Thursday, December 1, 2011

Morale is down....

From the Apple
So, with the new evaluations that we are facing this year the morale is certainly down at schools. Being a new teacher I am not facing the same outlook as teachers that have been teaching for multiple years. Where as I scored "developing" in most of the areas and "applying" in some of the areas I am happy knowing that I am where I should be for a new teacher, especially in a new grade. However, veteran teachers are finding the scores degrading and unfair. Some feel that the critique is unfair getting because they being graded down because they are teaching lessons straight from the reading series which they have been told to follow with fidelity this year. I have found that even though I was told that I had a strong solid lesson that my scores are not reflecting where I need to be at the end of the year. While this is only the first evaluation it is stressful to have to make a score of 65% or better in applying.

The thing that I have found that has really been getting to the teachers at my school is how fair are the evaluations since they are being done by our principals. Is there some favoritism in the process?  Many seem to think the answer is yes. Many of the teachers think that it would be more fair if they had other principals from other schools or district wide appointed people come and observe especially since this will work its way into performance pay. I have thought all all the conversation that is swirling about me a lot.  I have decided that I just have to do what I do and watch my students make gains and if that is not good enough and my scores don't reflect my growth as a teacher then...   maybe I should find another career.   I love my students and I love to watch them when they learn a new skill. There is nothing better when you watch that light bulb come on.   However, rather than being a way to build on the skills that I have, this evaluation system feels more limiting.   It doesn't feel like I am being supported to grow and become stronger.  Maybe I'm just caught up in all the negative talk from seasoned teachers.  They are talking about quitting, getting pregnant and leaving the state because they are so frustrated by what is going on.
Sometimes I feel like this effort is hoping to create robots with everyone doing the same thing at the same time.  Surely those in charge realize that all children don't learn at the same time in the same way.  I wonder how much of the decision is being made by classroom teachers.  I feel like we have forgotten that every child comes into school on a different level with a different learning style. I feel that we are being programed to teach one way while a good teacher knows that you need to teach in multiple ways to reach each child.  We are spending so much time and effort on helping our struggling students that I am beginning to worry about losing our average and gifted students.  Will public school become a building for teaching those two years behind while charter school and private schools become the mecca for average and gifted students?  
As a teacher we develop a personal relationship with each student and learn what each student needs.  I just feel that now we are limiting what teachers can do and their creativity which I truly believe is going to hurt all of our students in the end. I feel that we chose teaching because we are passionate about children and what we do and the limits that they are putting on teachers now is really going to drive a lot of good teachers into other fields. Was that really the purpose of this new evaluation system?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween Week

From the Star
So, Halloween week and Red Ribbon week at our school have just ended, and boy, was it a crazy time. I never thought that I could get so stressed over a fun week and have so much fun at the same time. This is the first year that I have had a chance to work with a principal who really enjoys the holidays and loves to see the children enjoying them as well.  I LOVE the holidays!  The week started with us dressing up each day for Red Ribbon week and ended with us making a classroom pumpkin, having a parade and making a Halloween/Red Ribbon Week door.

For our classroom pumpkin we choose to make the Chicka Tree from the book Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom. Pretty cute, huh? We also made a door that said "Don't be a Ghost Say Boo to Drugs". The kids really enjoyed getting to participate in making these things and really admired their work when they were done. It was so great to get to see the kids so proud of themselves when the door and the pumpkin were displayed at the school on Friday. We ended the week with a Halloween Parade where all of the teachers and the children dressed up and walked around the car loop while the parents watched. While I admit to being a little embarrassed to be walking in my crayon costume in front of the parents, I also have to admit that it was a great time. I hope that everyone had as much fun as I did at school for their Halloween Celebration!

A New Day

From the Star
So, I know that it has been a while but I am back!  I have to say that things are getting very intense at my school now that observations are beginning. I have had someone in my classroom every day this week.  So have all the other kindergarten teachers.    The new evaluations seem a little intense. It seems to me that the administrators feel like if they don't walk through your room each day, then there is no way that they will be able to mark all the areas on the form.  From what we were told it is worse if they mark "not using the strategy." So I shouldn't complain that they are in my room every day looking for the different areas. I would rather them see all the tools that I have in place.  Plus I can say that I am not as nervous any more when they come in my classroom because now it has become a normal every day thing.

With all of that being said, I can say that I am having a great year. I love my class to death.  They really are a great bunch of kids. I know that I talked about my classroom management a little bit last time that I blogged.   I am happy to report that I feel that this area in my classroom has made a 360 degree turn and the children are really starting to listen and respect the rules. I have found that the best thing that I have set up in my classroom is the marbles jar.  They get a marble anytime they are doing what they are suppose to be doing or when they get a compliment. Then when the marble jar is full I throw them a Popsicle party. The students in my class have really taken to this idea and they get super excited every time they get a marble.  The marble jar has really helped me gain more control of my class and increase positive behavior. I have found that talking with others about your weakness can be a great thing if you use their advice. I know that I was originally very upset to hear someone say that my classroom management was weak,  even though I know that they were just trying to make me the best that I can be.  However, because I was told about it, I had a chance to know what I needed to work on and fix the issues before it spiraled out of control.  All I can say is that when the advice is meant to be constructive and even if it does upset you, if you get over yourself and listen, you really can get improve your skills. thanks to those veterans who took the time to help me talk through some new strategies.  I really did appreciate and respect your advice.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Behavior Management

From the Star
So.... behavior management for a Kindergarten class. Who would have thought that at  such a young age a child would actually purposely choose not to listen? Well, if you teach Kindergarten you know that this is not crazy sadly. I have a child now that I am really struggling with. He is very smart and mature for his age, but he doesn't listen at all. This child not only does what he wants when he wants but he does things that are unsafe. He climbs on chairs and jumps off and climbs on bookshelves. I have spoken to him many times about the choices that he is choosing to make and I have him on a behavior plan. I am finding that while the behavior plan works a little. it's not working well enough. He is hitting other children, still climbing on objects and doing whatever he wants to do during our whole group times.

When he came to my class he was ripping up papers and throwing fits and destroying items in the classroom which is why I initially set up the behavior plan.  That did fix some of the behaviors but not enough of them. I am now at a struggle as to what I should do since now he has other students who are wanting to follow his bad choices. He doesn't seem to care about losing play or recess and he throws huge fits when I get upset with him and usually ends up destroying something in my room.  I have my hands full and I am looking for some advice or suggestions on how to handle a Kindergartner who is struggling to follow the daily routine.

While I am facing these issues with this child I still have to say that I love my job and I will do everything I can to help this child to fit into the classroom routines and learn how to accommodate my own teaching styles to make my class the most safe and positive learning environment that it can possibly be for the success of my students. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share them with me in a comment.. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kindergarten! Wahoo!

From the Star
So, my mom is right.  It really is the year for kindergarten and boy am I lucky that I have so many wonderful people to help me out this year.  I have found that the most successful teachers are those that are open to new ideas and change. I hope that as I continue to teach that I grow and learn each year and never settle to just doing things the way I've always done them. I feel that our children deserve the best that we can offer.

I am truly happy this year that I have my family and so many great Kindergarten teachers at my school. I have found that as I try new things with my class that there is just a bubble of happiness because I truly love what I am doing. My soon to be sister-n-law told me the other day that she had noticed that this is the first year that she has seen me really happy since I started teaching three years ago. I know that in the past years I have been so stressed and overwhelmed with being out of my comfort zone. In previous years I would go home crying wondering when I would actually feel comfortable in the grade that I was teaching. I can honestly say that that day never truly came. While I learned a lot and watched my children learn, I was always ill at ease and wondering if I was doing everything correctly. And, while I think those feelings will always exist somewhat, this is the first year that I am actually having a blast while teaching and teaching without stressing. I can truly say that I am a primary teacher and this is where I hope to stay until I retire! I finally feel right at home. So, when my soon to be sister-n-law said she had never seen me happier I think she meant that this is the first year that I am truly smiling from ear to ear because I am having so much fun and learning so much. This year is truly going to be a great year!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The New Year!!!

From the Star
So the new school year has begun and I am so excited!!! If you have not heard, this year I am teaching Kindergarten. Yeah!! I finally got into a grade that I like and makes me feel comfortable. Although I have been dreaming of teaching the young ones since I started, I have to say that they really are a lot of work physically. I have been exhausted every day when I get home. But I am not complaining, because I really am much happier teaching Kindergarten rather than the Intermediate grades. Who could have guessed that there would be so many changes in my short career? I do have to say that I am loving my class and my new team. My team has been super helpful, and they are a fun group of women. I feel that I am going to make some great friends. I can say that I am very lucky to have them this year especially since I am teaching a new grade.
There are so many things about Kindergarten that I love! Bring on the dancing and the music, the calendar time - even the potty breaks every 15 minutes. I love it! I can honestly say that I am truly enjoying my first week with the kids and having a blast. I know now that I am meant to be a Primary teacher.  I am overwhelmed but excited for this school year. So let's all have a wonderful year!!

Our Year of Kindergarten Teachers

From the Apple
In our family, this is the year of the Kindergarten teacher.  Not only is my daughter Courtney in her first year as a Kindergarten teacher, but my daughter-in-law has also returned to Kindergarten!  I am fortunate enough to have the room next to her room and get to spend part of the day with her as her inclusion Special Education teacher.  To really make it a family affair, her daughter, my oldest grandchild joined us this year as a Kindergarten student at our school!  How cool is that?!  No, she's not in our class, but we have the opportunity to see her all during the day - at lunch, on the playground, passing in the hall! The picture to the right is my little darling after her first day in Kindergarten.  The mask and cape are part of our school's theme  of superheroes - "empowering the future" and the flowers are from her Dad who couldn't be there for her first day.  It really makes the Kindergarten experience special this year to be able to share it with ALL of my family!

Courtney and I will continue to blog this year about our Kindergarten experiences - 150 miles apart  - Courtney at the beginning of her career as I begin to see the sunset of my own.  What can we learn from each other?  Stick around and see...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

So Much to Tell

From the Star

So... it has been a while since I have written. In the past couple months I have had just so much on my plate from planning my wedding (that, by the way, is going to be on February 18th, 2012! Yeah!) to the FCAT's and just wondering how my students did and praying each night that they all tried their best... and passed! I have been wondering if I will be teaching intermediate again or if I will even have a job for next year. This has been a stressful time and I am quite overwhelmed.

I left off last time with a challenging student that I have been working with and let's just say that not much has been working. He has his days and his moments when he shows that he understands his behaviors and why they are wrong. But... 75% of the time his behaviors are very defiant and he has no remorse. I am working now to come up with a plan to help him find alternatives to the behaviors that he is displaying in class. If anyone has any advice on how to deal with behaviors that are defiant, my ears are open. I am really concerned about this child because I feel that his behaviors are progressing and he seems to care less and less about what he is doing. I have found that when I give positive reinforcement that it often has a negative effect. It usually causes him to have an outburst. I am at a loss for what I can do but I refuse to give up on this child because I know that he needs me. I have set a goal for the end of the year to help this child find alternatives to his actions.

Now let's talk about the FCAT's and what my future looks like for next year. As far as the FCAT is concerned I feel confident that most of the students in my classroom did their best. For a 3rd grade teacher, that is all that I can ask. I am very proud of my students no matter how their scores come out on the FCAT. I have seen the gains with my own eyes and know that they have made progress this year. I will have to say that I am very glad that the FCATs are over because for whatever reason, it is a very stressful and uptight time, even though as teachers there is nothing that we can do at that point. It's hard for me to believe that I am actually going to be paid for how my student did in a single week. I kind of feel like it says that it doesn't matter what my students do throughout the year and the progress that they make both emotionally and academically, but instead I am judged on what kinds of test takers they are and how they perform on tests in a single week. I am going to stop there because this is not my expertise and complaining about the situation isn't going to change a thing. I am just going to push my students to learn to their full potentials and hope for the best.

I am still not sure if I am going to have a job next year or what I will be teaching. I know as a teacher that I can teach any grade and give my all to the students, but I just feel that my heart is not in the intermediate grades. They always say that you go to school for something that you have a passion for and love to do and so that is what I did. I went to school to become a Pre-K Special Education teacher and for the past 2 years I have been out of my field. I have been in Intermediate Regular Education. While my last two years have been great and I have learned so much more than I could have even imagined, I can truly say that I am ready to be with the little ones. I have found that intermediate is really not for me and my heart yearns for the little learners. With this being said, if I am in intermediate again I will teach the students and give my students my all, including my heart. I am very passionate about what I do and will make it work in whatever grade I end up next year. Till next time...

Monday, February 21, 2011


From the Apple
I have been thinking about your little attention-getter. I am glad that my strategy for ignoring him is working enough so that you are able to get through a lesson. However, it is important that you find things that the attention-getter really wants. Does he like being the line leader? Does he enjoy time on the computer? Does he like to play Leggos? Find out as much about this child as you can so that you can set up an intervention that uses something that he really wants as a reinforcer. He needs to earn points or checks or something that has a pay-off for something he really wants. At the same time, start looking for ways to praise the child for appropriate choices - with check, with stickers, with verbal praise and your attention. He wants attention so find ways to give it to him in a positive way. It'll take a lot of your time in the beginning, but it took years for the child to get this out of control, so it will be awhile before he will turn around. Stay the course.

In the meantime find someone at your school that can come in and observe this youngster so that you have a partner at your school that can help as you deal with the ups and downs. Let us know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Child that NEVER Stops!!!

From the Star
So, I have been talking to my mother for the past couple of weeks about what I like to call a "Kiddie Crisis." I have been monitoring a child in my class for off-task behaviors since the beginning of the year. He had made some progress and could stay on-task for about 10 minutes at a time before the holiday break, but when he came back the behaviors had intensified . As the behaviors intensified, I realized that I was saying his name about every 5 seconds, trying to get him on-task. It got to the point that I was so frustrated that I felt like I was failing the child as well as failing as a teacher. I felt this way because the behaviors got to the point where they were not only distracting him but also the rest of the class. The students were coming up to me every two to three minutes to tattle on the child for something. I could not make it through a single lesson or a small group without being interrupted at least 5 times by multiple students who were dying to tell me about the behaviors of the child - that I could clearly see. I was super frustrated, so I decide to turn to Dr. Dayle - my mentor and friend, my mother.

I called her at my wits end. I was ready to give up. I vented for at least an hour and she just listened. After I had vented out, she gave me a five minute explanation that has really helped me tremendously. When I get frustrated I start to think that no one is on my side and nobody believes what I am saying. I tend to blame everyone around me because they are not helping. The truth is, there are teachers like my mother who have been there and dealt with a child just like the one I'm talking about! When I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself and got off the defensive and listened, I thought that maybe her idea wouldn't be so bad idea. Of course, I was very skeptical. However, it couldn't get any worse. She warned me that the child's behaviors would get worse before it got better.

I started by setting up a sticker chart for students who ignored the inappropriate behaviors from the child. I explained to the children that they really needed to help the child and that they could help the most by doing the right thing and by not paying any attention when he was making bad choices. My mother explained to me that the child was looking for attention and he was okay if it was negative attention! I worried that the child would find out the chart is about him. I was sure that someone would tell him and they did! Sure enough a student in my class who doesn't particularly like the child decided that he would tell him all about it when he came back into the classroom. However, the rest of the class all played dumb. They acted like they had no idea what he was talking about and the child went right back to thinking that it was a good deeds chart and any time you helped someone, you got a sticker.

Step one complete. Step 2 was instituting a "tattle box." Students were encouraged to write down any tattles that they had and place them into a box. that way they felt like they could do something, but it didn't take my attention. I read the tattles later and resolved any issues that needed attention. Oh, and if you didn't already guess, every tattle in there was about the disobedient child. Literally!!

I can happily say that the plan is working slowly, but the feedback has been great. I have found that the students are removing themselves from situations where they are usually distracted by the child. They are actually ignoring his behaviors, and no longer tattling to me - other than a couple of times a day. I have also found that I am able to get through whole group and small group lessons which has been the greatest benefit of it all because I no longer feel that I am failing my students.

That's not to say that I still don't have concern for the child. His behaviors have gotten progressively worse which was expected. I was warned about this, but who would have thought that they could get so bad. It has progressed to the point where he pretty much does nothing all day other than try to get me or the students to pay attention to him. He has started rolling around on the floor, eating things off the floor and out of the trash can, and other really strange and inappropriate behaviors. As the days continue I am hoping that the behaviors will lessen. As always I will keep you updated.... until then...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Dream Gift

From the Star
As you may remember, I have preciously blogged about my struggles as a reader and my mother's bribe of the American Girl Molly doll. All I ever wanted was the Molly doll and all I had to do to get it was to read the Molly book series. I didn't get through the series. I didn't even get through one chapter of one book! My mother always keeps her word so I never did get that Molly doll.

Growing up I don't think that my mother ever truly saw me as a struggling reader - more as a lazy reader. I don't blame her at all because I had wonderful, inspiring teachers, especially in elementary school who certainly tried to inspire me to read. I think because I grew up as a teacher's child, other professionals seemed to think that I must be able to read and write because I had teacher parents. When I struggled, my teachers didn't want to talk about it. They just seemed to look over my flaws and to think I would just miraculously become a good reader. I think that most of my difficulties in reading came from a lack of the knowledge - things we now know about reading. Educators simply did not have the knowledge or the resources to teach skills or the strategies that they do today. Today I think we know how to give students the skills and strategies they need to become better readers.

With all of this being said, I want to share about the dream gift that I received this year for Christmas. We were all sitting around and my mother started to talk about how proud she is of me and what a great young woman I have become. There were plenty of tears on both sides. She mentioned how proud she was of me for overcoming my reading struggles by sticking to the work even when things were difficult. Then she pulls out a box that is wrapped with a beautiful bow. As I pull off the paper, I couldn't believe what was inside! It was my very own Molly doll! I guess good things do come to those who wait. While I never did read the Molly series that doll stands with me at school each day to remind me of how I struggled to become a reader. I am using my experiences to help my students overcome their struggles. I want each of them to become successful, confident learners. After all, I am a living example that anything is possible if you don't give up!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Life as a Wonderer

As I think about my life as a scientist I know that I use the scientific method in almost all I do. This may be because I am always wondering or it may be the fact that I am a little OCD and very much an exaggerator. I seem to think that I am always right and I support this by stretching the facts a little bit, or as my mother would like to say, "She is very creative in storytelling." This may be true but I find that this helps me to solve the simple questions that I ask myself each day. I seem to find comfort in telling stories whether even if they are a little exaggerated. I find that it helps me to release my wonderings and often helps me talk through my wonderings with others so I can come to a more reasonable solution.

I have found that what I am often asking if I am doing all that I can to make my students successful and are they really "getting" what I am teaching them? These are questions that I seem to ask myself often throughout the day whether I feel that the majority of my students are getting the main objective or not. I have found myself pondering why I stress so much about it. While I know a majority will get the skill, I also know that others may take much longer to fully grasp the skill. Why does math come so easily to me but then reading and problem solving seem to be much harder skills for me? Why are some of us are visual learners and others auditory? I guess I will continue to have wonderings about these things and keep telling "stories" until I can come up with an explanation that makes sense. So until then I guess that I will keep on wondering!