Saturday, March 31, 2012
Friday, March 30, 2012
Yesterday we walked to the arch and then to the baseball stadium. We enjoyed lunch from the Zia's food truck. (Zia's is a well known Italian restaurant on the Hill.) In the afternoon we headed to the pool, the high school pool. My daughter coaches water polo for a high school, something she has done for three years now. We returned, ate dinner, walked the dogs and watched a movie. While my day wasn't spent trying to pack in all the sights, it was nice to spend some time with my daughter. She'll graduate next December after student teaching in the fall.
I look back at the days when both she and my son (her younger brother) were still at home, when we'd go on trips together. They've grown up more quickly than I could have imagined. Now I savor every opportunity I have to spend time with them. We don't get to take the family trips we once did, but memories of them return.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Today, as I sat with my daughter at a Drury Inn enjoying the "kick back," I heard "Mrs. André, Mrs. André" from behind my table. Standing there was a girl who had been in fifth grade a few years back. She wasn't in my class, but I remembered her from school. She remembered me too. She's a freshman now. It was quite a surprise to see her so far from school. I'm sure my presence here took her by surprise as well. It was so nice to see her and have a chance to say hello.
These recent events provided trips down memory lane.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
While I grew up in a time when you had to approach the TV to change the channel, used a "land" line to call your friends, researched using encyclopedias and typed papers on a typewriter, I have adapted to the ever changing world of technology. I read about new technology tools, find ways to use them when it's appropriate and even competed a master's degree in Instructional Technology. Technology is an important part of my life. I plan lessons using my laptop, enter grades in PowerSchool, call parents on my smart phone, connect with friends, write on my blog, family and colleagues on Twitter and Facebook, and pay bills online. However, I am and will always be a digital immigrant.
I still look back fondly to the long ago days I spent riding around on my bike. When I wanted to hang out with a friend, I'd knock on their door to see if they could play. My time was spent outside whenever the weather was nice. The only video games I played were Pac-Man and Centipede at an arcade. I listened to records and later 8-tracks. We used maps to find our way. While I have willingly (well, most of the time) entered the digital world, I still sometimes think life was a bit easier, more relaxed even, back when we weren't so connected.
What will my students think about the technological changes they will encounter as they become adults? Will they look back and think life was easier and more relaxed too? Our world changes at an ever increasing rate. "Change is good, you go first...."
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Temperatures are in the 40°s.
The wind is blowing strong.
The early flowers sway.
It's a typical March day.
How I wish the sun was out.
Where is that blue sky?
Looking up the sky is gray.
It's a typical March day.
Spring break is here.
Can the sun come back?
I want to go out and play.
It's a typical March day.
Monday, March 26, 2012
My son called me this past weekend. He’s at college and I hear from him more often through text messages or calls I make than when he calls me. It was only 8:30 AM on a Saturday, so it took me by surprise. He wanted to check in, but it wasn’t long before I learned the real purpose of his call. He had been dating someone most of the first semester. He had ended the relationship because he felt she was too jealous and clingy. Even after they stopped dating, they would still talk and part of him thought they could get back together. That changed when he noticed her Friday night Facebook status. She listed herself as “in a relationship” with a football player. He has had other girlfriends, but felt this one was special. I listened more than I talked. It’s a hard lesson, but one that we each learn on our own.
I remember being about the same age. I had a boyfriend I’d met in high school. We’d finished our senior year together. Turnabout, prom and graduation. We spent some time together in the summer, but as the days grew closer to college we were busy. He came to see me a few times at college and we spent New Year’s Eve together along with friends. I cared deeply about him, but our lives were taking us in different directions. It took a while to finally get over thinking of us as a couple. While I had a few boyfriends before him and more after, he still held a special place in my thoughts. It took time and more life experiences before I finally left him behind in my memories knowing that’s all that was left for us.
Each relationship we enter teaches us something. It takes time to realize that and move on. I believe there is a special person out there for each of us. Finding them isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the wait, the broken hearts and lessons learned along the way. It’s hard to recognize that when you are young. Resiliency, perseverance and a willingness to take chances are required. While my heart aches for my son, I know this will bring him one step closer to finding his soul mate.
I met my husband just before the start of my second year of teaching. We had worked at the same resort, waiting tables as summer jobs. We dated for four years before getting married. He has always been there for me. He’s a great listener, a hard worker and showers me with attention. I love spending time with him. He is my soul mate. I’m so fortunate to have him in my world.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
As a fifth grade teacher, it's helped me see the world of writing from the view point of student writers. I have them write slices on our class blog each Tuesday. At times they struggle with topics or ideas, but they also craft amazing entries giving insight into their life and thoughts. I find myself doing the same. Looking back on my posts, I find some that speak volumes and others that fall flat. I welcome comments from fellow slicers and know my class enjoys the comments others make as well.
Writing isn't always perfect. It takes practice. Writers thrive when they write for a purpose and can share their work with a wider audience. That's what write each day in March has reaffirmed for me.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Our fifth grade social studies curriculum takes us through U.S. History from the 1750s through 1865. We conclude our year with a short focus on the Women’s Rights Movement and Civil Rights. While there are always a few history buffs, most of my ten to eleven year-olds don’t understand the importance of learning about events that happened so long ago. (I’m sure there are many adults that may also feel this way too.) While I minored in history in college, I’m not sure I was as interested in our past as a fifth grader either. Engaging students and guiding them to think deeply about these topics requires more than reading, discussions and assessments. Learning through simulations where students take on a character from these time periods, reading historic fiction and incorporating our knowledge in our writing has helped more of my students look forward to learning about these periods.
We just completed our unit on Westward Expansion. During this study students were given a choice of novels to select from for book club. We had four book clubs in our room. I also shared picture books with them representing this time period. Their favorites were a tall tale “Apples to Oregon” and “Priscilla and the Hollyhocks” a book about the Trail of Tears that also touched on slavery. Once we built our base knowledge, we began a simulation as pioneers on the Oregon Trail. Students were placed in wagon groups, randomly selected ages and occupations and together with their wagon family developed their personalities for the trail. As we journeyed, we were faced with decisions that real pioneers faced. These “fates” provided students with opportunities to learn more about adversity, landmarks and conditions along the trail. As we journeyed from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, we crossed rivers (learning techniques as we went,) encountered Indians (realizing that most were not hostel,) came to trading posts 9where supplies were much more expensive and the shop keepers weren’t always honest,) viewed natural markers including Independence Rock and learned about injuries as well as sicknesses the pioneers faced. Each fate was crafted from information from real pioneer journals. We researched as we went learning about cholera, scurvy, frontier men including Fremont and Carson, alkali (Alkali Springs,) geysers and how to cross mountain ranges safely. As we traveled students complete journal entries detailing their travels in narrative form during Writer’s Workshop. Here’s an excerpt from one of the journals:
July 27, 1855
It has been getting a little worse but I am not discouraged. Lots of stuff has happened in the last couple of days. First of all, we had a chance to go Ayers Natural Bridge and nobody wanted to go. I kind of wish we did because everyone said it was amazing. Luckily they brought back some really tasty berries and shared them with everyone. Then, we had to cross the hardest river of all, the North Platte. We could have either stayed and wait out the storm or go right away, paying 8 dollars. We went, which was a really good idea because if we had stayed we would have been hit by another storm and still had to pay since the river was so high. That would stink to be someone who stayed. Then a terrible event happened. We camped at Poison Springs. At first the water looked clear and clean enough to drink. . At least that’s what we thought. We learned the mud on the bottom, if stirred up would poison the water. We decided to post guards at night to keep our animals safe. At night one of our stupid guards, that I strongly dislike, fell asleep on duty. While he was sleeping, the animals got away and started drinking the contaminated water. Guess what happened? Yep, all the ones that got away died. It was all the guard’s fault! I just wanted to whip him and then tar and feather him. Everyone else in our family wasn't even mad at him. What were they thinking? Now we have three less animals. After that we went to another place with contaminated water. The poison was called alkali. Our water supply is running really low and I am not sure we will make it. We finally made it to Independence Rock. I hear lots of stories of where people would celebrate the Fourth of July here, but we arrived later in July. Writing in this diary is getting really tiring. I think I will take a break.
Towards the end of our unit we met with the two other fifth grade classes on the trail and celebrated around a campfire. We listened to a story from a famous story teller, sang some songs from this period, played instruments we brought, danced and feasted on popcorn, beef jerky and apple juice. By combining literacy learning. reading, writing, research, deep thinking using various strategies and mini lessons) along with our simulation, students were engaged and had a lot of fun. Next stop the Civil War, and yes they will be participating in a simulation
Here's a link with some of the information from our simulation:
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Outside the world is turning green from leaves to the grass.
We will be mowing and weeding, I've never felt the need to do this so early before.
The redbud is ready to blossom, it will grace our patio with a dark pink hue.
Yellow daffodils surround the brickwork creating a beautiful yellow border.
The purple hyacinth have sprouted, welcoming all who pass by with a deep purple wave.
Each morning I hear the birds singing, the sounds of spring surround me.
At night the cool breeze provides a welcome respite from the day's heat.
Occasionally rain dances upon the roof as it makes its way to the ground.
While spring has come early, I welcome it with open arms.
Today I will start my day with two meetings at the junior high. As a fifth grade teacher we have articulation meetings scheduled for each student heading there with an IEP or 504. These meeting involve the student, the parents, the homeroom teacher and any other personnel involved. They are important, but somehow scheduling them on the day before break is hard. I'll have a sub for most of my literacy block and will miss the chance to confer with some my students before they head out.
Our fourth and fifth graders participate in a school musical as part of the music program. On stage rehearsals have begun which means an hour is spent twice a week practicing. It's an amazing production. The students learn a lot and it provides an opportunity that many would otherwise not have. Today it will take place when I return however, so I won't be teaching all morning.
This afternoon I will be at an hour long meeting with my team to go over benchmark and progress monitoring data in reading, writing and math for students on our team. A sub will be working with them again during this time as we complete our simulation of the Oregon Trail. By the time I return we will be headed to a special PTO assembly. By the time the assembly ends, there will be less than 30 minutes left.
Today I'll head to school and only teach for 30 minutes. I hoped to teach my class today, but other things got in the way.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
A friend had posted this on Facebook and it made the perfect start for my slice for today. As educators, we often are expected to do extraordinary things. We are not always supported with the material resources needed to meet the goals that continue to be added. We want to do our best and at times it's an overwhelming job. Teachers don't give up easily and they keep looking for ways to do whatever they can to inspire and engage students, doing their best to help everyone succeed. I work hard, but so do most of my colleagues. We are doing an increasing number of assessments, our teaching is data driven (perhaps overly so?) and with the new curriculum and mandates the list grows longer and longer. We don't get more time or resources, but the bar continues to rise. Our state assessment scores are reported publicly, grading us and our schools. What continues to amaze me is how we continue to focus on our students and do our best. This is nothing short of miraculous. This reinforces my belief that teaching is a calling and not just a job. It requires a special person to perform these "miracles." Let's all celebrate our abilities to reach for these goals.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
I sometimes take the train to and from school. It gives me an opportunity to read, write, look over student work or plan. It’s much more relaxing than driving on a busy day and I get to walk to work, getting a bit of exercise as well.
The train is also a great place to “people watch.” As I ride along I have the time to notice the uniqueness’s of my fellow passengers. Many are reading, listening to music or working on laptops. The conductor comes through punching tickets and you can always tell who is a regular traveler and who is new to the experience.
I create stories for my own amusement using my observations and the “snatches of talk” that drift by my ears.
“I wonder if the air conditioning will be turned on tomorrow.”
“Did you see her checking her iPhone at the meeting.”
“I’m not wearing heels tomorrow, it’s too hot.”
“How’s your bracket? Mine is all messed up.”
I ask questions that won’t be answered too. Where is everyone going? Why is he wearing a Blackhawk jersey while everyone else seems dressed for the office? What’s in that big box on the seat next to her? Does that phone ever leave her ear? She seems to talk non-stop! It looks like someone had a bad day judging by their expression and the way they stare out the window.
Commuter trains provide writers with things to wonder about, characters to create and stories to tell. I’m sure others may think about these things too, but writers take the time to write. Writing capture moments in a special way so they can be used later too.
I’ll take my observations and ideas, jot them down and save them for the future. Riding a train is like putting words in a “writer’s bank” so they can be withdrawn later.
Monday, March 19, 2012
It’s morning and although it’s almost 6:30, the sun is not yet rising. Daylight savings time does that. I can hear the birds calling to one another as they greet the morning. I planted a few flowers in pots yesterday and my husband worked in the yard for hours. We saw some neighborhood children in swimsuits playing outside with a hose yesterday as we walked our dogs. Our daffodils are blooming, the earliest date I can remember. Our flowering crab, which usually waits for early May, will bloom soon too. I’m pleased that our weather has been so summer-like, but having heard that a portion of Arizona had snow, I can’t help but think we may still have some cold weather ahead of us. We do live in northern Illinois, and our weather changes quickly. For now I will enjoy the high temperatures, the early signs of spring and the chance to wear my summer clothing.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Saturday we ventured into Chicago. We needed to get our son to Union Station for his trip back to the University of Iowa. Since we were downtown already we walked north to see the very green Chicago River.
The St Patrick's Day parade began at noon. We watched the first part before walking to the Shedd Aquarium enjoying the many exhibits there.
The weather was amazing and we enjoyed walking by the lake front too.
On our way back to our car we stopped at a Starbucks at Jackson and Wabash. As we sat outside we noticed a bird hiding in the shade. It wasn't a bird you'd normally find in the city and upon closer look noticed it was a woodcock with a broken wing. Having a smart phone came in handy as we found a bird rescue group for the city. They asked us to see if we could capture the bird using a large paper bag. After successfully getting the bird into the bag we walked to a location where a volunteer was waiting. Hopefully "Patrick Jackson Wabash" is now in a place where he can recuperate from his ordeal.
We packed a lot into a beautiful Saturday. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Friday, March 16, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
It’s funny the things you remember from your childhood or even what triggers those memories. Not long ago I happened to add a few small details to SchoolFeed. I didn’t want to add too much as I am always skeptical of what might be done with the information. I have been receiving notifications that some of the people I went to high school were following me. I had over 500 classmates in my graduating class, many I don’t remember and having moved far from my hometown I only have kept in touch with a few over the years.
It took me by surprise when I noticed Tim was following me on SchoolFeed. You see I still remember him from elementary school. He was mean and often out of control. Once our male third grade teacher pushed him into a closet in our room and placed rulers through the handles to keep him from escaping while we notified the office of the problem. We all sat at our desks as the doors shook and we heard his voice emanate from the other side. Back then all I knew was he was a bully and often became angered. I was one of the smallest girls in my grade and he took extra pleasure in tormenting me any chance he had.
After elementary school we moved on to junior high and then high school. He was still in the same schools, but luckily not in my classes. I didn’t have to worry about what he might do. I never liked him, our years together in elementary school would be permanently etched in my memory. At our 10-year reunion he stopped by to say hello. I was nice, but not overly friendly and glad to see him walk away.
Many more years have passed and the memories of him and his actions have faded with them. That is until I saw his name appear in Schoolfeed and the knowledge that he was following me. As a teacher, I now know that there were probably some issues that caused him to behave the way he did. Hopefully he has found happiness. To me, my eight-year-old impression of Tim will always bring me back to those days and his actions. Tim will always be the bully. This makes me wonder how people remember me from those long ago days. I know I was a rule follower, worked hard in class, was sometimes outspoken, but also had a shy side. Well, at least that is what I remember.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
I wore my Tevas today,
For a walk
We took our dogs through the woods,
And the sidewalks
Enjoying the warm weather,
Saying hello to others
The flowers are popping
The trees budding
The temperatures are soaring
And so are my spirits
I love these unexpected
Warm spring days
We set a new record high today
It was 80°
I welcome this early taste
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
We all have them, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been teaching or even the grade. They sneak up on you and seem to jump out from nowhere knocking you to the proverbial ground. It doesn’t seem to matter how well you plan, the ground rules you set, or the day of the week. When they happen you leave exhausted, feeling a bit defeated and gloomy. Tuesday was a day like that for me.
It started off all right. It was the last day of state testing with just an hour and the students would complete the assessments. Once they were over I knew we could return to our normal routine and learning. After the last test, we spent some time in writer’s workshop writing in character as we traveled on our virtual trip to Oregon in 1855. A parent dropped off cookies to celebrate the end of testing and the students were happily writing and munching. I was impressed by their work on the wiki and their willingness to add voice to their writing. Afterwards they went to gym and then on to foreign language before heading to recess and lunch. Things seemed normal, the calm before the storm.
After lunch, the students returned and we began our simulation work. Students were in “family” groups and had to work together to decide what to do when faced with a challenge much like those pioneers would face. This time they had been confronted with a group of Indians who demanded food and an ox from each family. It took a while with lots of discussion but they finally decided the best approach was to meet with the leader and work out a compromise.
Math was next and it was our early “Pi” day. Students would spend 20 minutes in each of three rooms working on pi activities that included calculating the circumference of six different cylinders, “Pi-Ku” and making paper chains with each color representing a different digit from 0 – 9. We split our three classes into groups so they would be with the students from other rooms. This is when the storm began to approach. One of my most loquacious students began to forget the rules for working with others, being nice and following rules. He made some decisions that required reminders and still continued to make poor choices. This didn’t bode well for him or the learning for other students that joined in to be “cool.”
Afterwards, as my class reconvened, a girl who for most of the year had listened and been focused, but as a fifth grader is beginning to become a bit sassy in her responses decided to further set the tone. She made a comment joining in to support the loquacious boy, which required my attention. Her remark didn’t go unnoticed by her classmates either and many found her words entertaining. I told her “let’s talk after school” since we needed to head down to our scheduled visit to the library. This brought her to tears and she couldn’t understand what she had done. I walked the class down to library and then went to retrieve her from the bathroom only to find four other girls powwowing with her when they should have been in the library. I sent them on their way and spent some time talking with her. She knew her words were not well thought through and that I’d need to let her mom know. Her mood was frosty as the day ended.
I couldn’t condone the behavior of either child. They have morphed into pre-adolescents testing the limits, attempting to bring others into this world with them. My heart broke as I saw this transformation. I want them to enjoy school, to respect others and to focus on their learning. I know that those are high goals, but most days they rise to meet them. Today wasn’t one of those days and I left feeling exhausted, a bit defeated and gloomy. Some days are like that, especially in spring. Here’s hoping Wednesday is a better day.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Wednesday is Pi Day, 3-14. We are spending math time working with pi. As writers students will create their own pi-ku with a bit of a twist. Instead of the 5 – 7 – 5 format our pi-ku—haikus have new rules:
First line: 3 syllables
Second line: 1 syllable
Third line: 4 syllables
Here are a few I created:
Is Pi two R
with Pi R Squared
I’m sure my students will be even more creative. Happy Pi Day!
It’s only 6:40 and I already feel like I’ve put in a long day. We have two nine-year-old labs and a mysterious beeping sound that must be coming from a smoke detector with a low battery or a device in our alarm system, but alas we have changed every battery we can find and the chirping continues. This has set off our black lab. She has become clingy and this morning even walked into the shower as I was taking one. She’s wet now and smelling like wet dog. We went on an early morning walk, had breakfast and she is still not herself. The random chirp comes on about once every ten minutes. It’s loud enough to hear throughout the house, but disappears before we get close to locating it. I’m not sure how to find the mystery chirping and need to leave for school soon. I hope Amelia’s day will be OK without us. At least she has her brother to keep her company. Yes, smoke detectors save lives, but this one is causing stress and loss of sleep.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
It’s report card time. Our grading period ended Friday. With a move to reader’s workshop and writer’s workshop, we no longer give letter grades for Reading or Language Arts. We do give letter grades for Math, Science and Social Studies in 5th grade to get students used to receiving grades since they will letter grades for all classes next year. Each area also has eight to ten descriptors following the subject heading where we add a 1, 2, or 3. Descriptors include items like: works independently, used time wisely, participates in group activities, organizes materials, and uses strategies. We also assess social and emotional growth on this scale. Once the numbers and letter grades have been added, it’s time to write a narrative for each student. This is what takes time, lots of time. I want to make sure that the information provided is helpful yet succinct since there is only room for about 250 words. I write these narratives carefully, taking time to craft my words. They provide a glimpse into each child’s life as a student, showing growth and also goals for the future. The students who are struggling, not making the progress I had hoped for our having trouble with behavior expectations take the most time. I want them all to feel good about what they have accomplished and know that they continue to grow too.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
We spent the morning at the Milwaukee Art Museum viewing a special exhibit: “Accidental Genius.” The work was all created by untrained artists, many who lived in poverty. Their work was simple, unrefined by most standards, but beautiful just the same. They went about painting and drawing as a way to express themselves, using whatever materials they could find. Somehow the art world took notice. Their work became collectable and worthy of museums. Having a gift for sharing their gift through simple mediums brought them into a different world. They shared their thoughts and stories. As I walked through the exhibit I was awestruck by their work. It sent the message that art is for everyone, that expressing one’s self is a natural desire. Some of us do it through art, others through writing and still others with music. All of our stories are important and just waiting to be told, if only someone will notice.
Friday, March 9, 2012
The sun is just beginning to rise and the pond behind our house is already alive. In spring we often see migratory water birds out there, having stopped for the night on their arduous journey north. Today I see small diving ducks searching for food on the recently opened water. I won’t be able to completely identify them until I am outside walking the dogs. By then the sun will be brighter. For now the sounds of the birds as they speak to each other and their graceful movements will remind me that spring is upon us. New life, new journeys and days filled with warmer temperatures. A welcome event after the long, dark days of winter.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
As teachers, we are always looking for ways to engage our students. We spend hours crafting lessons, as well as creating and locating resources. What I don’t understand is why some teachers aren’t willing to share what they have created. Is it a fear that it might not be good enough, or fed on competition? Do some teachers stop sharing because they don’t want to overwhelm their colleagues or is it because they are afraid others might think of them as “know-it-alls?”
I have always been willing to share ideas and resources, but have learned to share in small pieces and only when someone seems genuinely interested. As educators we need to support one another without worrying about what will be thought of our work. That’s hard. Teachers are pleasers for the most part. Teachers are also conscious that someone might be scrutinizing our efforts and pass judgment.
When teams learn to function together and have developed trust, I think this can change. I also think using online forums to share makes this process easier when team scaffolding isn’t in place.
Now you might be asking why I am pondering this point and analyzing it the way I am. Last night I received an email from a teacher in another school who had switched grades this year. She’s not new to the school, but climbing a steep hill as she works toward mastering the curriculum. Her teammates aren’t always willing to support her. She reached out to find support online. I was more than willing to help. I just wish we all could do this. We need to find a way to develop a support structure in our buildings, be willing to risk sharing without fear and continue to build our online PLNs.
Time to step down from my soapbox, however I’m not taking my rose colored glasses off. I still believe that deep down everyone wants to share, collaborate and help out.
The wind is blowing and everything seems to be swinging or swaying with the force. It’s supposed to be another spring-like day with temperatures climbing to the 50s. I can’t help but think about Winnie-the-Pooh (“It’s a blustery day…”) and Dorothy too (We’re not in Kansas anymore…) It’s funny how the wind brings to mind literary references. I can even recall a poem from my childhood by Christina Rossetti:
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
I am happy to feel the warmer breeze. It’s a welcome relief from the cold, bitter winds of winter. Hopefully it won’t morph into Ivy Ruckman’s Night of the Twisters.