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!~

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Time to Adjust

So I have officially been on summer vacation since Friday (after packing up my room all day Thursday preparing for our move to our new school). I must say that as anxious as I was for vacation, the last three days have been quite awkward for me, not having to prepare any lesson plans, grade any papers, etc. I spent Saturday out and about and thought repeated throughout the day "I need to buckle down this evening and get some work done". It will def take some time to make the much needed mental shift!

At the top of my To-Do list is de-clutter and organizing my task with which I have been very successful over the last few days!! I'm not sure how many of you out there have a similar experience, but during the school year, I feel like things just pile up on me. I get so many papers, magazines, trinkets for the classroom, etc and I don't seem to ever have enough time to put them in a proper place. Well, as I de-clutter my apartment, I am finding a greater since of peace within myself. As cliche as it may sound, I truly do feel more relaxed. I have one room down and about 3 more to go.

As tough as it has been these last 3 days to adjust to not being tied to school, I am dedicated to spending this summer learning how to sit back, relax and enjoy every moment before me.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

End of Year Crunch Time

Well we are T-1 day and 1 hour from the end of the school year. I am so ready to wrap up this year, but the reality of saying good-bye to my kiddos and half of our building staff (the bilingual program is moving to another school) is starting to set in. Unfortuntately the whirlwind of all of the end-of-the year tasks is consuming my life right now. We are moving into our brand new school in August, so we are packing EVERYTHING in our rooms for the big move. In addition to packing up everything except for the walls, I have been inventorying books and supplies like crazy, since half of my materials will be moving with the bilingual program. I had no clue about all of this craziness at the end of the year, not to mention report cards, cum files, etc. I am taking things step by step and trying to breathe along the way.

How are you managing your end of the year responsibilities?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April Hustle and Bustle

Today is my 100th post!!! I definitely don't post as much as I would like but it feels good to meet this milestone in blogging!!!

One of the reasons why I just cannot seem to find time to post is that my school is in a huge transition period that requires TONS of time outside of school. We will be a STEM school next year and we are doing curriculum writing to integate our current district curriculum with our STEM focus. This past week, we found out that we were getting $2,000 per classroom to buy books for our classroom library. This was FANTSTIC news, but we then found out that the order lists were due at the end of the week. We absolutely scrambled and fumbled around all week to get this completed. It is exctiting to know that I will actually have a well-stocked library b/c I have maybe 5 books in my own collectiont that are appropriate for kindergarten!!

I will be spending all day today getting my plans ready for next week. Tomorrow I will be spending 2 hours (and I promise you not a single minute later!!) planning curriculum with my kindergarten team. I was not happy to spend my Sunday afternoon at school, but I do see the value/need. Monday, our entire school staff will be planning curriculum together from 3:30-8:00!! Then we have a literacy night at the public library on Tuesday. OMG....this month has so much packed into it!!! They are all events/meetings that absolutely need to take place, but jeez it's tough with everything happening so close together!

I hope you all have a restful weekend!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Round of Applause

I left school today receiving a round of applause from my colleagues. Almost all teachers I know carry some version of a tote bag to and from school with their work inside. I did this during student teaching but soon realized that my bags didn't last long and my shoulders soon wore tired and strained. Enter the incredible rolling cart I received from my mother as one of my graduation presents!! This thing has saved me from the neck and shoulder pain I had all too often last year. It also gives me the space to carry an insanely large amount of work home.

I roll my beloved cart home from school everyday with way more work than I will ever get done. I do this mostly because I feel better knowing that I lugged it all home than I would if I didn't bring it but then realized that I needed it. Needless to say, my cart has become my accessory at school.

During Spring Break, I made a promise to myself that I would work harder to set better boundaries between work and home. In order to do that, I know that I must use my time more efficiently at school. That is exactly what I did today! At the end of the day, I gathered a small folder of papers to grade and a couple of things on my to-do list.

As I was walking out, I said bye to the group of teachers and my principal chatting in the hallway. Then, my principal says "OMG, where is your tag-along??!!" Immediately after her comment, the hallway burst in to applause and whistles. I smiled and felt so proud of my small yet pivotal feat. I know there will be days in which I need my to bring my beloved cart, but it most certainly won't be everyday!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


For the first time, I decided to take a look at my blog statistics. I was elated to see how many pageviews I have had over time and recently. Sometimes I get down on myself for making the time to post more. I also get down when I make a post but I don't get any comments. So, to see that people (all over the world, might I add!!) are stopping by my blog really makes me feel great!! I am going to try to do better at posting more frequently, but thanks to all of those out there who offer your vocal and/or silent support of me and my journey through teaching!

Loving Spring Break

I am enjoying the last few days left of my Spring Break. For the first time (even including college life) I took a trip during Spring Break. While in college I worked during every single Spring Break (and all of the other breaks for that matter)!! It was incredible to be able to get away and just live. I went with some friends to Memphis for a nice long weekend. We spent time on Beale Street (actually a lot of time), visited the National Civil Rights Museum, had a mini-shopping spree at the mall, and enjoyed some good ol' barbeque and other down-home comfort foods! I definitely wanted to bring some work down with me because I couldn't think of how I would spend so much time without looking at anything from school. But let me tell you, I was sooooo glad I didin't!!! I wasn't Ms. Eagertoteach....I was just a woman enjoying herself on a much needed break! I have truly been loving Spring Break!!

Now, however, I feel the need to transition myself back into the swing of things. I did not submit my lesson plans before break so I need to get prepared for the upcoming week. I have my to-do list all made the task is getting to it.

Is the transition back after Spring Break tough for you? What do you do to ease yourself back into the swing of things??

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Looking Ahead...Kinder Awaits!!

It is official....I will be teaching kindergarten next school year!!! The school at which I am currently teaching is going to be a magnet school next year. As a bilingual teacher, I would be transferred next year to another shcool in the district that will be housing the bilingual program. Since my bilingual certificate if provisional, in 5 more years I would have to go back to school and take 15 hours for my standard certificate. I have loved every minute in bilingual education, but it is not my passion and not where I see myself teaching years down the road.

This opportunity to transition out of bilingual presented itself, but with a caviot...teaching kindergarten! I had sworn for years that I would probably teach just about any grade other than kinder. I was faced with what felt like a true dilemma. However, knowing that I wanted to leave bilingual, I interviewed for the position and was offered the job. On a side note: the interview was one of the most awkward experiences ever...the entire interview team was made up of my colleagues. All of the examples I gave about how I collaborate and other questions regarding instructional practices either directly or indirectly involved every single person on the team!!! I was more nervous about this interview than the one for my current position...I just felt like they would critique me more.

To make a long story a little shorter,I really had to do a lot of thinking on this offer, but I accepted and I am more excited than ever!! I have already made plans for spending tons of time this summer gearing up for the little kiddos I will have next year. I still have some jitters about the entire mental shift that I will have to make in regards to instruction in kinder but I am really looking forward to what lies ahead for next year. My first step to getting to that point is making it through this year!!!

**I would love for you to share your experiences teaching kindergarten and/or any must-have resources/books. I have many blogger friends who are kinder teachers so I will definitely be stalking your blogs for more tips, activities, etc!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Let it snow....and sleet, blow, and freeze!!

I enjoyed my SNOW DAY today and gearing up for SNOW DAY #2 tomorrow!! Conditions are HORRIBLE in central Illinois so I'm very happy just about the entire region has decided to put safety first.

This makes 4 snow days so far this winter...I know we'll be spending some extra time in school in June. Oh well, at least it'll be about 70 degrees warmer by then!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Press ock!!!!!

I have been dying to share this incredibly cute/funny story with all of you! Our district uses the Everyday Math curriculum. For those of you not familiar with EDM, the curriculum incorporates tons of Math games to support student learning. I have a SMARTboard in my room so I make sure that whenever I am introducing an new online game, I use the SMARTboard so that all students can watch and participate instead of working with two students at a time to teach it to them on the computer.

So, the class was divided into two groups. We were playing basketball addition and students had to add up the three numbers appearing on the dice and enter in the sum and press 'ok'. So my kiddos were getting acquainted with touching the numbers and hitting 'ok' many of them would enter the number and wait awkwardly for about 3 seconds before the audience will tell him/her what to press next. One of my students with a severe visual impairment was up at the board and could not find the button to push after entering in the number. After a few seconds everyone else was yelling what sounded like "press ock, press ock". Baffled, I looked at my TA trying to see if he knew what they were talking about. Then I looked back at the board and realized my students were looking at 'ok' and sounding it out...which is why what they said sounded like 'ock'!!!!

I smiled form ear to ear and even chuckled outloud. I then explained to the class that what it actually says is 'ok' but they were not buying it. It also did not help my case much that it was not written like 'okay' or 'o.k.', as I feel it should have been.

When I told this to my non-teacher friends, they did not really see what the big deal was. However, seeing as though my bilingual students are going into their first 4 weeks ever of reading instruction in English, I am sooooo PROUD to see my kiddos applying the appropriate letter sounds to what they are reading!!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

If we had known....

This has been a dilemma with my kiddos for quite a while, but I cannot seem to figure out how to change it. The problem is that my kids get math homework every night and they are to read for at least 2 minutes and fill out their reading log. About 98% of my students do their Math homework every night, but each morning, I have maybe 4 out 15 kids turn in their Reading log. 14 out 15 of my students are a year below grade level in Reading, so I really push for students to read at home. We have had many a conversation about the fact that reading at home is not optional, just the same as Math homework. I have contacted parents, conferenced with the repeat offenders, but nothing seems to do the trick. I know that the students who do not turn in their Reading Log are generally not reading at home.

This week, I decided to use an incentive to entice the other kiddos to do their Reading homework. On Friday, I looked over my homework check-in list and the students who turned in their homework (both Math and Reading) all week got 2 "No Homework" passes to be used any time within the third quarter. I had only ONE student who was eligible to receive the prize. Might I add that the students were outraged b/c "If we knew we would get a homework pass, we would have done our homeowrk"!! The nerve!!!

Are there any other ideas that you have used with your students to motivate them to do their homework??