Thanksgiving

It is almost 11pm on Thanksgiving and I just remembered that to “win” NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month–posting every day in November), I have to post today.

I’ve been off line almost all day. Yes, I flipped through instagram a few times to see all the Thanksgiving lovely so many of you were having, but for the most part, I just stayed away.

Cortney let me sleep in until 10am because of my stupid bad cold (yesterday I thought for sure I had the Plague), even though he got zero sleep due to my coughing and Charlie’s bad dreams cries AND the boys getting up by 6am.  I am thankful for his giving heart and his caring nature, for his natural tendency to put our needs before his own.

We packed up the boys just after noon to have Thanksgiving dinner at Granny and Grandpa’s house (Cortney’s mom and step-dad). The boys were well-behaved even though they were totally tired. I am thankful for two kind, polite boys who love to laugh and be with their family.

Nap time was way late today…Charlie fell asleep on the ride home from Granny’s and got to bed after 3pm. For the first time in a really, really long time, all of us took naps. Cortney fell asleep with football on, I headed to our bed and snoozed, and Eddie voluntarily put away the tablet and fell asleep on the couch.

After nap we packed up again and headed to my side of the family’s gathering just in time for the boys to get a little more pie (“MORE PIE!?!?” Charlie exclaimed with confused joy), and to play Bingo.

Bedtime was late, but both boys were in bed sleeping by 10pm.

And now?  Now Cortney and I are cuddled up: him with his apple pie-flavored craft brew beer and me with my second (or third, whatever) piece of apple pie.

I sure am thankful for my life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Close and Critical Reading

Because one of my district’s School Improvement Goals is literacy-based, we developed an assessment called Close and Critical Reading (CCR). I know what you’re thinking…aw jeez, another assessment.

Hear me out.

Teaching CCR skills helps students not just understand what they read better, but it helps them to intelligently talk about the features of the text, the inferences they can make, and the connections they see. Students are given a text appropriate to the content of the class they are in (we do this across the curriculum so students can build their skills in all sorts of texts, not just fiction in the English class). Then they are given four questions:

  1. What does the text say? (summarize)
  2. How does the text say it? (discuss genre, features, and language)
  3. Why does the text say it? (inference of theme, lesson, or slice of life)
  4. So what? (making connections both with self and society)

We give the test as a summative assessment four times a year (once per marking period), but we do formative assessments of these skills almost daily–at least in the English Language Arts classes.

I have been doing CCR-type lessons with my high school students for year, but now that I am a junior high teacher, I need to remember that these students need the basics before they can refine the skills.

This led me to create my very first anchor charts!
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You can see that I do not have the neatness and creativity of a seasoned anchor chart maker, but I did my best.
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and as we move on, you can tell I lost my patience with trying to write neatly…
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and instead of starting over when there were boo boos, I just fudged it.

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In order to teach these skills, we also teach active reading, but that is another post.

It’s funny because if you tell the students they are learning CCR skills, they get all groany. But if you just have them do the skills without labeling, they do it with {almost} no whining.

Couple this with all the “free” silent reading we do in class in our own books means we are building much better readers…and kids who actually like to read!

Five Things

I was in band/colorguard in high school.

I didn’t play any sports. None. When I was a kid, my parents made me do T-ball and then one year of pitching machine until they finally agreed that I had no coordination–or motivation–to play sports. In 6th grade I started playing the trumpet. I didn’t love it or the instructor, but I did love band. I stuck with it through middle school because I wanted to march with the high school band. My freshman year of high school welcomed a new band director to the district who changed everything. I was in love with band, although I still didn’t love my trumpet. I found colorguard and became a full on band nerd.  I even almost tried out for my University’s colorguard, but realized at the last minute that I needed a job more than I needed to be in band and I didn’t have time for both.

I thought I wanted to be a lawyer when I was 16.

I can’t even tell you why I thought this other than I thought it would be cool to argue in a courtroom in front of people. I may enjoy the attention of a crowd. I quickly realized I didn’t have the stones to be in such a harsh profession. So I chose teaching instead. Yes, I see the ridiculousness of that last statement.

I’ve been to over 100 concerts.

I went to my first concert when I was 15 years old. My mom and dad (because they are delightfully naive) let me drive across the state with my boyfriend to see Aerosmith (because he has fun music and doesn’t swear!–according to my mom. HA!) at the Palace in Auburn Hills (near Detroit). The opening band was Collective Soul (remember them? Probably not). I was hooked. I’ve seen everyone from Tom Petty to Metallica, Dave Matthews to Type O Negative. Rock n Roll, yo.

I’ve never done drugs.

For some reason, people find this hard to believe. But it’s true! I’ve never smoked weed or taken anything mind altering. And I didn’t drink until college.

I’ve never been outside the US.

Well, I guess if you count the couple times I went over the boarder to Canada, I have been. I’ve never needed a passport for any travel. Considering I have a degree in Spanish and am certified to teach it, that is sad. I would LOVE to go to Mexico (or Spain or any Spanish-speaking country). I would love to go somewhere warm. I would love to see France, England, Germany, and all the other European countries from the literature I have taught. I would love to visit the Netherlands and see where my ancestors are from.

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The winner of the Stand Up book giveaway has been chosen! If it wasn’t you, you can still purchase the book here. It would make a GREAT holiday gift!

Challenge Completed

I think every year for the past five or so years, I have done the GoodReads book challenge. You are supposed to set a goal for how many books you want to read in that year.  Almost every year I put 24 – two books per month.

When I compare my goal to many of my friends, it is low. They aim for like 50 books. If I didn’t have to work or keep my children alive, I bet I could read 50 books a year. But, alas, people need me to do things, so 24 is the goal.

I have never met this goal. I usually start out Ok, but then drop off as spring comes and I get out of control busy with end of the school year things like grading and graduation.  I pick it back up in the summer, but not usually to a point where I can recover because once school starts up again, my reading life grinds to a halt.

Some how I managed to not just meet my goal of 25 books this year, but to surpass it! As of right now, I have read 30 books this year and I am on number 31.  Currently I am reading The Liar’s Club  by Mary Karr.

I’ll be honest too, that I have always tried to right up a review of the book over under my book categories, and not having time to write it up has held me back from starting a new book. I decided I had to let that go and just enjoy books. If I get them up there, awesome, but if not, at least I am reading, right?

So tell me, what are you reading?

I have a bunch of books from my classroom library on my To Read List including Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell and all of the John Green. The problem is that they are all checked out right now…by my students!

I guess that’s not really a problem.

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Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of the children’s book Stand UpContest closes at midnight!

Sunday Fun…er Sleepday

It’s almost 7:30pm.

I’m not entirely sure where this day went.

Yesterday I was on the go from 7am until 10pm: salon, birthday party, purge basement of toys, feed children, put children to bed, crash.

Today I paid for it. Today for the first time I thought I was going to fall asleep in church (and not because the sermon was boring, but because I was exhausted).

Cortney has been sick with a pretty bad cough/congestion thing. Yesterday I made him take a nap while I did the Toy Purge of 2014. Today I told him to stay home from church and rest–that I could handle the boys.

To their credit, the boys were very good, Sunday School went really well, and we all made it home without gnawing off any arms, but I had a pounding headache and tired aches everywhere.  As soon as Cort saw me walk in the door, he sent me to bed.

And I stayed there for two hours.

Like I said yesterday, this pregnancy is exhausting.

Since waking up, I’ve sat in sort of daze. My head still hurts, now I’m coughing, and somehow it’s 7:30pm already so it’s time to put the kids to bed.

The bright side is that Eddie and I only have two days of school this week and Charlie only has two days of daycare. Just two mornings to get through. Two.

We can do it.

Nesting and Resting

This pregnancy is so dang weird. I mean, it’s weird in the sense that it is really nothing like my pregnancies with the boys.

One way is that I am tired ALL THE TIME. When the second tri hit with the boys, I was all about the energy kick and taking advantage of it.  I felt great and I loved my baby bump that stuck out.  Other than the constant peeing and the partial placenta previa with Charlie that kept me on my butt a lot, I felt really great.

This time? I got nothing. I’m still completely wiped out all the time. It’s almost as debilitating as the first tri, just without the barfing and near-barfing. I start the days so tired I feel a little like I could fall asleep driving…even while blasting some righteous old school rap. I feel like I stop and sit a LOT during class time rather than roam the room like I prefer to do. By my prep hour (the last hour of the day), it takes everything I have to not just sit and stare blankly out of exhaustion.

Even with all the ways that Cortney picks up my immense slack, I still find myself falling asleep before 8pm while putting Eddie to bed. My OB checked my iron. It turns out I am just really, really tired.

Oddly, the other difference is that with the boys, I had no desire to nest. Ever.

In fact, Cortney asked me while I was in my last month of pregnancy with Eddie when the nesting thing was supposed to kick in because each day I got lazier and lazier. I wanted to do nothing but watch Sex and the City reruns, eat Cheetos, and sleep.

This time, although I am so very tired all the time, I feel itchy to clean and purge everything unessential from this house. I can stand to think about how much STUFF we have accumulated in closets and shoved in drawers. I want to take an entire box of trash bags and fill them up  and get rid of them.

Today I did just that with the toy room.

That room gave me all the hives, so even though I wanted to nap (Charlie went down for a nap, Cortney has a cold so he took a nap, and Eddie was quietly watching Netflix), I grabbed some boxes and bags and headed downstairs.

And let me tell you, I purged so much that when Cortney went downstairs to grab the boxes and bags and put them in my car before little eyes saw what I was getting rid of, he was shocked at how much better it looked. I wanted to continue into Eddie’s room and relocate his toys to the toy room (and maybe purge some stuff on the way) and go through the boy shoes and clothes that no longer fit Charlie.

But I ran out of steam. You know, being pregnant and lifting and bending and starting out all tired didn’t really help.  But I made a dent.

And tonight I will be falling asleep moments after I hit publish on this because holy cow…everything on my body is angry.

Did you get the nesting bug with your pregnancies? Or were you like me with naps and Cheetos? Maybe this nesting thing is because it’s a girl. Or because it’s my last.

Whatever it is, I’ll take it because I love to clean out and get rid of stuff.

Just don’t tell the dudes that live in my house…they get nervous every time they know I am going to tackle a new room. Ha!

BFFs and Netflix

My best friend since the 7th grade lives in Chicago which takes almost three hours one-way to get to.  We don’t see each other as much as either of us would like.

But back in the day…in high school…we were inseparable. We almost never had classes together–I’m not sure why–but we always found a way to see each other between classes. I can still remember my senior year schedule after 18 years:

I didn’t see anyone before school because I was always late, but after first hour Spanish 3, we passed in the hallway on my way to government (this is also where she would tell me if her first hour government class got donuts so I could tell our class and get some for us too).

Third hour we had advanced psychology together. This is where we watched a birthing video, a kid fainted, and she yelled out, “OH MY GOD! WHAT IS THAT BABY DOING TO THAT WOMAN?!?”  We both vowed to never have babies until we were in our 30’s. (Eddie was born when I was 31 and she gave birth at 34).

Fourth hour I had band and she went to lunch.

After band I had lunch and we met by my locker to walk to 5th hour together. Every day we passed an English teacher named Mr. Larsen and I said, “Hi to my favorite teacher I never had!” and he said hello to us always calling my BFF his favorite red-headed student.

We sat near the front in our Brit Lit class together. Daily we made our teacher chuckle with our “verbal fluencies” discussing whatever topic he told us to.

Neither of us had a last hour in the building. I was a teacher’s aid for the band director and she did some community learning thing where she assisted an elementary teacher. Some days, when neither of us had to report, we did a 7-11 run.

Come to think of it, we did a LOT of 7-11 runs back then.

We were most definitely a dynamic duo.

I miss that randomness now.

There are MANY days when I think, “what I wouldn’t give to jump in the old Nissan, pick up T, and hit 7-11 for a Big Gulp and a King Size Butterfinger.”

After those 7-11 runs we usually went back to her house and watched movies. So many movies. Reality Bites, Pretty in Pink, Footloose and the Wayne’s World movies.

Wayne's World

Oh the Wayne’s World movies…such great memories. Party on!

Anyway, I miss T. I miss our togetherness and how we didn’t have to talk about deep issues or gossip about other people, we just could hang out and discuss why in the world the 7-11 Big Gulp cup said that Mt Dew was available when our store didn’t have it. False advertising, yo.

Sometimes, like Wayne and Garth, the best friends are those who are just fun and get you without having to have deep conversations.

Although I like to think that if we still lived close, we would have those big discussions about religion, politics, child-raising, etc.But maybe not.

What I know is this: If you have a person in your life who you can be half of a duo with, someone who makes you laugh and is easy to be around, say an extra “thank you” for that person. Because I miss mine.

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Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are mine. Netflix provided my family with a free year subscription of Netflix and an ipad mini to watch it on.

Skin Color Conversations

This week, unprompted, Eddie and I had three separate conversations about skin color.

Me: Hey, I wonder what Alice will look like.

Eddie: Maybe she will have curly hair!  Maybe she will have pretty brown skin! Maybe she will have blue eyes!

Me: Well, daddy has curly hair and I have blue eyes, so that is possible. If she has brown skin though, I will be jealous.

Eddie: Why? Because you are so peachy?

Me: Yes! Plus she probably won’t have brown skin since neither me or daddy have brown skin.

Eddie: So? Aunt Mackenzie and uncle Dave don’t have brown skin and TWO of their kids do. I like it.

Me: That is true, Eddie. But remember that Kingston and Kyrie were born in Ethiopia and Aunt Kenz and Uncle Dave went on a plane to get them there. They didn’t come out of Aunt Kenz’s tummy.

Eddie: So? They are still a family. I hope Alice has brown skin.

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Eddie (drawing a picture of Santa Claus on our snow day): Mom? What color skin does Santa have?

Me: I don’t know.

Eddie: How do you not KNOW?

Me: I’ve never met him. I mean, I’ve met his helpers at the malls who listen to kids tell their Christmas lists and stuff, but I’ve never seen the REAL Santa. I’m always asleep!

Eddie: Huh. I guess that makes sense. What color skin do you THINK he has? I mean, I need to color his skin here, mom.

Me: I guess I never thought about it. I don’t know.

Eddie: I’m just going to color him tan.

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Eddie (while watching The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That): You know why I don’t like this show, mom?

Me: Why?

Eddie: Because they never say whether Nick (black)  and Sally (white) are brother and sister or just friends.

Me: Well don’t they have different moms?

Eddie: Well, there are two moms, but sometimes I’m not sure if they are in the same house or not. So are they friends or brother and sister?

Me: I guess I don’t know either, Ed. Does it matter?

Eddie: No. But I just wish I knew. Every time I watch this I think about it.

Me: Why?

Eddie: I just like to know what is what!

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I like to have these conversations with Eddie. I know he notices skin color–he has an Indian friend and a Latino friend at school and has mentioned that the three of them all have different skin colors–but we have never brought up a separate discussion about what race is.

The only “race” Eddie knows it the kind you run in.

I don’t shy away from any conversation he has ever wanted to have with me, and I think it’s made him much more open to asking lots of questions. But is this good enough? I want my kids to be socially aware and active. I want them to choose kindness and love over everything else.

So far, Eddie seems to do that and I could not be more proud of him.

Blame the Common Core!

 

Since school has started, I have seen all the usual complaints on Facebook about the evils of the Common Core.

I don’t get the math!  Blame the Common Core!

My kid takes test every other minute!  Blame the Common Core!

My kid has too much homework! Blame the Common Core!

I heard that cursive no longer needs to be taught! Blame the Common Core!

Teachers are given scripts to read; they aren’t teaching anymore! Blame the Common Core!

It snowed in November causing a snow day! Blame the Common Core!

Ok, maybe I didn’t hear that last one, but at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if I did. Lately all the ails of education are being firmly blamed on the Common Core State Standards. As a teacher, this gets tiring to hear/read.

First of all, I didn’t create the Common Core, I just follow the standards. Secondly, I am not opposed to the Common Core. In fact, I sort of like them. I have enjoyed creating projects and lessons more in the past couple years than I have in the decade before. I personally feel more freedom to just be a GOOD teacher.  Let me break it down for you:

Math is hard.

I’m not a math teacher, so it’s hard for me to explain this part to you. I wrote about the math standards last year. Now that I have a son in Kindergarten, I have been following the math standards more closely. I am pleased that not only is he meeting each standard, but I see evidence of how he is learning it through the work that comes home in his folder. The math, so far, seems like it is doing a better job teaching students what numbers mean and how math actually works rather than having them do rote memorization. I think this video explains the math better than I can.

So many tests!

I’m not sure if this is a state thing or a district thing, but I am not seeing it in my district in Michigan. When parents (and even teachers) complain that assessments are taking over their instruction time, I’m not entirely sure if they mean mandated testing (by the state, district, etc) or if they mean assessments their department has put into place.

I give assessments, but they have nothing to do with the fact that I am following common core and everything to do with it being an end of a unit (in vocab or grammar). Papers and projects also count as assessments. And technically I am assessing my students’ understanding daily whether I put it in the gradebook as an official summative assessment or not.

The only assessments that my students HAVE to take outside of my class curriculum are the SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory) Test (4 times a year) and the SMI (scholastic math inventory) Test (4 times a year). They also take the state test once a year (in April).

Too much homework!

I don’t know what to tell you here. Homework is not anywhere in the Common Core Standards. In fact, I assign almost no homework.

Homework is an implementation thing. So if you feel your child has too much, you should be talking with the teacher and/or administration.

No more cursive???

Ok, it’s true. Cursive is not included in the Common Core State Standards. But neither is Tuesdays with Morrie and I’m teaching that to my 8th graders. The Common Core are standards that every child in that grade should achieve. That doesn’t mean teachers can’t go beyond the standards. Just because cursive isn’t required in the standards, doesn’t mean teachers aren’t teaching it.

Teacher Scripts.

I’ve heard of this happening. Or at least I’ve heard of districts telling teachers what and how to teach. That is not happening in my district. In fact, I think it’s happening in districts that are panicked about the Common Core and how they can “teach to the test” given in their state.

The teachers in our district (and others across Michigan) have worked hours and hours to actually make learning more student-centered; to create project-based, inquiry-based, and authentic learning for their students.  Since adopting the Common Core in our district years ago (when it was first mentioned in the state), we have actually made more room for good teachers to do good teaching.

If you feel the teachers in your district are being told how to teach–and it’s not good teaching–speak up! No where in the Common Core does it say HOW to teach, only what standards to teach.

Snow Day in November??

This happened here because of a foot of snow. Not the fault of the common core.

Are there issues with the Common Core? Yes. They have become very political, money has ruled (the way it does everything else in this country), and it’s being implemented poorly in some areas.

However, as a teacher in the trenches of it all, dealing with matching what I do with these “new” standards, I like it. I block out much of the politics and bickering about testing and I just do what I do: teach the best I can.

I really believe that is what the majority of teachers are doing. I know my son’s Kindergarten teacher is doing a fabulous job…not because of the common core nor in spite of them, but because he is an amazing teacher.

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I am a part of the Michigan Education Association’s (MEA) Common Core Cadre that works to inform and aid districts across Michigan on best practice of implementing the Common Core State Standards. I’ve also been published in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan on the subject.

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The best way to be a great student no matter what the standards is to be a great reader!  Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for the children’s book Stand Up!

First Snow Day

Today Eddie and I are home for our very first snow day of the 2014-15 school year.

This is sort of a big deal because it’s only November 18 and there is over a foot of snow out there…and it’s still coming down. It’s also cool because my school district doesn’t close very often (we are an urban district with city roads that are very well plowed), but Eddie’s closes more frequently (his has a ton of rural roads). So the fact that we have today off together is pretty neat.

When I got the call just before 5:30am that my school was closed, I just figured Eddie’s was closed too. He is not a sleeper-in-er, so I figured this would mean when Cortney and Charlie left around 7am, I would need to get up.

Not so. Eddie was content to snuggle on the couch with the tablet and TV until almost 9am! He came into my room, slid into his daddy’s spot in bed, and put his face close to mine, “Mom? Hi. It’s a snow day!  Can you make me some breakfast?”

And thus started our day.

We watched some TV and had some breakfast.

I did some random things around the house that were bugging me (full sink of dishes, towels needing folding, etc) and Eddie decided it was a good day to put a major dent in his weekly homework.

Seriously. He decided this on his own!

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After he was done with homework, he got out his crayons and paper and the stapler and made a book. He also read all the Kindergarten sight words to me while I worked next to him. Then he went on to the first grade ones.

We had some lunch and discussed the awesomeness of carrots with ranch dressing.

We read some books.

Now he is watching Frosty the Snowman because it’s fitting and I am thinking about taking a shower…or lying on the couch with a book.

This day was a lovely little blessing.

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Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a signed copy of the children’s book, Stand Up!

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