Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quick update

I haven't been able to post much lately due to a crazy schedule at work as most of my friends and a few of my more astute readers know (I have 12 kindergartners, 1 first grader, 4 second graders, and 2 third graders in one class all day - most of whom are special needs and several who are major behavior issues...).  However, today my reprieve has arrived...well, she's (he's?) almost arrived...

Monday they got funding to hire another teacher - I was out sick so I didn't know this, but TODAY they position actually posted so PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE join me in praying that a fantastic applicant will interview and fill the position so that these special needs students can get more of the individual attention they need and deserve.  I hate having this many students who need so much because I feel completely unable to give them each the attention they should have. I'm constantly putting out fires (figuratively, not literally -- yet) and have been unable to, in my opinion, academically reach the students on the level to which they need.  I go home feeling ineffective and frustrated.

There is a light at the tunnel!  It will take several days, perhaps even a week or two, but help is on it's way!

Monday, August 16, 2010

I just want to say....

Hug your children and loved ones real tight.  Today is a gift, and tomorrow isn't promised.

I found out this morning that I lost one of my 3rd grade students over the weekend.  They think he had a heart attack.  Yes, a third grader. 

He was one of my "low babies" with a low IQ but who didn't let that stop him from having an infectious smile and a completely positive outlook.  He would attempt anything and everything set before him and give it his all.  He never let difficulties get him down.  I called him "Smiles." 

A few days before he died, we had this discussion:
Him: "I'm in the 3rd grade, right?"
Me: "Of course you are!"
Him: "Well we have a lot of Kindergartners this year."
Me:  "Yes, we do.  But that's OK.  I can give them the work they need and give you the work you need."
Him: "I can still get to 4th grade."
Me sticking my hand out to shake his and 'make a deal' : "I promise I will give you everything you need to get to the 4th grade."

Unfortunately, I didn't get to make good on that promise. :(

The news was very hard on me as I have worked with him since he was one of those Kindergartners he was complaining about.  I've seen him grow so much.  Granted it wasn't at a speed that many of his peers did, but it was still tremendous growth.  He made the most of what God gave him in the short time that he had.

He was loved, he was admired, he will be missed.

Never let a moment go by that you don't tell the ones you love how much they mean.

Please pray for his family.  I can only imagine how difficult it must be for them to lose this shining little light.

Monday, August 9, 2010

First Day of School

Today is the first day of school for my county.  I have a love/hate relationship with this day.  It's a great fresh new start...but it means saying goodbye to sleeping in and a whopping 180 school days until summer vacation!

The things I love about the first day of school:
  • freshly sharpened pencils and other school supplies
  • clean never used notebooks
  • kids wearing their cutest new school clothes
  • I get to wear my cute new school clothes
  • desks aligned just so (not necessarily in rows, but still all in order)
  • cute bulletin boards
  • high expectations for a great year
  • ideas for new curriculum, behavior management, and/or activites and lesson plans
  • it's easier to stick to a healthy eating plan because I pack only good-for-me foods and don't give candy/food rewards to my students
  • my classroom library is still organized
  • seeing the kids smiling faces
  • all the parents still think you are a fantastic teacher
Because tomorrow is 10 on 10, I took a few pictures of today so that I can share them tomorrow :)
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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Back to school

Well I am officially back to school!  The kids don't come in until next Monday but all of us teachers have been there bright and early every day this week setting up our classrooms, making sure we have all of our student's textbooks (and the teacher's editions that go with them), and all going to all of the boring informative meetings that we have to attend.

This year I've decided to do a red, white, and blue theme in my classroom.  I will actually have a real class so I need to do more than just general bulletin boards.  Because I teach special education and I generally do inclusion, I didn't use my own classroom often.  This year however, due to the Class Size Reduction Amendment, my school is doing things a bit differently and I will have a class of 18 second and third graders (some of them Ex. Ed. and some of them General Ed).  It will be a challenging year, but hey, if I can run a marathon... I can do this!

The biggest problem is trying to find a time to run.  Early morning runs were my preference all summer, however, now that I have to drop off Baby Girl then be at work (a 20 minute drive) by 7:00am every day, an early morning run just isn't feasible.  On the other hand, I get off at 3:00pm.  However, this is FLORIDA!  Florida this time of year is excruciatingly hot and humid.  With 90+ degrees and humidity that make the temperature well like over 100, running after I get off of work isn't a great idea either.  I don't have a hydration belt (yeah, I need to get a good one that doesn't jiggle and annoy me as I run - suggestions?) so running too far/long is not a safe option.  Hubby is working nights at the moment so running in the evening once it cools down isn't great either because by the time it cools down enough, it is too late.  I would have to take Baby Girl with me in the stroller and it would put her getting her bath and going to bed too late.

Saturdays are no problem as I can still get up early and run with Baby Girl in the stroller, but that is about the only day that I have a fool-proof running solution.

I know it sounds like a lot of excuses, and that is exactly what it is.  However, I feel they are some valid excuses.  Other than obviously getting a hydration belt, what would you do if you were in this situation? It's not going to cool down for a good while down here...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Teaser - Boys in Crisis (possibly controversial)

I haven't done one of these in a while so I thought I would try to get back into it.  However, I'm reading several books at one time so I'm not getting very far in any of them very quickly. I think I'll try to "tease" one each week for a few weeks perhaps.  Maybe this will tease myself into reading them more!  LOL

Today's tease is from a professional book, but if you have sons it would be worth a look as well.  I'm a teacher so this is quite relevant to me.

HEAR OUR CRY: BOYS IN CRISIS is all about how to reach boys and young men in a meaningful and relevant way.  Here are my two sentences from a random page (I just started reading it so I think the book automatically fell open to a page close to the beginning):

"Statistics on boys and men reflect the results of a society that has ignored the social and emotional life of boys.  To disregard the impact of these myths on young males is to put them in a decidedly weakened position to succeed personally, professionally, and emotionally (not to mention life expectancy: U.S. women on average outlive U.S. men by about five years). "  pg. 3

In my county, school starts back on August 9th. I would love to have read a good portion of this book by then in order to see what strategies I can implement to reach all of my students; male and female, exceptional ed and general ed, high achieving and low.

What are your thoughts?  Are our boys in a crisis?  The author states that they are being stereotyped as women were in the past as they are expected to hide their emotions, be tough, and "be a man"?  He also states that more fathers show up to support their sons in sporting events than school evens (such as Honor Roll ceremonies) giving them the impression that it is more important for males to be athletic than smart.  Do you agree that our boys are in crisis? Do you agree with this quote from the book? (Remember, if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all! Discussion and respectully disagreeing is fine, insults are not)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Let it open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Story Pyramid of ME

I was looking through various blogs the other day and saw one whose description mentioned that every life is a story waiting to be told.  Hmm...a story huh?

So the teacher in me came out in full force... I often used a Story Pyramid to help my older students remember a story we've read.

Here is the Story Pyramid of my life:

caring, Christian
always near water
What's this life about?
Raised in very small town.
Married a friend from high school.
Masters Degree in Special Ed and Reading
Beautiful healthy baby girl, what more is needed?

That was kind of fun!  I think (if I ever teach older kids again that is) that I may have them do a story pyramid of their own life at some point in the year! :)

 **Putting this safely into my "teacher bag" to be pulled out if/when needed**

It was kind of hard to determine what to put in and what to leave out when you are limited on words and lines.  For instance...where do I put my running?  I decided that my running wasn't as important to me as the others so that's why I left it out...although it is important to me.  Decisions decisions!

What's your story about?  What would your pyramid look like?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

E-mail to the House Reps, the Govenor, and anyone else who will listen!

I am a teacher in Florida.
I am a damn good teacher in Florida.

I am a damn good Exceptional Student Education teacher in Florida.

I am a damn good Exceptional Student Education teacher in a low-socioeconomic area of Florida.

I am a damn good Exceptional Student Education teacher in a low-socioeconomic area of Florida who will likely lose my job if SB 6/HB 7189 passes.

I will either lose my job or be forced to change jobs and work at a different school just so that I can survive.

I will not lose my job because of something that I will do, or not do. I will lose my job because my students are unfairly asked to do the impossible, and many are not be able to.

My students do not perform on grade level. This is why they are part of the exceptional student education program. If they could perform on grade level, they would not need the ESE program. I work hard to get my students on grade level and out of the program, but unfortunately, many will never be able to make it to that point. They start off the school year sometimes multiple years behind their classmates, struggle all year to lean basic skills that come easily for their classmates to learn, then are expected to take and pass the same test as their classmates at the end of the year. (Yes, some of them may have extra time to complete the FCAT, but not extra time to prepare for the test to make up for taking longer to learn or being behind to start with due to their disability.)

On top of having a documented learning disability, because of the low-socioeconomic culture that my students live in, many do not have the background knowledge that is so important for learning. Imagine living only 3 miles from the beach but having never seen the ocean; having never traveled outside the neighborhood much less the town, county, or state. All they know is survival; survival that must come before education. Their parents don’t value education because they are so focused on finding work and keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table. The children often have to go days without food, stay in houses with no lights, babysit younger children, or care for the elderly. Many live in cars, or if they are lucky, a room at the Motel 8 that they must share with mom, dad, and several brothers and sisters. I have had many students in the past who have had to miss school to take care of a younger child when the parent couldn’t find childcare. One of my students this year missed nearly a week and a half because she had to take care of her aging grandmother; she is only in the 2nd grade. Many of my students are afraid of what will happen tomorrow. It is a struggle for them to just make it to school each day. It is very difficult to teach a child who is afraid, yet that is what I do on a daily basis. It is difficult for a child to make up missing days but that is what we are faced with.

Many of my students have yet another hurdle in their education. Some also have emotional and/or behavioral disorders which prevent them from learning to their full potential. With these students we as teachers must first focus on the out of control, and often highly dangerous, behaviors of the child first, and slip in academics as often as possible. Students cannot learn if they, or one of their classmates, are throwing chairs, cursing at the teachers, starting fights, or trying to run away.

With all these hurdles it is amazing that any of my students succeed. I push and encourage my students daily to do their best and to learn as much as they can. However, their best does not always match up to “regular” students. Is this their fault? NO! Is it my fault? NO! It is no one’s fault, it is only the reality of the situation.

Imagine for a minute that you were born without a leg (a learning disability). You cannot afford to buy a decent prosthetic leg and must make do with an ill-fitting crumbling hand-me-down (poverty). Now, imagine that you must run a marathon (the school year and the FCAT). Because of your leg slowing you down, you arrive at the starting line late and everyone else has already started and many are miles ahead of you (being below grade level to begin with). How do you feel? Are you terrified? Are you nervous? Do you feel inadequate when looking at the able-bodied athletes? Do you think that this is a good attitude to have to begin with? You know that your coach has done everything that he can to prepare you; you’ve done numerous drills, sprints, and endurance runs, but is it going to be enough? Let’s go a step further; any athlete knows that the home court advantage is really about having the fan’s cheering you on. Imagine that while you are running this grueling trek, your family (the most important people in your life) isn’t there to cheer you on because they have to work, don’t understand how important it is to you, or just can’t be bothered. Now imagine that your coach will lose his job if you do not finish in the top 50%. Just crossing the finish line isn’t enough, you have to excel or your coach will pay the price. How is this fair to you or your coach?

How is what this legislation is trying to do fair to our students or their teachers? (By the way, ALL finishers in an actual marathon receive a metal, even the last one to cross the finish line. The last ones across the line often receive the loudest cheers as they finish because the spectators know that these athletes have struggled the hardest and applaud thier persistance to get to the finish line. Shouldn’t we do this for our struggling students as well?)

I hear all the time that parents and taxpayers complain that teachers are doing nothing but teaching to the test because of FCAT and school grades. How does tying teacher’s pay into the test solve this problem? All I can see happening is making it worse. Teachers will thenthemselves fly into survival mode and teach to the test to insure that their students do well on this one assessment.  Good teachers will leave the profession or flee to higher performing schools leaving the low-socioeconomic schools with the “left-overs.” To me, this seems like the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

Our children are our future. Please, take a step back and take a good look at what you are doing to our future.

Basing teacher's pay on things that are completely out of their control is not the solution to a failing educational system. Yes, some things need to be fixed within the educational system, but this is not the solution. In fact, it will only cause more problems in the future.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I love teachable moments.

Teachable moments are those moments where you don't plan on something increadible happening, but it does and it leads the class on an awesome discusion or discovery that otherwise might never have occured.

This election has done so. History was made. Although, if you think about it, if McCain had won, history still would have been made with the first female Vice President!

Our school gets a boatloa of newspapers everyday for anyone to use/read. Often a class will take a whole stack and do some activity but more often it is just the teachers taking a newspaper to read throughout the day. My coteacher and I grabbed a large stack today that had the "OBAMA WINS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION" headline and passed them out to our class. We talked about the importance of this election and no matter who we/you/I thought should have won, history was made and that this could be a very important event that years later our children may ask us about.

We led them on a newspaper scavenger hunt to find out how many popular and electorial votes each candidate got, found a quote from each candidate, how many electorial votes Florida controls, an article in the local section about the election, and various other things. At the end, we told them that they might want to hang on to their newspapers as it is possible that years from now it may be worth something, and if nothing else, it will remind them of the importance of voting.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The day I cried

Yes, I cried today. I didn't mean to cry, it wasn't planned, but I am not ashamed of it. My co-teacher and I both cried in front of a classroom full of wide-eyed 6th graders, and for me at least, it wasn't the first time I cried in front of a room full of sixth grade students.

If you look at the date, you probably know what made us cry, it's 9/11, seven years after the terror attacks.

This morning, My co-teacher Jonathon and I began retelling the events that took place in New York, Washington, and PA that day. He was in California at the time and I was in SW Florida. The kids were amazed to see how it affected everyone across the nation in much the same way, even if we didn't know someone who was actually in one of the four planes, the towers, or the pentagon that day. They of course, were too little to remember much of anything about what happened that day other than what people have told them and had many questions. Many didn't realize that there were actually four planes, not just the two that hit the towers. Other's didn't realize that their were passengers on the planes or that some people were able to make phone calls to loved ones before the unthinkable happened. They didn't know that brave firefighters and police risked their lives to help save others whom they didn't even know, or that we all banded together as a nation and waved flags, cheered our heroes, and mourned our dead.

It is interesting to note that in 2001 on September 11th, I was teaching a 6th grade class and here I am 7 years later in front of another 6h grade class telling them about that day. Everyone always says you will remember exactly where you were when you heard the news and I am sure that is true for those of us who lived it that day. I was standing at my classroom door welcoming my homeroom students to another wonderful day of middle school when a colleague came up to me and told me to turn on the TV, that an airplane had just crashed into one of the twin towers. I turned around and turned on the TV that usually just showed the morning announcements. I didn't have to look for a station that was showing it, they were all showing it. Replaying it again and again and the reporters were trying to figure out what was going on when suddenly behind them, a second plane hit the second tower.

I remember feeling such shock, fear, and confusion as I tried to work it out in my own head what was happening all the while knowing that I was responsible for the 6th graders in my room. I knew I couldn't lose it, but honestly, I was in too much shock to "lose it," I just stared at the screen now replaying the second crash. I didn't know if I really wanted the kids to see this, but I couldn't turn it off either.

I'm not sure that the kids really completely got it at first, so two planes just hit a building on the other side of the country...big deal. Some of them though, noticed me and commented that I looked scared or pale. Homeroom was only about 20 minutes long normally, just long enough to get any announcements or details of the day worked out prior to starting the school day. We didn't change classes for a while on that day. I think every TV in the school was on and every student, teacher, custodian, cafeteria worker, and everyone else stopped as we watched in shock as a third plane hit the pentagon then later reports of a fourth plane crashing in a Pennsylvania field.

Personally, I was running a list of everyone I knew through my head. Did I know where everyone was? Could any of them be in New York or Washington? What about on those planes, or another plane? Where were my friends from high school and college that I had lost contact with? Where were my friends in the military? Faces and names whirled through my head and my heart, but somehow I was able to keep it together for my students, although, that was the first day that 6th graders saw me cry.

I am not ashamed to say that thinking of those events still gets to me seven years later. The terror that I felt that day had to be nothing compared to those on the planes, in the towers and the pentagon, and those nearby. I ask myself if I would have been strong enough and brave enough to stand up to terrorist and face my own death to help crash a plane that I knew was about to crash into another unknown American building and kill and injure passably thousands more. Could I have run into a falling building to save people I didn't even know? I don't know. I hope I could have the faith and inner strength to do it, but I just don't know. I am thankful that God has placed people strong enough to do that on this earth. All I knew at that moment was a strong sense to hug every one of those confused sixth graders in my care, for my sake as much as theirs.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


As a Special Education teacher, I often see students who struggle with longer reading passages which have comprehension questions which they must answer. Students who struggle with the very act of reading don't know how to attack a passage and be successful with it. Here is a strategy called RUNRAVEL that I have used with both special education students as well as basic ed. students:

R read through the questions first.
U underline the title and look at the pictures.
N now predict.
R run through and number the paragraphs.
A are the important words circled?
V venture through the story.
E eliminate obvious wrong answers.
L let's prove our answers.

The first things the students need to do is to flip to the back and read the questions first. The main reasons they need to read the questions before ever reading the story is so that they know what to look for while reading. Good readers attack reading differently when they are reading for pleasure than when they are reading for information. If you are reading for information, you need to know what information it is that you are looking for. Reading the questions first will let the students know what information they will need in order to answer the questions.

After they have read the questions, students underline the title. This is mainly to get the students to actually read the title. Many times students jump right into the story and never even look at the title which often gives many clues to what the story is about. After they have read and underlined the title, they quickly flip through and look at all the pictures.

The title and the pictures should give them plenty of info to make a prediction on what they think the story will be about. This can be done either orally, written in the margin or however you want. Predicting is an important skill that students will need to know how to do as they progress through school.

The students should number the paragraphs so that later on when they are proving their answers, they can quickly and easily list what paragraph they found the answer in.

Important words can be names, dates, numbers, places, etc. that seem like they may be important in the story. Students should quickly skim and either circle or underline words that they think may be important. Often students need to be taught how to skim because they don't know how to quickly run their eyes over a passage without actually (slowly) reading it. As with predicting, this will get the student's brain ready to read.

When students venture through the passage, they actually read it. Rather than jumping right to this step, all the previous steps makes students slow down a bit and prepares their brain to comprehend what they are reading.

After they have finally read the passage, as they are answering questions, students should be taught how to identify and "throw out" any obvious wring answers. For example, in a multiple choice question, there are typically 1 or 2 answer choices that are way off base. If students can mentally toss those out, they are left with only two possible answers leaving them a better chance of figuring out the correct one.

Proving answers means the students go back into the story and actually FIND the answers rather than guess at answers they think they remember. The answer, or the clues used to come up with the answer can be underlined in the text with the question number circled next to it. The paragraph number can be placed next to the question so that you can easily find their proof. By making them prove their answers, they are less likely to get questions wrong, and you can easily see why they may have chosen the answer that they did.

This strategy has worked very well for students of all abilities and walks of life. It has worked so well that I thought I would pass it along to anyone who may be interested in helping a child with reading homework!