Writing my way through the school year!

Archive for April, 2012

Educators: Are You a Seed Planter or a Seed Killer?

I attended a conference today called,  “Diversity Exchange:Learning from One Another.”  The keynote speaker was supposed to be Reginald Weaver, former NEA president,but unfortunately he is ill. Merwyn Scott, did a good job standing in for Mr.Weaver at the last-minute.

Something Mr.Scott said, as he shared his thoughts, stood out to me. He said that when he was young he was a “coaster”, he did just enough to get by. He was dormant, sitting in the soil, going nowhere, not growing. His parents kept at him, did not give up, but he had his own plan for how things should be.

Fortunately for him, throughout his school years, he ran across “seed planters”, teachers who were interested in his germination.  They ‘watered’ him, provided nourishment, and allowed him to grow, to flourish in the light, which made him the person he is today.   He called out each of their names, recalling  each teacher that helped him to grow. Each one that helped push him out of the “soil” he was buried in.

So, I ask, which one are you? Are you a “seed killer?” Do you use words that demean your students? Does the job seem burdensome, and you no longer feel like being there, and your students can tell? Are your students bored out of their mind from meaningless work with no real world application? Sometimes, this job is so difficult, that we might not even realize that our actions are stunting the growth of our “seeds.”

Hopefully, you are a “seed planter.” You are that teacher that Mr.Scott spoke of. The teacher who nourishes his/her  students, helping them to sprout, to germinate? I see a “seed planter” as the teacher who  strives to meet the needs of their students, emotionally, physically , and mentally. Fertilizing them with our passion for teaching, and our strong urge to see them succeed.

Yes, when you have a class of 25 or more seeds to sow, that is a lot of gardening! 🙂 But we do it every day, year after year, we manage to reach our students, apply our green thumb, and watch them grow!

Teacher Appreciation:From the Mouths of Babes!

Some of my students wrote  a letter for the state department’s Teacher Appreciation Day contest. After reading the letters, it gave me some insight as to what my students appreciate about me. I chose to use the letters as an informal evaluation  tool to see what I am doing right,(or wrong). I found some of the responses quite amusing.:)

  • I bustle (Vocabulary word) around on Twitter looking for people to Skype with.
  • I am a cool teacher, even with my corny jokes.
  • Even if one of the students make me angry, I don’t show my bad emotions out loud.
  • I am the best motivator ever!
  • I am nice, because if I won the Mega Millions, I would give every student a million dollars. (I did promise that-LOL)
  • I always have a smile when I walk in, and it means to have a great day.
  • If someone gets an answer wrong, I don’t pout.
  • When they have a question, I always have an answer. (Hmmm…I think it just seems that way.:)
  • I’m overprotective. (Yeah, those are MY babies, don’t mess with them!)
  • I am very fun.
  • I help with 5th grade drama. (This particular student added, “I’m not a part of it, but she always has great solutions.”)
  • I care for them all the time.
  • I am super cool. 🙂 
  • My effort shows to them.
  • I make hard things easy, and easy things awesome!
  • I don’t keep them outside when it drizzles, because I don’t want them to get sick. (Also, because I don’t want to get my hair wet!)
  • I have a lot of cool websites.
  • I taught them to never give up on themselves and never be scared to ask a question.
  • I always repeat myself so that they can understand. (I thought it was because they weren’t listening to me. 🙂 
  • I have “rocking” teacher skills! Woo hoo! (I added the “Woo,hoo”part)
  • I love all my students. (I really do)
  • And most of all, I take my job seriously.

Letters to the Reading DCAS(Our State Test)):My Students Write How They Feel!

When my kids were finished their DCAS Reading  test last month, I had them pretend to write letters to the test. I am posting some of the letters they wrote.

Dear Reading DCAS,

Why do you have to be  hard?  I know I do your tests in the beginning, middle, and end of the year.  But doing 55 questions in 3 days is a lot.  We have to take our time to get a good score, otherwise we might get a 1 and that’s not good.  Can we see what questions we got right and what questions we got wrong at the end of the test?  So that way we can understand why we got whatever we got wrong was wrong.  I think that could help us a lot.  How about that idea for next year?  It really could help.  Otherwise DCAS has to be THE WORST THING EVER!!! 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Sincerely Z

Dear Reading DCAS,

I am taking you right now and you are being very harsh. You are being harsh because you make the questions hard. So can you please make the questions easier so I can get a 4? Also, do you think you can make less questions so there are only 36 instead of 54. So it don’t take 2 entire days to finish it. Finally, instead of 4 being the highest point to score make it 10. So it is like the scale of 10. Well anyway Thanks!

Your Friend,

A

 

Dear Reading DCAS,

You  just stress me out every min I take you. Why do you have to be so hard? Can you  have at least 10 questions instead 54. When I take you, you  make me wanna throw the laptop. Across the floor and rip every single of my hair out. Then I’l be bald. See what you do to me? I just can’t stand you DCAS. I never wanna take you again. No hard feelings DCAS. It was just my opinion. So please don’t give me a bad grade for telling the truth. But I need you to ease up on me.

From,

T

Dear DCAS,

I really can’t stand you!

You make me so nervous every time I have to take you.

You make me stressed out then I forget everything when you’re in front of me.

When I’m done taking you it all comes back to me.

Maybe one day I  will beat you.

 I would be a lot more happy without you in my life. The only good thing about you is on Math Dcas

you have a calculator to help me.

K

 Dear Reading DCAS Test,

   I don’t understand why the company created you. You make life harder than it needs to be in school. Now all our field trips are moved to the end of the school year and we only have one field trip. I am so mad and frustrated because of your pointless questions. Some of them don’t even make any sense. The only good thing about you is when we have extra recess. It’s so tragic!!! Also we usually don’t have to learn anything. It is in the way of school even though that doesn’t really bother me. If we already do regular tests, whats the point of having a DCAS test? It takes too long to even remember what you learn before the DCAS. It’s just confusing. I don’t get the whole concept of taking the longest test that I have ever taken. The whole process is crazy. You make me freak out with anxiety about my score.

                                                                            Sincerely,

                                                                             B

Dear DCAS,

 Thanks for giving me a good score. All the hard work paid off. My mom and my dad was really proud of me. I took my time, highlighted the answers and  got a good score.I never felt better about myself for getting a good score on the type of subject. I hate reading but I still got a good score and I’m proud of it.   

From J

                                                                                                                                             

What Would You Do With a Longer School Day?

via Pinerly - your Pinterest friendly dashboard: http://www.pinerly.com/i/6xM2A  This is how I feel at the end a day with my students! LOL

I don’t know about you, but this is how I feel at the end of each day with my students, (see pic above), and that’s with a group that’s not too difficult!

And now, they’re thinking of extending the school day? Well, I feel two ways about this, it depends on why they want to extend the school day.  If they want to extend the day to fit in more test prep for more standardized testing, I shout a resounding “No!”.  If they are extending the day to fit in more meaningless, unproductive PD, then my vote is “Nay!”.  If the day is longer, so that our students are held captive by another boring lecture, or another series of worksheets, I put my foot down to such a ridiculous notion!

It’s bad enough that we subject our children to this type of classroom in a 6 1/2 hour day, can you imagine extending this torture? We have a difficult time keeping our students from dropping out now. What would an extended day do to those statistics? And the way education is heading now, no recess, elimination of the arts, field trips banned due to budget cuts, and/or standardized testing, and test  prep, who wants to spend another minute in a classroom? I am not even going to touch the issues of teachers’ salary, and the fact that they can barely pay to keep the schools open now.

Here’s my idea of an extended school day, as idealistic as it may seem.  Within that extra hour (or two), we enrich their lives. We don’t hand out any worksheets filled with mundane problems.  We don’t bore them to tears with another passage testing whether or not they can identify the main idea. We don’t give them another 5 paragraph writing prompt about something they either, a. Have no experience with, or b. Could care less about. We should enrich their lives.

Maybe teachers can create groups consisting of students from all grade levels. (Writing, drama, math,business). Maybe we can focus on projects that help others in the community. How about a field trip that we don’t have to rush back from? (Ever try a class trip to the zoo in two hours?) Or Skyping with that class in another time zone? Pulling small groups of struggling students and helping them really comprehend the material? Or eliminating the need for busy work camouflaged as homework?  And my personal favorite, book clubs! Reading for the sake of reading! Aaaaah…

Yes, maybe, it’s just a dream, but that’s what I would do with an extra hour, (or two), in the classroom, what would you do with yours?

GoAnimate Grabs Their Attention:Bringing a Math Problem to Life!

What would you rather do to grab your students’ attention? Write a word problem on the board or create a short video of the same word problem, using GoAnimate?  I choose GoAnimate! More and more, I have geared my Math lessons toward problem solving, and away from numbers on a page or a worksheet. I want my students to problem solve. When I watch them work to solve a “real world” problem, it makes me proud.

So, how did I get to match GoAnimate with problem solving? I was trying to think of a way to start a unit with a Math problem that introduced the unit, and grabbed their attention. I thought of GoAnimate, which I was familiar with, but hadn’t used in a while. It is very simple to use. They have tons of characters and templates that you can use. You can use your own voice or type in the words. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You can use the FREE version, GoPlus, or GoAnimate4schools. I have a GoPlus account and a GoAnimate4schools account.

I love the fact that GoAnimate works with social media. You can embed, tweet, Facebook,  upload to Youtube, or download. Of course, some of these privileges only come with GoPlus. There is also a FREE and premium account when you are using Gonimate4schools. The premium account allows you to create accounts for your students, and moderate the accounts.  I’m going to plead with my principal to pay for that for my classroom. 🙂 I will definitely have my students create their own videos, which will be very interesting, not to mention educational, and lots of fun!

Give GoAnimate a try, and see if you can’t grab their attention!

Early Literacy:The Key to Unlocking Illiteracy?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, every Tuesday,  I head over to the day care center across the street from my school. I am a member of Read Aloud DE. What do I do? I read. I read for about an hour to eager 3,  4 and 5 year olds. They are thrilled when the Reading Lady comes, and I am just as delighted as they are! We sit for about 5-10 minutes, enjoying a good story.

Yesterday I read “The Silly Goose” to six students about 3 or 4 years old. As I read the book to each of them, I became more and more aware of the differences in language development.   In terms of age, they are within days and months of each other, but the differences were distinct.  There was a child who could only mimic my words,not really knowing what they meant.  Opposed to the child who could already think critically, and figure out that the goose could not possibly make its nest in the cats’ drawer.  I know their home environment has a lot to do with their development. I could probably pick out the child who has books at home, who has conversations with adults, and has educational toys very easily.  But this post is not about blame.

I  want to thank those out there in the trenches that are working with our babies, exposing them to books, the alphabet, their numbers. Programs like Read Aloud DE, who take teaching our young seriously, and take it a step further by encouraging and advising parents on what they can do to help their children.  To all the day care centers that also step up and educate our babies in fun and innovative ways, like the center where I read.  They always have some fun, educational, activity going on!

I have been reading at my day care center for a year. Yesterday I read to a little boy,  who, when he started, could only make unintelligible noises. Yesterday, he was pointing to and naming the animals on the farm. Wow!  What would have happened to this little boy without their help? Within the past year, I have witnessed tremendous growth in the kids I have read to. Think of how much more prepared they will be to enter school because they have acquired the basic foundation, and possibly, a love for reading!

“Bravo!”to all who are working to get our little ones ready for school, ready for Kindergarten, ready for life!

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