book · Education · family · life · reviews

Grit- part 1 — seeing grit in yourself and children

Grit BookI have been reading the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I haven’t finished reading it just yet, but I wanted to share some of my insights to this point.

Grit is a term that was starting to be tossed around in education before I left teaching. Grit is the stick-to-it-ness of people. This book dives into how grit comes about and how it effects each person in their lives.

I have always felt that I am rather gritty in life. I know that I am in my career path. I am a make a goal, stick to the goal type of person. I know that life isn’t perfect. I know that I am not perfect. I also know that I need to stick to the things that I want to accomplish and that both the successes and failures will assist me in growing in my career. I look at each academic year, each new class of children, as an opportunity to grow and develop as a teacher.

I have over the years seen the difference between a child who has grit and those who do not. So much of education and assumed to be based on ability. While having a high ability often makes school easier, it is not the only factor in a child’s success in school. Over the years the children who have made the biggest impact on me are the ones who work hard and overcome the deficits they come to me with. The kindergartners who did not go to preK and hardly know how to write their name and leave writing sentences. The children who come into the classroom not speaking English and leave as fluent readers and writers. The children who do not recognize their numbers and leave understanding addition and subtraction.

But it isn’t only the students who go from below grade level to on grade level who have grit. Some of the children who I worked with that had the most grit were my special needs children. The ones who fight through the pain, both physical and educational pains. The children who struggle to speak in complete sentences who want nothing more than for you to listen to their story.

What I have seen, in my own sons, as well as many gifted children, is that the gifted children often develop grit later than others. Children who learning come easy to do not have to push themselves to gain academic knowledge. They do not have to work to learn, it just happens. So what do we do for these students? How do we help them gain the passion and perseverance to grow in life? How do we help them learn to overcome adversity and move on with life? This in itself is a form of learned helplessness. They feel that they can do anything so when things do not go smoothly they do not know what to do next.

For Blake, he hit this struggle this year. In math this year he actually had to work. He needed to practice the skills worked on in class. He struggled to complete homework assignments and needed to learn to ask for help. He needed to see that even if he got things wrong the first time he could go back and try again. He is learning that life isn’t simple. That all learning isn’t just a matter of showing up and then knowing how to do everything. One of the big things that Richard and I did was let him struggle. He needed to fail. He needed to see that even after he failed he could do it.

As parents we want our children to be successful. We want our children to feel pride. But, are we giving them true pride by using empty praise? When we do things for our children what are we telling them? What happens when you praise a child for their ability and not their practice? What happens when everything easy? How do we push children without hurting them? Is it bad for them to feel hurt from time to time, or will that actually encourage them to step up and try again harder next time?

How do you find that fine line between helping and hurting. If you do too much you are inviting a feeling of learned helplessness. If you do not help enough at certain times are you also bringing on those same feelings? Where is that fine line? Do gritty parents raise gritty kids? Can you increase your level of grittiness in yourself? In your child? The answer is yes, but is isn’t easy and there are many things that must fall into place. Finding something that you are passionate about and finding the perseverance to stick to the thing you are passionate about no matter what is thrown in your way… that is grit.



Education · family · life

Next step….?

My mind is swimming today. I finally got my teacher certification here in PA. I guess it’s time to dust off my resume and figure out what the next step will be for me. In looking at districts nearby, I learned that the application process is different here than I’m used to from my other times applying for positions. PA has a mandatory application process which includes an essay. I also have to get all my background checks done ahead of time. Ugh! Ok I can do this.

I already contacted my former principal to see which of the essay topics she felt I should base my essay on, At least it can be typed! So now I need to figure out how to write an essay that will grab the principals’ attention for the right reasons. At least I’ve been blogging a lot lately so the whole putting thoughts on paper (well the screen) is not going to be the hard part.

Richard and I both feel that if I get a job.. .I get a job. If I don’t, I don’t. I have way too many other things in life to put a ton of stress on this whole process. Now don’t get me wrong… I’m taking this very seriously and I want to get a public school teaching job. I’ve just learned throughout life that you can’t stress what you can’t control. I can not control if I get a job or not. I can do my best, show up and show them who I am and then hope that I move forward.

For most of my life if you asked me to tell you who I am the first words out of my mouth was “I’m a teacher”. But, my life is so much more than that. I’m a wife and a mother, and nothing could be more important to me than those jobs.

So we will see where this process takes me, but for now… I guess I’ll start working on an essay.


blogger laziness and a bit of rambles

Yesterday I was a slacker blogger. You may have noticed that I just popped off a quick post at the end of the day yesterday. I was at the school from 7:20 until 2:00 helping out with the Science Olympiad. It was a lot of fun and the kids had a blast. Colby came home from school exhausted as I’m sure most of the kids did. This was their last school day before testing starts, so that was a fun way to prep for state testing. Blake has testing the next 2 weeks and Colby has testing the next 3 weeks.

I also didn’t read anyone else’s blog yesterday, that is normally a morning time thing for me, so I tried to plow through a lot of them today. I try to keep up with most of the bloggers who leave comments on my blog. I always feel this is the start of a conversation/ a kinship/ a something and when I know that you are reading and commenting on my blog, then I’m more drawn into reading yours on a regular basis. Others, I tend to read if they peek my interest. Am I the only one who blogs this way?

This week has been a revisiting of winter for us. We had some type of snow every day and woke up to a little over an inch of accumulated snow today again. Ok… I’m done with winter now. Can we move onto spring?

This weekend will be a slow keep life simple weekend. We will try to stay on our normal routines and get the kids to bed at a reasonable time. I really hate state testing, yes I know I’m a teacher, yes I know there is a need for accountability, but this still doesn’t feel like it is it. At least here in this school district (or at least this school) they don’t stress the kids out as much over the whole thing. My sons don’t feel the pressure as much as they did in FL.

This coming week also finds me finally going and taking the PA teacher tests. I am not stressing out over this… it is what it is. I am not going to study. I’m not going to do anything but show up and take the test. I’m totally in the mode of if it is meant to be I’ll be fine.  If not… Oh well. (part of me know that I’ll be totally ticked with myself if I don’t pass… I don’t do failure well!)

Well… time to get ready to head to the gym. I wonder what the boys will do this week in their little lifters class? I’m dragging and my throat is scratchy so we will see how much energy I have for working out today. But… I’m going and that is a start.

Happy Saturday!


book · Education · life

Reading is a journey

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This picture came up on my Facebook On This Day today. As a mother of avid readers and a person trained in the art of educating children who are in the process of becoming readers, I can’t agree with this statement more.

So often, people put emphasis on how children read. My son read at a Lexile level of xxx. My daughter needs to be reading this level of book. I taught in schools were reading was pushed to take tests, not just reading tests in class, but also AR (accelerated reader) or other programs similar to this. They were forced to read books within a certain reading level.

I don’t believe this is the right approach… (gasp!)

Learning to read is not always a natural process for all children, but learning to love stories should be. Children should already have a love of books before they step one foot into school. Learning to love stories starts by sitting in the lap of a loved one and hearing a story read aloud. It is fostered by hearing the same stories over and over and over. When children get to pick the books they hear read to them, they learn what they like and what they don’t like from books.

Parents do not always know, but just because your child has learned to read doesn’t mean you should stop reading aloud to them. Choose books your child cannot read independently, but would love to hear. I believe that children should be exposed to chapter books around the age of 4 or 5. This is an age where they have excellent imaginations and can learn to start to see the pictures in their head. They can start to retain the story from one day to the next.

When children are motivated to move forward and see that the world open up in books, they will want to read. Even struggling readers want to read. I never told my students what they had to read. There were children who would pick up books way beyond their level, but they were motivated by the story. They would fight through he book just so they could say they read it. I also know children, including my own, who will pick out picture books when they were reading much longer chapter books. Who are we to say what they should or should not read.

Read to Me

Read to me riddles and read to me rhymes
Read to me stories of magical times
Read to me tales about castles and kings
Read to me stories of fabulous things
Read to me pirates and read to me knights
Read to me dragons and dragon-book fights
Read to me spaceships and cowboys and then
When you are finished- please read them again.

Author: Jane Yolen


Education · family · life

How much sleep do I need?

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Sleep is one of those issues that people do not want anyone telling them what is best. I’ve learned this over the years of teaching. I’ve had so many children tell me that they only need 8 hours of sleep…. ummmm nope that’s not enough. Quite often when children do not get enough sleep on a regular basis they don’t act tired, they act wired! Sleep issues is a question that is often brought up when people are considering ADD/ADHD.

I’m one of those mean parents. My sons who are 11 and 9 go to bed at 8pm. This is lights out go to sleep time. They head upstairs around 7:30 to read. My sons’ alarm clocks go off a 6am. That means if they fell right to sleep they’d get 10 hour of sleep. Which if you look at the chart above is the minimum needed for their age range.  (Richard and I sleep from 9:30/10:00pm-6am)

While I know they wish they had a later bedtime, and they will over the summer time, I do it because it is what they need.

Sleep is such a vital part of human development. Children grow physically and mentally while they sleep. This is the body’s opportunity to slow down and process the effects of the day.

Sleep is important in a healthy lifestyle. It is just as important as diet and exercise, but it is so often overlooked. Instead of letting your child drink caffeine to keep awake (yes more and more people are doing this younger and younger) or even yourself for that matter. Instead of saying his isn’t tired he just keeps going. Or hitting that 3pm wall… look at your sleep schedule. What time do you need to wake up? What time does your child have to get out of bed? Take that time and work backwards. Yes the first few nights of going to bed earlier will be hard. Do it in small increments, keep adding a few more minutes of sleep each night until you get yourself/your child into the ideal sleep range. (know that the range is a suggestion and some will need more and some will need less, but this is a guideline).

If you are switching your child’s sleep schedule explain why. Show them research or at least the graphics they show how much sleep they need. Talk about how long it takes them to fall asleep. Talk about healthy sleep routines that will help. Stop using electronics 1 hour before going to bed.

Get a good night sleep… your body will thank you!

food · life

cookies, woodland creatures, and a renewed inspiration

Today ended up being a snow on and off all day kind of day. I used it to get some cleaning done as well as a bit of baking. While I was reading through blog posts this morning, Leen Cuisine had a post about buckeye brownies. I was tempted to make these, but linked to it was a recipe for chocolate-swirled peanut butter cookies. Now these really peeked my interest. So this became my motivation to finish my chores. I mixed up both batters and decided that instead of making swirl cookies, I’d make layered cookie bars. Thanks Colleen for the motivation to bake today!

While I was telling my stories about my night last night I forgot one small detail. So, if you follow my blog you know that we like our woodland creatures that we see in our Image result for woodland creaturesbackyard. We enjoy seeing the different deer and birds (even the crows) that visit our backyard. BUT, last night we confirmed a suspicion I’d already had… we have a mouse living in the garage. Richard went to put his windshield cover on his truck and found it’s nest in the layers of the cover. I’d noticed something move in the garage before, and Dixie has been sniffing around the corners more than normal. Well, Richard went out last night with just a flashlight and found the little bugger. But, it got out the garage doorway before he could do anything. We then saw its paw prints in the snow this morning. YUCK. So, we brought all the bird seed into the house and now we are trying to figure out what the next step will be to keep the woodland creatures where they belong… in the woodlands!

So, I’ve been thinking of different ways to bring in a bit of money. I have had a Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) store for the last few years. Last night I contacted a former co-worker, who also happens to be a friend, Blake and Colby’s kindergarten teacher and the mom of one of Colby’s friends. I decided to ask for some inspiration for a new TPT product. We got chatting, via text messages, about some thought she had as well as life as a kindergarten teacher. Being a kindergarten teacher has changed so much over the years. When I first started teaching kindergarten was VERY different from what it is today. So my goal is to try to figure out how to make the learning activities I create academic enough to justify it to administration, but enjoyable enough that the kids have fun doing it. Now there is a task! The first kit I’m already making in my head is a simple write the room activity. This allows the students to get up and walk around while reading and writing the pictures/words that are hung about the classroom. I’m going to also provide the teachers multiple recording sheets. As you can probably guess, my creative juices are flowing. I’m ready to get back into doing something education based, and make some money in the process!



family · food · life

Baking cookies and kids math stress

I’m back… Yep you are getting two posts today. Why? Because I’ve been having a productive day. I got a ton of cleaning done, drank two tumblers of water, and even have a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough in the freezer.

I’m trying a new cookie recipe. Last year, Richard gave me Duff Goldman’s book Duff Bakes. I’ve made a few recipes out of this book already and enjoyed them all. Today I’m testing out his recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies the thin and crispy version. I don’t think I’ve even had a thin and crispy chocolate chip cookie. To me, a good chocolate chip cookie is chewy and best served straight out of the oven. I swear that is my thing with baking is the ability to eat the cookies when they come out of the oven and are hot and ooey gooey.  Who doesn’t love a hot cookie?

The boys will be walking home from the bus soon enough, so I decide to pop on here one more time to share something that has been bopping around in my brain.

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Being a teacher turned mommy there are times when different parts of me have different thoughts about things that deal with school. Colby is so much like me and there is one way I wish he wasn’t like me… the ability to memorize math facts. I remember how much I HATED third grade for so many reasons, but one reason was the fact that we had to take timed tests on our multiplication tables. Colby has been dealing with this same thing for the last two years.

Colby has a natural ability to understand math. He does complex math in his head. He can explain how to solve math problems in multiple modes. He loves to solve math problems, but he struggles to pass timed multiplication tests. At this time, his teacher is testing them on a mixture of multiplication facts. He needs to complete 80 math problems in 2 minutes. He can do it. He knows the facts, for the most part, but he can’t do them that fast. Colby understand multiplication and uses this knowledge to solve the multiplication problems. He may not know 8×7 quick, but can solve 7×9 then subtract 7. It works for him.

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As a teacher, I understand what the teacher is trying to do. When children have automaticity of facts it takes that factor away when trying to understand more complex math problems. I even gave my students timed practice on their addition and subtraction facts. I tried to make these fun challenges for my kindergarten and first grade students. They would earn a prize each time they “leveled up” to the next set of facts. I get it. I understand why teachers use this strategy to help the children move faster on their facts.

But… as a mom it is driving me crazy. I hate seeing him come home and have to practice these facts over and over. He has to practice 4 times between home and school before he gets tested again. It is a matter of drilling the facts in his head. But, as a mom who also struggled with this concept I know that to some degree I can hit him over the head with these facts over and over and they may not stick.

When I was in 4th grade I was tested for learning disorders, but never got diagnosed since my IQ was too high… don’t get me started. But, having done enough research into learning problems I have self diagnosed myself with dyscalculia, (Dyscalculia /ˌdɪskælˈkjuːliə/ is difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, and learning facts in mathematics. It is generally seen as a specific developmental disorder.) I have a huge understanding of math. I love math. I love to teach math, but I can’t calculate in my head. I need a calculator. Once I could use a calculator in math people realized how strong my math skills were. When I was in high school and college my teachers/professors tried to tell me to go into engineering, or at least if I was going to teach that I should teach math. I didn’t want to because I wanted to get the kids who would possibly struggle young and help them get help before they started to struggle. I wanted to teach children to love to learn before they realized that learning isn’t simple.

While I don’t think Colby has Dyscalculia as he can add, subtract, multiply and divide in his head. He does struggle to memorize those facts. It could be he doesn’t want to learn them. I could be his brain doesn’t let them stick because there is so many other things going on in his head. Who knows. But I do know that I hate seeing him frustrated over something that isn’t even used towards his math grade. See him getting mad and thinking that he isn’t good in math because he can’t pass these “tests” as easily as his peers. I also know I can’t and won’t fix it for him. I’ll help him. I’ll work with him on it. I’ll remind him that this doesn’t effect his grades. That this doesn’t prove if he can or can’t do math.

The mom in me is at war with the teacher in me over this whole concept. I won’t ever solve it.. but I can be there for my guy.

Have you ever had a crispy chocolate chip cookie? Do you like cookies hot out of the oven? Do you remember taking times table tests? Hope your day is productive… have a wonderful Wednesday. Drop me a comment, I love hearing from you!


My morning

I woke up today and felt normal again! Don’t you hate the day after you feel sick when you feel worn down and can’t quite function? That was my day yesterday I didn’t want to do anything. So I didn’t!

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Today I woke up and am feeling human again. I’m starting my day with a cup of coffee and a slice of the strawberry banana bread I made yesterday. I have already filled my water cup to drink. I’m trying to go back to drinking more water each day. I try to fill my tumbler at least once each day. I would like to start drinking 2 of them a day again.

The last few days we have seen temperatures in the 40s, 50s and even up to 60. This month we have had yo-yo weather. We have seen everything from a high of 9F to 64F as a high. That is huge swings in temperature. Well this morning we woke up to a dusting of snow and roads that are icy due to all the melting of the past snow and rain.

I feel like me again and that’s a good thing. We all know that when Mom doesn’t feel good, the world doesn’t function right. Today I will get everything done around the house. I always feel better after I accomplish tasks around the house. I will spend my morning doing the chores I would normally have done already this week. This is when I appreciate being a stay-at-home mom. I can get all these things done during the day and not have to clean, shop or any of the tasks after the boys get home or on the weekend. Don’t get me wrong this doesn’t mean I’ve made up my mind about the fall… I’m just appreciating what I have today.

Well, I have finished my bread, coffee and have started on my water. I guess I will finish up this post and head off to get cleaning! Hope you have a Wonderful Wednesday. Stay real!


Teacher Gifts

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There are many articles out there about what to get and not to get teachers. I often get asked this question as well since I am(was) a teacher and have two children of my own.

Most teachers do not expect to get anything from their students, but truly appreciate whatever you give them. But, just know that the space in classrooms to store gifts is very limited. I have a few items that I have kept over the years, two are poems about being a teacher that were framed. This goes against most of what you read about teachers. But, these were both given to me by students after they had left my classroom. They were given 1 or 2 years later and they came back to say thank you. This is when a teacher gift means more, this means that you have touched that child beyond the academic year. Beyond that I have gotten rid of everything that was given to me with the word teacher on it.  (Sorry to anyone who gave me these gifts). I typically keep them on my desk for the rest of that school year and then donate them.

One of my favorite gifts I was given was a basket of cleaning and teaching supplies. Yes, you read that correctly. It was filled with Clorox wipes, tissues, sharpies, glue sticks, and other things to use in the classroom. You may think as a parent that this isn’t a good gift, but as a teacher it means less money out of my pocket to buy these items that we use in class. I have also gotten gift cards to teacher stores (Teacher Pay Teacher gift cards would be a big hit with many teachers), Amazon gift cards and even grocery store gift cards. Teachers spend a lot of their own money on their classrooms.

Over the years I have collected all the cards and letters that have been written to me by both parents and children. Not the “I love you teacher” things that the children bring in, the ones that someone took time to sit down and write. The cards and letters that say thank you for making me feel special. Thank you for helping my child love to learn. Those that said you noticed that I put time and energy into helping the child grow as a person. I have printed out e-mails and saved the cards. Taking the time to sit down and put your appreciation on a paper is the best gift you can give a teacher. And, if you really want to make a teacher smile… send a copy to the principal.

As to what I typically get my children’s teachers it changes over the year. I typically get gift cards and chocolate (good chocolate like Lindt truffles or Ghiradelli squares). For gift cards I tend to stick with things that many people would like (grocery store, Target, Amazon, unless I know a place they enjoy eating at or shopping at).

One important thing to remember with teachers, it’s not how much you spend, its the thought behind the gift. Teachers understand that this time of year is expensive. Teachers know… but they also appreciate!


The Right Teachers?

The last two nights I went to the boys school for their “Meet the Teacher”. This was more like what I think of as Open House. The teacher spoke about curriculum and how the class is going to run. I left both nights feeling much better about things.

Yes, I’m a teacher and yes I know that most teachers work hard and have their students best interests at heart. But, at the same time I know my sons. They don’t fit in the box. They are oval pegs trying to fit into round holes. They look like they should fit perfectly, but they don’t.

Over the years they have had some awesome teachers, but they have also had some terrible ones. That’s life you can’t always create the perfect environment for every child. When I find those teachers who just seem to fit, it makes life so much easier.

Colby’s Meet the Teacher was first. He is in 4th grade now. Both his teachers encourage creativity. They do a lot of project based, cross curriculum work. They see the need for open ended learning and understand that there is more than one way to do anything. I walked out saying… good! This is just what Colby needs. He is my outside the box, creative thinker. Colby sees the world though multicolored lens, he is never satisfied with the easy answer and wants to figure out his own way to do everything.

Blake’s Meet the Teacher was last night. He is in 5th grade now. Both his teachers were passionate about learning. They also work a lot on community building and understanding others as learners. They work the curriculum and then allow the children to go beyond the textbook knowledge. They believe in pushing the kids at the pace that works for them, and not holding them back at the pace set by the text books. They will also do project based learning. This is what Blake needs. He needs structure and routine. He needs to be challenged in a safe environment where they focus on social as well as academic interactions. Blake struggles to see outside the box and lives in a a black and white world. He needs to feel comfortable in the structure and environment if they want to push him to see the shades of gray never mind color in the learning process.

It always baffled me as a teacher when parents didn’t come to the Meet the Teacher, Open House, Parent-Teacher conferences. During the school year, your child spends more awake time at school than at home. Why would you not want to go see who it is your child is with every day? Why would you not want to see if you felt the personalities will mesh?

All I know, is that without really knowing my children and who they are beyond what you can see on paper, the school managed to find the right places for both my sons. Now I can relax a bit more and know that it should be a good school year.