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Showing posts from 2015

Purposeful Reflection=a Growth Mindset

The past few weeks have been fast paced and full of family, food, fun, and finally relaxation!  There is nothing like the day after Christmas.  At our house we spend it with a full day in pajamas, rousing games of Clue, eating leftovers, and watching one marathon show after another.  I inevitably end up snuggled up on my couch with a cozy blanket and my laptop, ready to empower myself in the education world one PLN at a time.  The new year is fast approaching and a goal or resolution must be picked!  The pressure is on, but first...I must reflect!

     Yes, it's here!  The daunting task of looking back over our year.  We must all sit back and reflect over our accomplishments and failures.  We will sum up the total of our year as either successful or disappointing.  We will make plans to do better in the year to come and set goals to help us attain "the better" we are searching for.  Reflection is a powerful tool in anyone's belt and must be used if we are truly g…

The Struggle is Real!

There is a moment that every teacher reaches when working with struggling learners.  It's that moment when you stop and say, "What else can I do?  I've done everything I know to do and yet nothing seems to be helping."  As a teacher, it is one of the most helpless feelings.  Watching a student struggle and become frustrated or even want to give up is a horrible experience, but it is the reality of what happens when a student continuously "doesn't get it."  They eventually do not want to try anymore.

I found myself in this place, once again, with some very sweet, precious, and most importantly hard working students.  They were working their little brains to the point of exhaustion every day trying to read.  Again and again we would go over our letters and sounds, reading strategies, and sight words.  Again and again they would struggle to identify the sight words we had just discussed.  We were building our spelling words and breaking them apart every da…

Ahhhh It's Math Time!!!!

I don't know about you but for me math time was my least favorite part of school.  I hated it with every part of my being!  Literally... I loathed it!  Why you ask?  Because I was not a good math student, or so I thought.  Math was where I felt less than equal to the other kids in my class.  Way less equal, like not even on the same page as the others.  I was that kid in the pictures from way back in the day sitting on the stool with the "Dunce" hat on.        
Everyone seemed to be able to answer the questions that the teacher asked and I was still calculating the answer in my head or on my paper.  I know I wasn't the only one feeling that way, but the pressure to be able to respond as quickly as some of the other kids were was frustrating to say the least!  I can remember many times thinking to myself, "How can people like math?"

     When I started teaching I was determined to not let any of the kids in my classroom feel the way I had about math. …

Parent Teacher Conferences

Parent teacher conferences are fast approaching and planning for them can be stressful.  With a class full of students a teacher can quickly get overwhelmed by the feeling of needing to push out tons of information within a small window of time.  With conference times usually a mere 15 minutes this really can seem daunting.



     There is the traditional parent teacher conference where the teacher sits and discusses the report card, the behavior, the academic concerns and then graciously thanks the parents for coming in and escorts them out the door.  Now, my own experience, as the parent, with this whirlwind traditional conference is this...  I left feeling like it happened so fast it was all a blur and I usually could only remember bits and pieces of the information.  The academic jargon that was relayed to me went in one ear and out the other.  What I really wanted to know was the teacher's personal connection to my child.  What did she feel were my child's successes. …

The First 20 Days...

PROCEDURESPROCEDURES,PROCEDURES
     School is back in session and it's time to teach procedures.  Every child wants to know the expectation and every teacher wants them to learn the expectation as quickly as possible.  It makes things so much easier when everyone is on the same page.  The first twenty days or so is usually devoted to doing just that.

     In these past few weeks we have spent A LOT of time talking about the "How to's" of the basics.  How to... line up, choose a seat, walk in the hallway, put things in our mailboxes,  use our crayons, etc...   This can seem very trivial and be very tedious work, but it's best not to assume that every precious child that enters your classroom understands these basics.  Working on simple things like what our voices should sound like, and standing still with our hands at our sides can be the difference between a calm and efficient classroom and one of chaos.  I'm happy to say that we are definitely heading in …

Are You Truly Ready?

I recently read a blog entitled "What's My Name?" by Matthew Arend.  It was so thought provoking!  The author shared a childhood memory of meeting a beloved baseball team while on vacation with his family.  He and his brother stood in the lobby of their hotel for hours asking for autograph after autograph until one player asked them the question: "What's my name?"  When they couldn't tell him, he politely refused the autograph.  The players reasoning was that if you don't know my name then why should I give you my autograph?  Great point, right?  

    In education we spend a lot of time focusing on our classroom, curriculum goals, personal goals, building goals, and district goals.  Hours and hours are spent in preperation for open house.  We take time to thoughtfully arrange our classrooms.  We make goody bags to welcome our new students.  We spend many hours getting our lesson plans ready for the first few weeks.  What are we doing, though, to …

What's Your Comfort Zone?

I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a whole month with my twin sister, Lisa.  This is the most time we have been able to spend together since she left me 6 years ago to move 10 HOURS away!  (Can you tell I didn't handle this move well?)  She and her children spent several weeks here at my home and then my family stayed a week with her at her home.  This last part required my family to pack up and make the ten hour drive to her home in lower Alabama.

Now, I was super excited about this trip because my sister's house is within an hour and half from the beach!  Yay, beach time!  However, my reaction to this vacation and my husband's reaction were completely different.  Let me explain...
Me:   Yay vacation, beach time, traveling, seeing new sites, woohoo ROAD TRIP! Jack:  ugh vacation, loading the car, driving places I'm not familiar, going to places I'm not familiar, ughhhh road trip!

    As you can see I'm much more comfortable with trying new things, goi…

Summer "Break" is Here!

So summer break is here.  I like to use the first few weeks after school ends to decompress.  I do all the things I couldn't do when school was in.  I sleep later, eat an actual breakfast where I can sit down, read just for the fun of it, sip on a big cup of coffee, and maybe, just maybe, I stay in my pajamas ALL day!  Ok that last part doesn't happen very often, but when it does it's great!  I need those couple of weeks to clear my head and get ready for the next year to come.
     Ok so now that I've decompressed and cleared my head I'm ready!  This year I did a lot of "new" things.  I used a new math curriculum, started math rotations,  introduced  math groups which functioned the same as literacy groups, and transformed my classroom into an alternative learning environment for my students.  It was a year full of firsts.  Because of these 'firsts' I have much to reflect on.  There are many things I fell in love with about my classroom and…

Perspective is Everything

Perspective is defined as a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.  We all have our own perspective and use it to react or respond to everything we encounter.  Our perspective is usually based on our experiences; our background knowledge.  The problem with that, is that none of us have experienced everything there is to experience in life.  This fact leaves us sometimes lacking the ability or forethought to try to see another's perspective in a situation.  This is where empathy should step in to help.  "Cognitive empathy" sometimes called "perspective taking" refers to our ability to identify and understand other peoples' emotions.  These traits are so important for teachers to understand and use when dealing with struggling students.

I have the luxury (although I wouldn't refer to it as a luxury on some days) of having two perspectives when dealing with students.  I have the perspective of being a mom to a child who …

It Doesn't Mean Jumping Through Hoops!

Sometimes teaching feels a little like we're jumping through hoops.  We're moving and going, staying up late planning, and trying with all our might to make our lessons interesting.  We've been taught to do things in a certain way, at a certain time, with certain expectations.  However, what if you found out you were doing it backwards for some learners.  What if you discovered that the very students you felt weren't successful or cooperative were actually frustrated learners because of the way the information was presented to them.  Mind blowing right? It was for me!

EVERYTHING about the way you teach a child determines their successes as well as their failures.  There are so many things we need to consider when we think of our students.  As you know I recently converted my classroom into an alternative learning environment.  My students have choices in their seating, which is strangely more empowering for them than you might think it would be.  The funny thing is I …

Let's Talk Classroom Environment!

For many years now I've had my own personal opinion about classroom environments.  I'm of the opinion that if we have to send our children to school for six plus hours a day, they should feel comfortable there!  It makes sense right?  No one would want to be forced to stay in a place where they didn't feel comfortable.  So it's no surprise that when I got my first teaching job the classroom environment was one of my top priorities.  
     Now, I will say that my first classroom was warm and inviting, and I know the kids felt comfortable.  However, today I know far more and have had the benefit of many hours of sitting in conferences that were both enlightening and uplifting.  I've discovered through personal experience and continued education that children react to their environments.  We know this to be true.  We've had those talks with administrators and kid talk teams.  Ever heard the comment, "Well, you know they have a very hard home life."? …