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TAKS Week

  • April 25, 2011 8:49 pm

While some tests have already come and gone, this week has a healthy dose of TAKS Testing.  There is testing occuring on all campuses any given day this week, and as much as teachers and students want it to just be an easy right of passage, unfortunately, it’s a week of stress for all parties involved. 

Students are hitting their pillows a little earlier tonight, getting as much rest as possible, and waking to hearty breakfasts either cooked at home or provided by school cafeterias.  As I tucked my own daughter into bed tonight, we went over a few test taking strategies, and talked about her Mad Math Skills, but mostly I calmed her nerves and assured her that she would do well on all her tests.

And, honestly, I hate that I have to calm the nerves of my fourth grader.

If you look closely, you might notice a few dark circles under they eyes of teachers and administrators as they try to cram in a few more study sessions and ready the Super Secret Sealed Tests.  All the blood, sweat, and tears of the school year is about to be measured by a 50 question test.  One 50 question test.  And, those results will be posted for the world to see and judge.

It’s a hard line to walk.  On one hand, I see how state accountability is useful for grade level or course guidelines, keeping teachers focused on State Objectives, and assuring a consistent education across school districts during any given year.  On the other hand, all the work of one year is measured on this one day–one day, and one test for all students–students from different families, different backgrounds, different learning environments, and different stories. 

This is the week of the one day snapshots.  We are all praying-teachers that their work has made a difference, and students that their brains remember.  Of course we want to do well on this test, to make ourselves, our families, and our schools proud.  Of course we want to do well on this one test, because that is how we are graded.

But, imagine if we were this intense everyday, during every lesson, and on every test.  Every single day instead of just this one…

But, this week, this year, we are focused on one test.  To those of you testing, I wish you the best of luck.  May the Testing Gods look favorably on you, and allow all the information to flow from your brain to the pencil.  May we all reach our fullest potential, and have pride in a job excellently done–a job excellently done all year long.

Tensions are High

  • April 18, 2011 10:03 pm

I’ve avoided writing on the topic of the Education Budget simply because I feel most of my thoughts and opinions are biased, and based on emotion rather than facts, but in this month of TAKS Testing where conversations of Accountability surface seemingly every ten minutes, my emotions are driving my actions more and more.

And right now, emotions are high.  Sky High.

Over the last month we’ve witnessed school administrators forced to make some difficult decisions because of the State Legislator’s priorities.  In watching the dominoes fall in this chain reaction of school budget casualties, it’s hard to comprehend the basis for this crisis.  It’s hard to understand why these decisions are being considered, let alone put into practice.  What is the big picture solution?  What is the end goal?  These decisions are going to affect students daily, monthly, and ultimately yearly, and yet, we will still be held accountable to a standard of Exemplary.

People in my little corner of the world refer to gaps in a student’s learning as “holes in their boats, ” and I like the imagery.  To me, it makes sense to build a vessel, one with a sturdy bottom and strong walls to take on the Education Ride. Building that boat is easier said than done, and imagine what it feels like to paddle along as your boat fills with water.  Imagine the problem solving skills you might try to achieve just to survive.  Forget about paddling forward, you’ve got to start scooping that water out, and there you are, not moving downstream–simply stuck in the middle of the lake.  A very big lake.

That’s how some of our students feel.  To putty those holes takes tutoring, strategy, and special programs.  Most of all, it takes time.  And, that time takes money–money that is now slipping through our fingers.

It scares me to see the road ahead.  It saddens me to watch those boats struggle in the middle of the lake, unprepared for the ride.  In my own Pollyanna style, I still have hope things will turn around by July.  I believe the Legislature will see the potential disasters ahead, and things will simmer down as we get back to business.  But, these stuffy weeks of Testing highlight the stress put on kids, teachers and schools as they desperately look to bigger and better solutions for those holes, leaving emotions raw and everyone exhausted.

Despite all of this, I still have hope it will all work out in the end, and somehow all the boats ride off into the sunset…safe and secure.  Pollyanna wins with me.  Every Time.

I think it’s just part of the job.

BEST Teacher Present Ever!

  • December 7, 2010 8:06 am

image

A Graduated Cylinder.

And yes, I have joined science nerds anonymous.

When I grow up…

  • November 8, 2010 8:31 pm

Tonight we had a family bonding moment with the kids and listened to them dream big careers for the future, with back-up plans built in upon request….

Kid 1:  “I want to be an artist or a writer, and my back up plan is to be a veterinarian.”

Kid 2:  “I want to be a Rangers Baseball Player, and my back up plan is to be a Red Sox Baseball Player.

Kid 3:  “I want to be Ironman, and my second plan is to be an astronaut.”

Now, I wonder if A&M covers all those disciplines…..

Gig ‘Em

  • November 2, 2010 6:07 pm

Those that know me, know I’m an Aggie-through and through.  We are the types that bleed maroon.

So imagine my dismay this afternoon when my daughter asks permission to make a longhorn drawing for a friend.  To make her case, she stated that it was to show this friend how much she enjoyed their time together, and to let said friend know that she appreciated him for just being him.

I told her to make her own decisions.

She then appropriately drew an Aggie picture to ‘cleanse herself of any wrongdoing’ (her words, not mine).

Ok, I feel better.  Brainwashing still intact.

Education Nation

  • September 28, 2010 6:17 pm

NBC News is hosting an interactive conference in New York City this week entitled Education Nation.  During this conference, teachers, students, politicians and political leaders from across the country are entering into conversation promoting education reform.  I’ve only seen a few highlights through specific soundbites, but the overall theme of the conference intrigues me. 

We all know education needs reform, change, and innovation.  We can reminisce about our own student experiences and discuss how we traversed through elementary, middle, and high school in the “good old days” when teachers wrote on chalkboards, and computers were the size of classrooms.  We used Big Chief Tablets, overhead projectors, and “purple ink” copies.  (Remember the smell of those??)

However, things have changed.  As a mom, I’ve watched my kids learn their alphabet on laptop computers, and summarize novels through blogging.  Video projectors, classroom laptops, and web-based learning aren’t just the exception, they are the rule.

But, take technology out of the picture.  Expectations have changed as well.  Kindergarteners are expected to read by the end of the year.  TAKS Tests invade by Third Grade, and End of Course Exams predict completion of high school courses. 

It’s high stress out there for a lot of kids.  School is work.  I tell my own students that although the pay isn’t very high, their job is to be a good student-to learn the secrets to their own success, and to find the ways and resources it takes to help them achieve.  School should be work.  Students should come to school knowing the expectations are high–the Stakes are High.  And that, you, the student, can reap the rewards.

But, school should also be fun. 

“Kids these days” live in an immediate society.  They live in a world of Wii, Web, Ipod, and Now.  They live in a world where their parents are texting, Twittering, Blogging, and “plugged in” 24-7.  Their world is an endless to-do list of practices, homework, vocabulary cards, and Gaggle.  Of course Education needs reform.  Kids are different.  The world is different.  The rules have changed–for all of us.

The question is, how do we change schools along with it?

a very terrible, no good, very bad start…

  • September 8, 2010 6:01 pm

6:45  “Mom!  I forgot to do my homework!”

6:50  “Mom! I can’t find my pants!”

7:00 “OWWWWWWW!!!! (intense crying…accompanied by bruising of big toe.  I’m not sure what happened, something about a door, but per my assessment, the toe is broken.)

7:03  “Where is the dog?  We gotta go!”

7:05   “Grab your lunches”

7:05 1/2  “Grab some umbrellas!”

7:07  *spilled milk in the car*

7:08   *Mom returns to the house for towel to clean up spilled milk, so car does not smell like … milk.*

7:11    *Mom forgets to close garage door, leaving adolescent dog at the mercy of the big bad world.*

7:15    *Mom texts her own Dad to go by the house and assess the garage door situation if time allows.  Mom also realizes she forgot to feed dog and cat.*

7:20   *Mom passes highway patrol, driving 80 mph and feels lucky for skating by under the radar.*

7:25    *Mom accompanies limping Kid 3 into school, and explains broken toe situation.  Kisses child, and hopes for the best.*

7:34    *Mom and Kids 1 & 2 arrive at school.  Kid 1 drops binder, lunch and water bottle repeatedly down the hall.  Kid 1 also forgets previous homework in car.  Kid 2 explains the injustice of umbrella privaleges.*

7:40    Teacher Mode:  Rode closures???

7:45    Kiss Kids 1 & 2 goodbye.  Hope for the best.

7:50    Pampered Chef Glass Mixing Bowl Explosion in classroom per Mom/Teacher’s bad planning with a hot plate.

7:55    Sprite Emergency-Student to the rescue.  Call it a teacher thing.

8:00   Ready?

8:03   Call to said Dad to explain dog situation…worry ensues.  Possibilities of the Big Bad World abusing adolescent dog invade.

8:05   Popped the top to the first Diet Coke.  Eyed Chocolate.  Held Strong.

9:05    Caved to chocolate.  Decided I was super glad tomorrow is
Thursday.

First Week Down

  • August 26, 2010 7:30 pm

The forms are all signed; the lunch accounts set up.  Copies are made, and binders have a few doodles.

The new school year is underway…

and it’s the perfect time for a Friday, don’t you think?

A New School

  • August 23, 2010 7:22 pm

Decatur opened it’s third elementary this year, which seems so surreal to me…We are still a small town, aren’t we?

My family moved here when there was just Decatur Elementary, in an old building by the football field.  I personally never attended that school, but my sister did, and I’ve heard stories from many teachers who taught there.  I remember when the “new” elementary was built, and the hoopla that went along with it.  But, by that time, I was in high school, and it just seemed like background noise. 

I was a semi-adult by the time Carson Elementary was built, and even though I wasn’t living here, I heard the hoopla in exclamation points from those that were living through the split.  No one wanted to leave “the” elementary school.  Everyone wondered (out loud) how it could be possible that our little town needed TWO elementary schools.  No one could imagine that there would be kids starting school in Decatur, across town from eachother, not sharing the same teachers, the same playground memories, and the same friends.  It was crazy talk.  It was a crazy time, and there were growing pains.

Now, we have a THIRD elementary school opening, and again, there are growing pains.  Again, there is hoopla.  Our little town has been zoned, districted, and divided.  People are having to change schools, rearrange carpools, and shift comfort zones.  This time, I’m right in the thick of it.  My kids attend Decatur Schools, and are part of this process.  I had to tell my kids which Elementary School their friends would attend-and in more than one case, a school different than their own.  I had to hold their hands, and hug their little bodies as they worried, cried, and wondered about the new year.  Honestly, I thought I was fine with the change.  I was even a little excited about the change, until last week when we met the teachers.  As the evening ended, I was hit in the face with the shift in our environments.  I missed seeing the faces I’d always seen at evening school events, and it surprised me the comfort they must have always given me.  I felt like things were off-balance, and I was straddling the two sides, forcing them to even out.  I wondered if everyone felt a little like that.

Our little town is changing.  It’s moving in a different direction.  Now we have three sets of kindergartners in three different schools, with three separate sets of friends.  We are growing.  Heck, the Wendy’s is almost finished.  Wendy’s!  But even still, with all this change, all this unrest, and all this growth, everyone in town knows exactly what color “Decatur Blue” is, and kids from Carson, Rann, and Young will grow up Decatur Eagles, just as the kids from Decatur Elementary did.  And, surprisingly, today my nerves settled, and things seemed balance back out.  Smiles filled every hallway as students and teachers began their work, and everyone found their own way on a new path.   Despite all these changes, we are still a wonderful Small Town.  We still only have a handful of stoplights; we show movies on the courthouse walls; we get our daily news in a one page Update, and we all pull out those Decatur Blue Tshirts on Friday nights.

One more school added to the mix can’t change that.

FIRST DAY!!

  • August 22, 2010 7:01 pm

It’s finally here!  I feel like I’ve been preparing for this particular first day of school for WEEKS!  There are all kinds of frayed nerve endings going on at this house.  I’m in a different school than I was last year, teaching a different grade level than last year.  Really, than ever.  I’ll be working full time for the first time in seven years.  The kids are changing schools, and my youngest is going to preschool.

Lots of stuff.

But, underneath all that general anxiety, we are SO EXCITED to start a new school year, to learn new things, and to have new experiences.  Backpacks are stuffed, lunchboxes are packed, first day outfits are laid out-and we are a Go!

Are you?