Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It’s Kind of Like I’m a Grandma

“A” was a student in my very first class eleven years ago.  Since that first year, he has always made a point to stop by my classroom once or twice a year to say “hi” or to check in and let me know what he is up to.  He is one of my favorite students of all time because of how kind he is.  This school year, his sister “J” is in my class.  That has been fun.  J is just as sweet and hardworking as her brother.

Last week I attended a parent/teacher conference for J.  When her mom arrived, we noticed that she was pregnant.  As we talked about her due date and her other five children, I strained a bit to understand her speak Spanish.  My eyes widened when I understood her to say, “I’m going to be a grandma too.”  For a few seconds, I was confused until I realized what she was saying.  “A is having a baby?” I asked.  She nodded.

So this is my first student baby!  The only thing that’s keeping me from checking right into the old age home at this point is the fact that he’s ONLY 18 and just graduated from high school last year.  So really, he’s TOO young to be having a baby – just as I am too young for him to have a baby!

Anyhow, the baby is due in November, and “we” are having a boy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It Sure is Hard to Hit a Moving Target!

So, it’s no secret that my colleagues and I have not been having a good time at work recently.  It has all stemmed from the fact that the state of California decided to change the cut points on the end of year standardized testing.  What that means is that what was considered proficient in previous years was no longer considered proficient for the test we took last year. 

Even though the kids are completely different from year to year, the teachers are judged on the growth/drop from year-to-year’s test scores.  Of course that’s unfair because apples and oranges are being compared, and there is no consideration that each year’s kids come in higher or lower than the previous years.  It’s not an accurate measure to show growth, but it’s what they use.  We know that, and work our tails off to make sure that number doesn’t drop.

This past year, my grade level team ended the year feeling very successful.  Our kids scored quite well on the district assessments (which mirror the standardized tests by the way), and we predicted that growth would be seen on our standardized testing scores.  Then come to find out, our percent proficient last year didn’t go up or down, but remained the same. 

It was a surprise to say the least, but we were certainly relieved the percentage didn’t go down.  After further data analysis though, we were confused. 

Reading Comp

Literary Response

Word Analysis

Written Con

Writing Strat

















ELL 2010







ELL 2011







**ELL – English Language Learners

It seemed as if our percent correct went up (some by almost 15%) in every single strand or category. This was something we were very proud of, but we questioned how it was possible to grow in EVERY SINGLE AREA and remain stagnant in the percentage of kids who were labeled proficient.
That was when we were told the cut points had changed.  In addition we were told that our teaching program was a failure and needed to be changed because it didn’t work.  Oh, and this was told to use while at the same time our school was announced as a National Blue Ribbon by the US Federal Government. 

Regardless of how low we all felt about what we were told, I find it so appalling that the testing company can simply decide to change what the proficiency cut points are.  Proficiency should be established (whatever that may be) and left alone as a target that can be worked towards.  How are out kids supposed to meet a target that constantly changes?

Since high-stakes testing made its way into primary public school, it’s been something that’s caused a lot of teacher grief.  Most of us have changed the way we teach, and we teach to the test which has too many drawbacks to list.  But we’ve made it work and have seen progress.  However, looking at those numbers is so frustrating!  There is so much growth shown in that little chart, but the kids and their teachers are being deemed unsuccessful by the school administration.  That’s a tough pill to take, especially when it’s not because the kids didn’t learn, but because the target didn’t hold still.

And now I’m done being sad and mad and obsessive about this.  I’ve climbed down from my soapbox.  It’s now time to move on and to think about this year’s kids and what moveable target they will have to meet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thank You Mathew

This past week has been rough. The morale at school is low, people are sad and stressed, and it’s just been a rotten and ridiculous place to be. Writing a new blog post was on my mind, but I had no desire to do so. Then my friend and reader Hula Hank commented on my last post tonight, and it almost made me cry…

Maybe if you teachers worked full-time, maybe you could actually achieve more awards. ;)
I don't wish to be a Negative Nancy, but you know that the admin will be patting themselves on the back that their hardlined, not good enough approach has worked. Fools!
The world has become unbalanced on the side of budget sheets, statistics, box tickers, standardisation & theories.
For those of us who actually live and work in reality, the knowledge that what works on a spreadsheet is not always what works in actuality.
Remember to stay true to your intuition and experience. Stay flexible but not breakable.
Remember to keep your options open.
Most importantly, remember why you do what you do and never allow anybody to kill your spirit and passion.
When you think about it, teachers really are the backbone of civilisation.
Not only do you shape the future of your students, you are shaping the future of society.
To bear a responsibility that big, it takes a special, committed, passionate, visionary and strong person.
That is you.

Thanks Hula! This made my day.

Friday, September 16, 2011

An Award

The US Department of Education announced the winners of the National Blue Ribbon Schools yesterday.  The school where I teach was one of 306 schools in the nation (21 in California) who earned the award.

While most of our staff is just exhausted and have been left wondering, “Isn’t this finally enough?” because we know that it’s not…It is an honor, and the teachers I work with deserve all the accolades.  There isn’t a group of people who work harder than my colleagues.  Congrats to us!  Now, we all deserve a nap this weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Out of the Mouth of Babes – Redux

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a cute little post about one of my students. I had high hopes for this quirky little seven-year-old. I thought I was in for some good times and good stories. That was until he pulled out his imaginary shot gun, pumped the barrel, and shot me with it while I read a book to the class.

I love my job. I love my job.
I’m trying to love my job!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts Big

  • I forgot my regular glasses when I went away last weekend to the DMB Caravan.  I had my prescription sunglasses, so was able to see until it was dark.  After that, the stage, the screens, the fans were just blurry blotches.  As much as I am used to my glasses, times like these make me curse my nearsightedness.  I have watched movies and driven home at night wearing my sunglasses because my regular glasses were left at home.  I’m getting awfully tired of it.  As I sat “watching” the concert I seriously contemplated lasik surgery.  That’s a pretty big deal because the whole idea of lasers on my eyes kind of freaks me out, but my frustration level of not being able to see when I forget my glasses is starting to outweigh that fear. 
  • Avitable recently wrote a scary post that I wanted to be sure to share.  The things people are able to do via the internet is frightening.  We’ve all heard about cyber terrorism, but this hits a little closer to home as it’s happened to a fairly regular person and was done for no reason other than to be mean and ugly.  It makes me wonder if all this blogging and facebooking and everything else we do online is just playing with fire.  It also makes me wonder how people can be so hateful.  How can an act like this ever even occur to someone?
  • Signing in to Blogger is driving me CRAZY!  Is anyone else still having trouble?  A few blogs only let me comment if I’m signed in via my blog first.  Other blogs give me error messages if I’m signed in before posting the comment.  Some blogs won’t let me sign in while leaving a comment so the page keeps loading and loading without ever posting my comment.  What’s going on?!?!
  • I’ve got a sticky ‘K’!  There must be a piece of paper, staple, dust, something underneath my keyboard  Typing is difficult.  Since both my first and last name have a ‘K’ in them, signing in to anything online is becoming a bit of a problem. 
  • It cooled off during the day into the 80s this weekend.  Dropping into the high 50s/low 60s at night is the best part.  To be able to open the windows in the evening and air-out the house is wonderful.  I know we are in for another hot spell or two – it’s only September for goodness sakes – but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, the East Coast had a little earthquake. Of course, those of us in California snickered a little bit about all the coverage it received. I’m sure it was frightening as most people there had not ever been through one before. The amount of people who felt it was also quite large due to the size of the Earth’s plates on that side of the country. So some of the coverage was probably warranted.

Well, we had an earthquake last week. Did any of you know that? Probably not since we have them ALL THE TIME. It was only a 4.3, but since its epicenter was in the city I live in, it felt pretty big. The problem is that earthquakes scare me. No they don’t…they FREAK ME OUT!!!

This was not an ordinary earthquake because it happened during school hours! This is a scenario that has kept me up at night. I have a hard enough time keeping “it” together when it’s just me I have to worry about, let alone other human beings…little human beings…other people’s little human beings!

At the end of the day, all of the primary students sat with their teachers at a fundraiser assembly when the floor underneath us jolted a couple of times and then rolled. The sound of the building moving was an awful sound. Most of the students were focused on the speaker at the assembly but the teachers felt and heard it. I’m not mentioning any names, but a few even gasped, catching the attention of some students nearby. We all stared at each other waiting for more. Our emergency preparedness went right out the window as there wasn’t a disaster alarm to send us outside, and no one thought of just going. The assembly continued, and we all thanked our lucky stars that this wasn’t “the big one” and we didn’t have to spend the night at school waiting for trapped parents to pick up their frightened kids.

Come to find out, all of the upper grade classes did evacuate onto the playground wondering the whole time why primary wasn’t outside too. I blame my lack of procedure following on fear.

This is as close as I ever want to get to having an earthquake while our students are still in school. We survived this minor one, but clearly we are not mentally equipped for more than that.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

This weekend, some friends and I flew to Washington state to see the Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge Amphitheatre.  Tami, Marcie and I have attended the DMB shows over the last few years here in Los Angeles.  This year, the band didn’t tour, but did set up the DMB Caravan which is a 3-day music festival visiting four US cities.  Tami moved to Idaho earlier this year so we decided to meet up in Washington to see our Dave and each other. 

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After flying to Seattle, we had to fly on a plane with propellers.  Oh my!  I didn’t even know they still made planes with propellers, and I was kind of a nervous wreck.  Flying isn’t my most favorite thing in the world, but more a necessary evil for traveling to fun places.  My nerves were a bit more rattled boarding this plane.

The plane was quite small, but the ride over ended up going quick because there was so much to look at.  Since we flew closer to the ground, the view of the Northwest was quite spectacular.  

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Tami picked us up in Pasco, WA, and we drove to Moses Lake to our hotel.  After freshening up a bit, we headed to the Gorge, which is in George, WA.  The drive to the Gorge was much different than the drive into LA that we usually make to see concerts.
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The Gorge is in the middle of nowhere basically.  There wasn’t an ounce of traffic in or out of the venue. 

Even though the music at the festival began at 2PM on three different stages, we didn’t arrive the first night until just before DMB went on.  It was very crowded, but found an empty spot on the lawn and watched the sun set behind the stage.

stuff 057  stuff 060     stuff 058 Excitedly waiting for Dave to go on stage.

stuff 075The pictures came out rotten in the dark, but I think they show the massive amount of people in attendance.  There’s something kind of cool about all these people singing along to the same songs.  On Friday night the band played some of their most known songs like Tripping Billies, Crush, American Baby, but they also played some of my favorites that I’ve never heard in concert before like Proudest Monkey, Don’t Drink the Water and Satellite.  Dave also did a couple of songs with just him and his guitar…sigh.  It was a great show.

The next morning, we leisurely got up and went for coffee before starting out on our next adventure.  Tami is from Yakima, WA originally, so her parents drove North and we met them for lunch in Othello, which is one of the smallest towns I’ve ever been in.  We stopped at this funny Mexican restaurant. 
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We planned on going to the one next door, but it was closed.  stuff 099 We were in for a treat.  The toothless elderly woman took our orders, and we checked out the decor while we waited…
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and waited!

Our lunch plates came out one at a time, as they were cooked, however none of the plates were what we actually ordered.  My order was a cheese enchilada and a chicken taco, no rice. 
stuff 092 This is what I was served.  I’m not sure what this would be called in Mexican cuisine, but I accepted it anyways to be polite.  The five of us snickered a lot during the entire meal, but we enjoyed our visit. 

We said goodbye to Tami’s parents and headed back to our hotel to get ready for night #2 of DMB.  Instead of arriving at dusk, we got there a little earlier and enjoyed more of the festival. stuff 102 stuff 105 stuff 110 stuff 116 stuff 118 stuff 122 stuff 126 
There were quite a few more people on day 2.  We managed to find a spot a bit to the side, but a little closer to the stage.  The view was good, but it was on more of an incline.  My toes are still sore from curling them into the grass to keep from toppling down the hill.  

Dave played a longer set that night.  Some of my favorites – Bartender, One Sweet World, #41, and Jimi Thing.  After several contact highs from all the pot that was smoked around us and a couple hours of some cool winds we headed back to the truck after the final encore. 

Sunday morning arrived quickly.  We packed up the car to head back to the airport.

stuff 133 I took this photo to show two things.  One, that I was able to pack everything I needed in one small carry on.  I usually pack my entire house, so fitting everything (including shoes) into this one bag is quite impressive if I do say so myself.  I also found it amusing that Tami’s new license plate mentions Idaho’s potatoes.  Is that funny to anyone else?

Unfortunately, this trip had three legs, and all three legs entailed us flying on one of those propeller planes.  Ugh!  The ride was uncomfortable because the planes are so small, but again the views were pretty amazing.
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The snake-like Columbia River

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Cascade Mountains 

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Views of Seattle

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May or may not be Mount St. Helens

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Santa Rosa Wine Country  
stuff 173 stuff 175 Home Sweet Home

Thank goodness we had today off for the Labor Day holiday.  I spent most of the day in or close to bed recovering from such a fun weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August Art

Well, August came and went like a flash didn’t it?!?!  With gearing up for and then going back to work, most of August was spent in my classroom or running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get things done because school was starting.  Despite the speed at which this month went by, I did manage to complete my calendar for this month’s Calendar Challenge over at The Kathryn Wheel

I kept it simple.  The doodles took some time but were done before I went back to work. Nothing fancy!
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A couple of collage pages were also made while still on vacation.
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Since I make the cards for our social club at  school, I spent last weekend making gobs and gobs of cards.  Some for use at work, some for me to use. 
stuff 060 It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to hunker down and hammer out some new cards.  It was fun, and now I have them for all the events that are coming up for the remainder of the year.  Which, sadly, has only four months lefts.