life

September 11th

Yesterday I mentioned that I would share info about my school life today. I am not avoiding it, but felt that this post was more important.

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Every generation has a date or two that you just understand that this is a day I will always remember. For me, September 11th is one of these dates. I was at work. Working as a teacher I didn’t have access to tv or internet while the day was going on. This meant I was in the dark about life outside my classroom.

I dropped my students off in the cafeteria for lunch and still was not clued in that this day was anything different than the other days before.

I walked into the room where we had lunch. It wasn’t a true break room, but more a walled off area inside a classroom building. When I walked in the first thing I noticed was that the tv screen was not tuned into the school channel, providing the clock that everyone in the school followed for the daily schedule. There was a tv station on. It took me a good few minutes to process what I was seeing.

Attacked? What do you mean? Why were planes flying into buildings? What is going on. I had entered the room around 10:45 by this time all the planes had crashed. They were just getting out word about the Pennsylvania crash and all that entailed and then the towers began to collapse.

I can remember standing there as my fellow kindergarten teacher arrived. I can remember thinking…. what’s next? There was fear. There was a need to figure out what we could do? Do we go on with the day as planned? Will the school go on lock down? Will the parents tell their children what was happening?

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We decided as a grade not to tell the children what was going on at that time. It would have to be addressed tomorrow. We would need to be ready to squelch fears. We knew some parents would say nothing while others would tell too much. We knew that some families would show fear and others show strength. We needed to be calm. We needed to be honest. We needed to talk about the heroes. We needed to talk about standing united. We needed to show the children the even in times of great tragedy there is great strength.

Each year as time passes that clear details of that day get a bit fuzzier. But, that movement in time when I walked in and saw the tv on and the buildings on fire will never change. I still try to show children that whenever things go wrong we need to look for the heroes. Look for the people running towards danger instead of those running  away. Say thank you to those who help us stay safe.

So today, I had my class dress in red, white and blue. We learned to say the Pledge of Allegiance. We talked about today being a day to be “Proud to be an American”. While I do not teach my students about the true meaning behind 9/11, I will always have them honor the date.

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Education · life · Must Have Monday

Must Have Monday — Back to School (things edition)

TTM_MHM

When parents are getting their children ready to go back to school, they often think about getting clothes, backpacks, notebooks and lunchboxes. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, you will often get a list of supplies from your child’s teacher as well.

Image result for back to schoolWhen picking out items for your child to use at school it is often worth spending a bit more now so you don’t have to replace these items later in the year. Over the years, my sons have had 3 backpacks. I let them pick out a fun/novelty backpack for preK but after that we switched over to a better quality backpack. Make sure the size of the backpack is proportionate to your child. We tend to get JanSport backpacks. The ones that we purchased when Blake was in K we still have and use to this date. This is smaller than the one they now use for school (we got those ones when Blake was in 4th grade). When you get a quality backpack it will last years. I had many years where children had cute backpacks, but by February they were destroyed (typically the zippers broke or the pack itself will tear)

Lunch boxes do tend to be something that we replace yearly. This is more because things will spill, the lining will tear or in other ways it will get ruined/destroyed. Again make sure you buy something that is proportional to your child’s size. I also always get reusable ice packs to put in the lunch box with their lunches. Make sure your child is able to open up all the containers you put inside their lunch. When packing lunches take into account the timeframe that your child will be given to eat. Most schools have about 25 min for lunch, but this includes getting into the cafeteria, sitting down, eating, TALKING, and cleaning up. Many children get frustrated when they have too much, or not enough lunch.

When getting clothes for school make sure your child is able to get in and out of the items independently, for bathroom purposes. Make sure you send your child in wearing clothes that they can move, work and play in. Do not send them in wearing clothes that they feel like they can not get dirty or play in. Your child will be sitting on the floor, going to recess, as well as the various special area activities (art, music, pe). Send your children wearing shoes that they can run and climb safely. Also, make sure you check out your school’s dress code.

Some of these things seem trivial, but to your child and their day it is major. School days may seem long to you, but the days are packed and busy. There is limited time for doing tasks, and you don’t want your child struggling with materials, clothes, or lunch items when they don’t have to the time to fumble through the process.

 

Education · family · life

Changes and News

Yesterday I took the boys to their school. The teachers aren’t there, but it is an opportunity to find their classrooms. This year they are in the same biome (the school labels the hallways by biomes). Colby has the teachers that Blake had last year and Blake is just moving down the hall to 6th grade. Colby found two people from his class last year that are in class with him again this year. He is happy about that. At this time, Blake doesn’t know who is in his class, but those who know enough to contact are in his biome never mind his class. Oh well that will be good for him, meet and get to know other kids.

I know I haven’t talked about me job search in a while. I was contacted by three different preschools over the summer. I interviewed with all of them. Two of them I went back and taught a lesson. The third one offered me a position at my first interview, that was last Thursday. Yesterday I did a second interview at the other pre-school I was considering. I made a decision today. I accepted a job teaching kindergarten prep.

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I will be working from 8:45-12:45. I decided this would be perfect for our family. I get to teach and have the fun and challenge of doing what I’m good at doing, but I’m also home when the boys get off the bus. I can do the grocery shopping, cleaning and other things during the week and we can still have our weekends to do fun things.

It will also give me time to do more work on my Teacher Pay Teachers store! I am looking forward to this change and less teaching stress.

I’m excited to take on this new adventure and step in my life.

family · life · Must Have Monday

Must Have Monday– back to school (routines edition)

It’s that time of year. Back to school time!

If we still lived in FL, the boys would be going back today. But, here where we live they go back on the 23rd. Yes, I know that there are other places that still don’t go back until after Labor Day.

It doesn’t matter when you go back, it all is the same… change!

While we all know that going back means getting new clothes, backpack and lunchbox. There are so many other things to do to help your child get ready to go back to school.

Work on adjusting their sleep routine back into school mode. I know most parents, myself included, allow the bedtime routines to slip a bit during the summer. Maybe you let your children stay up later, or sleep in longer. Maybe you drop the reading before bedtime or other routines. You should start these routines back up 2 to 3 weeks before school starts. This will help on that first day/week/month getting up and moving in the mornings.

Establish new routines and set expectations ahead of time. Each year your child should be gaining more and more responsibility for their school prep. I’m not talking about making them buy their notebooks. I mean get an alarm clock and have them wake up and get moving on their own. Or have them choose their own clothes to wear. Or have them pack their own lunches. The more steps you encourage them to do independently the easier it will be later in life.

My sons began picking out their own clothes when they started K. They had to put out their clothes on their toy box the night before. I had and still have veto power over outfits. They have school clothes that they keep separated from their play clothes. I keep their bottoms neutral (demin, khaki, navy and black), this makes it easier to put together outfits that will work. When we go shopping they pick out the clothes they have, so they like what they have.

My sons began packing their own lunches when they were in first grade. I packed in kindergarten and they used the same lunch containers in first grade. They used bento style boxes that had three sections. They packed a protein (sandwich, deli roll up, leftovers etc), a fruit or veggie and then a junk (chips, pretzels, goldfish, etc). Now they use zip lock bags, tupperware or thermos to pack their lunches. They know to have a main item (protein preferably), a fruit or veggie and then a snack type item. I do pack the lunch items into their lunchboxes in the mornings. Hmmmm maybe that will be their new thing this year?

My sons became responsible for all paperwork when they were in third grade. At this point I stopped checking folders/binders etc. They could give me everything or they could pick out what I needed to see (I prefer the later). They needed to be on it as I won’t go hunting down permission slips and other papers that need to be filled out. I typically know when things should be coming home and may provide a few gentle reminders at that time but it’s their paperwork.

I also only check homework if they ask me to, that started about 4th grade. It is their homework, their responsibility. I do help if needed, but they need to try on their own before they can ask for help. They come home, have a snack and start homework. They must complete it before asking for any kind of technology. School based technology is the last step in the homework process.

I know there are parents who would feel that I’m way too hands off when it comes to my children’s school work. I want them to own their successes and failures. I want them to learn now that it is not ok to turn in things late. That no one is going to rescue you when you are unprepared. I want them to see that they can get themselves prepared and going. They need to learn to leave time to do the things that need to get done. They can’t be late (or in my opinion on time… as on-time is late). If they learn these lessons now when grades are not as important as they are in high school and college. If they learn these lessons when we are here to help pick up the pieces it will help when they live on their own.

I’m helping my children grow up.

Education · life

School Supply Lists

It’s back to school time. Which means it is time to hear people complain. Let the complaining begin, or should it?

You will start seeing/hearing/reading about people complaining about supply lists. I know both sides of these lists. And, while I understand the issues, I also understand why these list exist.

So… here!

Why do teachers send supply lists in the first place? Because school systems do not supply materials for classroom use. I’ve worked in schools where teachers get a $25 budget to buy resources for the classroom… do you know how far this goes for 18-22 children? Back to school time is the time that items are on sale. So while your child may not use 50 pencils in September, he/she will use/lose that many during the school year. Plus most classroom teachers have to share specific supplies with special area teachers (art, music, library, computer lab, pe … etc)

Why do teachers ask for specific brands? After teaching for many years you get to know classroom supplies. We realize that it is cheeper to buy store brand, but it won’t last as long. Crayola crayons color in true color and most other crayon colors are slightly off. Friskar scissors are the sharpest and do not break. I’ve had students with off brand scissors have the scissors break during the year. These kids are NOT gentle with their supplies. We do not get money from these brands, we are just trying to find the ones that will last the longest. Trust me it is worth a bit more investment now instead of having the teacher/your child ask you to replace the items later because they are broken, dried out or totally lost.

When teachers ask for specific color folders, notebooks or other items, they have a system in place that uses these colors to help your child get organized. They are not trying to make it so your daughter can’t have the super cute folder she wants. They want to be able to say take out your red writing folder. Or pull out your green science notebook. This helps speed the process of transitioning between subjects.

Think of this, your child’s teacher is having to store these items in the classroom for future use. But, as I stated most of the items teachers ask for on back to school lists are on sale at this time of the year. When grade level lists have to be created teachers spend a lot of time hashing over what to ask for and where to store the items until they will be used.

As a teacher, I often find it quite humorous that the parents who are the most forceful on everything being equal are the ones who often complain the most about having to buy a specific brand item. This isn’t about being equal, or trying to make parents spend too much money or any of the things you think. The teachers are attempting to figure out everything your child will need to be successful. If you question a product, ask the teacher what it will be used for, they will tell you.

For example, I overheard a parent a few years ago complaining that their kindergartner needed dry erase markers. The parent was saying… how many markers will a teacher go through in a year. My child will probably never even get to use the marker on the board. Where if the parent asked they would probably find out that every child in that classroom will most likely have a lap size whiteboard that will be used in the learning process.

Parents… Teachers are not trying to make you go broke. They are not trying to punish you. They are not even mildly attempting to be unreasonable in their requests. Just remember that if they do not ask for these resources now they will either have to ask later (when parents are less likely to buy since they won’t be on sale) or buy the items themselves. I know myself and most teachers I know spend a LOT of their own money for the classroom. If you can’t afford items the teachers will not make your child’s life miserable, the teacher will just go out and buy the items him/herself.

book · Education · family · life · reviews

Grit Part 2- parents and educators

I wrote a few week ago about reading the book Grit, by Angela Duckworth. You can read that post here. I still haven’t finished the book, sorry it is going so slowly but it is deep and I feel like I need to read some and then digest it before reading more.

As the title of my blog states, going from being a teacher to being a mother is not always as easy as it sounds. When I read the section on teachers and helping children develop grit and such, I was like… that’s me… that’s how I run my class. I’m not sure I have provided my sons the grit they need, but that too is addressed in the book.

Angela Duckworth addresses parenting and the development of grit. She discussed two different types of parents. One being the parents of quarterback Steve Young. They pushed Steve to excel. They wouldn’t let him quit. Steve Young stated that he became a stronger player because his father pushed him to go beyond the basics. He was never satisfied with ok, he needed to be the best. It didn’t matter what he did, he had to do it to the best of his ability. One could state the Steve Young’s parents believed in the philosophy of tough love, they were there for their children, but the children had to step up and do beyond their best.

The second set of parents were the parents of Francesca Martinez, who is now a comedian in Britain. Francesca was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age two. Her parents did not push her in any direction. They allowed her to figure out life on her own. The supported her and the decisions that she made. They allowed her to leave her formal education at 16 and focus on following her dreams of acting on tv. Her brother also dropped out of school to become a portrait painter. Her parents state that they didn’t over indulge the children nor did they spoil them, they believed in “no-nonsense parenting”, “follow your dreams parenting”.

While these parents may seem on opposite ends of the spectrum they have a few things in common. Both parents were child-centered in the aspect of putting their children’s interest first. They were not trying to relive their own dreams through their children. They supported their children and helped them, in very different ways, realize their true potential.

She encourages parents to develop a warm, supportive and respectful relationship with their children. There is a need for rules and high expectations to foster the grit needed for success. Children need to view you being gritty if you want them to become gritty. When children understand that everyone works hard in what they do and love to do they will understand that they too need to work hard.

We as parents need to look at effort, work ethics in their children. They need to show the same passion and perseverance in their own life. We need to model that the effort is just as important if not more important than skill/talent. We need to stop praising children for each step, but instead point out what they could do to make things better. Not being super criticizing, just letting them know you know they can do more.

In the classroom you will often see teachers tell their student that they know they can do more/better than they are doing now. I often could be heard telling my stuggling readers that I know they can read, that I need them to realize they can read. That I need them to do x,y,z to become stronger at whatever topic/subject we are working on at the time. An outstanding teacher sets the bar higher than each child can achieve and pushes the individuals to reach and exceed the bar.

The challenge with parenting is so often you are just excited to see the littler steps in your children. You find yourself cheering the children on for each step instead of pushing them to see where they can grow. As parents we often forget to set the bar high enough so the children have a place to grow towards. Do we show our children what we are working towards? Do they see that even adults need grit? That each step of the process is a step towards a long term goal? She states that we need to create an environment that acknowledges the rule “If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded. If you don’t, you won’t”. Parents need to stop making life easy for their kids and start helping their children see that hard work pays off.

Angela Duckworth discusses that with her own children she talks about them each having a ” A Hard Thing” to work on. The children have to pick their own hard task, and they had to stick with it for the whole season/session/ whatever you paid for. She has one daughter who found her hard thing in playing the piano as her hard thing. Whereas her other daughter has bounced around trying a variety of different things, finally landing on the viola. She also explained to her children that her work and her husband’s work were their hard thing and that they worked hard at the things needed to be successful in  their careers. The parents also have a physical activity that they consider their hard thing.

Duckworth discovered that colleges and universities look for students who stick with activities. They also discovered through research that students who stick with a given activity for at least two years in high school are more likely to be successful in the college years. This shows an additional level of grit.

How can we help? Stop focusing on and praising the steps. Show how they can improve and get better going forward. Give children specific tasks to work on and improve. Model grit and the understanding that hard work pays off. Provide opportunities for children to choose their hard thing and then have the stick with it. Let them interact with others (teachers, coaches, etc…) who can push them to excel and see their own potential. Recognize that finding the right thing is hard, but it is necessary. When you have passion for something you have the drive to work hard. You want to succeed and move forward in the learning of the activity.

I promise at least one more post on grit once I finish the book!

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.

life

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