Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Happy Holidays!

Hello dear readers and bloggers!

I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas season! Things are insanely busy here (as usual)! It seems like there is never enough time to do anything!

Alas before this break is over, I will share how I am using the reading intervention program I mentioned before. I brought all of the files home with me over break so I could do some organizing. It's been such a busy fall!

I hope you and yours have had a wonderful break and are enjoying your time away from school :)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

SMILE Folder Goal Setting & Tracking

For several years, my colleagues and I have tried various ways to help our students to set and track academic goals. Most often these goals surround the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test because it is the most frequent test that is given for our students. There are also a wide variety of resources available for teachers (ala the Learning Continuum) to help find materials and resources to support students who are struggling in any specific areas of the test. 

Since moving down to 3rd grade, I have definitely discovered that they are not fourth and fifth graders. For one thing, they aren't quite as mature and for another, most of them have never been asked to set goals before. (I even asked my colleague who went to 4th when I came down to 3rd and she said it was definitely easier to do this with 4th graders in her opinion.) 

At any rate, since last year was my first time in 3rd grade, I didn't do some things I would have done if I had stayed in 4th where I knew the curriculum very well. I spent the majority of the year focusing on learning a new curriculum and managing a very large class. But this year, since I have a much smaller and better behaved group, I have been able to up my game again and push myself to help them to be the best they can be. 

This includes our Power of Yet poster to foster growth mindset to getting back to helping student to set and work toward goals. I feel this is so incredibly important for the students I work with because many of them will be first generation college students. If they can learn to set and execute a goal starting in 3rd grade, they will be better off in middle and high school. 

A fabulous colleague of mine showed me this cute file by Teacher Karma called the Smile Folder. I absolutely love the kids' smiles and I had to download this file and make my folders. Super cute! I just want to smile every time I see these little faces.

I started by making a copy of the cover for each student. I also typed out the SMILE acronym onto smaller strips that I could glue onto the folders as a reminder. I used colored manila folders, drew a design on them for hte information I wanted to include and then laminated them. I write on them with a Vis-A-Vis marker so that they can be erased and reused. 


 Sorry for the reflection. Aren't they adorable? 


This folder is from one of my highest achieving students. You can see that I wrote the student's spring score (from 2nd grade) in black. The current score is in blue. It is very normal for the students to have a big slide back from 2nd to 3rd grade because our district has students taking the primary test from K-2. So in 3rd grade, the test no longer reads to them which can throw them off at the beginning of the year. Our school goal is to have students meeting at least the 60th percentile on the MAP because studies have shown that if they are at or above that range, they are more likely to pass the state standardized test. 

I wrote the test information in for the students and then they made a short-term goal for the winter test. We revisit these every couple of weeks to help students remember their goal and discuss how we can ensure we will meet that goal (for math that might be practicing math facts or practicing word problems). 

This is the same student as above, the other side of the folder. You can see that in reading, she stayed in the same place, but with a slightly lower number. At the bottom of this page is also their reading tracker. I am using a running record intervention program this year and this is how the kiddos are tracking their reading. I do not ask my students to read books only within that level but for the running records, we are keeping track of the level they are at. (I will write a blog post about the interventions very soon.)

This is a different student's folder. You can see the student was very high achieving at the end of 2nd grade (the black) and had a huge backslide (the red) for the beginning of 3rd grade. Again, this is actually fairly normal...I saw it last year as well because they are so used to having the reading support and once it disappears a lot of the students panic or they don't read carefully and thus they go backward a lot. (Personally I like to consider the fall of 3rd grade data to be "dirty data" because I really do not believe it reflects well their ability....by January when they are used to taking some tests on the computer -- as they take their weekly reading tests on the computer -- they tend to do much better with the MAP and those scores are usually much more reflective of what they are able to do.) 

This student was much more stable in reading scores than in math. She stayed within the same band and actually went up a few percentiles over the spring. It doesn't happen very often but sometimes they do come in with a higher score than they had in the previous spring.  This student is in a much lower reading level than the student above and we will track their progress in the same way. Any students who are not at "benchmark" are doing two intervention cycles with me a month so much more tracking comparing to students who are benchmark or above and are only doing one cycle a month (again more on that in a future blog post). 


I absolutely love this system. First it is very easy for my 3rd graders to follow and track their own goals. Second because I can add their new scores when we get them and the students can track their progress over time (in January/early Feb when we take the next test, their scores will be recorded in green so they can tell which is which). 

Stay tuned for more information about the reading intervention running records I am utilizing. 



Sunday, November 20, 2016

November

*knocks on the screen*

Is anyone out there?

I've been so busy lately that I haven't really even thought about posting here. Sorry! This year is FLYING and I'm so darn tired when I get home that there are many days I don't even make it upstairs to my office (thankful for my laptop where I can still get some grad work done while lounging downstairs on the couch).

You'd think since I have a student teacher I'd have more time. Ha! Nope. It's even busier to have an intern because you have to help them figure out all of the ins and outs of being an elementary teacher. I'm very lucky right now that my student teacher is willing to come early so we aren't staying late. That helps but I feel like sometimes lunch is the only time I'm not running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Sheesh.

I have been able to implement some things I'm not sure I would have been able to start if I'd been on my own this fall. I have to remember to take pictures of these things so I can share them here. I always remember after I get home (to be fair, I also left my keys AT WORK on Friday because my brain is fried).

Alas, we have been moving along quite nicely. 10 less kids than last year sure makes a difference! For awhile I only had 18! Unreal. I am back at 20 and for the most part they are awesome kids who really are letting me push them to their potential. It's pretty fabulous to see them growing every day.

We had parent teacher conferences and all but two showed up! I had lots of compliments from parents which is not necessary but definitely nice to hear. I'm happy to know the kids are enjoying school and that the parents are also happy with what we are doing. Makes coming to work so much better and more fulfilling.

I hope you are having a great year also and enjoy your upcoming holiday! I'm hoping to remember to take pictures of our SMILE folders and the running records/intervention program I am using this year (guarantee both would have been much harder to get off the ground without an intern because I get it all together while she is teaching). I'm super impressed with how both systems have been implemented and I will do my best to try to remember the pictures so I can share them here.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Product makeover & a Freebie

Happy Saturday! I don't know about you, but this last week felt like it was at least three! Whew! Full moons are not a joke! I think Monday might have been three days all by itself. ;)

I'm coming to you today with a quick product makeover and a quick freebie!

I do not have the time, nor the inclination to create a billion products on TpT. I am very grateful for teachers who do have the time because about half the things I use in  my classroom on a daily basis I have purchased from TpT! Alas, every once in awhile, I find something that works for me that I'd like to share.

First up is a product makeover. A few years ago, I read Total Participation Techniques. I was instantly sold. I created a printable set of Total Participation Task cards and it is by far my most popular product. I just gave the front a little makeover today.

I totally love this background paper :) Since this is currently my only paid product on TpT, I decided to put it on sale for the weekend. You can save 10% of this product today and tomorrow!


I also added a new freebie skills tracker and accountability sheet.  This is a very simple form (no fancy schmancy design or anything), but very useful for helping students stay accountable to the goals they set and complete. This one is and will always be completely free.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Now-I-Can-Accountability-Goal-Tracker-2841873

Friday, October 14, 2016

Fun in 3rd Grade

I am all about rewarding my students for working so hard all week. Friday is seriously my favorite day aside from the obvious (almost the weekend, wearing jeans at school, etc). For the last five years I have been pretty successful at keeping my Fridays pretty darn epic. This year is no exception. Our Fridays look something like this:

Arrrival tasks (pledge/morning work)
Circle Up Brag Tag celebrations (absolutely the highlight of the week!)
Spelling test
Computer Lab (weekly test)
Art
Literacy (assembling the notebook for the next week and read aloud)
Lunch and Recess
Math (with a visit to the school store mixed in)
Recess
Fun Friday

So I teach one thing all day and get to enjoy my kids and celebrate them. It's pretty wicked. These friends are so stinkin hilarious and sweet too. I just love them.

Today I had a student success team meeting in the morning so I was only in my room basically long enough to do the Pledge and take attendance. Some of my kids still forget we cover our heart with our right hand so I always show them by turning every which way to show them no matter what direction I face, it's still the same hand. Today one friend was trying to be helpful and said "yeah it's the one with that tattoo"...and I had to burst her bubble and say that wasn't a good reference point because I have a tattoo on the left side too (it's covered by my watch so they don't notice it much). Maybe you had to be there but it was funny.

This afternoon at recess duty a colleague told me she overheard one of my kids say to a 2nd grader that she would LOVE third grade because she would have the best third grade teacher ever (meaning me). So sweet <3 div="">

And finally for Fun Friday, the friends who earned it got a lesson in the circle of life...we have a gecko I got from a colleague 18 months ago. He lives at school during the year. I had to feed him before the weekend and the kids were fascinated watching him eat his worms. (It IS pretty fascinating.) We also had to "give him a bath" by putting him in a tub with a small amount of water to help him shed. They thought it was the coolest thing in the world. 

I am so, so thankful for this group this year. They are so kind and sweet and I just enjoy going to work to be with them every day. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Literacy Rotations in 3rd Grade

One of my very favorite things about teaching is how vastly different every year and every class is. I can learn and grow alongside my students and experiment with new procedures that work for a specific group of students.

Last year I had a very large class and zero technology in my classroom except my document camera. Literacy stations was a complete and utter nightmare last year because of trying to keep 30 kiddos on task without the support of any technology aside from that document camera and a CD player. 

This year, I have a much smaller class (currently TWELVE less bodies than last year!) and also have three laptops and four tablets! Man oh man what a difference having the technology makes! I am able to have groups and keep the rest of the kiddos on task with other literacy related activities without a huge fuss. Game.Changer.

My student teacher and I tried three groups (with six or seven kiddos each with a total of 20 kids) for a few weeks and finally I decided it was not working. There were too many kids in each station and they were off task and not engaged. That was not going to work for me at all. So last week I sat down and created a rotation chart. It looks like this. 


This is only Monday's. Each day is different so that I can see each group twice per week. This schedule really changed it up for me because I have 5 groups and none of them have more than 4 kiddos. Firstly they fit so much better around my group table but secondly, the amount of kids in each of the other stations has been cut almost in half and thus the kids aren't having to argue over who gets what and when. It's actually QUIET in my room during stations now :)
 
 Each kiddo has a folder. I labeled them with their group letter A-E so to make it easier to sort them. They keep all of their literacy stations work in the folder along with their checklist.

 This folder is from a student in the higest group. You can see on the left she has her checklist. I circled the stations that the kiddos visit each day based upon their group and then as they complete the groups (before we rotate to the next station) they check it off or cross it out. This helps keep them on track and provides a nice visual. (For the checklists, I just used pencil so I can make changes later, then I photocopied them so I have a master set that I can just copy each week.) The work from any of the stations goes into the pocket on the right. They will be collected daily so that we can cut down on a ton of grading at the end of the week.

This is another student who is in the intensive group. Same concept. They use the same worksheet/assignment to get exposure to the grade level material but I can differentiate with this system by having them only complete half of the problems so that I can see if they are understanding the concept without overwhelming them.

The best news is we now have Google Classroom and I have figured out how to turn these worksheets into Google Docs so next week the kiddos won't have ANY paper/pencil during literacy except the work they do with me in groups and their vocabulary :)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Intentional Educator Planner {Review}

I am so excited to share this review video with you today. A very special teacher that I met on Voxer (seriously if you aren't on Voxer, you are missing out!) designed a teacher planner that is just awesome. She was very kind to send me a copy for free and I decided to do a vlog to showcase it because talking about it just isn't good enough for this product.

Check out the video below!


This planner was designed and created by a high school teacher. This means some of the design features aren't as beneficial for elementary teachers. For example, there are five boxes for plans each day where most elementary teachers would probably need six or seven. I also wish there were checklist pages included because I totally use checklists for EVERYTHING (i.e. I always spend the extra $10 to get the extra checklists in the Erin Condren planner because I end up using all but like 4 pages throughout the year). 

That being said, however, I would still buy this planner. Elementary teachers are creative by nature and I would definitely figure out a way to make this planner work for me despite having a desire for more boxes to plan in. It is less than half of the price I have been spending on my EC planners (even with the discounts) and it definitely lends itself to reflection and cultivating a growth mindset for the TEACHER. 

Check it out and let me know what you think. Be sure to visit Nicolette at www.educazen.org to learn more about this great product and order your own copy.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Week 3

Three weeks down! Unbelievable! (Somehow I expect that will be my refrain this year...it is FLYING!)

We had a great week this week. The kiddos are really settling into routines and I can definitely see who needs a tighter reign in order to stay on track during stations time. 2nd grade team did stations all last year so it is disheartening to see several friends who talk and mess around instead of doing their work. We have had to have some conversations about responsibility and doing what we are supposed to do even if the teacher isn't sitting next to you.

I am huge into Growth Mindset and we have talked a lot about how they are hurting themselves if they aren't asking for help and getting their work done. I have one student who NEVER finishes her work on time. I mean, not a single week has passed where she had everything done on time. She is able to do everything in group (without specific help so I know she isn't confused or lost). We have a couple of days where our specials make it difficult to complete an entire lesson of certain subject so I will be using that time for conferring and/or reteaching and she is the first one on my list for a meeting because third grade moves fast. I don't want her to get behind.

I feel so much more at ease this year as well. Obviously, ten less students makes a HUGE difference, but I also feel so much more comfortable with the curriculum the second time around even though I am using a different math and science program than I did last year. I guess I just feel more confident that I can help move them along. We just finally finished up our MAP testing (except for one friend who has been absent) so I am looking forward to getting the kiddos into the habit of looking at their own data and making goals for improvement also (hmmm...that conferring and reteaching block is already filling up fast haha!)

On Mondays my kiddos take home their STAR folder with all of their work from the previous week. It also includes behavior sheet that needs to be signed (the kiddos are in charge of filling these out each week). I write a short comment on them and there is a spot for the parents to comment and then sign. For each of my families that came to Open House, I wrote a short note thanking them for coming. One parent (whom I have had another child of before) wrote how happy they are that I have their daughter. :)

On Wednesday I was out for the morning only and my student teacher is not ready to sub yet so I had my usual sub there in the morning. Most of the time if I know I am going to be gone, I tell the kiddos but I had forgotten in our rush out the door on Tuesday. We do a check in each morning so we can see how the kiddos are coming in (emotionally) each day. My student teacher had collected them Wednesday morning since I wasn't there and she said at least half of the kids wrote that they felt worried because I wasn't at school. How adorable and sweet is that? :)

On Friday my student teacher was out sick (bad reaction to some medicine) so it was just me and the third graders. Fortunately Fridays are SO EASY that it wasn't a huge deal at all. We also had the school store (Estrella) yesterday...it is run by mom volunteers. Each class has a 20 minute block of time to go shop. My kids did a great job waiting in line for their turn and they went two at a time in the bins so it wasn't a complete disaster and mess. 

At the end of the day, after Fun Friday, I reminded the kiddos to put their ticket envelopes back into their pencil pouches so they wouldn't lose them. One of my boys called me over to his desk and was clearly upset. He said he had 6 tickets when we went to the store and now he had 5. I thought he was trying to tell me that he had lost one. But he said no, he spent 5 tickets but the mom volunteer only took one and gave him back 5. He didn't want to keep any except the one he knew he was supposed to have. Melted my heart. What a great display of honesty and taking responsibility! So I relayed the story to our principal and she is going to issue this friend a Golden Ticket next week :) (The golden tickets can only be given out by her and are worth 10 tickets so they are a big deal.) 

I am so proud of this little guy. Even better, when we were still at the store and he was waiting his turn to go, he says to me, "Mrs. Wood, my mom REALLY likes you" :) Sweetpea, you have no idea that us teachers absolutely LIVE for feedback like that :) (Note: I also had this friend's brother a few years ago so mom has known me for awhile.) 


I'm happy I have these friends this year! After two years of some incredibly tough kiddos, it is pretty awesome to a) have a small class and b) have such NICE and THOUGHTFUL kids. They make going to work such a joy.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Guided Math (Third Grade Version)

I attended a free webinar about Guided Math at the end of the summer and decided I was going to just jump in with both feet and do a math rotation this year. I have tried it before but never really went all in and therefore it was not successful (no surprise there).

But this year, I decided to go all in and make it work. I gave the students a pretest of the first unit which is on rounding and adding and subtracting within 1000 (3.NBT.1 and 2 respectively). Some of the students did pretty well on it but a good amount of them were totally lost on it as well. So I used that data to form my groups for this unit and we have taken to teaching most of the math lessons in a small group (some I do whole group because it is just easier with the type of lesson). 

We are using what I have dubbed "The Georgia Units" as our curriculum this year because we have had the old version of Everyday Math since I started teaching. Not only is it outdated but it is also not Common Core aligned and our standardized tests are. We have common assessments in our district that are Common Core based so we were told as long as we use the common assessments we could use whatever resources we wanted. As soon as I heard that, I knew I would toss the EDM curriculum out the window in terms of whole group teaching. I don't hate EDM but since it doesn't align well to what kids need to know, it is not gonna cut it.

So I checked out the Georgia resource and convinced my team that we needed to use these units this year. They are perfect for Guided Math. So many of the lessons are hands-on games or activities that let the students actually practice rounding or manipulating numbers. Plus doing them in a small group I can see immediately who is totally lost or who is getting it with some extra support. 

I have 20 students this year so for now we have 3 rotations. It may change if I get new students throughout the year. 

My rotations are: Teacher, Technology and Workbook. 

At the teacher station, they are working with me at the small group table. They play a game or complete the task with me right there to guide and support their learning. My lowest group gets much more hands-on direction from me than the highest group does because the higher group catches on so quickly. I can basically sit back and observe with them which is nice too because it helps me to know what I need to do to continue to push their thinking. The middle group ("on level") gets the general lesson but I can quickly scaffold up or down based upon the particular lesson or strategy because there are, at most, 7 students in front of me and I can see them all around the table. It's been going awesome so far.

The Technology station is where they use the iPods to play math games. I have all of the Everyday Math apps plus some fact fluency apps and games that help them to practice their facts quickly and efficiently. That has been helpful because they love the games and since I am using small groups, each student gets their own device and they think it is awesome :)

The last rotations is Work Book. I do use the Everyday Math journals for this time. The kids either review with math boxes or they work on pages that are similar to what we have been working on (or as close as I can get them). This station they are allowed to work together with their group for extra support if needed and it has been a great reinforcement tool so far.

I spend about 15-18 minutes with each group and it has been going pretty well for just jumping in and trying it! The only thing I need to be better at is remember to take anecdotal notes when the kids are working. I am watching them of course but over time I know I am not going to be able to remember what I saw with the first group when I get to the last group. So I need to be better at making sure that I use sticky notes or something to jot things down as we go along so I can make better instructional decisions. I just haven't figured out the form or method I want to use for that quite yet.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Two Weeks Down!

I still can't get over how different this year is! I feel so relaxed and happy when I go home at night which is refreshing and so needed.

I have a great group of kiddos this year too. I am enjoying them so much. Even The Husband has pointed out how much happier I am when I come home :) 

It's been so busy though I haven't had much time to think, let alone blog :) I did want to quickly post and update some of the pictures from our room.


 The first week of school we talked about our brains and how important it is that we drive our own brain toward learning mastery. We talked about growth mindset and how that means not giving up and using the word "yet" when we don't know something (i.e. "I don't know how to do this, yet"). It was a powerful lesson and I love the brain cars :) They are so cute. The kids refer to this poster ALL THE TIME during the day which is even better. I hear them telling each other "you should say YET"

Last year I did away with my prize box and used Brag Tags instead. I wasn't sure how it would work out but it was awesome. The kids LOVE them and honestly it is so much more meaningful than a dumb trinket that will break because they get to KEEP these at the end of the year. This is our Brag Tag board. Each student has a ball chain necklace and they hang their brag tags here all week. On Friday morning during our Circle Up time, the kids get their brag tags and I present any tags that were earned that week. They then get to wear their brag tags around on Friday (except to lunch and recess because I don't want them to get lost or broken). The kids LOVE it and it was so fun to see them talk about their Brag Tags to their parents at Open House too. :) 

I bought some foam insulation at Home Depot and a fabric shower curtain at Target and made this word wall (or "No Excuse Words" Wall as I like to call it). It is so stinkin cute! It has words on it now but I didn't take a new picture of it after I put them up. I just love how this looks. So adorable and fun.


I am truly enjoying my job so much more this year. That is such a nice feeling. I liked my job last year but I am LOVING it this year. So much less stressful with fewer kids and my only behavior problems are talking. Since I get paid to talk all day, I can definitely deal with that :)

And we had a full moon yesterday and my kids were not crazy! (Hoping that doesn't mean they will be on Monday haha). This year is off to such a fabulous start and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What a Difference!

Wow! What a difference a year truly makes.

20 students this year. They are nice and sweet. I haven't had to be a cranky person. (Happened that first day last year.) There is so much SPACE in my room with that extra table group not being there! You could do a complicated dance in my room and not run into anything! 😊

We had an amazing first day yesterday. We did tons of procedures and such mixed in with some content. We spent some time talking about Growth Mindset and the kiddos made their brain cars. So stinkin cute! And I made a quick poster to hang them on that simply days "The Power of Yet" which the kids were totally drawn to. They loved the idea that things will be hard sometimes but we just haven't figured it out YET. (They even repeated this to each other today which was music to my ears.)

Today we really dug into some content and I'm starting to see who is stronger where and will be making some changes Friday to help balance our class better in terms of table groups and such.

I will also post updated pictures of our "YET" poster, our new word wall space and the Brag Tags board with the brag tags on it. I really think I have the cutest room this year and I love being in the space with 10 less kiddos!

Monday, September 5, 2016

T'was the Night Before the First Day of School

Here we are...the night before the first day of my 11th year in the classroom. (How is that even possible??) I do not think I could accurately express my excitement to begin anew this year. While I never kept it a secret that I was unhappy the last two years, I also didn't go into a ton of detail because it wouldn't have changed anything.

I am so happy to say that I am very excitedly looking forward. We have a new principal (who won me over the second that she said that she didn't think she could be an administrator if she couldn't still teach--she teaches high school students in the summer--because it helps her feel relevant). She is energizing, fun and just gets it. We have been beaten down a long time. I can't imagine her ever saying anything to someone that isn't meant to help them grow. What a change that will be.

I'm also excited for a fresh start with my team. We spent a good four hours last week just going over curriculum and setting the tone for what we plan to do this year together (which hasn't happened for me in two years). I will absolutely hold them to it as well...we have to be there for each other or why bother? 

Mostly, I am excited to move forward with some changes in how I plan to teach my little friends this year. Every year I try to learn and grow and do something to better how my students are learning. This year, of course, our entire school is beginning by holding our kiddos to their spring MAP data. I also like to try to implement new ideas and strategies to make teaching more enjoyable and effective but also to make learning more fun for my students. 

I have successfully implemented things like interactive notebooks, reading challenges and brag tags over the past few years. This year, I am super excited to be transitioning my students to Guided Math. I have read the book about Guided Math (even did a book study here on the blog about it--you can read those posts here), but I've never actually given it a try. I attended a free webinar this summer about it and decided to just jump in with both feet.
 
I am super excited to get it set up and implemented in the first couple of weeks of school. I will definitely blog about our progress as we move forward.
 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Exhausted, but Ready! (Classroom Reveal)

This week has been a whirlwind! From our uber energizing PD on Monday to the multi-hour work session my team did to make some plans for this year to our super productive meetings yesterday and this morning, I have been going-going-going since setting foot in the school at 7 am on Monday. Whew! 

I am WIPED. (Not to mention there are domestic duties and grad school on top of all of the aforementioned things. Whew!) Alas, I am so stoked for our first day of school on Tuesday! My student teacher was a ton of help in helping me set up this year, do some reorganizing and making the space feel so much more open and kid-friendly than it did last year (to be fair, we also got to set up for 7 less students compared to last year).  

We spent a ton of time today sorting, organizing and relabeling the baskets in the classroom library. I am so happy with how it all turned out. It's functional but cute. 

Copies for the first day are done and I only have a couple of things I need to do this weekend for the first day. I have some small "housekeeping" type of tasks to do on Tuesday morning before the kiddos arrive but otherwise, we are pretty well set for the first day! 

You can check out this year's classroom reveal here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Energizing

It's pretty rare that I come away from a professional development session where I can say that I feel energized and fired up, genuinely, to start a new school year.

That is exactly what happened yesterday. On August 1st, the leadership cohort in my school and I met to plan the PD that we gave yesterday. It was all about data and how to look at it from a different perspective in order to help our students grow and truly reach their potential.

We have used NWEA/MAP for about 8 years I think. I know some people aren't a fan of it, but I like it because it gives me immediate results that I can use to help design instruction for my students. I also like it because the learning continuum (used to be called DesCartes) provides me with invaluable information about where they are, where they should be and what I need to do in order to get them from A to B. 

We have always looked at student growth from fall to spring. This makes sense, doesn't it? That's the time that the child is with you. But consider something. How many students in a low-income urban district such as my own have so-called "summer slide"? Truthfully, a lot of them do. In fact, I asked two of my former students (brothers) at registration how many books they read this summer. They said none like it was no big deal. Grrr.

Alas, this is part of the problem. We more or less have let them get away with that summer slide. Not anymore. What we did was look at their SPRING data. When school starts next week, we are going to hold them to those spring scores. We want their growth to be determined from Spring to Spring because if the score is higher from the spring compared to the fall, we know they are capable of getting back to that spring score because they already did it once

As a staff, we ran through some research, did some discussion and then jumped into actually looking at our data. We made data boards and looked at trends across the grades. It's difficult because the higher the grade, the more kiddos are in the "pink zone" (ie not where we want them). So our task is to hold the kiddos to those standards--you did this once, I want to see you do it again. Focus on a growth mindset, perseverance and a can-do attitude and help THEM to push THEMSELVES toward higher achievement.

I'm telling you...when we reflected at the end of the meeting, our new principal had everyone go around and share takeaways. You could have cut that energy with a knife; it was palpable (but in the best possible way). People left feeling fired up, empowered and ready to move forward to better our kids.

That's what it is supposed to be about. No, test scores are not the end all, be all, but they are part of our evaluation and therefore we have to consider them and do what we can to help our kids be better.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Summer's End

Gosh, this summer FLEW! It was a busy one for sure. Fortunately despite how busy it was, it was also incredibly fun and productive too. Perhaps this is the first summer in a very long while (perhaps my entire career) where I had equal amounts of productivity and fun. I have not really thought about my classroom at all, which is so odd for me! Sure I've done a bit of professional reading here and there but with my travels and my grad class, I did not spend all summer thinking about the upcoming school year. This is not a bad thing...in fact, I think it will be very good. I feel rested and energized and ready to tackle the year (good thing too since I am headed in to set up my room on Monday!).

In July of course, I spent a week at Princeton University courtesy of Gilder Lehrman and it was awesome but highly academic. On August 6, we left Michigan to drive down to Orlando to Disney World. What a fun vacation! The Husband had been there at the end of high school but The Littles and I had never been. I could have done without the drive but we didn't want to spend the extra money on air fare. It all worked out and we managed to not get on each other's nerves so it's all good.


We spent an overnight in Atlanta, Georgia on the way down. Our first stop was Palm Coast, Florida. I had never seen the ocean in person (except when I flew over it which I do not think counts!).  Here is my hunny and me at Palm Coast :)

We pretty much perfected group selfies while on vacation :) Here are the four of us (The Oldest did not come due to the fact that she is now a momma and had other responsibilities of her own). The Youngest is on the far left, Middle Child is on the right. 

We spent Monday, August 8 at Sea World - Orlando. It was incredibly fun and I'm so glad we went. The Littles love animals so it was a good choice. (I wanted to go to Universal Studios but its so pricey!) I got splashed by a dolphin within about 5 minutes of being in the park LOL It was incredibly HOT in Florida the entire time we were there (seriously I will never gripe about 90 degrees and humid in Michigan ever again!) but we made the most of it and had a blast.

We stayed at a Disney Resort (All Star Movies) and on Tuesday, August 9 we headed to the Happiest Place on Earth :) 

You can't go to Disney without riding the Dumbo ride (despite the fact that all of us are 13 and up lol). The Youngest and I are in the front, The Husband and Middle Child managed to get in the picture and wave from the back :)

August 10 is my favorite day of the year? Why? Because it's my birthday :) This year I got to spend it at Hollywood Studios--pretty awesome way to spend your birthday, no? We had so much fun, even if it was H-O-T. We saw Beauty and the Beast live and an Indiana Jones stunt show. We met Kylo Ren and Chewbacca from Star Wars too and just had an awesome day. I got a little sun as you can see :)


On Thursday we went to Epcot and on Friday we went to Animal Kingdom. Both were amazing. We narrowly avoided rain all week (it rained during lunch while we were at Sea World but the other days it kept going around us--yay!). We didn't get as lucky at Animal Kingdom. Just as we finished the safari ride, it started POURING. Thank goodness we packed ponchos "just in case" :)

Saturday, the 13th, was our last day and we slept in and went back to Magic Kingdom to do all of the things we missed the first time! It was so much fun. We stayed for the electrical parade and fireworks. I have never seen anything so amazing in my entire life. It was so awesome. The Youngest snapped a pic of The Husband and I with the castle lit up behind us (not the best picture in the world but a 13 year old took it lol). 

 We made the super long trek home on Sunday, August 14. The trip home was so hard just because there wasn't much to look forward to when we were done! :) We stayed overnight in Chatanooga, Tennesee at an Embassy Suites hotel that was very nice. Then I drove 11.5 hours home on Monday (finally waving the white flag in defeat 30 minutes from home). Yuck! We needed Tuesday to recover from our trip! :)

I developed a slight (read: major) obsession with BB-8 while we were at Disney. So fun and much cuter than R2-D2! I like to think BB-8 is a girl even though its a droid and thus really genderless :D (I also got a case for my iPhone which is not pictured because I ordered it through the mail). 

The last couple of days, The Littles have been visiting my mom, I got to see my super fabulous grandbaby on Thursday and Friday and The Husband is on a weekend bike trip...so I have been ALONE since 6 am today. It's been awesome to just have silence around me! (That is short lived since I have to pick the girls up today.) Being on vacation is loud! :) 

This was a perfect way to end my summer. Monday and Tuesday my student teacher and I are headed in to set up our room and then things get real. Middle Child is starting high school (*what?!*) and we are doing some transition work with her to curb her anxiety. Then I am taking Thursday and Friday to myself because the 29th the real work begins--the first PD days and my research phase for my doctorate all begin on the 29th. So the summer is officially over and its time to get thinking about how to tackle 3rd grade this year.

I am so, so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel as much as I did this summer because I really do feel relaxed and ready to head back to the full time task of teaching. I hope your summer was as epic as mine :)


Monday, August 1, 2016

Ahh, August

How is it August 1st?? Seriously.

This is the month when I let my mind wander back to thinking about school. I was quite surprised to learn some friends on Voxer are in school today. With kids. August is too hot to be in school! As much as we might sometimes grumble about being in school until mid-June, I do very much love that I have August to do my thing still. 

That said, I was at school today for a leadership meeting. We are doing a supplemental PD day for our staff before the official start date and we had a planning meeting for it. I am so excited about the meeting. It's all about data. I know some people hate data but I love it. And this system that we are going to try is going to help us to not only better track our data but also to hold ourselves, our students and each other accountable for success. What more could you want?

I don't know about you, but this summer has been incredibly busy. I have a ton of books on my To Read list that I know I won't get through before the 29th when I officially start back. I have two weeks left of my current grad class (which is on religion) and it's been quite an eye-opening class actually. My next course starts my research phase so that should be incredibly interesting as we move into the school year. 

I have not done a darn thing for teaching at all since I got out of school in June. I have been too busy working on other things. Now that it is August, I have to start thinking about it. We are heading down to Orlando, Florida on Saturday the 6th and won't be home until the 16th so a lot of my planning/work won't be happening until the 17th or later. I will officially head to work on the 22nd to get my room setup so much of my work will be done that week (when usually I spread it out over the summer). It should be chaotic at best :) 

Alas, I am quite glad I have had such a busy summer with other things because it has forced me to take some time off from my job and I've done some professional learning, taken some awesome trips and will be all the more fired up to go back to school and get some learning done with my new crop of 3rd graders.

My first official school day is August 31st although we have the special PD on the 29th. Students start on Sept 6. When is your first day?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Thirteen Colonies Seminar Princeton University (July 24-30, 2016)

Sometime in early January, an acquaintance of mine on Voxer posted a link to the Teacher Seminars with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. I am hardly a history buff, but they sounded very interesting and I figured there was no harm in applying. I was pretty sure I would never be selected but I applied for my school to become an affiliate (which is free) and then filled out the application. I applied only for two sessions: Thirteen Colonies and the American Revolution. Both were restricted to K-8 teachers and that appealed to me because it was confined to grades I am able to teach. I promptly forgot all about it until March when a reminder I had set on my phone told me to check my application status and low and behold, I had been accepted! Travel arrangements and lots of anticipation later, the end of July came and it was time to go.

I had never been anywhere near Princeton and I never stayed in a dorm before because I always lived at home while I was in college.  I was pretty pleased with myself for figuring out the train situation from Newark to Princeton all by myself without having to ask for directions (to say I am directionally challenged is an understatement). I did end up going out of the station at Princeton the wrong way so I wandered around for 45 minutes before I finally figured out where I was supposed to be but otherwise, things were very smooth.

The first day we got checked in and settled and then met as a group and walked across campus to the building where our lectures were going to be. We had a catered dinner the first night and did some introductions. There were about 30 people in our group (maybe a bit more) and we were all from very different backgrounds and teaching situations. How lucky was I to learn with so many people who have such different perspectives? 

We did a short little tour of the campus that first night before heading to our dorms to settle in for the evening. Monday morning the fun began!

A typical day went something like this:
9-12 Content Lectures
12-1 Lunch
1-2ish Content Lecture
2ish-4 Activity and/or Gilder Lehrman presentation
Evenings varied with some evenings being free and other evenings having activities

The Lectures
The lectures all occurred in the same room and were given by historian John Fea. We had been assigned three readings for the seminar and asked to read them before we came as all of the lectures would be referencing and focusing upon the content of those books. I won't share what the lectures are about because I don't want to spoil it for future seminar attendees, but I will tell you that Dr. Fea is an amazing speaker. He is charismatic and so passionate about his subject that I seriously could have listened to him all day. The lectures were heavily content based so teachers in the program had background for developing the lesson plans required as a sort of "exit slip" as we completed the program. 

One of my favorite things about listening to Dr. Fea speak was how he challenged us to really consider the British Colonial Settlements as if the American Revolution never happened. Honestly, at first, some of us were like "but but...it DID happen!" After awhile, however, through the lectures we realized very quickly how much deeper you can go into the Thirteen Colonies when you act as if the Revolution never happened. Let me again say I am the least historically inclined person (a fact that drives my history-buff husband insane) and I was absolutely drawn into these lectures. I easily took 40 pages of notes in the four days of lectures we had. So many ideas that challenged what I had been taught as well as what I will teach in the future.

Side note: As a third grade teacher, I do not teach currently teach Colonial American but the knowledge I gleaned can still be carried over into Michigan History which is what I teach in third grade. 

The Gilder Lehrman Sessions
The Gilder Lehrman sessions were run by the fabulous Nate, a master teacher with GLI. His task was to run the teachers in the group through how to set up the type of lessons we would be creating by the end of the week. They were really fun and informative and I'm glad to say I learned a couple of new teaching strategies as well. I loved seeing lessons that Nate had created for his own students and then learning how we could adapt even difficult primary sources down for the youngest of learners. I think sometimes our inclination is to say it will be too hard for kindergarten through second or third graders and these sessions really challenged that notion which I vastly appreciated (I am well known for pushing kids farther than they think they can go). 

Meal Times 
Seriously...despite all of the walking around I did, I'm sure I gained at least a few pounds (I didn't check when I got home because I didn't want to know!) from all of the yummy deliciousness offered in the cafeteria. All of our meals were provided and there were tons of choices every day. A lot of summer camps for elementary, middle and high school students were also ongoing so it wasn't uncommon to see kiddos sneaking ice cream at the end of breakfast too :) In all seriousness, however, the vast availability of choices was much appreciated. The best part of the meals was the opportunity to sit with different members of our group, including Dr. Fea and Nate, and learn about them and their teaching situations. We really became like a family during the six days we were together. 

Field Trips and Walking Tours
Of course I cannot speak for any other Gilder Lehrman session because this was my first one, but the field trips and other activities they included in our schedule were amazing. We had a guided tour of Princeton University, a side trip to the Princeton Cemetery (where we got rained on!), a rare books event at one of the libraries (which was so awesome!) and a day trip to Philadelphia to tour the historic areas that were around during colonial times. We walked around so much that one day I had over 20,000 steps on my vivoFit! 

The Verdict
This was such an amazing opportunity and I am so glad that I was not only selected but able to follow through and attend. It would be difficult to describe exactly how awesome it was...it's the kind of thing you have to experience for yourself. Truly. If you have the opportunity to go to any of the sessions, I would highly recommend it.

What can you do now? Head on over to gilderlehrman.org and search for the teacher seminars and you can sign up to be reminded of when applications are being accepted. It cost me $25 to register once I was accepted and I had to buy the books for the seminar but all travel expenses (up to $400) are reimbursed so essentially I had this incredible week long professional development for $75. By far the cheapest and most amazing PD I have ever attended. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Incredible

If you are a teacher of history of any kind, head over to gilderlehrman.org and get your school registered as an affiliate. Then sign up to be notified of when the applications for teacher seminars opens up and then when they are available, find one you like and APPLY.

I just spent a week at Princeton University, for free, learning from and studying with a Master Teacher and a celebrated historian. Oh my word. The experience was incredible and I have come away from it so inspired and ready to truly help my students learn to think like historians. It was an amazing opportunity and I am so grateful and blessed to have been able to go.

Stay tuned to the blog for more details on the experience.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summer Learning

Happy July! I've been quiet here on the blog for awhile just taking some much needed time to unplug a bit and put my focus where I need it to be. I anticipate that everyone is enjoying their summer break and also finding some time to rest and relax. :) 

Having said that, I did want to pop in and share some learning I've engaged in thus far in the summer. As is true since I started this blog six years ago (!!), I am always fully honest about where I am in my journey as a teacher, whether that is bad or good. The further I get into my doctoral program, the harder it becomes for me to unplug during the summer (I suspect that will be even more true summer 2017 as I will be elbows deep in the dissertation by that point). Part of this is because my program is year-round and there is no such thing as a "summer break" for me from this learning (to be fair I do get a week off in August--which coincides with my return to work so... doesn't really count). 

This summer, I am taking my required religion course and we are studying the Parables of Jesus. The reading is extremely dense and I have developed a new appreciation for what it must be like for my struggling readers. I learned to read in kindergarten. I remember begging my mom (who is also a voracious reader) to help me learn how to pronounce words I practiced stringing together. Once I learned that words actually held meaning, I was off and haven't looked back. I have never struggled to read...and now I am because the readings and interpretations are dense and can be conflicting and overwhelming. As a true lifelong learner however, I am secretly relishing the challenge because a) it truly is giving me a new appreciation for what it must be like for some of my students and b) the more I push my brain, the hungrier it is for more knowledge. (Yes, I am a nerd. Sorry if you didn't know before and are just figuring it out.)

In addition to the required summer class, I participated in the second installment of EdCampVoxer July 5-9. I even led a session this time on Student-Centered Assessment. I am writing a chapter for a collaborative ebook on Student Assessment and running that group and getting new ideas was so incredibly beneficial. My wheels were turning and spinning out of control, in a good way, not only for ideas for my chapter but also for how I'd like to change things up this next school year. 

I also joined a session on Growth Mindset and holy cow. What an amazing and dynamic group that was (and continues to be). I've learned a lot, had my mind expanded and am jotting notes and keeping track of different files so when I have time I can go back and pick things to read and/or implement in the future. Some of it will also be good for the upcoming dissertation, which is always a bonus.

I also learned about SeeSaw. We do not have a ton of technology in our school (hopefully that will change this fall) so I am not well versed in much of the EdTech out there. I do know, however, that my intention was to go to a portfolio assessment tracking system this year, I just had planned to do it on paper (and some parts still will be this way). However, now that I know about SeeSaw, I can utilize the iPods I have for my class and have the students upload and note things they are working on and we can share them with families in real time, which is exciting. 

Lastly, of course, my summer would not be my summer if I wasn't doing tons of reading! It's been more difficult to get in the reading at a rate I normally would as I have had to read some pretty dense books on history for my Princeton Seminar and of course, for class.

Below are listed books (click on any picture to go to the book info on Amazon) that I have either already purchased and plan to read or will be purchasing. Doubtful I'll get through them all this summer with the vast amounts of reading I am required to do for class and my seminar but I shall try!



I own this one. I have only barely scratched the surface of this one but it's quite good. The research is fascinating and I am always interested in knowing more about how our brains do their thing.


I own this one. This one was a very quick and enjoyable read about how to set up a classroom utilizing Restorative Practices rather than incentives and punishments. I picked this one up because we have been using Restorative Practices in my school.


I own this one. This one is brand new from ASCD. I participated in a free webinar from ASCD about this book and I'm super excited to dig into it. It is basically teaching teachers how to teach their students metacognitive strategies so that the students can really drive their brains (there is even an activity where the kiddos get to have a picture of them driving their brains as a visual reminder).


I own this one. This one I started to read and it's very good thus far. I am really hoping to have time to finish this one before school starts just as a way to self-monitor my own growth as a teacher.


I do not own this one but it is wish-listed. I have heard nothing but good things about this book and will be buying it at some point. It focuses on some growth mindset type of things and that is an area I am quickly become very passionate about. There is nothing more frustrating to me than having a 7 or 8 year old child who is already so checked out because they think they are dumb.



I do not own this one either, but it is also wishlisted. I was very lucky to participate in a chat with the author of this book last week and I learned a ton and am excited to read this book and learn how to help my students push themselves forward. 




Saturday, June 18, 2016

JumpStart Training

Gosh, it is hard to believe it has been a whole week since I left the JumpStart training in Maryland as a new CSP (Candidate Support Provider)! Time flies, huh?

It was a wonderful experience although a very long one.We began Thursday evening from 5-9 pm (!!!), went all day Friday (9-5 pm) and all day Saturday (9-5 pm). It was a ton of information to cram into our brains but it was amazing and I can definitely see how I would have benefited from being able to participate in a JumpStart as a candidate. 

We unpacked each of the academies that new candidates can attend as they go through the process. We networked, we planned and we sketched out some ideas of what we'd like to do here in Michigan. It's only a process for us because our network is emerging and because those of us involved in this are spread all over the state (thus communication is pretty important but not always timely).

I'm so glad I was able to go though. I learned a lot and I definitely know how to support someone else who is going through the process--one of the biggest takeaways I had was to make sure the candidate owns their own journey. I think this is a lesson we sometimes need to remind ourselves of with our students too; it can be so easy to just give the answer but when we require the person to find the answer on their own with minimal help (such as suggesting where they might find the answer), it is going to mean so much more to them in the long run.

It was a bit weird since I am not on the "executive committee" of our network and thus there are things they know that I do not in terms of what is coming down the line. Alas, I think that once the plan for our JumpStart is put into place, things will be better and there will be more open communication. 

Since I got back, I went in to finish my CA-60s and have enjoyed some down time the rest of the week. Can't tell you how nice that has been :) 

Finishing up my current grad class tonight and then a week of freedom. I have so much to do between now and July 24th but I am going to give myself this next week to just relax and enjoy since The Husband is on vacation and I have the week off doctor school as well.

I shall update when I return from Princeton at the end of July. Have a fabulous summer!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The End (almost)

It's unbelievable to me that tomorrow is my last day of school with my students for this year (their last day is Friday). This year was incredibly weird, challenging, exhilarating and fun all rolled into one. I had a super huge class this year and was on my own from mid-December to now with 30 kiddos. That's a ton of kids with no additional support!

We also had a ton of transition this year from a no-show teaching partner in August to a new colleague passing away to some transition within the last six weeks of school. Definitely one for the record books!

Alas, I am heading out a bit early this year to attend JumpStart training in Maryland Thursday evening through Saturday evening. I have so much to do before I say goodbye to my small fries tomorrow at 11:55 am! 

I'm happy to say I'm staying in 3rd grade for next year (unless something wild happens over the summer) and my former student teacher will be teaching with me next year. :) We will have a new partner in our 2/3 split but that person is not yet determined. 

I have an incredibly busy summer coming up along with many things I want and need to do for my own personal well-being too. I'm excited for what's to come but also very ready to kick back and just take things one day at a time as well.

It's very likely this blog will sit and gather some dust this summer (with some updates on this weekend's training and my Princeton trip in July) until I get back into the swing of things for the fall. I have a million ideas running around in my head of what I want and need to do differently next year but some time off to recoup and gather myself together is necessary first.

Until we meet again have a beautiful and safe summer!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summer of Success

Okay, I totally stole that title from our summer school program...but teachers are known for begging, borrowing and stealing....right? :) 

Alas, as we wind down this school year (only 10 student days left, 3 of those half days), I can begin to briefly turn my thoughts to my plans for the summer. Recently a long-time volunteer at our school who mentors a student for an hour each week asked me about my summer plans. I kind of chuckled and said "you know, usually I don't do much and this summer will be incredibly busy!"

I am actually starting my summer a tad early because I was invited to travel to Maryland the last two days of school to attend JumpStart training so I can be a National Board Candidate Support Provider. So that will be an incredibly amazing kick off to the summer. One evening and two full days of incredible learning that I can bring back to my district and surrounding districts to really begin a movement toward getting more teachers on board with National Board Certification. 

Much of the rest of June and into mid-July will be working on my chapter for the #EduMatch collaborative e-book. I'm SUPER stoked to be part of this exciting project. I may actually end up co-authoring my chapter since someone else in the group and I were chatting and we have a similar idea but from different angles. Once we actually begin writing, we may decide to collaborate on one chapter instead of each writing our own. It will be so super incredibly fun.

At the end of July, I am headed to Princeton for the Gilder Lehrman seminar on the Thirteen Colonies. I get to pretend to be an Ivy League student for a week, including a stay in the dorm (something I never did as a college student). I'm beyond excited for the workshop and the field trip they are taking us on (that is a mystery!).

I'll be home for a week after that and we're hopping in a car and heading to Florida for a week at Disney World (yes, during the hottest month of the year because we're crazy). I get to spend my birthday with Mickey Mouse :) 

More or less once we get home from that fun adventure...it'll be time to open up the classroom for the fall! On top of all of that exciting goodness, there is grad school and being a mom and seeing my grandson as often as possible.

I am so excited about it all....especially because most summers we don't really do much aside from heading to our cabin. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

International Exemplars

It is not a secret to most people who know me that once I traveled to Finland in March 2015, I have been more or less obsessed with the Finnish education system ever since. How do they do what they do so well? Why can't the US get it together to be more like them (specifically by dialing WAY down on the amount of testing we do)?

I get some push back sometimes...telling me how Finland is too small to be compared to the US, how it is not diverse so we can't compare it to the US in that case either. 

But I am fortunate enough that my current doctoral class is all about international schools and how we can learn from and emulate them. Of course, Finland is one of the countries we are looking at. And what is most interesting is the authors of The Global Fourth Way admit that while Finland is much smaller and less diverse than the US as a whole....it is possible to emulate some of their strategies at a state level because the entire country of Finland is very similar in size to many of the individual states in the US. (I also found it quite interesting that some of the states in the US actually have less foreign born residents than Finland....so some places here aren't very diverse either!)

The pieces that resonate with me the most, however, is the commitment to equity. All students receive free universal preschool, parents can take three years of maternity leave to be at home during the most precious years and all schools are funded by the government (even the few private schools they have). Teachers are in charge of the curriculum...there is a trust there that they have prepared their teachers well and thus, the teachers can be trusted to do what they need to do. 

My favorite thing ever....is this quote "Accountability is the remainder that is left when responsibility is subtracted." 

Truer words have probably never been spoken. It is like most things....because of a few people taking advantage of the system, everyone else has to suffer. Quite honestly, I work HARDER to please MYSELF than I ever have for my bosses...because I am the one who has to sleep at night knowing whether or not I gave my students my all. I don't need some arbitrary accountability system to get me to do my job well...but others do and that's sad.

My second favorite part of this...teachers are respected. They are not scapegoats for bigger problems with the systems. They are treated as professionals and trusted as professionals. I know some absolutely amazing educators all over the US (thanks PLN!)...and I can tell you that all of them would continue to be amazing if the accountability systems we employ were to disappear. They would not stop being amazing because suddenly no one was watching them. When we lift teachers up, treat them well and pay them a living wage for their work....we might be surprised at the result we get.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Censorship & Teaching {Part 2}

On Saturday, I wrote this post about how the media often portrays teachers and how teachers might be censored from sharing their opinion about some things if it doesn't make their school and/or district look good. 

When I wrote it, I hadn't intended for there to be a "part 2" but I had an email from a very long-time reader about it. She didn't comment on the blog, opting instead to send me an email because she didn't want her name associated with her comments publicly.

She said that it bothered her that teachers, who are people first and employees second, have to be scared of sharing their own personal feelings on a blog, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other social media because they could face sanctions from their school district. She said "what about the First Amendment? Don't we have the right to Freedom of Speech?"

It's not a question I can really answer. I'm not a lawyer so I don't know what the interpretation of the First Amendment would be in a court of law. I do know, however, that many teacher contracts have provisions about representing yourself in such a way that reflects positively on your employer. (Don't quote me on the exact wording but it's something to that effect.)

In fact, ten years ago when I was finishing my undergrad, in our classroom management course, my professor shared that when she had been an assistant principal, she and her husband had a party. They bought adult-only beverages and they were bagged by a student from her school at the store. That student shared with his parents that the AP had bought those sorts of drinks and on Monday, she was called into her superior's office and written up because of "conduct unbecoming of a school administrator"...yes, for purchasing adult-only beverages on a weekend, on her own time, for a party she was having. She shared this story with us because even back then, before social media had grown to what it is today, you could be taken-to-task for conduct your district didn't think fit your position.

The wording is intentionally vague (from what I recall my professor telling us) and therefore can cover pretty much anything. 

If I recall correctly, I do believe my own district just recently passed a social media policy. It isn't because they don't want us to talk at all (at least I don't think it is lol). I have been told the "powers that be" in my district are aware of this blog and monitor it and that's fine. I don't write anything that I don't believe to be true and I'm definitely not dumb enough to come online thinking it's in any way anonymous and spout off about things happening in my district that I might not agree with. (I wrote on this blog for almost four years completely anonymously--not even once using my own name and guess what, they still figured out it was me.)

Let's be real, there is no such thing as a utopian district where everything is sunshine and rainbows all the time; anywhere that people work is going to have some things happen that people don't like or agree with and that's fine. I don't love every policy we have (and I guarantee that sometimes they wish I would just shut up already!)....but that doesn't give me the right to go online and rant and rave like I'm the queen of the world. NO ONE CARES if I don't like or agree with a policy. It's not up to me to like or agree with it. My role is to do what they ask me to do...because teaching IS a political job and your district definitely does not want their employees out there spouting off drama.

So my very long answer to her question is, because we are public employees, because whatever we do and say that is made public could even potentially be associated with our school and/or district, yes we do have to be careful of what we say and what we share.  I know that answer is probably going to make this reader mad and I'm sorry.

The fact of the matter is, with teachers being so scrutinized by the public anyway, why would you want to behave in any way that would give the media fodder for saying "see?! Those teachers...."? Why would you want to not only add fuel to the fire but light the match as well?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day & Giveaway Winner

A truly happy Mother's Day to all of you out in the blogosphere....whether you are an actual mother, a foster mother, a stepmother or even just a surrogate mother to your students, you make a difference every day!  I hope you had a fabulous day and were pampered lots!


The Neon Kwik Stix winner is Lorena R! You will receive an email from Kendal at Pencil Grips to claim your prize. Thanks for participating!