our video-saturated kids a chance to run around, and the part I enjoy, it gives me a chance to participate in  informal conversations with my students.
My colleague would miss being the quarterback for our 5th graders, and I would miss showing my kids that I can still jump double dutch, even if I do pant heavily afterwards. And if we're to follow the First Lady's initiative, how do we take away the one part of the day where some of our kids actually get off their tush?
I know state " test score anxiety"  (TSA) has pushed us into situations that are completely unfavorable for our students. But recess? Come on,  I think we should leave it alone, and/or bring it back, even if I do have to go outside. :)
"The Crucial Role of Recess in School" American Academy of Pediatrics

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Popular Posts of 2013!

Honestly, I have reached that age where I can't even remember what happened in 2013. Life has become a blur. The years are whizzing by! 

One of the highlights of 2013  was having the governor of Delaware visit our class to start off American Education Week. We had a Mystery Skype and he LOVED it! We need to show our politicians what we can do besides test!! 

"Now, here's what I need Gov.Markell!"
Another highlight was meeting our Spain pen pals via Skype. The kids were delighted to meet each other "in person!"

With the help of Blogger's page views, I can pinpoint my most viewed blogs of 2013.  I share those with you. And if you didn't get a chance to read them when they were written, now is your chance!

Enjoy and Happy New Year to the best audience ever! May 2014 bring you what you need, and, what you want!

Here are the Top 5 posts for 2013!:

"I Apologize": An Open Letter to My Students

Math Worksheets Land: A Different Kind of Worksheet

Teachers, Targets, and Test Scores

Digital Yes! Native No!: The Myth About Digital Natives

Bill Gates: Experienced Educator:$50 Million Dollars Doesn't Lie!