Saturday, June 30, 2012

An End and Saturday 9

The Saturday 9 link up…

1. What was the last pill your doctor prescribed? Why?  Whether it’s from packing dust or summer blooms, my allergies and asthma have kicked into high gear…I had to get a new inhaler just earlier this week.  It’s been a while since I’ve needed one.

2. How well do you swim?  I love to swim.

3. Who has a big mouth that you like? I don’t know…Me?

4. Do you believe in political correctness? I think if you just act with consideration and respect for others, that’s not a worry. 

5. Do you ever patronize people?  Inside my head I probably do…I try not to outwardly though. 

6. Do you or someone you know strive constantly to be perfect?  I always put forth my best effort, but perfection is an illusion.

7. What song are you totally sick of and why? Since I listen to music I’ve downloaded rather than the radio, I don’t usually get bored with it.

8. How old were you when you got cocky? Or did you never go there?  Huh?  I don’t think I’m cocky.

9. When you compete with someone, have you ever gotten hostile? Oh my goodness, no

Will you take a stab at them?

This is the first Saturday of my summer vacation, also known as my most favorite day of each year.  It’s been a busy couple of weeks closing out the school year AND packing up the classroom in order to move to a new school next year.

I wouldn’t say I am a hoarder, but I do have a lot of stuff.  Even though I purged quite a bit there was still SO MUCH to pack. 
stuff 068 stuff 069 stuff 070 stuff 071 stuff 072 stuff 073
There are 72 boxes, 15 totes, and 15 pieces of misc furniture.  Yah, that’s 102 things that need to be moved.

The 9 years worth of dust I unleashed while packing has wreaked havoc on my allergies.  I am a sniffling, eye watering mess right now.

As I sealed up the last of the boxes yesterday (well really with each and every box) I had bittersweet feelings about changing schools.  Yesterday was a rough day saying goodbye to colleagues, but I popped over to my new school to drop off some items that couldn’t be packed. 
stuff 066 stuff 067
It was fun to stop in and check out the newly clean and empty room and do some measuring for decorations. 

stuff 075 stuff 076 stuff 077 stuff 078 It’s certainly older than I’ve been used to the last several years, but it’s big which I like a lot.  Visiting was a good way to end a very trying year!

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Daily 5, Chapter 3


I’ve been enjoying reading the Daily 5 thus far.  Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 were more of an overview of the program.  Chapter 3 jumped right into procedure and routine, and I already see it coming together.  Out loud, I actually called, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” as I read through this chapter.  Mrs. Freshwater’s Class and Thinking Out Loud are hosting this week’s book study.

As a certified Key-Trainer for Project GLAD so much of the implementation of D5 goes hand-in-hand with how we implement GLAD strategies and expectations.  I’ve been teaching using the GLAD strategies for quite some time now, so for it and D5 to coexist is important to me.

Some key points that resonated with me…

1.  Gathering Place – My kiddos are with me on the carpet during most of my direct instruction already.  Using the time on the carpet to brainstorm, discuss, and “turn and talk” (also a GLAD term) with a neighbor is key to processing information.  I’m so glad to see that brain research, which is the backbone of the GLAD strategies, is prevalent in the D5 as well.

2.  Anchor Charts – Allowing the kids to be part of creating the expectations and respecting all input helps them buy into it more.  We already use the GLAD T-charts for behavior – what does it look like, what does it sound like - and refer to them often.  Using the anchor charts seems so natural to me.  Students will need to practice the expectations using discussion and modeling until memorized in order to become independent with them.

3.  Good Fit Books – Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  I am in love with this concept.  I am also in love with embedding this concept as part of the classroom procedures using the IPICK* strategy. 
I choose a book

Silent reading time is something I have struggled with managing for years.  The constant up and down, switching out books, just skimming/not reading, not being on task…it all drives me NUTS!  I can not wait to teach the kids how to pick books and keep an assortment in their book boxes to limit the up and down – EUREKA! 

One of my favorite quotes of the book so far…
”Nationwide there is extensive focus on lexile levels, readability levels, and so forth, and oftentimes we forget that children, like adults, need to be interested in what they are reading.  This is especially true if we are to get them to read the volume of material that will help them move from being a “survival” reader to a lifelong reader who chooses to read for knowledge and pleasure.”
Yes!  Yes!  Yes!
With the standardized testing focus I am completely guilty of creating survival readers out of most of my kids.  And I feel extremely guilty about it.  I know in my heart of hearts that if they are learning to REALLY read, they will score well on the random testing passages.  I think (and hope) I’ve finally resigned to that fact.  It’s a mental shift for sure, but I know that creating real readers is so important and I’m ready for it.

Also, I need to remember to fill the book boxes myself the first week or so in order to practice the strategies.  That is something I wouldn’t have thought of, so I’m glad “The Sisters” included that.

4.  I like how the D5 uses a “slowly but surely” approach to building reading stamina.  Using the child with the least stamina as the gauge for when to stop and revisit anchor charts is different than I would have probably handled it.  I like that approach rather than dealing with the behavior of the few students who are disturbing others because they aren’t capable of going any longer. This strategy seems manageable, and I foresee stamina improving quickly due to all the practice and modeling.

I couldn’t be happier with the direction of this book/program.  With just two days left of this school year, I am already thinking about implementation at the start of next year.  As sorely needed as summer break is, I am looking forward to getting the D5 going with my new class in August.

Here’s the linky thingy…

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Some Pie Pictures, For Fun

This weekend, Mike, Stef, Elana, and I took in a movie.  It was the one about the old people who move to India.  I can not remember the name of it for the life of me.
Ahhh, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – no wonder I can’t remember.  It was actually a very nice movie.  Plus, it made me move India up towards the top of my travel list.  All those colors, and the music!

Since we were in North Hollywood, Mike took us to a new place that recently opened just down the block from the theatre …The Republic of Pie on Magnolia Blvd. 
RepublicofPiePatch stuff 480

I liked the restaurant ambience a lot.  They did a good job with the design and decor.  Pie?  I can take it or leave it, so I didn’t really have expectations one way or another.

We ordered a variety of pies at the table starting with the savory – chicken pot pie and mac and cheese pie.
stuff 485

stuff 484They are served in coffee cups so are super cute.  The crust on top is to die for, but is missing the bottom piece.
stuff 489I’m kind of a fan of macaroni and cheese, so it could have just been served in a regular dish and I would have been happy.  The mac and cheese pie was unique and also darling, but maybe a little under seasoned.

Then came the sweet pies…
blueberry stuff 482  stuff 486   and rhubarb with strawberry.

Both pies were very good, but the crumble on the rhubarb strawberry was delicious.  I’d never had rhubarb before, but I liked it because it wasn’t as sweet as other fruit pies.

I enjoy novel restaurants, and the Republic of Pie certainly is.  It fits into its hipster NoHo neighborhood quite nicely.  We had a fun time.

Monday, June 25, 2012

When You Are Contemplating a Felony, It’s Time to Move On

On a minimum day about three months ago, Jason and I sat in his car in the school parking lot.  We had just returned from grabbing a bite of lunch off campus and had talked at length about how the year had been getting progressively worse.  After MONTHS of being beaten down we were tired and sad and discouraged and vocalizing ill wishes on the person causing all this stress.  (I had planned on listing the felonious thoughts that were popping up in our brain, but Stef said that would just make ME sound insane, so let’s just leave it at that.) 

It’s no secret that the last year at work has been so frustrating for me and several other teachers at my site, especially those who teach in the primary grades.  The madness has actually been going on for a few years now.

The first couple of years after my school opened about 10 years ago were rough going.  Kids and staff were brought together from several other sites in our district, and it took a little while for things to mesh.  As a first step, we got our school-wide behavior under control.  Once that was in place, we were better equipped to delve into the curriculum and what we needed to do to get our student population (low socioeconomic and ELL) to learn.  Our administrator is very crafty and managed to weed out the teachers who were not willing to do “whatever it takes” for our kids and bring in those who were.  After about three years of work, our staff was made up of the most amazing teachers I have ever taught with – all willing to give their heart and soul to this school. 

That’s just what we did too.  For the next few years it was good.  We were given the tools and freedom we needed to do whatever it took and these incredible teachers took those tools and ran with them.  We worked hard and came up with ways to motivate our kids.  We stood on our heads to keep the kids inspired.  It worked.  Our kids were learning, and because of that, our test scores were also rising.  We were all very proud.  Morale was like I’d never seen it, and we were happy. 

Our achievement started to get recognized; first on the local level, then state, and most recently national.  About three years ago though, there was a switch in philosophy.  It seemed as if the focus shifted from the kids learning to building up an already overinflated ego due to this recognition.  What had been working, started to change almost on a monthly basis.  Where once the teachers’ ideas (backed up by skill and performance) were validated, this switch in philosophy led to teachers being berated and labeled trouble makers when different ideas were voiced.  There was a shift from a democracy to a dictatorship. 

In the meantime, additional support staff and dollars were also shifting from primary grades to upper grades.  While all the teachers, including the upper grade, questioned, “But don’t we want the kids coming out of the primary grades strong.  The gaps in learning aren’t as big in primary and they are easier to close.  They will be better students for subsequent years if we can get them proficient early on.”  Unfortunately that fell on deaf ears.  My opinion is that, with the exception of 2nd grade, the primary grades don’t test – the thought being Kindergarten and first grade play no part in test results nor the recognition for them.  The upper grade classes do test and their scores are directly related to being considered a successful school or not.  With that being said, that philosophy couldn’t be further from the truth.  The primary grades are essential for laying the foundation for all the later years.  We know that if kids are not reading by the time they leave 2nd grade, they will most likely always struggle in school.  This is widely known, so there was only one conclusion we could make with this scenario. 

Over the last couple of years, grade levels have been pitted against each other in a “disruptive leadership” style (mostly primary vs. upper).  All the cross-grade level articulation we did up until then just stopped.  It even went so far as huddling up in the staff room by grade level team and not interacting with the other teams.  There was so much suspicion – while one team was told one thing, another team was being told something else.  When I think about all of us, these laser-focused, bending over backwards teachers, it was utterly mental mayhem.  Morale dropped, and the vibe of the school was negative.  What was best for the kids had been completely forgotten about, and we were miserable.

This school year was when it all came to a head.  When the previous year’s test scores came out for my grade level, we were told our program was a failure.  At first, we were disappointed and struggled a lot with what we were being told.  It hurt.  As we looked even further at our data we actually had some of the best test scores in our district and THE BEST test scores for Title I schools in our district, but our program was deemed a failure.  At the same time, our additional help was slashed even further, because our program was a deemed a failure.  Other schools came to visit us and asked us for help with their program, but our program was deemed a failure.  We are a team who works hard and is always using our data to make improvements.  We would have done it naturally after those scores came out, without being browbeaten.  Our program was labeled a failure and that gave a reason to cut more of our program and give the resources to upper grade, where the test scores mattered. 

Back to the parking lot and the felonious thoughts…
Jason cried, “This is not who we are!  We are very nice people, but this is driving us to madness!”  And Jason was right.  We had turned into these negative, spiteful people because that’s how we had been treated over the last few years. 

That very night, both Jason and I made the decision to ask for a transfer to another school.  Over the next two weeks, many more contemplated it and two more teachers requested transfers as well.  As much as it kills me to leave these kids that I love and the abundance of talented teachers, I just can’t do it anymore.  For the last couple of years I’ve come home just about every night frustrated and sad and angry.  When I go out with my work colleagues who are also dear friends all we do is talk about how unhappy we are.  I may actually have lost my mind a time or two.  And that’s not who I am.  We found out two weeks ago that the transfers were approved.  Jason and I get to go to a the same school; a school similar in demographics to the one we are in now.  The difference being that the philosophy is student focused, not test focused.  Even though I still have a lot of resentment for how things went down and a lot of guilt for not sticking it out and fighting for my kids and colleagues, the tenseness of the last few years has started to fade away, and I feel so much relief just knowing I don’t have to do it anymore.  I’m too tired to do it anymore.

So as the last week of the school year has finally arrived, I’m busy packing up twelve years of teaching (9 at my current school) into boxes.  I have never been so happy to see summer vacation in my life.  After this year, six weeks off is welcome.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This Week’s Saturday 9

It’s midnight on Saturday and after a very busy day I thought I’d be asleep in bed already.  Alas, I fell asleep on the couch about 7:00 and am now wide awake.  So I’ve got some time to do the Saturday 9

1. Do you ever have trouble making up your mind?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no - I find that if it’s an important decision, I can.  If it’s not so important like where to go out to dinner, I have a harder time because I’m happy with whatever.   I wouldn’t say it’s a steadfast rule, but most of the time that’s how it works out.

2. Do you think you always learn from your mistakes?  Always is one of those words that gets you into trouble.  No, I don’t ALWAYS learn from them, but I try to.

3. Have you ever felt that you were either older or younger, for your age during a particular time?  Right now I do!  I don’t know how I can possibly be 38 years old.  That’s a lot of years, and I don’t feel like that many have gone by. 

4.  Have you had trouble losing weight?  I know how to do it.   Do I sometimes have trouble doing what I need to do?  You bet. 

5. Who's the most "wholesome" rock artist that you like?  I don’t know.

6. Do you like to party or are you more of a homebody? A little of both please, but maybe lean a little more towards homebody.  A party in my home? That’s cool!

7. Do you feel the need to share your burdens?  I don’t know…If I do, it’s not coming from a woe is me place but more from the need to talk through it.  But most of the time I internalize them.

8. Do you know the lady next door? (yes, you can pick either side.) I know her in that if I see her I know she’s my neighbor.  We wave at each other, but I’m not close with any of my neighbors.

9. Do you ever feel inferior? Only all the time.  No, that’s not true.  There are some things that I have confidence in, but there are many more things that I don’t.  I think I care a little less about feeling that way now than I used to.

And you?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Daily 5, Chapter 2


Here’s chapter 1’s post.

With the end of the school year drawing near (even though it’s going by so slow) reading Chapter 2 in The Daily 5 was not at the top of my priority list. However, I did do my reading homework last night and am set to participate in Week 2’s link up.

This chapter introduced managing a Daily 5 classroom and how that management will eventually lead to “principled habits.

1 .What goals do you have for your classroom as you work to implement the principles and foundations of the Daily 5 discussed in chapter 2? What support do you need to do this?
An autonomous classroom is always the goal, regardless of the program being used.  Using this independence to create ample time for the kids to practice their reading and writing in the way that best suits them was the a-ha for me in this chapter.  The author also asked the question, “What do you do that you could trust the kids to do?”  That was a great question to get me thinking.  I’ve started a list of procedures and times of the day that are essentially led by me that could very well be student led.  Since this chapter was more like an overview of the independent time, I will need to read further and have a better understanding of the daily 5 to find out what support I will need. 

2. What stands out as the most significant aspects of this chapter?
Again, I felt like this chapter was just surface information that would be discussed further in subsequent chapters.  From the overview however, creating readers with stamina is what I’m most excited about. Stamina is the piece that is missing from my program.  I also look forward to finding out more about creating that classroom community where the kids are given the tools to monitor each other’s behavior so I don’t have to do it all the time. 

3. How do the foundational principles of the Daily 5 structure (trust, choice, community, sense of urgency, and stamina), align with your beliefs that support your teaching strategies and the decisions that you make about student learning?
The structure very much aligns with my teaching ideals.  The last couple of years though have been a little brainwashing towards testing so I had to stop myself from saying, “Ya, but what about testing?” while I read.  I’m glad the author did address the testing culture a bit.  I know that the kids really learning will lead to the good test scores, but balancing that with the pressure put on us to get those good scores will be the issue I will struggle with.   

Nicole at Teaching With Style, who is one of the book study’s hosts, created this cute (and free) stamina chart. 

Here’s this week’s linky thingy…

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Oh Lordy, Another One is 40! and some weekend pictures

This weekend, I went to Jlo’s 40th birthday party.  It is the second one I’ve gone to in the same number of months.  Forty has always seemed like a lifetime away and now most of the people I know and spend my time with are 40+.  When did we get so old?  Let’s check out how the most recent 40 year old rolls…(Excuse the TERRIBLE iPhone photos.  I should have brought the big girl camera.)

stuff 083 The Birthday Girl!
 stuff 085 stuff 086 stuff 084
A few party favors

Some friends

stuff 088 stuff 090 stuff 091 stuff 094 stuff 101 stuff 096

stuff 098
If you were there, you know what happened next.  If you weren’t, well, you might be able to guess. 

Julie passed out our dancing shoes!

stuff 093

And then the dancing began.
stuff 114 stuff 116 stuff 103 stuff 104 stuff 105 stuff 106 stuff 113
Fun times!  I hope all of these oldies aren’t too tired to celebrate like this when it’s my turn.

My school district had ANOTHER furlough day today.  Other than losing the pay and instruction time, it was a nice peek at summer break, which is still NINE. DAYS.  AWAY. 

Since cherries are in season now, Mike, Santi, Jason, Stef, and I headed into the country again to Elana and Brent’s house for a wonderful afternoon of lunch and cherry picking. 

stuff 124
Even though Brent had to leave for work shortly after we arrived, he made us a wonderful lunch on the grill.  

Some fun country things.  

The goats were quite photogenic today.

Time for the cherries!



   What a beautiful day in the country!