Sunday, March 31, 2013

Using Kindle on the Smartboard

In January I wrote about my frustrations with trying to get my Kindle library to show up on my Smartboard. I finally figured it out and am now able to project my Kindle books for my whole class.

In some ways this is great. I don't have to take the time to scan each page, which saves a lot of time. The print of the book is small, but you can change it, which really helps. Suddenly any book I own digitially becomes a big book that we're able to use as a shared reading for a class text. Since my word wall is right beside my smartboard we've been able to find the word wall words and match them in the text. We had a great time finding all the words we knew in "The Paper Bag Princess".

The downsides, however, are that the Smartboard doesn't "talk" to the iPad like it "talks" to the computer. Touching the Smartboard doesn't do anything to the iPad  Instead I need to be standing beside the iPad to turn the pages. Unfortunately the way my classroom is set up I need to have my iPad at my computer station, which doesn't make it easy for me to lead the class in the book and then turn the pages. I'm constantly running back and forth between the Smartboard and the iPad. The Smartboard itself just because a projector screen in this case- it's interactive capabilities are useless.

SO, it's not perfect. Scanning the books and importing them into the smartboard software is better overall because then you can actually circle the words in the book and interact with the book digitally.

Still, not having to sit by a copier and scan books is worth something. I have Scaredy Squirrel in my Kindle library just waiting to be introduced to the kids on Monday. It's not perfect, but magically turning a regular book into a big book is pretty exciting.
(Of course I always have a hard copy of the book as well so that during quiet time the kids can interact with the actual book).
Smartboard turned big-book

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Are you happy? Did you laugh yesterday?

In the midst of my current teaching angst I found this Gallup poll extremely interesting. It reflects teachers as some of the happiest professionals. At first this made me choke on my morning coffee, but reading on I realized it may not be off base. They didn't go around asking teachers whether or not they were happy. The questions they asked in order to measure happiness were whether or not we get to use our strengths every day, whether or not we laughed or smiled yesterday, and whether or not we learned something new yesterday.

Turns out no one measures happiness by how people snub us at cocktail parties. Maybe we shouldn't measure ourselves by that either.

My first thought was to feel very sorry for all my non-teacher friends out there not laughing during the day, using their strengths daily and learning new things. Is the real world really that depressing?

Read the article. Then read the comments. We are a really bipolar bunch.

First Year Letters

My first year of teaching, which doesn't feel like it was a full ten years ago, was a whirl wind. I wasn't in a good place school-wise, my family and one of my close friends had a lot going on. I lived in a teeny-tiny studio apartment in a not so great neighborhood by myself, with almost no friends in the area. I woke up every morning, looking myself in the mirror and telling myself that this job was actually better than law school.  When I look back at that year I find myself thinking about those memories- the constant fight to not doubt myself, the tricks I used to avoid the school's administration who was constantly nit-picking new teachers, the moments of trying not to burst into tears in front of the class because the kids were amazing and I was convinced they deserved a better teacher than I was.

I left that school and found my way to The Think-Tank where I learned that I wasn't the horrid teacher I'd been led to believe I was, that a supportive and forward thinking administration can create a brilliant school, and that teaching was in fact the right place for me over law school. (Looking back on the at first year it still amazes me that I came back to the profession).

After meeting one of my former students last week I found myself sifting through the scrap book I'd made from that year. I'd kept a few of their letters to me and put them in a book along with pictures from the year. Looking through it what strikes me the most is how much their writing changed and developed over the year. The letters from September are far different than the end of year letters. After all these years it turns out that I did teach them something that year after all.

Reading the letters also reminds me that it was a wonderful year despite everything else going on. We had an incredible class community where kids felt safe to learn. I'd forgotten about that.

Why do we have a test? Why do teachers teach?
"I enjoy being in our class. I enjoy you"
"PS. Keep up the good work"

I'm sorry we are having a winter break. I'm going to miss you.

Now that I teach students who aren't able to write these letters it's nice to take a moment to go back and remember a time when I worked with students who did drop random notes of thank you. Now I get thank yous in different forms- big smiles, spontaneous hugs, "I DID IT!" shouted at the top of a student's lungs, simply listening to a child read independently. It's different, but still good.

This year has bee difficult. I hope that ten years from now I can look back at the pictures and moments of the year and realize that it wasn't just about all the chaos and stress, but that flowers were growing among the weeds.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Poisoned by Germ-X?

I swear I'm going to start a support group. Another teacher fell victim to the Germ-X poisoning. At least my poisoning only occurred once, and was more the act of an impulsive first grader instead of vindictive middle schoolers. (May God bless middle school teachers...)

I am a bit surprised she didn't taste it...  when mixed with Diet Coke that stuff leaves a distinct, unmistakable flavor.

Spring Break Woes

Spring break is almost over. I'm not sure how that happened. The whole week was wonky, starting with the snow fall on Monday, and as you can see from the picture, Little Lipstick was not impressed. 

First day of spring break. Not what we expected.

Don't get me wrong. Little L LOVES snow. Her favorite book is The Snowy Day. She loves her snowsuit. She loves putting on snow clothes. She loves watching the snow fall. She loves feeling the snow go "PLOP" on her head just like in the book. She loves watching Mommy walk with her feet pointed out, like this. She loves riding in the stroller while snow falls around her. She just doesn't like interacting with the actual snow. And of course, I'm sure she's not thrilled with Mommy snapping a picture at her distress. 

The snow threw us off our spring-break game. Somehow the week turned into a stay at home and cuddle week instead of a "let's enjoy this week off to get busy and go on adventures" week. 

I spent a lot of this week pondering my decision to be a teacher. It's been ten years since I started. Don't get me wrong, I love my job. I love the work. I love the day to day with the kids and I love the intellectual challenge it inspires in me. 

Perhaps it's the fact that my little brother, five years younger than me, is in the midst of his first year at a big law firm, showing the world how successful he is. Perhaps it's the continued anti-teacher movement in the media, perhaps it's frustrations at work, perhaps it's a looming ten year college reunion  perhaps it's just my yearly "what am I doing with my life" crisis. I'm feeling regret at ending my doctorate program, regret at staying in the classroom, resentment of my enjoyment of my job.

Why do we do this to ourselves as teachers? Why is being a teacher not enough? Every year I hone my craft, become a better teacher, read books and do action research that improves my work in the classroom. Yet it's not enough. 

If I leave the classroom and pursue a doctorate will I miss the day to day excitement of teaching? Will the intellectual stimulation be enough to keep me from regretting a job I'm good at. 

Why isn't teaching enough? How can we make it more than "just teaching" while still being a team player, a member of a collaborative school, and making a true impact on children's lives? Why does it have to be "just" teaching?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Improbable Scholars"

I'm currently reading Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America's Schools by David L. Kirp. (Yes, I have a bit of a problem. Even on spring break I'm thinking about teaching. I'm aware of this problem but I don't see a change coming anytime soon.)

It's one of the most refreshing reads about education policy that I've read in a long time. Kirp follows Union City, New Jersey's school system and cites what works. It's not revolutionized teaching methods, it's not firing teachers, it's not bringing in Teach for America recruits. It's what all good schools do- responding to their students, providing students what they need, promoting collaboration between teachers, analyzing data and providing universal preschool to four year olds.

He writes of the time he spends in George Washington Elementary getting to know the students, the teachers, and the administrators. He writes about the ins and outs of teaching children who just came into the country, of administrative decisions, of within school teacher politics, of the concerns of the parents. His portrayal of Washington Elementary reveals a school similar to the Think Tank, where I taught last year. Very similar students and families, dedicated teachers and a commitment to collaboration.

Reading Improbable Scholars is making me proud to be a teacher- it makes me proud of my years at The Think Tank, and proud of the work I'm doing this year with my brand new school. For once I'm reading something about education policy and not fretting over the politics of it all. Kirp reflects hard working teachers who are determined to do what's best for kids, despite state and national policies. He reflects hard working administrators and politicians who are also equally determined to do what's best for kids. In this portrayal he reminds us that we're not powerless as teachers, which is exactly what my teaching soul needed this week.

One aspect that makes Union City stand out, however, is their commitment to bilingual education. Their students become proficient in their home language first and then transition to learning in English when they are ready. His descriptions about this program make me drool in jealousy. Frequently we'd watch children at The Think Tank struggle because they weren't grounded in any language. Having only a minimal use of Spanish and English they were forced into a languageless state of being. After all, if you don't have words how can you think and reason? For various reasons their home language wasn't secure, and yet we were forcing them to learn another language. The result tended to be weakness in both languages, which doesn't help reasoning and problem solving skills in the long term. I love reading about how Union City created supports for these children to guarantee that this doesn't happen.

Bi-lingual education is a hot-button political issue and sadly I don't see it changing anytime soon here in Virginia. But it's good to know that somewhere out there is an entire school system following the research and making a difference.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fix this

I wish I could say that this article shocked me. I wish I could be freshly horrified and angry. But sadly I'm watching similar stories play out daily and its heart breaking.
When I first learned of what my colleagues needed to do in order to "test" their students with severe intellectual disabilities I was horrified and shocked. Now, sadly, it's become the norm. The story in this article isn't anything new.

It needs to be changed, and quickly. Children are losing valuable time when they could be learning life skills that will allow them to survive and live a more meaningful life. Instead they are pretending to take tests so that we can all feel good about ourselves. Look, we can brag, even Johnny is being assessed.

I read many different points of view in who to blame in the comments. Republicans, democrats, socialists, libertarians- I don't care. I don't want to assign blame, I want it fixed. I want common sense back in schools. Can we please stop arguing and start doing something about it?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dropping Out

My hand hovered over the letter, not quite knowing what to say. What do I write to a junior in high school when I haven't seen her in ten years? What do you say to someone who you taught to read in the beginning of their school career when there was still time and promise? What do you say when you've heard that they are contemplating dropping out of high school?

When I first ran into my former student I was so excited. It was wonderful to see one of my former students all grown up. But then I heard that she wanted to drop out of school and my heart sank. Much like when I found out that one of my former students was pregnant, I experienced a devastating sense of failure and helplessness. Failure as a school district and as a society. Helplessness of putting so much into a student so early in their school career only to have it end early, without that diploma that can open so many doors.

After great advice from a colleague I wrote about how proud I was of her, how exciting it was that she just had one more year to go, and how great it was that she could be a role model for her brother. I don't know if my words will mean anything or whether she'll find even find the letter in her brother's back pack. I want to go back in time and hug that little six year old girl and tell her over and over again how capable she is and how we can do hard things, even when it doesn't it doesn't seem possible. I want to go back and teach harder, get her reading stronger, push her more.

I'll spend spring break thinking about her and kids like her. What more can we do in the early years?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Going to the Source

I sat in my car in the parking lot of my school Monday morning so that I could hear the end of NPR's story on what Children's Hospital in Boston did to meet the needs of its child asthma patients. Everything the story discussed hit home. 

When I worked at the Think-Tank we had so many children who had breathing and health issues. Children who live in subsidized apartments frequently face problems with asthma from everything from poorly cleaned carpets to an increase in cockroaches. This causes them to miss school- and we all know that we can only teach children when they come to school consistently.

I was thrilled to see that a hospital was reaching out past just treating the patient and instead going to the root cause of the problem. Through parent education and treating the environment, they were able to improve the child's health, reduce emergency room visits, and increase the days the child was able to go to school. What's more, although the program was expensive to implement, the study showed that for every dollar it spent, it saved $1.46. 

We need more of this- not just this program itself, but we need more people thinking outside of the box and looking at ways we can educate one another so that we can be proactive instead of reactive. We need this in education as well as in medicine. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

So I'm a few days late....  what can you do?

With St. Patrick's Day on a Sunday this year we were forced to come back to our classroom on Monday morning only to discover all the trouble the leprechaun had pulled over the weekend. 

That tricky little green man had mixed up ALL of our word wall words- the word wall was a disaster! We had to go through each word and make sure it went to the right place- were all the A words in order? And the B words?

Then that sneaky little guy took all of our months of the year off the wall and mixed them up. We had to sing the Months of the Year song over and over again so we could make sure we got them back up on the wall in order. 

After all that we discovered that he'd even mixed up all the dates on the calendar. We had to rearrange the numbers so that they were in the right order.

Good thing we're a class of problem solvers- that naughty leprechaun couldn't fool us! He may have left a problem, but we fixed it! 

*I will shamelessly admit that I can't resist an opportunity for authentic learning and for a reason to teach and reinforce problem solving. My poor class. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Remember Me?

As I was leaving school today I ran into one of the students in our Intellectual Disabilities program and his sister. I stopped to talk to him and barely even acknolwedged his sister. Suddenly she interupted me.

"I know you don't remember me," she began, "But you were my first grade teacher. You were my best teacher. Ms. L"

I just about fell over. The minute I looked at her face I remembered her. Of course I did. She was smaller, more timid, a quiet six year old, very different than this confident teenager standing in front of me holding car keys- but yes, I remembered her.

It's been ten years. It meant so much to see her all grown up. It was my very first class and I left the school I taught at to go to the think tank. Until today I'd never seen any of those kids again.

It was a surreal experience to realize that I was driving out of the parking lot with a little girl I'd taught to read. How is she old enough to drive? How am I old enough to have taught someone for so long?

It was one of those moments as a teacher that you are blown away by the general nature of change in the world.

Art work completed by my first class of first graders, ten years ago. The beauty in first grade is watching them bloom
In the midst of a tough day it was beautiful reminder of why this job is the best.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tears for Google Reader

When I learned that Google Reader is set to end this summer I was devastated  Part of me hoped it was some evil internet hoax, like when those crazy posts come out saying that they are going to start making you pay for Facebook. Ending Google Reader is not OK.

I'm not ready to say goodbye to my Google Reader. I don't go to websites independently. I barely have time to brush my teeth everyday. But my reader? Everyday. And if I'm on vacation or if I'm so crazy busy that I miss a day here or there (or a week) it's all nicely filed away and waiting for me- organized and calling my name. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I'm not sure that I'm ready to forgive Google, but I also don't know what alternative I have. I blog in Google  have personal email in Google  and I live within my Google drive so I'm not sure I can announce that I'm boycotting them. Instead I can just be very, very sad.

SO, if you are like me and are wondering how life is suppose to go on, here are some Reader Alternatives from the Huff Post. (And if you only read my blog through your reader and otherwise would never check it, then, well, why don't you go ahead and set up one of these alternatives now just so you won't forget when the time comes :) )

Friday, March 15, 2013

Judge, Judge, Judge

In the midst of my horrid bad day yesterday I realized that I needed help. I knew I was doing something wrong. Whenever something isn't going quite right in the classroom I feel like it's time to step back and look at what I'm doing. Usually it's me that's making it worse. Identifying what I'm not doing or am doing that isn't working tends to lead to better behavior.

I realized that I needed advice on managing behavior. I needed to be able to step back and see what I was missing. My first thought was to research the answer in a book or in a peer-reviewed article. My next thought was to ask someone from the district to come in and observe. Finally I realized that I could just ask one of my amazing colleagues. I sat at my email for a bit, wondering if that is really what I wanted to do. What would she think? Did I really want to make myself that vulnerable?

Why is it so hard to ask for help as a teacher?

I think that teachers can be our own hardest critics. We have a horrible habit of getting smug with one another and saying, "Well, he wouldn't do that in MY classroom", or, "Can you believe she let him get away with that?"

Then we gossip behind each other's backs:
"Well, maybe her kids would learn it if she had a backbone."
"No wonder her kids can't do x, y, z... Have you seen how she talks to them?"
"She's so strict her kids are afraid to pee in the bathroom."

We are horrid to one another.

I like to think of myself as a life-long learner. I like to think of myself as someone who has the growth mindset- someone who is always willing to try and fail at new things. But when it comes to asking for help from colleagues even I get a bit defensive.

Why is it so much easier to read a book on managing behavior than it is to ask a colleague? Somehow asking a colleague feels like admitting that you are actually a bad teacher. That when someone comes along and sorts "good teachers" and "bad teachers" you are going to be put into the bad box and left there.

Perhaps some of this comes from the fact that the media and the general public is always ready to pounce and to tell us that we're bad. As teachers we lash out at each other- well, teachers like HER may be bad, but I'm not. It's our easiest defense against the teacher-war that's going on.

What's worse is that before I asked for help I had to stop and remind myself that this is my first year teaching students with these disabilities. I'm not suppose to know everything. It's OK to still have a learning curve. At least, it should be OK.

My colleague had great ideas and suggestions. They were simple, obvious, and exactly what I needed to hear. I realized I knew the answers, but when you're in the trenches and frustrated you tend to get desperate. You forget what you know is right and go with anything you can cling to.

The afternoon was immediately better. A quick email to a colleague, a quick reply, and I was reminded of strategies I needed. It was a life savor.

Yet I was still ashamed to see her after school. As though I'd suddenly put myself in the "bad teaching" box and I would never climb out of it.

As teachers we have to stop tearing one another apart. We have to be able to collaborate, analyze and brainstorm without fear of judgement. Yet we're somehow so deep in this judgmental culture that it soaks through the entire profession.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Is anything worse than un-made ice cream?

Today was horrid. A might, gigantic flop that left me driving away from school thinking that this job is just not for me. Not that I'm not enjoying it, but that I'm just not good at it, and that the kids deserve someone better.

Let's start with the ice cream.

Last year I did an amazing ice cream unit. It was the stuff teaching-dreams are made of. We made ice cream one day and then spent the next day giving people a taste test of ice cream to decide what they liked better- our ice cream or store bought ice cream. We graphed it and analyzed our results. It was one of those magical, amazing lessons that you don't full appreciate until it's a year later and when you try to repeat it ice cream blows up in your face.


In the midst of trying to get the materials out of the freezer, deal with behaviors, check in with other service providers and just generally trying to remind myself where I was I made a glaring ice cream error. In a moment of lost common sense I decided to have the kids pour the ingredients into the ice cream churn itself and then turn it on. This decision was made quickly, based on the current (read: crazy) behaviors in the room.

It was not a decision made logically.

We are working on using and applying the words "on" and "off" so I made a big deal of turning it on. I asked one of my girls to come turn it ON. We sat back and watched in with the hope and excitement one has whenever ice cream is about to be made.

The ice cream maker rocked on itself a few times and made a horrendous grinding noise and then stopped.

"I'll turn it OFF" I said,  never one to lose a teachable moment. "Turn it ON again."

She did, and it repeated its unproductive movements.

It was then that I realized my horrid mistake. Of course if you are not moving the ingredients around when you put them together in the cold ice cream churn it all freezes together at the bottom of the churn, and will not, in fact 'churn' as it is named to do. I jammed and pushed and tried to break through the frozen sugar at the bottom that was making it impossible to turn but that only made the milk and cream fly all over me.

While I was desperately trying to salvage the ice cream (and failing) one of my kiddos took the opportunity to run around my room and knock things off shelves. She has never, ever done this before, but apparently failed ice cream leads people toward destructive tendencies. I can't stop her immediately because I have would-be-ice cream all over my hands, pants, face and hair.

What's even worse is that although my children were upset, they didn't understand why they were upset. I wanted to turn it into a "sometimes we fail and that is OK" lesson, or even just a "it is OK to be sad but we have to try again" lesson, but they barely batted an eye.

We'll try again next week.

This led right into lunch time, which made me realize that I'd actually forgotten my lunch. Now I was hungry AND ice-cream-less.

The day was almost over- five minutes before dismissal in fact- and I took one of my students aside to talk about his day in PE. I'd gotten an email from the teacher telling me that he wasn't doing so hot. I talked to her and then said, "Next time you will do your work in PE."

He paused, looking pained. After a moment he said, "Well....  Maybe, maybe not."

"No," I repeated, "You WILL do your work in PE next time."

He paused again, looking like he hated to break the news to me but it just couldn't be helped. "No, I don't think so, Mrs. Lipstick."

At least he was honest?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mindset & Independence

Our final goal for our students with intellectual disabilities is independence. Whether it is to be able to indepentently read a book, independently hang up their jacket or to independently wipe their noses- whether we want them to do we want them to be able to do it independently. Maybe not this year, maybe not the next, but down the road, at some time in their life, they need to become independent. And every decision we make as teachers must be about scaffolding our instruction, our praise and our actions to get them to that independent point.

Chapter 3 of Mindset had me thinking a lot about independence and our kiddos with intellectual disabilities. While the book talked a lot about academic tasks I found myself thinking about the little tasks that our kids do or don't do day in and day out.

Dweck writes about the risks of praising children and saying that they are smart instead of praising them for how hard they work or what they do after they fail at a task. When you apply that to our kiddos with intellectual disabilities I think you can start to consider telling a child they are smart is about the same as simply doing a task for the child.

When we put on a coat for one of our students we are telling them that they can't do it as well as we can. This is particularly worse when we tell them what a big boy or big girl they are. When we don't even give them the opportunity to do it themselves they have no idea that they are even expected to do it themselves. Why would they? We call it learned helplessness- but that somehow implies that they sit there and fake not being able to do a task. That's often not true- it's not that they are faking it- it is that they honestly have no idea that there is the possibility they can do it themselves. They may fumble with a zipper and then we take over for them and again they've never learned to problem solve or learned how to fail. What do you do if you don't get the zipper right the first time? What about the second time? How do you deal with frustration? 

Last year I had a student who had an accident in school. This was rare and he became very upset and he asked for his father to come get him. When we finally realized that the only reason he wanted his father there was because he wanted his father to help clean him up I told him that he could do it himself.

"I can?" he gasped. "I am strong enough to do it myself?"
And he did- the whole time exclaiming, "Wow! I can clean myself all by myself! I did it! I can clean myself! By myself!"

He'd had no idea that he could do it. He didn't know what he was capable of. Never having been given the opportunity to fail at taking care of himself he'd never had the chance to succeed at it either.

I'm certainly guilty of zipping up jackets and putting on book bags. Good lord it is hard to get everyone packed up and ready for the end of the day- and at that point in the day we just want to be out of there! But sending the message that I expect my students to be able to do these things themselves- that I'll be there for them and will help them while they learn how to, but that they absolutely can do it- that's an essential life skill that's more important than finishing the math lesson we were working on. 

Snow days, glorious snow days

Today was a much needed snow day. I am a firm believer in the theory that snow days are little gifts from God sent specifically to teachers as his way of saying, "You know what, you've been working so hard, just take a moment and relax."

They are a beautiful, beautiful thing.

This snow day was a bit painful because although other areas in the region were getting snow, my house and my Ezra Jack Keats loving daughter was only getting rain. So although our snow day did not end up being a memorable Peter-puts-on-his-snowsuit type day, it was just what we needed anyway.

The day before my entire school was sent into the field for an aerial photograph. I've seen this done in other schools and I remember taking part in it in my middle school (a very, very long time ago) but I've been a part of it before. And I have to admit, I hope I'm not a part of it again.

For the kiddos in my program it was particularly painful. They like their routines, a lot and here we were totally blowing their routines out of the water. Grant it, it's a good opportunity to practice rolling with the flow, but practicing rolling with the flow tends to put a lot more stress on us as teachers. My kiddos just couldn't understand what was happening. Why, oh why were we outside in the field, not having recess and not lined up for a fire drill?

After we'd been out for what felt like two hours (but was in fact more like 15 minutes) one of my girls started yelling, "no, no, No, No, NO!" and shaking her head to announce she was done. This is usually our sign to have her take a break before things get more stressful, but here we were, packed into a field with all the other students at our school, trying to smile when the photographer told us to smile.

While I was worried about what to do with my pre-meltdown friend another of my kiddos didn't want to waste time merely telling us he was upset. One moment he was standing beside me and the very next he was sprinting across the field, looking backwards to see if I was coming after him, and giggling with absolute glee. I can't say I blame him. It was a beautiful afternoon, we were outside and not doing math, and normally when we're outside it means playtime.Frankly, at that moment I wanted to run away from the mass of elementary school students myself.

Anyone who works with young children with disabilities knows that the cardinal sin in working with runners is that you do not chase them. The last thing you want is for them to think it is a game and have them run faster. Of course, anyone else would see a running child and immediately sprint after them.

Nothing beats those few moments of having a child run away from you while the entire school looks on. You have two choices. You can try to keep it together enough to not chase him so that you don't reward the behavior by playing the game. Or you can run after the child in hopes of ending the whole situation as fast as possible  Walking as quickly as possible I prayed I didn't look ridiculously lazy and incompetent as I marched after my giggling, quite happy friend who was absolutely shocked and a bit taken aback when I (finally caught up to him and) explained that it wasn't time for running.

It was a long, long 20 minutes. And a well deserved snow day.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Innocent Waffles or Test Driven Breakfast?

On Saturday morning I sat my 18 month old daughter in her high chair and we began to make waffles together. As she repeated, "waffles, waffles, cook, waffles, cook" over and over again I happily narrated what I was doing as I went along. We stirred the batter together and then I poured it into the waffle iron as she watched.

As the steam rose from the waffle iron I found myself explaining to her what was happening- how the waffle mixture was going from a liquid to a solid. And in my mind I could visualize the state standard for this concept, complete with the reference number. Concept taught: check.

*long sigh*

Teaching has become so embedded in me that I can't even just enjoy making waffles anymore- and I'm no longer enjoying learning moments with my daughter, apparently without even thinking about it I'm inserting our state standards into daily activities. I don't think this is how Saturday mornings are suppose to go.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What's important?

Last week I displayed a picture of George Washington on the smartboard. "Who is this?" I asked with trepidation, knowing that questions without choices were not always my class' strength.
"George Washington!" one of my kiddos announced without missing a beat, even though my other friends were silent. Although he'd missed the lesson from the day before and he hadn't been exposed to GW at all this year, he apparently remembered our George Washington unit from last year.

I felt good for about two minutes. Wow, I must have rocked that unit last year, I thought. This is what you want as a teacher- to teach something and then have them remember it the next year.

Then I started to think about how after two years I'm still working on getting this friend to be able to identify the letters in his name. Two years, 5 letters- it's not going so well.

Why waste all that time on our good friend George Washington? Were there other skills I could have been teaching instead of a drill & kill recognition of a famous American? Is knowing who GW is going to help my friend at all later in life? Am I filling his head with useless knowledge when I should be focusing in on more essential skills?

Grant it, the useless knowledge I'm referring to is the exact information I am suppose to be teaching. I'm not making things up, I'm teaching the curriculum. Technically I am doing my job. But is what I'm doing the most beneficial for the students?