Writing my way through the school year!

Archive for April, 2011

Testing!Testing! 1…2…3

It’s that time again! Actually, for me this is the third time my students will be taking the state test. When Delaware opted out of the DSTP,(Delaware State Testing Program) I was thrilled! We used to take the DSTP  in March, even though we had not finished teaching the curriculum.  We would actually lose about two weeks of teaching(and learning) time while our kids took that test.  Not to mention the time we were forced to teach to the test.

Delaware has a new system called DCAS( Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System) in which we test the students three times a year.  The beginning , the middle, and  the end of the year.  The students take the test online, and get their results right away. I was excited because the students could take the test online, they would know their score right away, we only spend two days testing, and each child would be judged by their  individual progress. And best of all, student promotion would no longer be based on one test.. I thought it would be better, but I’ve come to the conclusion that state testing is , how can I put it, not good for students or teachers.

New test, same stuff. Little has changed. Our student scores are still compared to the district and the states.  We are judged by  the cutoff score that decides whether or not we actually taught. Our school will still be” under review” if  we don’t meet the NCLB guidelines.   I still  spend time teaching to the test, and to make it worse,  this year they’ve added a Science (K-5) assessment to the 5th grade.

All this testing is stressful! I think what I despise most of all with testing, is not the actual testing, but what is done with the student test scores. These scores should be used to improve how we teach,or  used as a method to differentiate instruction.  Instead, the scores are used as a tool to punish and humiliate districts, schools, and teachers. Our pay is not tied to these tests, but I’m sure that’s coming as well.

Use state testing for good, and I’m all for it. Unfortunately, for now, as far as I’m concerned,  it’s being used for evil!

“When Will the Testing Bubble Burst?”                                                                        


Shouldn’t An Educator’s Opinion Count?

Because I was on Spring Break, my son and I took a trip to New York City, to visit family and friends. One of my stops was the school I taught at for 15 years before moving to Delaware. There were about 8 teachers still there from the time I taught. I was  disappointed, not in the teachers, they were still doing their job.   I have been gone since 1998, and the classrooms still looked the same.  Unless I missed it, I didn’t see a Smartboard, an Elmo, a projector, or any  of the basic tech tools.  They have  a tech person, but only two laptop carts per floor, and this is a huge school. I was wondering why , in a city based in New York City, there weren’t signs of  21st century classrooms all over the building. Where is the money going?   Who is in charge? 

As I perused my email from my  LinkedIn Technology Integration Education group  this morning,  I came across an article,  “NY Parents Seek 100 Million From Bloomberg Over Schools”  Apparently the mayor nominated his friend, Cathie Black, who had no credentials or experience, to be the school chancellor, she quit after 95 days on the job. Guess it wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be.  My question was answered.

Should I dare ask another question, “Why would you choose a person without an education background to run an entire city’s educational system?” I know why.  The new mantra is to” run education like a business”!  The other push is charter schools, where magic happens, and all children learn!  Imagine the possibilities for schools in NY, or Anywhere, USA where educators’ opinions were not only valued, but used! It gives me shivers just thinking about it!:)   Teachers and administrators who work in the field should know best, but our opinions are the least valued. Who would you turn to if you needed a medical question answered, your plumber? It’s ridiculous!

But this explains why, in a city as advanced as New York, you have schools with chalkboards, no air conditioning, and two laptop carts per floor. I can say this though, those teachers are working with what they have to educate their students, but wouldn’t it be great if they were given the tools they needed? Wouldn’t it be a sign of how valuable you believe education is if you put someone in charge who knew how to meet these needs?

May 2-6 is Teacher Appreciation Week. You know what would really make us feel appreciated? Listen to us, believe it or not, we know what we’re talking about! Our opinions and expertise should matter!

What Do Teachers Really Want?

Speak Up For Education and Kids is a group started by the National Education Association to unite educators and community members  committed to investing in education, preventing harmful cuts, and ensuring students have the bright futures they deserve! I came across their site on Facebook.

 They have a section called Ed Votes poll. I checked out their  poll and the question was, ” Which gift you would most like to receive on May 3 for Teacher Appreciation Day?”   I found it interesting because their choices were not typical choices. For example, one of their choices was a request for more professional development opportunities. Another was smaller class sizes so teachers can give individual attention to students. (My choice).  So far, smaller class sizes is in the lead, followed by less standardized testing.  A number of teachers responded with choices of their own. One teacher commented that she would like her job back! If you have a second, please add your voice to the votes. I am going to check back later.  Maybe they can show the votes to our legislators, so they can see what we really want!  Speaking for myself, I don’t need another bag with the district logo on it!

Education Votes Poll: What Gift Would You Like to Receive on May 3?


Teacher Appreciation Week is May 2 – 6! Do You Feel Appreciated?(Take the Poll)

History of National Teacher Day

The origins of National Teacher Day are murky. Around 1944 Arkansas teacher Mattye Whyte Woodridge began corresponding with political and education leaders about the need for a national day to honor teachers. Woodridge wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt, who in 1953 persuaded the 81st Congress to proclaim a National Teacher Day.

NEA, along with its Kansas and Indiana state affiliates and the Dodge City (Kan.) Local, lobbied Congress to create a national day to celebrate teachers. Congress declared March 7, 1980 as National Teacher Day for that year only.

NEA and its affiliates continued to observe National Teacher Day in March until 1985, when the NEA Representative Assembly voted to change the event to Tuesday of the first full week of May.

Excerpt taken from NEA National Teacher Day article

Behind Every Great Teacher…

there is an excellent, good, fair, or just plain horrible principal!  My present principal is preparing to move to another school.  He will be missed.  He was not without flaws, but that is true of us all.                                                         

I have been teaching for 20+ years, and have worked under quite a few  principals.  I don’t remember all their names, but things about them stand out in my mind. 

My very  first principal was about to retire, and he didn’t care what happened in the school. The students were undisciplined, and the teachers sat  in the front office every morning, butts on the desks, drinking coffee.  Then he retired, (Thank goodness!), and was  replaced by Mrs.D, now she was a principal!  She turned our school around, but after a few years, she was promoted, and replaced by, I don’t even remember her name. I was with her for a year before I moved to DE.  Before I left,  she approached me,  and asked, “Are you moving because of me?”  Okaaay.

I couldn’t get a job in DE, so  I spent two months in Baltimore with a psycho principal who insisted that I write everything I was going to say in my lesson plans. Huh? I explained that I had been teaching for 15 years,and she responded, “Well, you’re new here.” 

 I got a job in DE,and  worked in that school for the remainder of the year. Let’s just say her personal life interfered with her job. I got a transfer and ended up in my present school, under Joe B.  Lovely person, not such a great principal. The parents called him Joe. I will say no more. Skip through two or three principals to my present principal, Mr.L., who has been a joy to work with the last three years.

Does having a good principal make a teacher’s job easier, absolutely!

Mr. L  was an open door principal, his door was rarely closed.

 He made sure that we had all the tools we needed to integrate technology in our classrooms.

He always let us know that we were valued and appreciated.(And not only on Teacher Appreciation Day)

He loved the children, and they knew he loved them!

He was supportive, he always asked, he didn’t accuse.

He offered constructive criticism, and allowed us to offer our opinions.

He laughed.

He was flexible, most of the time.:)

He brought out the leader hiding inside me, and for that I am grateful.

I am going to get a new principal, and I’m hoping she works out.  I hope she has some of the same qualities as Mr.L.  But you know what?  Even if   she doesn’t, I will do what all teachers do, no matter what kind of principal they have.  I will  continue to teach to the best of my ability.  But it sure makes the job easier when you have a great principal!

“Good Principals: What Traits Do They Share?”

I-Am-Mrs.-Smith( Spoken Robotically)

Oh, I long for the days when I used to be able to teach!  No, you didn’t miss anything, I still teach, but I don’t TEACH, the way I used to, the way I loved to.  Yes, I use technology, and it has opened up a whole new world for me, but I miss teaching the old way. Sometimes, I feel like a robot, I am micro managed every second, minute, hour, day,week, month, of the school year.  I feel like a body in the room,  programmed to teach not only what they want me to teach, but also how to teach it, and when to teach it.  I can’t believe there was a time when I decided what part of the curriculum I would teach.  I created my own schedules,and taught using my discretion. I was trusted to do this job and I did it well. 

 Now, we have pacing guides. I understand pacing guides allow everyone to be on the same page, and I’m sure they make it easier for new teachers,but come on, give me a little space! My problem is when  supervisors come in your room, and run to the principal to tell him that you are not where you are supposed to be on the pacing guide. Hmmm…?   What happened to the philosophy that all children don’t learn at the same pace?

 My dismal observation began when I input May dates on my Google calendar. These dates not only included, state testing, but also practice for state testing. Lots of assessing happens towards the end of the year, and we need all the data we can get our hands on, right?   My desolation increased, when during  a meeting,  we were gleefully informed,  that the next school year we will have, wait for it… a Reading pacing guide! I almost couldn’t contain my happiness!(Sarcasm intended). I guess the Reading manual divided into days of the week is not enough.

I used to write plays and have my students perform them. There’s nothing like “Brown Sugar and the Seven Homeboys” performed by 5th graders.  I miss Poetry Day, which I didn’t get to  last year because of our rigid schedule. I’m trying to squeeze it in this year, but I don’t think I can. 😦   I enjoyed having my students create commercials and film them. I miss the FUN educational stuff.  When I taught in NY, we used to take the students on trips all the time. Now, I am only allowed two trips a year, because we don’t want to take away any “valuable teaching”  time.

I’ve already made up my mind. Next year,  I am allowing my students to do the FUN educational stuff again. We will have Poetry Day, the parents and students love it. We will create commercials while studying propaganda techniques. And maybe, just maybe, I can hear my 5th grade homeboys(and girls), “Heigh,ho,Heigh,ho” around the auditorium again!

Educational Leadership: “Pacing Guides” by Jane L. David

Using Technology to Teach to All Learning Styles!(Multiple Intelligences)

  Technology makes it very easy to address all students learning styles, auditory, visual, and tactile.  My class was studying the Bill of Rights, and technology helped me differentiate instruction.  Having taken the SMARTboard class, I created a Notebook 10 unit that contains, “Life Without the Bill of Rights” , An Interactive Guide to the Bill of RightsThe Bill of Rights Rap (Youtube),  Bill of Rights Concentration game,  , The Bill of Rights game, addressing every learning style.  It made the lessons so much more enjoyable, and gave each child a chance to learn using their learning style. Lastly, we read the SS textbook and discussed it because nonfiction reading is still important.   After completing the unit, I wanted to see if they actually understood what they had learned.

I gave my students an  assignment to create a comic strip using Bitstrips for Schools.  They had to create a comic strip that demonstrated a violation of the Bill of Rights.(See below) I thought this was much more interesting  then writing an essay. 🙂 Some of them took longer than others, some put more effort into it than others, but they all demonstrated understanding of the concept.I believe technology makes our job easier, not more difficult. It helps our 21st century students succeed!

Article on Multiple Intelligences and MultiMedia taken from the site: Technology Impact on Learning.

Another Reason to Love Edmodo!

After attending the PLC Summit 2011 in Arizona, I gained a greater insight into  how important collaboration is.  Not just within my school, but in the U.S., and other countries.  With that being said, I give Kudos to Edmodo for allowing collaboration to take place on their site.  Edmodo is not just a site for my students, but it is also a site for me.  You might not know this, but Edmodo allows you, not only to join communities, but to create them.  I have only created one community, a school district PLC community, but, unfortunately, they’re not ready for Edmodo. They think it’s too high tech, and so I sit, the only member in that community. Hopefully, some day, but I digress.

I joined the Edmodo communities, just as I did EduPln, Twitter, LinkedIn, hoping to find other teachers who were into what I’m  into.  Who share my passion, and see nothing wrong with going home, getting on the laptop, desktop, Ipad, whatever floats your boat, and looking for other teachers to help them make teaching what it should be, engaging,  interesting, and passionate. (Hmmmm… is passionate too strong a word?) Understand, I am by  no means downing the other sites, it’s just that Edmodo is my favorite.:)

 Edmodo is , different.   I not only have two, yes two, pen pal buddy classes  for my class, which by the way they love, (Which one Mrs.M, our Cali Pen pals or our NJ friends?) , but I have learned so much from  my unknown, unseen, colleagues. If you join  an Edmodo community, you notice a number of things.

  1. They are very, very,  generous with their knowledge. 
  2.  These teachers share links, files, sites,student work, etc…
  3. They provide unsolicited information, valuable, usable, information!
  4.  They answer your questions, not just one teacher, but many teachers!
  5. They say things like “Thank you”, and “Great idea!”
  6. They are so helpful, really, I am not exaggerating!
  7. They have a community for each  subject, so you can pick and choose which ones you want to join.

Here’s an example. Every year, I have my students perform poetry for their parents. I call it “Poetry Day.” It is great, everyone loves it, BUT, I struggle to get the students to write various types of poetry, Well, the other day, one of my Edmodo colleagues posted this link, ETTC Instant Poetry Forms. Voila! My problem is solved. Of course, I immediately thanked her, as all good  Edmodo community members do.:)

Love it! I will continue to learn from my colleagues, and share my knowledge with them.  I just thank Edmodo for giving me the opportunity to collaborate with teachers who are serious about what they do, teach!

3 Steps to Creating Your Personal Learning Network(PLN) – An Edmodo Blog

If Teachers Were Treated Like Celebrities! A Short Story…2012 version

Can you imagine what it would be like if teachers were treated like actors, athletes, singers, or even “reality tv “stars?”  Wow!

Mrs.Smith, Celebrity Teacher

“Mrs.Smith, Mrs.Smith, can I get your autograph?” She turned and smiled brightly at the young woman running towards her.

“Mrs.Smith”, the young woman gasped, “I have been following your career for years!  I’m about to start teaching myself, and I would be honored if you signed my copy of your book.”

“Are you ready to teach, young lady?’ she asked as she scribbled her signature, “This is a difficult job.”

“I know it is, but I’ve been reading your books,watching your videos, and  listening to your podcasts, I know I’m ready!”

“Good luck”, she says as she handed her the book. “Take care, you have quite a journey ahead of you.”

Mrs.Smith and her husband  entered the Four Seasons and were immediately seated at the best table. The maitre d’ smiled, and thanked Mrs.Smith, again, for teaching his son when she taught at Tower Hill.

“Anything you need Mr. and Mrs.Smith, just ask.”

After dinner, Mr. and Mrs.Smith hopped into their  Mercedes and drove home to their ten bedroom house up in the hills.  They entered  their  home, and stopped to pick  up one of the cameras left by the crew from MTV Cribs-Teachers.

“Time to mark some papers honey, I’ll be upstairs in a bit.”

She sat down, stared out at the ocean, and began grading.  The phone rang, and her assistant teacher, Marjorie spoke excitedly.

” Mrs. Smith,  Oprah wants another  interview, she’s doing another special on teachers, it’s called “Teachers are Tenacious!” She’s going to give away prizes to every school where the teachers in the audience work!”

“Oh, that Oprah, she is something else! Set it up please, Marjorie.”

She hung up and the phone rung again.

“Oh, my gosh, Mrs.Smith, you’ve  been nominated for a Thackeray!” (Named after Sidney Poitier’s character in , “To Sir, With Love”)

“A Thackeray?! Are you kidding? Oh my gosh, I’ve always dreamed…!  What category?”

” Best Lesson Taught During an Unannounced Observation.”

The Thackerays

As teachers walked down the red carpet, former students and teachers screamed their names. Reporters rushed up to interview each teacher as they strode down the carpet.

“Mrs.Smith, what are you wearing?”

She  waved, “This is not about me, it’s about all those kids I’ve helped!”

And the Winner Is…

And the winner of the “Best Lesson Taught During an Unannounced Observation” is… Mrs.Smith!”

She ran on the stage, “First I’d like to thank God.” Next I want to thank all those students who gave me the opportunity to teach. I’d also like to thank my mentor teacher, Mr.Wilson. He made me the teacher I am today! And most of all, my Mom and Dad, who gave me the chance to go to college and become what I am today, a teacher!”

The applause filled the room, and everyone stood, chanting “Teachers, teachers, teachers!”

 I know we all don’t need a Mercedes, a ten-bedroom home, to be filmed by MTV, or have an overrated awards show.  But wouldn’t it be great if teachers were  respected as much as actors, athletes, singers, and yes, even “reality” tv stars?


Glad There’s Google!

“How many of you have been to New York?”

Two students in my group raised their hand. I asked them to name some things they know about New York, and they really couldn’t tell me much.  I, of course, knew a lot, because it’s my hometown.  But I wanted their knowledge, not mine. This was the third time I had read “Chester Cricket’s Pigeon Ride”, and it needed spicing up!  If not for my kids’ sake, then for mine.

Google Maps to the rescue! My  students opened their laptops,logged on, and away we went to New York City!  We went to the section where we could look at actual photos of New York City. We viewed the city using Panoramia, the kids  took a virtual tour of New York City. It made me homesick.:(  They were so excited! As they viewed the photos, they commented on everything. The height of the buildings, how many people there were, the view at night, all those lights! We returned to our list, and I asked the question, “What do you know about New York City?” My list filled up fast.  Google Maps helped my kids go where they had never been without leaving their seats. Hopefully, it will give some of them that urge to travel outside their state as they grow,and  allow them to open their minds to other places.

Anyway, we wrapped it all up with a rousing rendition of “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra using an MP3 download found on, what else, Google! Nothing like a classroom full of 5th graders singing a Frank Sinatra song with their teacher the loudest of all. We had fun! Thank goodness, there’s Google!

Google Maps Webinar – Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Google Maps Webinar=Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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