Saturday, May 17, 2014


We have arrived at the end of the year!  Final assessments are complete.  We just have four very fun filled days left before we say goodbye.  This week is going to fly by, but I'm going to try my best to enjoy every moment.  We are going to make memories watching a movie, going to a baseball game, and of course the traditional last day of school Field Day!  Looking back, I am amazed at the strong learning community we created.  The bonds between my students and I and between students is incredible.  They have all come such a long way since the first week of school.

The worst part about the end of the year is the reality that many of my students didn't meet the standards for passing to the next grade level.  It's not because I'm ineffective or because they didn't put in the effort (believe me, we all did our very best), but the kids came to me a year or more behind and with some very challenging behaviors.  As I was putting together their writing portfolios for our celebration of learning open house, I realized just how far each student has come.  I sat in awe as I watched one portfolio show a students progress from scribbles to shapes to letters to words.  It's incredible to see child development so clear on paper.  Unfortunately, developing even a great amount is not enough if the child does not meet the benchmarks.  It's discouraging to tell a parent, "We all tried.  Our team failed.  Your child has to repeat."  I know we didn't fail.  The child made a huge amount of progress and will soon be on track, but soon is not good enough because there is no time left in the school year.

Do you have any tips for having these conversations with students and parents?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Importance of Appreciation

I've been blessed this year with a very giving class. They have shown their love and appreciation throughout the year.  Still, I find Teacher Appreciation Week to be a valuable opportunity to feel appreciated.  The week comes at a time when most teachers are burdened with the stress of state testing and end of the year assessments.  We've been testing almost all day long for a week and a half now and we still have another week to go.  As scores come in, I can't help but feel discouraged.  I lay the blame for failing scores on myself.  Certainly there is something more I could have done.  The message from the media, lawmakers, and politicians seems to be that student failure is directly related to teacher failure.

This week, I'm giving myself an excuse to appreciate myself and the progress students have made.  Even if they haven't met the standards, each of my students has made tremendous progress.  They have overcome obstacles such as lack of support at home, fine motor delays, and learning disorders.  They have struggled to make new friends and repair damaged friendships.  Just today a student remarked, "We're like family."  That's how I choose to measure my success.  It is a helpful reminder to me when my students, their families, other staff members, and community members offer their expressions of appreciation.  It reminds me that I have made a huge impact in the lives of these children.  It reminds me that they are more than test scores, they are respectable citizens and dedicated learners.

To all of you teachers out there, you are appreciated for everything you do!  Stop by my TeachersPayTeachers story for 28% savings when you use the code: TPTXO at check out.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Where has time gone?

It is hard to believe that there are only three weeks left in the school year.  Looking back, it seems to have all passed in the blink of an eye.  With the constant changes and disruptions throughout the year, I don't think we ever got into a solid routine until about two weeks ago.  As I am giving the end of the year tests, I am realizing all the things I forgot to teach and seeing more clearly the areas that my students needed more practice with.  It's not that I was negligent or wasn't monitoring their understanding throughout the year.  Actually, I think I spent so much time assessing, that I never did get much of a chance to teach.  There is just so much to cover (especially across three grade levels in one classroom) and so many state and district mandated assessments to give.  I'm confident I did my best this year and I'm hopeful that next year will be even better.  Regardless, so many of my students made huge gains that I am certain I must have done something right this year!
Here's to two more weeks of assessments and one week of end of the year celebrations!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Inspired Writing

Today we had one of those class moments that I just have to share with you.  It was a moment in which I saw clearly for the first time how strong our classroom community is and my role in it.  It was a moment in which the whole room buzzed deep in their writing work and everyone felt inspired to achieve.

Truthfully, my class and I have had a very rough year.  We've battled behaviors and constant change.  The year for the most part has been overwhelming.  It's been impossible to keep a routine with the constant assessments, changes, and days off.  Here we are with less than 2 months left in school and I am still struggling to set my students in a routine for writers' workshop.  I am seeking a balance of small group instruction and one-on-one conferences.

Today however, we had only ten minutes before the bell was going to ring for the end of the day.  We were fifteen minutes behind our schedule.  I decided not to do any group work or conferencing.  I stepped back and watched as each student busily tried to get their ideas down.  It's as if their pencils were an orchestra.  The work was smooth and uninterrupted.  As I passed by one student, he commented, "why don't you write anymore?"  It's true, we have become so pressured and rushed that I rarely sit to model writing on paper.  I always do a quick model on the whiteboard, but it clearly was not making the same connections as actually watching me write with pen and paper.

With great enthusiasm and energy, I made an expression like I had just had a great idea for a new piece of writing.  I quickly went to the writing center to get paper and pencil and sat in an empty seat.  Without much delay, I began writing as fast as I could.  One student called out, "Are you ok?"  I must have looked crazy, so intent on my writing.  In seconds, the entire class was circled around me.  They watched with expressions of awe as I wrote and sketched my piece.  One Kindergartener said, "I've never seen a real lady do that!"  Watching me write seemed like such a novel thing to them.  Another student said, "Look!  She's sketching words and pictures."  And yet another, "She's doing the dots" (periods).  I smiled proudly and kept at my work.  Before too much longer, another student said, "Let's go write!"  And another confirmed, "She needs space to write."  Their tone communicated that they had been inspired and after just a minute or two since the moment began, they were all back in their seats scratching away on their own papers their own stories.  It was amazing to see and hear them be inspired and work so diligently without teacher intervention.

For all the struggles, its the moments like these that make me so proud of my class.  They truly love learning and being together.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mustering Motivation

I apologize for being away from the blog so long!  It can be so easy to keep putting something off, even something as much fun as writing a blog!  I have been very busy at home and at work and the blog had to take the back burner for a few weeks.  After that, I just couldn't muster the motivation to get back into the habit of writing.  After all, I have so much to catch you up on!

I have not written since Valentine's Day!  We had a great party with many treats.  Since then we've had a pajama party to celebrate Read Across America Day, a very cold Spring Break (really a second Winter Break), and made so many other memories, I can't recount them all in one post.  The biggest thing that kept me from blogging was directing our school's very first play!  50 actors grades K-6 performed Peter Pan.  It was quite the experience (my first time directing)!  I never knew how much there was to think about and coordinate.  We made it smoothly to the production day and the students performed wonderfully!  The absolute best part was the comments the actors made about increased confidence and a desire to continue the drama club next year.  The praise from parents and community members was great too!  I'm so thankful to be in a school community that supports me in providing students with a well rounded education.

That said, I have a few more projects floating around my mind and a lot of teaching to do before state testing at the end of April!  I hope to be back on the blog regularly soon with some photos from my time away.  I look forward to catching up again soon!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Too Many Toys

This year is going by so fast!  I've been looking back at how far my students have come.  Academically many of them have made great progress.  However, the behavior struggles are still there.

One of our biggest struggles is bringing toys to school.  The toys are a big distraction as students are constantly talking about them, showing them to others, and going to their backpacks to trade toys.  All of the students know the rule that there are no toys allowed at school.  In fact, we even have school toys in our classroom, so there is no need for students to bring their own toys.  I know that sharing their toys is a way for students to build relationships, but it is negatively impacting their learning.  A few months ago I began taking away toys.  Then, my desk drawer filled up with Hot Wheels, Legos, and other trinkets. 

I gave toys back to parents at parent teacher conferences and many of them commented that their kids had enough toys and they didn't intend to give these long lost toys back.  I discussed with each parent some possible new strategies for stopping our toy problem.  All parents agreed that I could throw the toys out.  I tried that for a few days, but then I had to deal with kids digging through the trash looking for toys.  So, I decided on a better strategy.  I now collect the toys all week and sell them in our class store.  It hasn't stopped students bringing toys to school, but it has helped them to improve their behavior to earn more dollars so that they can buy back their toys.  Students earn fake dollars for following school rules and helping others.

I think this is the best solution I have found so far.  How do you handle students bringing toys to school?  I'd love to hear your tips and tricks.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bits and Pieces from the Week

We had a snow day yesterday.  It was a pleasant surprise, but in many ways somber.  It was our last built in calamity day.  Any future snow days will be days we have to make up at the end of the year.

My class was supposed to take a field trip yesterday to see a musical.  I'm sure they were disappointed as we had been preparing and building suspense for the trip all week.  Fortunately, we have already rescheduled the trip.

Our math unit on standard units of measurement is moving along quickly.  We've been chanting the equivalent units of measurement to help students memorize how many feet in a yard, etc.  My students are comfortable measuring in inches and feet.  We still need to work on estimation and how many more.  Do you have any tricks for teaching students how to solve "how many more/fewer" questions?

I gave students a little more freedom in their word work this week.  Here is what a group of students did with the direction to use the magnetic letters to make words.