Friday, May 31, 2013

The Reasons I do what I do

It's been a tough couple of weeks: getting displaced and then taking time away from my day to interview for positions only to be told that I didn't get a position. Those sort of things can make it be very tough to be positive and keep smiling.

Alas, it isn't my students' fault and thus, I am determined that no matter how upset or angry I am inside, I won't show it to them. I did tell my class that I didn't know if I would be at our school next year. They understand that a lot of teachers got moved because other schools are closing and some are being reopened (and sadly, they know the drill because they see this happen all the time). I have simply told them that I don't know yet if I will stay at our school because they might need me to work at another school to help them improve their math scores (not really the truth but also not really a lie either--the more I think on it, the more I wonder if I am being more or less put on a path to be in a school that needs a strong data person who can help kids make the gains I've helped my kids make). 

I thumbed my nose at their decision and reapplied for the same job at my school anyway as well as the new third grade one that is posted. It doesn't mean they'll interview me again but I am going to try anyway. I'm never one to sit down and just let someone walk all over me. 


This afternoon, my class and I walked three blocks down to Dairy Queen after lunch. Two moms of my 5th graders joined us. Both told me that they wished I would follow their girls to the 6-12 building they are going to next year. ♥ That made me feel really good....clearly someone knows I am doing a good job. And this was two separate moms, not talking together about it. So sweet. A third mom met us back at the school afterward and said pretty much the same thing. That, in and of itself, made this whole week bareable. My students love me and keep asking me if I DO have the 5th grade at our school, if they can be in my class again and their parents want me to follow them to secondary school (which is a possibility because I can teach K-8th grade). 

I don't know what will happen but I do know that I am feeling okay with things. God is guiding my path and I just have to be patient enough to settle in for the trip.



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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Job News

So after waiting all night, I got an email at 8 a.m. telling me that I wasn't selected for any of the positions for which I applied. I don't understand the whole process to be honest....they are "grading us" on some rubric that we have never seen. Would you do that to your students? No? Me either. But we have never seen this elusive rubric so I have absolutely no idea how we are being "scored". 

Of the seven of us displaced in my school, only one was awarded a position. He got hired in December. Tell me how it is possible that someone who hasn't even taught an entire year is more qualified for a position than I am, when I have an ESL endorsement, am 97% National Board certified and have brought $10,000 worth of grants to my school in the last three years? Because he knows how to interview...and apparently I don't. I never had an interview to get hired in my district in the first place. I got hired through an email actually. 

Yet, seven years later, I have to apply for and interview for a job I already do...and do well. Our school has the highest scores on the MAP as of the spring....yet 6 of us weren't successful in getting a new position. Doesn't sound right does it? We can't ALL suck at interviewing. I just don't understand.

To be entirely honest, what's up for grabs right now isn't anything stellar. I'm not truly excited about any of them. Alas, I will suck it up and I will do what I need to do....but the ball is rolling and I have a plan. It may take me a couple of years to put it into place but it will happen and the last laugh shall be mine.

(Sorry to be kind of vague....just don't want my plan made public quite yet.)


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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Whole Brain Teaching (Take I) + Curiousity



On a whim this morning, while my class was at art (yes it was a hard life for me to pick my kids up and send them right to art after a 3 day weekend *wink*), to try some of what I have read about in WBT. Of course we only have 8 days of school left, not counting today, but I figured it would be worth seeing how some of them worked.

If you've read my blog at all this year, you know my biggest complaints about this class are a) they never, EVER shut up (I mean NEVER) and b) they are incredibly high maintenance (lots of drama!). I figured if these techniques worked....then I'd be 100% sold on using WBT for next school year for sure.

I know they tell you to go slowly and whatnot....but I didn't really listen....and I am amazed at the results I got just for the afternoon! We had a complete 35 minute period at the end of the day where EVERY.SINGLE.CHILD. was working and NO ONE TALKED. AT ALL.

Do you understand that this has never, ever, EVER happened in the history of this whole class??? They really liked Class, Yes. I love being silly and dramatic and they were all over it--especially when I did something really silly and did a clap and snap under my knee and they had to do it too. I have about 5 students who would rather do nothing but cause trouble all day long who continued to make poor choices (although not as frequently) all day but the other 25 kiddos were all over it. It was amazing.

They begged me to do Class, Yes again tomorrow. I also jumped in and tried Teach, Okay which I wouldn't do so fast if I started this at the beginning of the year but figured it wasn't going to hurt anything since we are at the end of the year and so much of what we're doing is review. It was so awesome to watch them interact over and over and over! Several times we talked about how they need to repeat exactly what I say and they did a great job for the most part. 

I can tell you I am definitely sold! I can't wait to sit down this summer and plan out my WBT timeline for the year as well as how to incorporate all of it with the Total Participation Techniques.




I have to tell you that I am absolutely DYING of curiosity about my teaching placement for next year. I'm not anxious or nervous or anything....just curious because the people who are definitely staying at my current school got notified of their placements and things got shifted around in a way that doesn't entirely make sense to me. (Not that much of this process has!) I have a feeling about where I will be but that doesn't mean anything at all really. We are supposed to be told by tomorrow. I think I am going to be so excited and curious just to find out that when I do find out, it is probably going to be quite anti-climactic. (Isn't that how it usually works??)

Stay tuned for the news.







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Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day + What I'll DEFINITELY do next year...










Happy Monday! It's been an awesome long weekend and I am so looking forward to my last 9 days of school FLYING BY. Ready to put this year to bed. More on that momentarily.


This week in my classroom, we had an amazing, impromptu reason to remember and celebrate the hardworking men and women who fight for us to be free. One of my student's aunt has been overseas in Kuwait for the better part of a year. This student constantly talked about his aunt. He would tell me about her, talk about how much he missed her, etc. This child is sort of challenging--he isn't naughty, he just has a lot of energy and often has a lot of trouble containing all of that energy. On Wednesday afternoon, he asked me if he could use the restroom. Not fifteen seconds after he had left the room, suddenly our secretary was there, asking me to come into the hall. My first thought was that this kiddo got caught doing something he wasn't supposed to do. However, once I got into the hallway, I saw him with tears just streaming down his cheeks, furiously hugging a woman who looked startlingly like his mother. Due to the fact that she was dressed in her army fatigues, I knew that this was his aunt. Bless her heart, she brought two cakes with her to share with our class: one to celebrate the child's birthday that she had missed earlier this month and one thanking us (being the kids, the school, the community) for supporting her while she was gone. I introduced her to my class and told them that it was fitting that we had discussed heroes not long ago--because Aunt Brit is truly a hero. She didn't see her nephews and her own child for over a year to go keep us safe. She thanked us for supporting her and I said, oh no, thank you for supporting us. It was a powerful reminder of why Memorial Day is so much more than a day off from school.

We invited Aunt Brit to join us on our field trip on Thursday and she was so glad to come and we had a blast despite getting soaked! So fun and it was great to share something so special with her considering how long she'd been away from her family.


* * * * *

I'm super excited to be hooking up with my friend Kim over at Finding Joy in 6th Grade for her "What I'll Definitely do next Year" linky party!

Most of us begin to think about the next school year before we close out the current one. I think this is not because we can't wait to get rid of our current class (often that is so not the case), but rather because we're constantly reflecting and thinking about how to improve our instruction. Since I am not yet sure where (or what!) I'll be teaching, I have left mine relatively broad but I know that I want to change some things and really kick my teaching, and my students' learning up a notch!


Here are my plans for what I definitely want to do next school year!

 1. When my student teacher graduated, the Whole Brain Teaching book had just been published. I bought a copy for her and for myself. I have been reading it this weekend and I am HOOKED! I can see how so many of these strategies may well have eliminated some of the issues some of my rambunctious boys had. They aren't naughty--just high maintenance and need a lot of coaching. The fun, engaging and continual practice with this system would definitely do those kids well.

 2. I bought Total Participation Techniques awhile ago...and have enjoyed exploring some of the ideas. (Also bought a copy for my student teacher as a going away present!) One of the schools I applied for uses TPT school-wide so I figured I better learn them and wow....most of them are quick, simple ways to make sure every child has a chance to participate AND engage in the lesson. Combined with WBT, this could really kick the learning in my classroom through the roof!

3. The one thing I regret not sticking with this year was trying to fully implement Daily 5. I blamed the fact that I had a split and the teaching model they wanted us to follow--no more. I WILL implement this model and be successful with it. I know it is all about training the kids (and myself). In order to best maximize every second in my class-especially because it is very possible I will be teaching a 4/5 combo again--I need to dedicate myself to implementing this model in order to maximize the learning in my class.


What are YOU going to do next year? Head on over to Kim's blog and link up!





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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Interviews

As previously mentioned here, we have had a lot of people in our district displaced and needing to interview for a new position. The more I think on it, the more I wonder if the whole process has come about because Michigan became a Right to Work state and tenure laws have changed. They may well have had no other option than to do what they are doing.

I had three interviews. One for a 4th grade at a creative arts focused school, one for a 4th or 4/5 split at an ESL building and one for the 5th grade at my current school. The first interview was yesterday and the last two today. As much as we don't always understand why things happen, I will say I was impressed with how the process went. It was not intimidating at all. (Helps that I knew most of the people who interviewed me.) they asked me the same questions in each one which sounds kind of weird but it is because they also give you a chance to ask questions particular to the school/position. Lets just say by the time I finished my last interview, I had those questions down pat ;)

As far as I understand it, your answers are scored on a rubric and then you get an overall score. That counts for 60% of the score, your eval is 30% and the paper we filled out (which states extra contributions to the district) counts for 10%. I'm not clear on how the whole scoring thing works though.

All scores are put together and compared by vacancy and filled in that way (by highest score I guess? I really don't know!). We will find out by next Wed what we got (or didn't!). Honestly all of my choices are good ones and I'm interested to see where I will land. I will have either 4th or 5th or both no matter what.

Change is not always easy but I am excited for next year, no matter what happens.




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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Weekends are my best friend!

I kind of love and hate Sundays...it's the start of a new week, a fresh start so-to-speak but then, of course, there are the Sunday night blues. Don't get me wrong...I truly do love teaching and can't imagine doing anything else (except maybe sitting on a beach 24/7 with a hot hunky man serving me margaritas all day), but I still hate Sunday night. :)

Today I was bound and determined NOT to hate my Sunday night. So far, it's 9:30 Sunday night and I'm not crying into my proverbial cereal over the fact that I have to get up early tomorrow. I think that calls for success.

Over this past year, I have spent way too many weekends working. Lame, right? Alas, it  is the way it is. With some good, constructive feedback from my final evaluation for this year, despite not knowing where exactly I am headed for next year, I feel good. Empowered even, as weird as that may sound. We are in such an uproar in our district that the least I can do to keep myself sane is smile, be positive and enjoy my downtime. I did just that this weekend!
  • It was absolutely gorgeous out all weekend but I spent all day yesterday on my couch. :( Not because I didn't want to be outside but because of the darn mosquitoes! Holy cow. Probably wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have a swamp behind my house. Alas, I had a lazy day and it was AWESOME. I have decided I am not lazy enough. Seriously. If I was lazy more often, I'd probably be more productive when I need to be because I wouldn't be so tired from always going in 80 different directions.
  • Today I didn't sit on my couch all day. That in and of itself was a success :)
  • I went out to breakfast with The Oldest. I ate real food, in a real restaurant. A huge deal when it hasn't happened much in the last four months. I'm down 35 lbs from my very heaviest and still looking to lose at least 30 more....but for the next three weeks will be happy just to maintain what with the craziness that is often the end of the year!
  • My class and the two 5th grade classes at my school are headed on a super field trip on Thursday. We are going to a local gardens park to do some sketching and then will bring the sketches back and make clay models with our book buddies. Super fun! Today I went to Michael's to buy the supplies. I got a Target Field Trip grant and boy was it fun spending someone else's money :) (Plus whatever we don't use on this trip goes toward school supplies for my class--woot!)
  • The Oldest and I did some other shopping just for fun. I swear I am really 12 years old at heart. I got a new anklet and a toe ring at Claire's and honestly am now contemplating getting my nose pierced. Just a teeny tiny one. Maybe that will be my reward when I finally lose the rest of this weight. We also went to Sally Beauty and I bought myself some hair color. I won't change my hair back to "natural" until this summer but I also bought some purple to put a few streaks in my hair. It washes right out but it will be fun to play with. Because I'm really 12 you know.
  • The Oldest also had her Baccalaureate tonight.  Wow. What a show. Can hardly believe my baby is graduating from high school in two weeks. Eek!

I really don't want this weekend to end...I know these last 14 days are going to be crazy, heart-wrenching once we figure out where everyone will end up after the movements in staffing and just tiring. Alas, I will end this year strong. I will send my kids off to 5th and 6th grade, respectively, knowing I did the very best I could with what I had to give. I just hope it was enough.






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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Writing Funnies

Happy Saturday! I am glad to read on other blogs how exhausted others are. I am glad it isn't just me! I have to get going on packing up my classroom also since I am 99% certain I will be leaving my school.

This week we have been working on a paragraph of the week topic about lying. In order to really help my kids think about writing opinion pieces, I remind them about the "other argument". For this one we talked about what a white lie is and when that might be appropriate to use. I was amazed how many kids used those examples in their paper...to some hilarious results. I was grading them in class as the kids took their reading test and had to stop myself from laughing out loud multiple times.



"Sometimes you don't always tell the truth because your wife butt might be big"

One of my girls wrote "if you tell your mom she looks fat, well good luck with that"....a phrase I use often ;)



"If you mom ask you if her dress make her look fat you can say yes but when you do, run! She going to kill you"

I have to admit that last one is my favorite. "Even if she looks huge, it won't hurt anyone but you still shouldn't lie". ;)

What would I do without Paragraph of the Week to make me giggle each Friday?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wrap Up Countdown

16 more wakeups!! Not that we're counting or anything....
 
I really kind of dislike this time of year. It's stressful for teachers because there is still so much to do and it's hard on the students because once it gets warm, they check out and it's hard to reign them back in. Usually I take the end of the year with a grain of salt: I can start to look forward to the new year while doing my best to keep my current cherubs from going completely bananas as they dream about the last day of school and a carefree summer.

This year, much like three years ago when I began this blog, I am in a bit of limbo as I really do not know yet where I will be or what I will be teaching this fall. Probability would indicate that I will be teaching 4th grade in some way, shape or form as the vast majority of the available internal positions I applied for are 4th grade. My top three choices are in a creative arts school (solid 4th), and an ESL building--a true one, something like 10 or 11 different languages represented (a solid 4th and a 4th/5th split available there). Normally I have zero patience...but I am doing my best to hang on and just go with it. I can't do anything about the whole situation and things are being done that I don't agree with so I just smile and shut up. I keep my thoughts to myself and share them only in a place where I know my words are protected. It's the state of education these days, I suppose.

That said, my principal and I did my final evaluation this week. She observed me last week and between her meetings and my sick kiddos, we never got a chance to reconnect until today to go over the Danielson rubric and get feedback. I was kind of surprised at first at her ratings (we just seen overall rating on the STAGES website) but once I sat with her and we talked, everything made perfect sense. She was very honest and gave me great constructive feedback that I can use to better myself. In some ways I wish that we had been able to have this sort of discussion in October because things would have been soooo different for the rest of the year. Alas, it is what it is and I know where to focus my own professional growth for next year. Wherever I land, that is! :)

I decided today that for the last 16 days of the year, I am going to sit in the backseat. I am going to force my class to be accountable, responsible for their learning and ENGAGE. I think that has been my biggest gripe this year--I have never, ever had students who collectively are just so passive. Some of them have really jumped on board and have "gotten with the program" but many of them are still as passive now as they were in September. It's really discouraging. So I'm going to force myself to step back...actually at my principal's suggestion. It will be tougher on me than on them, I'm sure! When my student teacher graduated, I bought her and I both a copy of Whole Brain Teaching and I am really excited to read it this summer (you know...when I have 5 seconds to breathe).  I think that this may help ME to realize it is okay for me to take the backseat. I want them to be engaged and responsible learners and sadly, this group, for the most part, just don't come through with that a lot of the time. It's frustrating and can be overwhelming.

So I am very much looking forward to the changes coming up in my future. I have things I want to change and work on and I know it will make me even better in the classroom and will help me to push my class to sit in the driver's seat where they should be.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ch-ch-ch-changes! (For the better!)



 It's funny how things work out sometimes. Something happens and makes you so angry or upset and then later, after some reflection or another event happening, you realize that first thing that happened was a sign for you. A signal. Not quite a warning but a nudge.

I was so very angry to learn that I had been displaced from my building. Not even a week later and I am 100% at peace with it. It has been a hard year. I have tried my best to keep my negativity to myself in those moments when it is really bad because I just don't want to be a whiner. Yes, sometimes we all have to whine, but I really try to keep it private as much as I can...more because this isn't exactly a secret forum.

That said, as the last several days have passed and things have transpired, I know that this is all happening for a reason. It's time for me to go. Do I love my current school? Yes. My heart is there. It honestly always will be. I went to school there in the old building, I grew up in that neighborhood. My life changed exponentially while I was attending that school (it's when my abuse started). I have wanted to be there to "change the world" for someone else.

Alas, yesterday I was talking to another staff member in my building and something she said made a lightbulb go off in my head. YES. She was totally right and I had that epiphany moment and found my peace. Now let me be entirely honest, if a solid 4 opened up at my school, I would try for it. Because I would get my babies back from last year and I would be so very happy. I do not want the 5th grade. While the vast majority of my students this year are really awesome, just the thought of having some of these kids again next year makes me sick to my stomach. I know that probably makes me sound really terrible....but they are very high-maintenance. Drama, no motivation, etc. I never realized until I was talking to my colleague yesterday how drained I actually am from this year. It isn't just the dual grade...it is the drama. These kids are SO needy. Especially this group. They don't take care of anything, they are messy, they disrespect my personal belongings that I bring into the school for them to use. It gets really old after awhile.

So after scouring the available positions in our district over the last few days, I finally decided what I am going to do. I am not going to apply for the one position in my school. I am going to spread my wings and bring my sunshine elsewhere. There are several positions that I would really like, one being middle school. It's almost my dream job: creative writing, reading and advanced English. 7th grade. HEAVEN. Alas, I prayed about it and am sticking to elementary for now. (Of course if they offer me that position, I won't say no!) I put in for several 4th grade positions. I think that is really where my heart is. I had 4th before I came to my current school and having it this year made me realize how very much I missed teaching it. It is such a fun age and the curriculum is really great too.

So now I wait. I don't know how long it will take them to place all of the people who got displaced. I honestly don't expect to know before June. It'd be great to know before that, but I am not betting on it with the sheer number of people getting moved around. I'm good with it all. I am going to land wherever God wants me to be...either elementary or that middle school job.


Then, amazingly, after school today I got a call from a very special friend of mine offering me an opportunity to do some curriculum writing for a non-profit company. I wouldn't get paid monetarily but as I told her, I'll be paid upstairs some day. It's a great opportunity and I'm so excited to have been asked to participate in it. It's nice that some people really see the passion I have for this profession and want to help me put it out there. So everything will work out. Cross your fingers for me. I expect to land on my feet and be in a better place than I can even imagine right now.





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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Happy Teacher Appreciation!


The irony has not escaped me that it is Teacher Appreciation Week  and the teachers in my district are more than likely not feeling appreciated with the transfer drama!

That said, thank you to those of you who took a few moments to comment and give me your thoughts and prayers. It means a lot to me. I haven't been the most frequent blogger the past few months as it is hard work teaching a dual grade with 30 kiddos and trying to finish up my 2nd go at National Board. Blogging has definitely been on the back burner.

No one really understands the decisions that were made in displacing people. A 33 year veteran was also displaced from my school and that makes absolutely no sense to me. Several of my colleagues are very angry that I got displaced when I have ESL because we have always been told how vital it is in our building. So it is all a big mess and the more I think on it, the more I really wonder if I got that letter by mistake. Who knows? At this point, I am  no longer angry. Sad and worried for our students, definitely but I am not angry.

I emailed the director of HR and asked her why I got displaced over a first year teacher without the same endorsement as me. We'll see if I get a response tomorrow. I also emailed the superintendent and said that there are things happening in our district that we should be ashamed of. Don't tout that you are for children and then needless transfer hundreds of teachers. It makes absolutely no sense. So we'll see what the fall out is for me opening my mouth and advocating for my kids. Sadly, this profession is so political that it wouldn't surprise me if I got in trouble for being honest. I really don't care. Someone needs to advocate for these kids and it might as well be me.

I didn't touch the miles of piles I brought home. I figured that no one really appreciates the work we do on our own time that I wasn't going to go out of my way to work on the weekend anymore. Yes some of that really needed to get done but oh well. I always manage to get things done. This won't be any different.

I am in a place at the moment where I figure I have put this mess in God's hands. HE will take care of me and ultimately make sure I end up where I need to be. Perhaps that will be in another district, another school or staying in my current school. I really don't want to leave but at this point, I am just going to shut up and do what I need to do. I might not like it, but that's how it is sometimes. I am looking elsewhere, however. I don't know how much longer I can be part of a district who says they are for children and then turns around and makes decisions that most definitely are NOT in the best interest of children.

Ideally I'd win the lottery and start my own school. Alas, that is likely not going to happen...although I am just headstrong and stubborn enough to pursue looking into what it takes to start a school...because while this is going to sound SO egotistical, I know what would make a fabulous, well-run school, mostly because I've learned what not to do from being a part of my district.



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Saturday, May 4, 2013

My Broken Heart











We have been in utter turmoil in our school for the last week or so. We found out that 7 positions were being cut from our school, five of those classroom teachers. The parameters for who would be cut has never been clear and we have been told multiple different things. Yesterday I found out that myself and one of my 4th grade colleagues got a transfer letter. I have an ESL endorsement that no one else in 4th and 5th grade has which should have protected me but did not. My colleague who has taught for 33 years also got the letter. 

Neither of us are ineffective so it makes no sense. The first year teacher on my team did not get a letter. I am beyond upset and disappointed. I don't want to be anywhere else at my school. Apparently we have to apply for and interview for our next position--so anything open at my school that I might want, I have to interview for even though I am effective, have the ESL endorsement and longevity over my colleague who did not get displaced. It's insane.

I am very angry and very disappointed. I feel like the students in our district deserve so much better. This doesn't just affect me. At least 200 teachers got a transfer. Why? Who knows. It is inefficient and hurts children. I already have parents asking me if I am teaching 4th next year because they want their cherub in my class again (from my 2nd grade class last year). I hate not knowing. It could all work out and I could be there next year after all but the process is uncertain and therefore I can't plan ahead, I can't choose resources and things to work toward next year. It could be mid-June, after school is out already, before I know if I have to change buildings/grades, etc.

I wish I worked in a district where things were more stable and steady. I wish that the higher ups would not say they are for children first and then do things like this because I don't care what you say....you aren't for children if you split up an amazing staff, cut all of those teachers (which by the way, means that we're likely to have 40 kids per class in the upper grades because they won't all leave) and leave the mass majority of your 1500 teachers uncertain of what their job will be for the following year.

It's so sad and wrong.






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