Saturday, April 28, 2012

It's been a while...

I write this evening with apprehension and excitement. I have been away for most of the school year-away from posting that is. I have been reading blogs (especially Kindergarten/first grade ones!!) trying to wrap my head around what it means to be a kindergarten teacher. I spent my second year delving deeper into building leadership opportunities and finding my voice as a teacher. I have so much on my mind regarding things I have experienced this year, wonderings about the field of education, and aspirations for the future. I'm sure you all know what it feels like to be thinking so much all the time and just needing to get it out of your head. I will be writing more soon...once I figure out what to write. I do want to extend a grand thank you for all of my followers who stuck means a ton! Thanks!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Moving In

The day I've anxiously awaiting and dreading at the same time...Move in! We are moving into our brand new building and there is no shortage of work to be done. Of course, there is always a big fat wrench that throws itself into the mix. We do not yet have our occupancy permit so we can only have a handful of teachers in the building at a time. So with all of her creativity, the principal devised a plan to get each grade level ONE day in our rooms unitl we get the permit. We have institute days on the 18th and 19th and school starts on the 22nd. So....we need to get in there!! Not to mention that I am doing home visits with my students and their families so that eats up another portion of my time (well worth it, though!).

So, to maximize my time in the room tomorrow, I plan to focus on simply unpacking all of the boxes stacked in the middle of my room. I am one who tends to get overwhelmed very easily as I try to take on a million and one different tasks at the same time, which never get completed to the level of perfection I desperately desire! I'm not sure if I'll get all of them unpacked, but I will be grinding every minute until the secretaries and custodians tell me it's time to hit the road!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Home Visits

Although I am still milking summer vacation for all it is worth, I am super pumped about the start of the school year!! I never in a million years thought I would be teaching kindergarten, but I am so happy that the opportunity presented itself to me. Before the start of the school year, I am planning to do Home Visits for my 23 kiddos and their families. I think that it will be a powerful way to start the year-meeting families on their 'turf' and fostering a connection with them before the year even start. I also believe it will establish a little comfort with my kinder friends to know their teacher before the Big Day. This is something that no one in my building has done before and my other kindergarten team members are not on board but I have 120% support from my principal, so it looks like it is a go. Our school literacy coach has agreed to go with me on the visits...YAY!!!

I would love for you to share any experiences/tips you have in regards to Home Visits!

Nurtured Heart-Discipline Plan

I ended my last post with thoughts and questions about The Nurtured Heart Approach:

The question I will ponder and post on next is: If my focus is on building up greatness in each child, and refusing to feed into negativity in my classroom, is there really need for a conventional behavior management system with the standard laundry list of warnings and consequences, or is that totally counter-productive to the approach??

After attending the 3 day Nurtured Heart workshop, I understand that my wonderings were somewhat founded. It is not possible to have a behavior management system that uses warnings and reminders, because it sends the message to students that the rules are not always the rules. Children know what is expected, so why waste your time with warnings when you can quickly consequence the behavior with a quick timeout (no longer than 60 seconds) and welcome the child back, eagerly looking for success to highlight with that same student when they return.

With teaching kindergarten this year, I do feel like those little kiddos do need a little extrinsic motivation so I have tweaked my discipline plan:

Level 1: Reset (quick, clean time out)
Level 2: Buddy Room (students who refuse to reset or have substantial resets during the morning, afternoon will be sent to a Buddy Room. In this room, the teacher will give no energy to this student. They will be in this room for no more than 15 minutes.
Level 3: Loss of recess (this is not a time for lectures/discussions about why the student has lost recess-they already know so there is no reason to pour negative attention into the situation)
Level 4: Referral to A.P/Principal (this is a level for severe actions like fighting, bullying, theft, etc.)

Rewards/Incentive Systems:
Our school is a PBIS school and we use "Gotcha" tickets when we see students making positive choices. In my room, I will use these "Gotchas" as a credit system to honor students showing their greatness. When students are showing leadership, being a good friend, persevering through a tough task, participating, being thoughtful, they can earn a Gotcha. Every two weeks or so, we will have a "Gotcha Store" where students can purchase things like: eating lunch with the teacher, sitting with a friend, note/phone call home, special messenger for the day, etc.

The tenets of The Nurtured Heart Approach are: Highlighting the positives and the greatness of each student, avoiding the leaking of negativity, and being strict and consistent (the rules are the rules every day for everyone). This approach is not to manage behavior, but rather to turn right-side up the culture in the classroom in to one that highlights and promotes the greatness that we all possess. I cannot wait to see the impact of this approach in my classroom this year!

Happy Thursday everyone!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Nurtured Heart Approach

I was up into the wee hours of the morning (2:30am) reading what I feel has totally shifted my philosophy on 'behavior management'- Notching Up The Nurtured Heart Approach: The New Inner Wealth Initiative for Educators by Howard Glasser. Our district offers workshops on the Nutured Heart Approach. I used the approach in my classroom this past year, but now realize that I barely scratched the surface! This approach is one that seeks not to change or improve behavior, but rather to meet each student's needs by building up their inner strength to deal with the various situations that impact their life. This is not an approach just for the difficult child, but it is instead a whole-child, whole-class approach.

Glasser says in his book that this approach "is about giving child an unshakeable sense of self-worth with which they can navigate the complex territory of modern life. They will learn to use their intensity to propel success rather than to break rules and create chaos.

Based on the book, there are three 'Stands' that teachers should take in their approach with children in order to build up their 'greatness'

1. Stand 1: Refuse to energize negativity (ABSOLUTELY NO!!)
2. Stand 2: Relentlessly energize success (ABSOLUTELY YES!!)
3. Stand 3: Clearly but un-energetically enforce limits

My mind is so filled with emotion and ideas about how to truly 'notch up' my approach to energizing success through clearly enforcing limits without giving any energy to broken rules or poor choices. I will be posting over the next few days about kinks I plan to work out hopefully leading to a transformation in my use of this approach.

The question I will ponder and post on next is: If my focus is on building up greatness in each child, and refusing to feed into negativity in my classroom, is there really need for a conventional behavior management system with the standard laundry list of warnings and consequences, or is that totally counter-productive to the approach??

Have a wonderful Sunday and happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Daily Five-Revisited

In our school district, we are all required to work on a Professional Learning Plan each year, to foster our own growth as educators. My focus for this past year and the upcoming year is on creating a culture of literacy and learning in my classroom. I have been using the Daily Five framework in my classroom to create an environment in which students enjoy reading, are engaged in reading and acquire developmentally appropriate literacy skills they need to be readers and writers.

I spent today rereading the Daily Five and taking notes again on what I read. After having 1 year under my belt of implementing the Daily Five, I think I was able to see the framework through a different set of lenses. Below are the quotes that stood out to me this second tiem around. I fill these quotes really speak towards my focus for professional growth this upcoming school year.

Creating culture of literacy and learning
o “The typical teacher has children doing a lot of “stuff”. How is what I’m having children do creating readers and writers?” – Regie Routman

o “It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants, the question is: What are we busy about?” – Henry David Throeau

o Quotes by The Sisters from The Daily Five
o “But did those things just keep our kids busy, or were they engaged in literacy tasks that will make a difference in their literate lives?”

o “We spent too much time managing their behavior, planning activities, and putting out fires instead of teaching.”

o “We were frustrated with our inability to engage students in independent meaningful reading practice”

o “The Daily Five is a student-driven management structure designed to fully engage students in reading and writing”

o “The Daily Five is a structure that envelops all of the components of comprehensive literacy and provides us with a plan to manage each piece in a user friendly way.”


o “If we are instructing so much that students don’t get a chance to read, or if we are counting working in a workbook as reading time, then we’re not giving them enough time to become better readers and writers”

o “We realized they had anchored their behavior to our reactions. We had unwittingly taught them to rely on our reinforcement to keep them on task.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Achievement Conundrum

Today I attended the first part of a Data Analysis workshop I signed up to attend. A team of teachers and our AP are attending this workshop with a focus on analyzing this year's premliminary results from our state standardized test in order to guide strategic future steps for our building. Our school is a low SES school with a history of high teacher turnover-which has proved to be an underlying cause of our students' consistent underperformance in reading. As with any school, there are always mitigating factors, but what we are charged to do is to collaboratively with strategic focus provide our students with instruction that appreciates all of these mitigating factors, meets students where they are, accerlates all students (especially those below grade level), and provides each student with an enriching educational experience that prepares them for excellence throughout life.

So, I'm pretty sure there are thousands of schools all over the nation facing this same conundrum. The question that still lingers for me is what does it take to really propel students? What is the magic potion? Why is it that even with the most brilliant minds working together, this is still a conversation? I know that students are diverse and thus have diverse needs, but I have to wonder if we spend so much time running around in circles that we are totally missing it??

These are my musings, but I am curious to hear your thoughts. Why is students achievement still the 'million dollar question'? What mitigating factors has your school overcome to achieve student success?

~Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!~