Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Joys of Google Docs

I have two younger sisters who are both still in the public education system (middle and high school respectively.) Over the last few days they've both sent me papers to revise and edit for them. Both times I've read them, shaken my head and cried a little bit because they were SO TERRIBLE. (I love you sisters!)

I didn't feel it right to just rewrite them, so I popped their essays into Google Docs (which is easily done because instead of hitting "download" I hit "view".) From there I was able to converse with one sister over the phone to help her rewrite, and another over the Google Docs Chat Box to help HER rewrite. Both sister's papers are MUCH better, and the editing process was so easy! Rather than play tag with one another for a while as we each made changes to the same document we were able to look at the document in real time and change things. It might even be easier than it is to edit my student's papers when they're sitting right next to me! (It's quicker to "delete" than to "erase."

Friday, September 30, 2011

Impossible Children and Standing Ovations

Argh. I had a blog post. Then I decided that if someone connected me to it to child I could get in trouble.

Blah humbug.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pessimism in the team

I'm a new teacher. You all know this. So I still believe that every child can achieve on a high level. I'm disappointed in my students when I don't believe they have given their best. I don't assume, "oh, you're special ed, you can't achieve." I know they can and I expect them to. I'll differentiate the hell out of my teaching for them, but I still expect them to produce work that matches my high expectations.

Today we had our first "job alike" where we met with all the 4th grade teachers in our district. We were discussing AYP and how close we are to not meeting it and how a 100% achievement isn't realistic. I can buy into that. It is unrealistic to expect 100% of students to be on grade level.

Now here is where attitude comes in. Another teacher on my grade level said, "We shouldn't expect a child with x disability to be able to inference when reading. They can't do it, so we shouldn't try to teach it." No! No! No! We SHOULD teach them. How can we EVER know what our child cannot achieve if we don't WORK with them on those skills? I believe firmly that these basic skills taught in elementary school can be taught to every child no matter their disability.

EDIT: She did it again! "A 70% is as good as he'll ever get."

AROIUeAOGHAOIUERAELW! (That's me yelling.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First Day

First day went fantastic. I had almost 90% of the names down.

Hope 2nd day goes as well as the first!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Panic Before the Kids Arrive

It's time I admitted it. I have gotten at least some of a predisposition for anxiety. I was forced to admit it when I had a full fledged (shaking, crying, heart thumping) panic attack today. It was triggered today in a Professional Learning Committee meeting when I was talking about when I was going to do my intervention block and Teacher Next Door saying "But your specils are at 3 now! Didn't you see the schedule?"

Panic hit. School starts MONDAY. I ran (actually knocking something over...) to my room to check the schedule and sure enough... it had changed. Again (this would be the 3rd time). It took me FOREVER to get that first week of scheduling done, and now I would have to redo it. Team Leader and Republican both tried to help make me feel better, but it wasn't until they left that I could start to pull myself back together. I crawled under my desk, curled up into as small of a ball as possible and focused ONLY on breathing. After... 10-15 minutes I was able to pull myself together, get out, wash my face, blow my nose and start feeling like a human being again. I tried really hard to make the new specials work, but every 'positive' I could get, a negative arose. I was starting to get upset so I decided to go back and discuss with people who know.

First I went to Music Teacher, who makes the schedule. He said it was changed because Principal didn't like how the duty roster was arranged. So I went and cried to Principal and told her why it would be an issue to have my schedule the way it was. The way the schedule was arranged my "Gifted" (AEP) students would have to pack their bags before lunch (at 12:55), so that they could go directly to AEP after lunch. Then they'd go straight from AEP to specials and then home. It was a lot of responsibility to place on those kids from day one. We floated the idea of changing my specials to the morning and having my class have a different recess time. Then I mentioned that Republican had offered to switch specials with me. Principal said that would be best.

I didn't want to dump this on Republican but after some thought decided that I really should. Just THINKING about it was giving me a fit. I had to admit that a more experienced teacher could handle the daily uncertainty better than I ever could. When I told her about the pack up situation she shrugged and said, "Well, they might be late, Mrs. AEP might have to make some changes so they get things first, or they may miss some of specials. It's okay." She could take it in stride whereas I was crying.

It was a relief to hand this off to a more experienced teacher.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Set up Room

I'm super excited for this year. So excited that I almost have everything set up!! I'm going to post pictures.

Best compliment I've gotten this year is, "It feels so organized!" YES! Exactly what I was going for!

Now, I just need to figure out what to PUT on the boards!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Year Long Planning

I'm rather proud of myself this year. It's 17 days before the first day of school and I have a LOT done!

1. My classroom is basically set up. I still need to figure out what goes on the bulletin boards and straighten 1 or two edges.

2. My desks are all set up. They're just waiting for names now.

3. I basically have my year-long planning done. I'm still working on Language Arts, but that's cool. At least Social Studies and Science are planned out. We're doing day-by-day planning as a team in Math and Language Arts is pretty simplistic because I follow the scope-and-sequence of our basal when it comes to skills.

4. All my cabinets are organized and ready for anything I can throw at them. My goal is to KEEP it that way!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Too bad my study of AZ History prevents this in the classroom

This is a really interesting info graphic from Our Amazing Plant. I just wish that I was able to teach about the ocean, instead of the desert! I might sneak it in because of the really, really, really, cool way it shows the Grand Canyon.

Our Amazing Planet explores Earth from its peaks to it mysterious depths.
Source OurAmazingPlanet.com, Exploring the wonder and beauty of planet Earth through exclusive news, features and images.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

3 year-old Technology

I haven't posted in a while, and for good reason. I left my wonderful home in Phoenix to visit my family in Colorado and then go down to my older sister to watch my 3-year old niece and 1 year old nephew. I'm going to call the three-year-old Blue Eyes.

Upon arriving at my sister's house I observed an interesting phenomenon. Blue Eyes wanted technology. Before her mommy left she asked if she could play "ehpod" (Ipod). My sister handed her an Ipod touch and Blue Eyes confidently unlocked it, scrolled though 3 pages of apps and clicked on a coloring game. After delightedly coloring (switching from one color to another using a pop-up palette) she competently exited the game and went to a shapes game. She sat on my lap and listened as the game asked her to find a "Hexagon".

Did Blue Eyes mix it up? No! I saw her finger move to point at the square (without clicking) shake her head, move to the triangle, and repeated it till the only shape left was the Hexagon. Confident in her choice she clicked and moved on to the next question. It wasn't until "crescent" that the struggled to identify the correct shape.

I was amazed and told my sister so. "She plays it all the time," was her response. My thought- Blue Eyes is going to go into Kindergarten knowing so much more than her peers because her Mommy wasn't afraid to let her use technology to teach herself (though Blue Eyes only thought she was playing a game.)

Later Blue Eyes asked me if she could "play ABCs". I was intrigued and my sister explained that she'd been sharing Starfall with Blue Eyes. I said yes, because I love Starfall. My sister cut me off slightly saying, "She can't play it alone, the mouse gives her troubles." I couldn't play with Blue Eyes right then so I set the matter aside till my sister was gone later that afternoon.

When Blue Eyes asked me again "Play Abcs?" I said yes and after struggling with their slow computer managed to get the website up. I decided to test Blue Eyes on how well she did with the mouse. After showing her how to hold the mouse (thumb on one side, index finger on first button, middle finger on second, ring and piny on other side) and getting rid of the mouse pad* I let her loose saying "Click on the sparkly things!"

Here are the results:
First Time: Blue Eyes struggled a bit at first slowing her movements down enough to click on the right place. I stood and helped a few times after she said, "Aunt Jamie, doe'n't work, help!" Usually all that had happened is the mouse had disappeared into the side of the screen and just needed to be brought back out.
Second Time: Blue Eyes barely asked for help this time. The only time she did was when her movmements had caused the mouse to almost fall off of the desk. The mouse doesn't work if nothing is under it!
Third Time: Blue Eyes had it down now. Occasionally she would say, "Help!" and I'd reposition her hand correctly so she clicked on the first mouse button, not the second.
Fourth and all subsequent times: Blue Eyes Had it. She became completely self directed and even began repeating back at the computer the letters and the sounds they made. She even had the Click-and-drag games down!!

I'm amazed at the power of Technology. My sister won't have to teach her daughter the ABCs by rote, nor the sounds that each letter makes. Blue Eyes is learning them all by herself.

I'm so proud of her - I actually had to set a limit on how long Blue Eyes could be on "Abc's" because she would have stayed at it all day if I'd let her! What a gift she has been given.

*- Her fine motor skills aren't quite advanced enough to stay on the pad. Her father (My bother-in-law) tried to have her use it, but I quietly got rid of it after he left. It was just causing her frustration when the mouse went over the edge and the mouse stopped working for a moment. The top of the desk worked just fine.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Majors and Money

I saw this wonderful info Graphic on Joanne Jacobs about Majors. I remember back in high school taking the Monster Job inventory tests and then looking at all the carriers and deciding I wanted to be an Aerospace Engineer because they made the most money. I wonder why so many people tend towards some of the lower paying majors? Is it because they love them? I know that's what happened with me- love for kids and job security (which no longer exists of course) over weighed my want for riches.

I was never good at math anyways - College Algebra was a struggle for me.

Degree value : Degrees by salary
Courtesy of: Schools.com

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A tip of the hat to the New York Times

There are a lot of blogs about the politics of schools. I even "follow" a few. However, it takes a good headline to catch my attention and keep it long enough to slog through the rather long articles. Today one of my favorites, Schools Matter reposted an article from the New York Times by Michael Winerip called Helping Teachers Help Themselves. (Click on the title for the full text of the article)

What held my attention is the details of what Winerip talks about. Best practice states that trust, and community are important in schools. Having teachers be a part of the decision making process lets schools run more effectively. In ROCKVILLE, Md Rockville, Maryland the school has set up a committee to help their teachers. They are involved in helping teachers set goals, mentoring and if the teacher really is resistant to changing and becoming better then they are fired.

Some people may think this would cause distrust among the faculty and among those who are on the committee - but if there is a great deal of trust that the committee is acting for the good of the school most of us who are in it for the kids will be alright. A good teacher is willing to change bad ways to become better even if they're told to do so by their peers. I know I wish that there was more mentoring available for me at the school. It would be great to have more observations of my practice to help me become a better teacher. I teach better when someone else is in the room.

Now... Race to the Top. I have issues with this school district not getting any of the money Maryland was awarded because they don't include student scores on standardized tests into the equation for teachers. Before anyone starts harping let me ask- Is there another profession where your evaluation is based off of work that someone else does? The answer is no. Teacher work should be evaluated off of teacher work. Many and varied observations are required including scheduled and unscheduled. A student's standardized test score is a single snapshot in time. If most teachers are like I am then the stress during the state standardized testing is enough to put the best tester off of their feed for the two months before let alone on the day or week of the testing.

I wish more school districts (like mine!) had a system like this.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Waiting for Superman

When I come back I've got some things to say about this movie.

(5-3-2016) --> Needless to say, I didn't say anything.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

End of World End of Year

Well, thankfully the end of the world didn't happen last Saturday. I'm glad to hear it has been postponed till next October, I met some of my students for next year and would love to get to know them more.

The End of the School Year did come and not a moment too soon. If it had waited even one more week I'm not sure that I would have liked my kids too much. They very much had senioritis (4th grade is the end of Elementary School here) and I was ready to get everything put away for the next year! We had a wonderful water day (Once I get my computer back from being upgraded I'll Picnik my photos and post some of them) and graduation went well. Grumpy next to me kept complaining about the length, but I was happy about it. It meant I had less time with these kids in my classroom when they'd "graduated" already.

I cleaned out my classroom completely. Everything came off the walls, everything got cleaned out.

On Monday the team got together and we actually did day-by-day planning for Math this next year!! I'm still trying to figure out Literacy and Social Studies, but I will!!! I've got all Summer.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Benchmarks And the End of the Year

Wow, we gave our last benchmark of the year today... and my kids did... surprisingly well. I was shocked how well they did in fact. I've got a few students that I know could've done better, but didn't take their time. (Example- Fancy-Hat in the corner fell asleep drooling twice on her test. I had to shake her awake twice to make her actually TRY.)

The behavior is about to drive me insane though. I feel like we're just doing busy work till the end of the week. I hate busy work!! I'm trying to make it meaningful but *rips hair out!!*

One of the older teachers compared the end of the school year to childbirth. You hate it and it's painful, but after a few months you forget how much it hurts and want to have another child (or another class.)

Friday, May 13, 2011


I'm hired for next year!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don't know what grade I'll be in, but HOPEFULLY it is fourth!!!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Oh Next Year....

I dislike uncertainty. Really, really dislike. However, I'm sitting in the pot of uncertainty again. I have re interviewed for my position here in 4th grade. My principal even said that she thought I did really well. However, I don't know if I'm going to get my job.

I hope so. I had a lot of fun this morning. The teacher next to me and I were talking about how next week (the last week of school) was fairly useless because grades are due the Friday before the kids get out! Within five minutes we'd decided to stage a 2 day Math Challenge of his class vs. Mine. We're going to find math-logic questions, split our classes into 2 groups each (4 total) and challenge them to solve as many problems as they can in an hour. Winner gets.... something! But that takes up at least 2 hours of a fairly unproductive week. Yay! Joy! Happiness!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

PLC Building

I love my team. They may infuriate me at times and make me pull my hair out, but they really show they love me.

As I'm sure you know my position is a little precarious. I have to reapply to stay here next year because I signed a 'limited' contract when I joined the school after this year started. My position has stayed open through the transfers, the RIFs (these people getting an offer before me) and now I'm up against the other 5 limited contracts in the school. My team has overwhelmingly supported me however. They have really, really, really expressed a firm desire to have me here next year.

I'm feeling very good.

Today we sat down at TCT to discuss math for next year. We managed to nail down the concepts we want taught in the first quarter.

It was awesome.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Staying up WAY too late on Sunday Night

I'm trying to figure out how to do my basic math practice and this is what I'm hitting on.

Either https://www.xtramath.org/home or khanacademy.org assigned for HW. It's easy to keep track of online and if the students don't do it at home I can always keep the kids in at Recess and have them do it then. I'm leaning towards the Khan Academy, because the students will be able to really move forward. Xtra math can be used as a math intervention more from what I've seen so far.

1-2 pages of grammar type practice a week.

30 minutes of reading either by self or with a parent (outloud, or whatever.) Students will post "tweets" updating on their book progress every week rather than turning in a book log. Students can use an account I've set up to create the tweets.

This way HW will be kept simple and basic.

Well, this is my dream anyway. I'm going to have to seriously look into the Khan Academy and Xtramath over the summer to really figure it out.

Do you use technology for homework? Are there any suggestions for how I can convert parents to this type of work?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy Happy Day

I might have a job next year! Yay! They're looking at needing a new 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade teacher for next year. Hopefully enrollment stays high so that this can actually happen. I would love it so much! As many problems as I have had, I can look back and realize ti was just my first year. I know better now. I can do better.

And if I can stay here, I'll have all my experience to draw upon! Yay! Yay!! Yay!!!

I'm trying to write a short article for Project PLN talking about my first year. I hope it goes well.

Kids are crazy. It's the end of the year. I'd feel bad except all of the fourth graders have senioritis (our school ends at 4th grade). AIMS is over so they feel like they're done. They don't realize there's a lot left to talk about!!

Hopefully tomorrow will be better. I'm trying to decide if I should give Ms. Popular the second incident report. I think I might not.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Okay, so I'm not a super teacher. I have found some tools that a super teacher would use though!


This is an awesome website full of Flash Games that all us teachers have to do is input questions! Make this a homework assignment and the kids can create your questions for you. It's fool proof!

I love the Millionaire Game. And we used Hangman today to uncover a definition.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pencil Sharpeners

Let's talk about one of those small little annoyances of being a teacher. I'm not talking about teaching, or management, or anything even remotely seemingly attached to school.

I'm talking about a pencil sharpener. I've gone through two this year, with a month or so lapse where we didn't have one at all. My second one just died, this time I made sure to KEEP my receipt so I can try to get a refund. The blades are still nice and sharp, they just aren't turning any more to grind down the pencils.

How much money do you spend every year on pencil sharpeners?

Oh I can't wait for the day when everything is computerized... I'll throw away ALL the pencils, have the kids do quick-work in pen and everything else typed. Yippie!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

State Standardized Lessons

Our first day of State Standardized tests is over. I'm not at all sure how well the kids did, considering that on the sample question most of the kids didn't do very well. (Personally, sample questions should be super easy.) However, they didn't think it was very hard so we'll go from there.

Tomorrow is reading. They need to slow down. They need to go back and check. 99.9% of them don't ever go back and reread. I talk till I'm blue in the face and they still won't go back. I wish that the story was reprinted after every single question and would show up line by line to FORCE the kids to actually LOOK BACK. But oh well.

And math. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.

I'm going to be happy when AIMS is OVER.

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's okay.

I've been really upset the last two days. I don't know why, other than the stress of AIMS.

Had a long talk last night, got upset, cried, read a book and got over it. Today I came to school less happy, but was able to be more productive. But... crap. I forgot to do syllables. Oh well...

It was a lot more successful today. We go through what I wanted us to get through. Solved some seriously difficult math problems.

Still running into the same problem with x and division. Had one girl fail the test again today, stay in at specials and be able to do every single problem I posed to her without a single bit of effort. She actually solved more in that time then I did because I spent some time helping the 2 other students there. She knows how to do it, just... isn't bringing it. In her words, "I just get so excited that I forget how to do it."

Oh dear.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Upset in Arizona.

I feel so terrible right now. I broke down on one of my fellow teachers, crying and upset.

This is the situation:
AIMS starts next Tuesday. NEXT TUESDAY. I've been working hard on multiplication and Division. Get them to know it, to own it. Half of them use the traditional algorithm. The other half use the extended algorithm. I prefer the second because I can catch my errors better (which is better for the kids.) I gave a quiz today and 3/4 couldn't get 2/2 multiplication problems correct.

This scared me, badly. After school I asked the teacher in the room next to me for advice. He did give it, but in the middle I just fell appart. I started crying and couldn't get a hold of myself, threw the pile of quizzes onto the floor and just... ouch. If I had been one of my kids I'd have sent myself out to the hallway to calm down. But Professionals don't leave the person that you asked to help you so you can calm down. You just do it. And I did eventually put myself back together, but now I have a sick stomach and am crying even harder because I repressed it.

And now I'm a little ticked off at one of my students. He didn't do his reading group reading and didn't do the assignment. Dad asked that I email when this happened, so I did. He told mom he had done it, so mom was confused and emailed me. I said, "You know, I might have gotten it wrong, I know he didn't write it but I'll ask if he had read it." Asked the child, "Did you read it." Student-"I had a little left to do." Me- "So you didn't finish it." Student- "No." So I wrote back and said, "I talked to him, and he said no, he hadn't finished either." Child went home to mom today and she talked with him. "Did you finish the book?" she says, "Yes, just not the assignment." says he. Email to me from mom, "I'm very confused and want to just let this drop." Me- *fumes*

Lets count up the power that has shifted here.
-1 point from Mom because child now knows she won't keep after him for the truth.
-1 point from Teacher because he thinks that Mom will believe him over the teacher.
+2 points to child who still isn't going to do the assignment and can now lie whenever he wants to to Mom.

ARGHAOIUREALEKJ~! My ideal of every child can learn (maybe not on grade level... but they can learn!) and that every child is good and only taught badly is suffering. BADLY. AREOIAUJGLKAJPERUOIAE. I don't know if I should cry or scream right now.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I'm stressed. I'm finally admitting that I'm stressed out over my mind.

I'm not going to be coming back next year unless a miracle happens. I signed a limited contract that said that I was not guarenteeded a job next year. Before anyone gets RIFed, I'll be rifted.

Shoot, server is down. How the heck can I work if I cannot GET to my resources?

*goes away*

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's time to quit.

It is time to quit this profession. I have absolutely lost my love of teaching. I can no longer manage a classroom. I can no longer get students learning. I have failed 110%.

My head hurts so badly right now. And I started the day so happy I could have died from happiness.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Oh! Shoot, how could I forget?

I'm having problems with a child called Spike. He's had numerous interventions placed to help him get himself back on track but nothing is working to improve his behavior. If anything it's getting worse.

While watching conference today I had a thought (I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) After rebuke there needs to be an increase of love towards the one that has been rebuked. Have I been giving Spike the love that I should after he gets in trouble?

If I can do this maybe it'll make a difference where nothing else has.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A real v unreal appology.

I love my students dearly, and usually take their apologies at face value. However, I just received a note today that said,

"I'm sorry I was so rude yesterday. I'll do what you ask me to do today.

p.s. My mother made me write this."


That would be silence as I go, "Yeah.... not a real apology at all."

Friday, March 25, 2011

An Uncomfortable Position

We're asked to fill our survey's all the time to give our 'opinion' on different things ranging from how the current meeting went to how well structured our Professional Development is. However the question remains:

Are we honest or are we nice? AT one point this year we were told we were being too much of a downer on the school and we should lighten up and only provide 'constructive feedback' when we can. However, when it is a likert scale how do you provide constructive feed back.

Bad news of the day. I probably won't be rehired next year. We're having to cut full-day kindergarten because of budget cuts and all of those teachers get preference. It's a very, very sad thought all across the board. Thus, I guess I shouldn't be too worried about if they take question with my opinion. :(

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rethinking Modivation

A very cool look at motivation reposted from A Teacher's Education It makes me rethink my motivational strategy. Maybe instead of game time, I give them 40 minutes to work on whatever they want so long as they have something to show for it at the end of the time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Parent Teacher Conferences

I feel like another one of those first-year-teacher rituals has passed by.  My parent teacher conferences are over.  I rather like how I did them the students had a majority of the stage and I only picked up the last 5-7 minutess.

The Steps:
1. Show the portfolio and explain its contents. 
2. Offer parents juice and cookies.
3. Bring them to the back table.
4. Get juice and cookies.
5. Tell one thing that has gone well this year.
6. Tell one thing that still needs improved.
7. Turn the time over to Ms. JAy to talk about a plan to improve that thing.

For the most part it came out well.  Only had one parent upset with me, more of them were upset with the child not taking responsibility.  Which is much nicer for me!  A few upset kids who aren't performing up to their potential and Mom and Dad were NOT happy.  More than a few kids who have shown amazing growth and had a hard time coming up with an 'improvement' because they're doing so well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Duncan Says 82 Percent of America's Schools Could "Fail" Under NCLB This Year | U.S. Department of Education

Duncan Says 82 Percent of America's Schools Could "Fail" Under NCLB This Year | U.S. Department of Education

Comparing apples to apples makes a whole lot of sense to me. Last year my current school set the bar so high that we're going to really struggle to do better than we did last year. The school's population has really changed because of what Arizona has done to education so we have a whole new set of kids.

It makes more sense to compare school's growth to that school's growth and intervene if it doesn't grow - not if it makes a stupid arbitrary standard.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Joanne Jacobs — lnking and thinking on education by Joanne Jacobs

A very interesting, very different look at tenure. Especially when it says, "She proposes raising pay in exchange for offering less job security, attracting more risk takers to teaching." I love this. Teaching is a risky endeavor, and without a risk taking ability (which I lack) it's easy to get burnt out. The students are new, and each year is a risk.

I know I didn't get into the job for the pay, or the security or the benefits- no one does these days (because they aren't there!) I got into this because I love teaching, I love seeing kids learn, and I love being a part of the process. Am I a career teacher? Yes. At the same time though, I'm willing to take change (even if it's hard) and run with the ball because I know nothing will ever be settled. I just have to run and see what comes.
Joanne Jacobs — linking and thinking on education by Joanne Jacobs

(Not saying my measly 15 points on the RIF rubric didn't make me very much sad.)

Monday, March 7, 2011


I love technology. I'm saddened that I have been too shy about using it this year. However, I'm getting better.

I'm 15 hours away from a smartboard (provided I work in this district next year...). I'm taking technology classes as I can. My class has done wordles, we've written and recorded radio stories and we make a classroom podcast. I'm working the hardest on the last.

I just found Audioboo. It started out as an Iphone app, and now has an online based uploader also. It's so simple. I set up an account, the students login as me, they click the upload, speak, save it with a title and Bam! It's there! I'm so excited for my kids to use this super simple uploader this coming Friday for our weekly podcasts!

(Maybe I can actually have dinner this week!!)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Oh John Stewart!!

I love how John Stewart can just cut right to the heart of almost any matter. I'm not the greatest fan because I think he overuses profanity- but this is classic and amazing. I hope it puts a smile on many of your faces throughout these hard times when so many of us are unsure about the stability of our positions.

God bless all of you.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A little scared

I'm trying to not be worried by the blogger who said offensive things on her blog-but I am. I know that once something is on the internet it is there forever. Just sometimes... you forget.

I'm on a personal crusade to erase anything I ever said that should not have been said. And I am dearly hoping that no one reads this blog till I am long out of here!

Right now it's the end of the 3rd quarter. One more week left until Spring Break and only three weeks away from the start of our district testing- AIMS. I'm more than a little worried about my kids and AIMS- they're very bad test takers.

For example. I have one young man who can 9 out of 10 times get a multiple choice question right.... if he actually reads the question and goes back and rereads the passage. It makes me uneasy because he often doesn't. Today I FORCED him to go back and reread the passage at ever question and underline where he got the answer from. I said, "Keep going." or "Keep reading." or "Is that what the question is asking?" I didn't even acknowledge when he got the question right, simply moved to the next question. I know he can do it. But his test scores say that I should be referring him for interventions. Where's the line when you know a child can do it- but they don't? I won't say they won't, because I don't know that. All I know is that I have too many kids who have the absolute ability... but just.... don't.

Another child- She has some hyperactivity problems and now some recently found anxiety problems. She came into my classroom mid year. As a first year teacher I don't have supports in place to really force a child to learn (lunch intervention groups, morning groups, peer tutors, etc.) so her grades have drops to D's and F's from C's. This is a blessing because it made mom really say, "oh, yeah, I guess my child does need extra help!" So now we can start working. But what am I going to help her do when she has AIMS sitting in front of her and her anxiety overwhelms her?

I'm feeling... disillusioned right now.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nothing a young person wants to hear

I am fairly young in my school. I'm 22 years old, and fresh out of college. I have a lot of technical knowledge, but not a lot of experience. I can be good at my job, but I can also be really, really, really bad. I'm not adverse to getting ideas, and I put them into play as I can see them working out.

However, I do have a lot of technical knowledge. Espeically when it comes to implimenting programs in a school because I've been given a lot of theory and seen them put into place. Does this mean I know exactly how, no, but I'm working on it.

My teammates have noticed I'm getting stressed. Yes, I am. A lot of my stress stems from the fact that nothing in our school is pinned down. It seems like a lot of guesswork based off of research that no one actually wants to do anything with except for the fact that we're being forced to do so. So yeah, as a go-doer, I'm stressed.

Yesterday my "mentor" came to talk to me. She'd noticed I was getting stressed and wanted to check up. However, she also said that I was taking too much on and that I needed to focus in the classroom. I knodded and agreeded, except I refused to step down from the RTI committee because I love the RTI committee. I love it. It's good for MY instruction. Somewhere in the middle of it I said, "I probably know as much as X-Teacher does about the RTI process." Did I say I absolutly knew more? No. Did I leave room for doubt, even in my mind, yes. Do I really think I know more about implementing the process as X-Teacher does, no! However, I know more about it than teachers who were teaching before the law was passed and have never taken classes on it. My mentor didn't take this very well and to make along story short told me I need to respect my "elders" more. (In as many words too.)

Really. Really. I know I'm young enough to be her daughter, but really? I'm a professional too. When someone has more knowledge I listen. Do I give my input? SURE, I'm a professional. However, when faced with people with more experience I listen. What my mentor has just done has alienated me from her support. Rather than reassure me that she really does believe I can teach, she has made me into a child again in her eyes.

Am I doing too much? Yeah, probably. Am I stressed? Yeah. But I'm a teacher. I think they go together.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Broken RTI

I haven't written much, not so much because I've nothing to write about, but rather because there has been nothing GOOD to write about. The first year is brutal. I'm understanding that. My class of new kids isn't helping. The school counselor said my class still "acts" new. We haven't become a part of the culture, and quite frankly, at this point we won't!

However, that is neither here nor there. I'm here to talk about RTI- Response to Intervention.

The purpose of RTI is to get to kids before they hit 3-4 grade. To identify them in kindergarten and 1st grade and get them back on target. It is a better alternative to the IQ-Discrepancy scores most schools use to place students in special education.

RTI ideally has 4 levels.
  • Level 1- Universal Screening. Everyone is tested using some standardized scale (MAP, DIBELS, Standford-10,whatever!) and given a placement score. This is done within the first 2-3 weeks of school and NO LATER. Scores are recorded, teachers are informed of the norms, and teachers now have solid data. (I firmly believe this should happen BEFORE the kids come to school, or in that first week. For schools with over a thousand students this can be difficult, which is why I give the window.)
    After these tests are administered teachers then gather to interpret results and identify the students who are really struggling. They contact past teachers, dig into the cumulative folders (the folders that have everything on the kids!) and make sure they know this child's past. If the child is scoring significantly under then they get moved to Tier 1.
  • Tier 1- These students are brought to a team of teachers that specialize in helping struggling students. They give 2-3 suggestions of low-stress interventions that the teacher is REQUIRED to implement at least 2 of on a regular consistent basis. They are required to measure these interventions in some way (which will be given to them by the Tier 1 team) on a weekly basis for 6 weeks.
    Once the 6 weeks is over the child is brought back to the first core team. They see if any progress is being made. If there is, then continue the interventions until the child is up to par with the rest of the class. If there isn't, this child is bumped up to Tier 2.
  • Tier 2- At the same meeting (after 6 weeks) the teacher is given much more intensive interventions. This may be small group work, or computer tutors, or other such interventions that fit a severely struggling student. These interventions can be predetermined by the team! These interventions are tried for 6 weeks and progress is monitored at least twice a week and recorded. (Graphs are good for RTI.)
    6 weeks has passed. The team convenes again to discuss the child. Are they making progress? If yes, then keep the interventions. Now, let me state, I don't mean - have they made it to grade level, I mean, Have they made PROGRESS. Are they learning using these interventions. If yes, report this to the team, and keep using them. If they're flat lining and showing no progress, it's time for Tier 3.
  • Tier 3- This is a child that needs 1 on 1 one 1 on 2 instruction. They are so severely behind and not improving at all that they cannot do what needs done in the classroom. This is where you begin to severely modify their activities so they can learn. You pull in outside help if needed (tutors, etc.). This child is given the very best support that the team can offer. This will vary from school to school, but it needs to be focused and intense. Once again, continue for 6 weeks, but make sure you take DAILY evaluations of student learning.
    At the 6 weeks the child comes back to the team. IF they've made no progress then you have a serious case for pull-out special education classes. You get the child tested for behavioral, emotional, mental, learning disorders. You look into things outside of the classroom. These kids have proven they can't do it in a regular classroom, and need more support.
You're probably reading this and shaking your head. "But anyone in a class could make it to special-ed then!" But keep in mind when we say progress we're not saying grade-level. We're asking the question, "Are the students learning and able to retain that learning?" A low student will probably remain low despite our best efforts. We are they to get them learning. If we can get a child in 2nd grad who's reading at a kindergarten level up to at least beginning second by the end of the year, we've accomplished an amazing thing. At some point, the child will catch up. It may be 5th grade. It may be 7th. In fact, they may not catch up till the last year of college. But they will, because there is a level of competence that is required for Adult-hood, and the moderately low kids will get there.

Imagine a class of 30. (Much more realistic than an example of 20.) Of these thirty kids, about 7-8 might qualify for Tier 1. Of those 7-8 about 3-4 might qualify for tier 2. Of those 3-4 about 1-2 will qualify for tier 3. Of those two, probably only 1 will make it to special education.

This is how RTI should work. It's build on Data, data, data, data. And of course, professional judgement. If you place a child in Tier 1, then find out they're just a bad test taker, you take them out.

I cry when I see RTI being implemented so clumsily in schools. It takes time, it takes effort yes, but in the end- IQ-Discrepancy scores should be tossed out the wayside. They'll be replaced by concentrated efforts to help every child learn, no matter their IQ. A low IQ child can still learn, it'll just be slower. The progress monitoring will show growth, especially if taken on a daily/bi-daily/weekly basis. As fast as we hope? Maybe not, but the growth will BE there. We won't have a child who's been in the care of our school for years, only beginning to get help in 4th grade.

Now, I just wish I could get my school to realize the simplicity of this program...

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