This week begins the STAAR testing season—officially closing the gap on the change in state testing from TAKS to STAAR. Last year was the first year students took the STAAR, but with no accountability for students and school districts—meaning students did not have to pass the test to complete a grade level, and school district “report cards” were not tied to ratings or funding. This year marks the real deal, with all those variables going into full play, and mounting tensions for every player—student, teacher, administration and school district.
Looking to the week ahead, my stomach is churning as both a teacher and mother. As a teacher, I’m letting insomnia overtake me as I worry about how prepared my students are for THE TEST. I’ve covered all the material, given test-taking strategies, and thrown as many practice problems as I could find at their little brains—but still, I worry. I worry they won’t take their time, that they will make a simple subtraction error, or that they will simply have a case of bad luck and bubble wrong. Even as we’ve reviewed and practiced, I’ve seen areas in which my students need real work—and that’s what worries me most of all. This community has had many private and public discussions over CSCOPE, the curriculum DISD has adopted, and how that curriculum has influenced instruction—particularly in elementary school, and even more specifically, in math. I do not intend to portray my opinion as pro or anti-CSCOPE, but I do want to showcase the backbone in which CSCOPE was founded–the TEKS, or the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. These objectives are written by the state of Texas, and are the tasks all students in each grade level should master. The STAAR is then based on these objectives. It is this component of Texas education that should be held under a microscope and thoroughly examined. Below is an example of a fifth grade Math TEK, and a sample test question:
(5.3C) Use division to solve problems involving whole numbers (no more than two-digit divisors and three-digit dividends without technology), including interpreting the remainder within a given context
An employee at a video store worked a total of 90 hours in 3 weeks. She worked 5 days a week. If she worked the same number of hours a day, how many hours did the employee work each day?
The objective itself is a skill fifth grade students should have the number sense and computation knowledge to complete and master with a high success rate, but the way the objective is tested integrates critical thinking and problem solving. Students must interpret the math language, set up the problem, and complete the computation correctly to find the right answer—and every math test question is set up in a similar fashion. Many students can rise to the challenge, and do well, but there are also many students that for various reasons come up short again and again. I know how deflating it is for them, because it is for me, their teacher.
As a mother, I’m watching my children grow up in a very different environment than what I experienced. I remember taking standardized tests, but rarely realizing the impact those tests had on my educational success. However, my children know the drill of a good night’s rest, excellent breakfast, number 2 pencils, and focus needed for not just success—but excellence. My fourth grade son not only knows the definition of stress, but has shed tears because of it, and that doesn’t sit well with this Mama Bear.
During this state legislative session, there has been much discussion on Texas Education. There have been bills written and discussed to change some high school course requirements, and to change end-of-course exams also at the high school level, but there has been zero discussion on the topic of elementary testing. I understand the need for standardized testing to monitor growth and mastery of basic skills, and I would like to see elementary testing focused on in that manner. By monitoring academic growth each year instead of a set of tests given one day in the life of a child, school districts could focus on those state objectives at a deeper level, and more importantly, relieve the test anxiety of a 9-year-old. State representatives of every community in Texas vote on these matters daily, and those votes cause change.
My students are eleven years old, and are tasked with the job of a math test, a reading test, and a science test by the end of their fifth grade year. Last week one of them asked, “Why do we learn social studies? We don’t have a STAAR on it.” We should never STOP learning; we should always open our minds to art, music, theater, sports, photography, technology, cooking, and foreign language. Always. But, why learn about how our country was founded? Because one day you will vote, and it could make a differ
Today was REALLY hard. I know I REALLY shouldn’t complain, because, as a teacher, I did enjoy the entire week off of work last week. But today was REALLY, REALLY hard.
I was actually looking forward to the extra week in the holiday season this year because it always seems like we have so much celebrating to do, and so little time to fit it all in (terrible problem to have, I know.) But today, looking ahead FOUR WEEKS until we break for Christmas, I’m not sure I will manage it all.
This truly is the most wonderful time of year, and it’s because of all the wonderfulness that it was SO VERY hard to hit the books today. Usually I can compartmentalize my time almost seamlessly between work and school, and sometimes get most of it done, but this time of year my home list is LONG, and honestly, my brain hurts as I switch back and forth. This is when it would be amazing to have my very own personal assistant just following me around and making all the random things that plop into my brain happen…
Order Christmas Cards
Buy extra tree lights
Look up recipe for staff lunch
Get present for book club
Schedule Christmas Celebration with everyone
Take Christmas picture
Get Christmas smelly candle
Organize Christmas Movie Marathon
Family Bond–well, I think I could do that one all on my own. It’s the part that all the other leads up to…if I can just switch back and forth faster!
While eating a Dorito Locos Tacos….
“Mommy, this really does take Tacos to a whole new level.”
It’s not the first time he’s quoted marketing. Maybe I should encourage this line of work?
We are animal lovers. In fact, when animals are signing up for people, I’m pretty sure there is a waiting list to get into “The Scroggins House.” Pets are not just animals to our family. They are, indeed, part of our family unit. They have stockings at Christmas, and a signature on the Christmas Cards. We plan doggie playgroup, and have established daily doggie daycare. We take our animals to the lake, to the park, on vacation, and even to other family’s gatherings. As I type, I’m researching how to train our newest family member to become a therapy dog, at which point I will be able to take her to school with me everyday. I’ll admit that I’ve taken a cat on walks (on a leash, of course), and my husband has asked for extra donut holes for his dog. Like I said, we are animal lovers, and our kids have had no choice but to follow in our paw prints.
Our daughter was greeted with Collie kisses the day she came home from the hospital, and when we brought our third baby home, that same Collie gave a few kisses, but I promise, when she looked up at us, she practically rolled her eyes. She was so wise. Our babies never had a fear of dogs because they learned to crawl over a sixty pound Lassie-want-to-be. We taught them how to talk, pet, and “be sweet” to the animals. As toddlers, they knew what kind of cozy spot to make for the cat, and which kind of treat to feed the dogs after a walk. I spent hours posing the kids with the animals in front of the Christmas tree, in the bluebonnets, on the beach, in the grass, asleep, in the backseat of the car, or decked out in Aggie Maroon. The kids learned to search for the animals as soon as we came home—and were always greeted with exuberant barking, wagging, and wiggling. As the kids have grown older, the animals have grown more understanding and affectionate—often choosing their rooms for nighttime snuggle. I can’t help but snap a picture every time I see one of my kids with an arm draped over Man’s Best Friend, not even noticing their face is buried in dog hair—sometimes I promise the dog and kid are dreaming of the same thing. I know at times nonpet people look at us and think we’ve lost our minds. And, to be fair, we might be extreme in our all inclusive pet/family dynamic. We agree that there are definite downfalls to pet ownership. Pets bring the outside to the inside, so it’s not unusual to find dirt, mud, leaves, branches, and the occasional sacrificial insect or small rodent in our living space (which was awesome when the kids were crawling). The pets also have to go potty, which poses a problem when they are left inside for too long; therefore, when we make “away from the house” plans, arrangements are always considered for their potty needs. Along the same lines, vacation plans include pet babysitting plans. While we tend to acquire our pets as they wander into our life for free, their cost of living is not. We cover the costs of vet visits, food, toys, and medicine. We clean up their messes, and always consider their safety. But, because they are part of our family, it’s worth it.
Recently, my husband’s Grandmama passed away. We anticipated the loss, but even knowing it was coming did not ease the heartache of saying goodbye. It was a day of prayer, of holding hands and wiping tears. It was a day of telling stories, and looking at pictures. But mostly, it was day of family. We ate together, sang together, and mourned together. We spent the afternoon gathered at Grandmama’s house, just being in her presence. My daughter spent time “riding around” with her teenage cousins—basking in the glory of being included with the teenagers. My older son bonded with the younger cousins over electronic devices. I’m not sure how much they actually talked, but their worlds managed peace, so I’m guessing there were fantastic digital discussions. My youngest son spent most of the day looking for the exercise ball he knew Grandmama had kept, and explained to everyone the necessity of just such a ball (while eating candy corn—no Grandmotherly house would be complete without candy corn.) As the day came to an end, my daughter returned to the house with a puppy in her arms. It was a beautiful, chocolate brown lab with big blue eyes—eyes that begged for us to take her home. We weren’t in the market for another dog; in fact, we’d just celebrated the ease of our one dog status. I tried to say no, citing our crazy-hectic-no-good-for-a-puppy schedule, and the fact that a lab had never made our Bucket List of Future Pets. But, as a person who believes in puppy love, and signs from above, I knew we’d just added a member to our family. On a day of sorrow, Maggie the Aggie brought Joy into our lives, and helped mend our broken hearts–all it took was a few thousand puppy kisses as she looked at us with her head tipped to the side, seeming to tell us she understood. The irony of training Maggie to become an Official Therapy Dog is not lost on me—and she’s just one in the long train of animals that has made our life complete.
I’d like to dedicate this article to Do-si-Do, Bonnie the first, Sambo, Tramp, Hopalong, Bonnie the second, Nicki, Gatito, Tiki, Pudding, Chelsea, Tabitha, Baby, Shiester Beau, Bogie, Storm, Ringo, Sahara, Windy, Sandy, Cleo, Louie, Chrissy, Marley, Beau, Beauty, and Maggie. You taught us about life, love, loss, a
I know I talk about trying to be organized, and the crazy of our life kind of…all the time. It’s not the I’m obsessed, it’s more like I’m oppressed by the magnitude of everything that needs to get done every.single.day. And, believe me, I try to NOT put things on the calendar or to do list, and actually schedule “lazy time” any.time.I.can. For now, I’ve just decided that Fall is crazy busy because of football (Gig ‘Em!), school, pumpkins, and just the thought of Christmas. But, I’m hopefully beginning to get a handle on all the lists, calendar entries, and to dos.
Right now, I’m in love with Cozi (www.cozi.com). I have the app on my phone, my husband’s phone, and my daughter’s phone. I’m thinking of loading it on anyone’s phone that might have cause to ever pick up one of my children, go to WalMart, or run across a pair of awesome size seven shoe. The app has a calendar, shopping list, to do list, and journal. So, I’ve added the places we shop (Wal Mart, Braums, Lowe’s, etc), and keep a running list of what we need. In addition, I’ve added a list for each family member, and have started keeping a running list of THOSE needs. AND, I’ve assigned everyone a to do, and keep that as up-to-date as I can.
Now, before you turn me into the OCD police, I must share the best part.
THE APP TALKS TO EVERYONE. Meaning, as I update any list on my phone, it’s updated on all the other phones with our account. My husband and daughter can add to the shopping list, to do list, or list of needs as they want. We’ve started keeping common or repeated calendar events on the calendar, as well as when each kid has a test or project due.
I might just have to have tshirts made.
Try it. It’s free, and worth all the nerd-out time you might waste.
I got a new purse.
It’s exciting in my world because it’s a small purse, and it’s a name brand. I haven’t owned a name brand purse since I was in college and of course had no money at all to buy one. Granted, I didn’t buy this purse–but actually WON it in a drawing, which makes the whole experience just that much more exciting.
I’ve been addicted to the large tote bag since the onset of the diaper bag in my world. Never in my life have I ever needed so many different types of items as when I entered the world of motherhood. We all know the crazy that goes into packing the diaper bag: wipes, diapers, extra clothing, snacks, drinks, extra clothing for mom, toys, books, wallets, more snacks, matchbox cars, polly pockets…I think you get the idea, and any mom out there will not have to try that hard to go right back there. Since I graduated from the diaper bag, I’ve still had a strange collection of items in my purse: matchbox cars, snacks, caprisons, play money, ipods, ipads, books, more snacks, McDonald’s toys, crayons…and again, you know what’s in THAT BAG.
I thought that I was doomed to the Big Bag forever, and truly could not comprehend how other moms managed without the GIANT BAG FROM CRAZYTOWN. But, since this new small bag has come into my life, it’s like a whole new world has opened to me. I can see in the ENTIRE BAG, from top to bottom, and all the parts in the middle. It’s not even a little scary to put my hand in the bag and try to find something, because I haven’t introduced the possibility of sticky with a new NO CANDY policy.
I like that policy.
I like knowing that everything in my bag is MINE. I like that there aren’t toys in my bag. Or diapers. Or wipes. Or snacks.
It feels so grown up. And clean.
Can I enroll in the Masters Program? I’ve got this small bag thing down!
In helping my fourth grader with his math homework this week, I couldn’t help but notice he’d “x’d” out a box on his crossword, and added an additional box on another part of the crossword. I explained to him that the beauty of the crossword for homework was that if the answer he discovered did not fit in the box, THEN it was an INCORRECT answer.
“The crossword is wrong. That’s why I had to change it.”
Where did these people come from???
Me: You are becoming SUCH a great reader! You know all your sight words, and are really good at sounding out the words you don’t know. I’m so proud. :)
Kid 3: It’s because my six year molars finally came in. They are magic reading teeth.
“Everyone load up!”
By now, my kids are old enough that when they hear this phrase, they should know to get their stuff, get a drink, and get in the car. Saturday morning was typical–rushing around to get to a baseball game. My husband left before me with said baseball player, and I had the leftovers. So, when I announced for everyone to load up, I assumed they did.
When I got to the game, my son’s friend ran up to me asking for him. I explained that my awesomely responsible nine-year-old was already here watching the game.
I took a minute to check in with my husband to verify that I had indeed just left a child at home (unknowingly). After a few chuckles from him and the passers-by, I bolted to the car to go retrieve the lost, lonely boy.
Only, when I got home, the lost and lonely boy had no idea that ne was either lost or lonely. He was sitting on the couch calmly watching the Texas/OU game, and was completely confused at my disheveled entrance.
I guess he won’t be in therapy for that one. But, I’ll keep working on it.