Category Archives: Kinderblog

#Kinderblog14, Week 4: The Personals

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#Kinderblog, Week 4 Challenge: 

Write about a relationship (either personal or professional) that challenges you, or is maybe difficult for you. What makes it hard? What are the ways that it makes you grow? Is it worth the difficult-ness? Why do you think that relationship came into your life? What are you learning from it?

Before coming to Charleston and teaching Kindergarten, I had not worked with a teaching assistant.  I had experience co-teaching with ESOL, EIP, and SPED teachers – but had no experience having someone in my classroom all day long.  Someone who was meant to help me in all aspects of the classroom. And this relationship my friends – challenges me everyday.

I will be the first person to tell you I am a control freak. There are certain things that I like certain ways – things that may seem trivial to others (name tags, labels, folders, etc.).  These things, in my brain, are not trivial. My tendancies toward organization and neatness ride that fine line of Type A/OCD, with OCD winning out. I have difficulty letting go of some tasks (laminating, copying, cutting items out) just because I am used to doing them myself.  So while I am challenged to let go of some control, I also realize I am difficult for my assistant to work with.  It is not that I tell someone no, or fuss that something isn’t right, I just never give the other person the chance to do it.  In school, group projects were always difficult for me – I usually did most of the work (which at times I resented, but brought on myself). My concern for having things perfect or “just right” makes the setting up my classroom challenging.  It makes welcoming the help of others challenging.  It makes trying to help me challenging.

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My first year with a teaching assistant, I had substitutes until the end of October.  By the time Mrs. Jones and I found some sort of a groove, the school year was over.  This past school year, we had the ENTIRE year to be together.  She, bless her sweet heart, figured out how to “take” tasks away from me.  Small things, such as putting up the lunch choice, she would just start doing. Each morning, I would come in and see something she had taken over. Thankfulness would fill me.  I was so grateful she had become comfortable enough to take initiative and also realize what I was able to let go of – without asking her, because I am not very good at asking for help. I am also not very good at telling someone what I need done.

The professional relationship of teacher/teacher assistant is also challenging because I am somehow like her boss.  I am a teacher, I’m in the business of supervising children, not adults.  Taking on the role of supervisor to another adult was unexpected and something I hoped to always avoid due to my lack of desire to ever go into administration. Add to this the fact that I was raised super Southern, with heavy emphasis on respecting your elders.  Mrs. Jones is my elder, so how dare I tell her something to do? Many requests would be worded something like this: “Mrs. Jones, do you mind…?” To which she would respond, “Of course I don’t mind… You don’t have to ask!” This was our dynamic – my cringing discomfort with telling her what to do combined with my cringing discomfort letting anyone else do anything. However, we made it work.

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Which brings me to this school year, beginning with pre-planning August 11 and A NEW ASSISTANT! Y’all this brings me so much anxiety.  Mrs. Jones and I had found our groove.  I was just beginning to adjust to having an assistant – and now I have to start over. So my biggest professional relationship challenge right now is now even more challenging. Deep breaths!

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#Kinderblog14 Week 3: Homes and Gardens

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This week, I am prompted to write about my school home or my home home.  I think I’ll dabble in a little bit of both.

I live in Charleston, SC – perhaps one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It ranks in the top of various lists about travel destinations, wedding destinations, places to live, etc.  Coming to Charleston was somewhat of a big move for me.  I spent my entire life living in the same house in the same small town. People I still keep in touch with from my hometown I have known since kindergarten. My parents house is nestled in some woods about 20 minutes from “town” – Augusta, GA.  Growing up, we went to “town” every Saturday to shop.  The house I grew up in was the first on the road that was made of Georgia red clay until after I graduated high school. Deciding to go away to school, to the University of Georgia (an hour and a half away from my parents) was a pretty big deal.  However, my decision to move to Charleston was bigger – be it the extra distance/time away, the fact that I was leaving Athens and not going back to Augusta, or my leap of faith I was taking.  Charleston has been a welcoming city.  Hospitality is something the city prides itself on. I am pleased to be a “transplant”.

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 My home here is in the “burbs” about 10 miles outside of the downtown area.  Once I accepted the cost of living here, we were able to find a comfortable place for us and our 2 cats.  We are able to enjoy the weather with a screened in porch, walks on trails, and various ponds to catch sight of herons, egrets, and gators.  I am able to weave my way through the neighborhood maze to my school each morning.  I see my students on their bikes, at the pool, or at the store.  History is around every corner – even on the outskirts of town.  Our school is two miles from one of the few Southern rice plantations from before the Civil War. Our field trips include that plantation as well as the beach! When we talk about the ocean and pirates there is real, tangible history here in this town.  It is amazing!

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When it comes to my school home, priorities in setting up my classroom tend to be pretty OCD.  Getting in to my classroom before I am “required” to be there is of utmost priority.  I cannot think if furniture is still in disarray and tables are strewn about.  When I taught upper grades with desks, they never remained in the same formation for the entire year.  We always found it necessary to switch things up the mood came over us.  With my huge circle tables, where they land tends to be where they stay. Last year, I believe I found a layout for centers that worked both for the students (space/organization/noise) and also for the teachers (also space/organization/noise).  Organization is tied for first with getting into my classroom ASAP.  I have found that when particular things have their places, students are able to build their independence.  ABC/Math are color coordinated so activities can share one shelf but also be put in proper places.  Books in the reading center are organized by author or subject with basket and book labels.  We talk a lot about how our school library is organized and why.  We discuss why books having a home is an important  technique for organizing the library. Last year, a students suggested consolidating some books to one basket or separating others out to be easier to find.  My OCD tendancies do show some wiggle room every now and then!

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Classroom decorations are minimal.  I strive to keep my giraffe obsession in check.  At the beginning of the year, our classroom walls are pretty much empty except for the alphabet.    95% or more of what hangs on our walls, from our ceilings, and on our windows is student created.  At first, keeping the walls bare was a little difficult for me, even though I whole-heartedly support why I do it.  I want the students to walk in and the space feel homey and comfortable, not sterile and cold.  I’ve opted to create more “cozy” with movable objects.

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Before the students arrive, I have ideas for cozy places and safe places.  The locations may change or stay the same.  There are bean bags, cushions, and various stuffed animals (Thank you Kohl’s and your $5 Kohl’s Cares deals!). Reading spaces are not limited to right near the reading shelf, but in that general vicinity.  When discussing how we want our classroom to be, space inevitably comes up and staying within our space at center is a huge deal.  A designated place for “time out” or “chilling out” is not labeled.  That spot is different for every child and possibly every day.  An idea I came across that I’m thinking about for an option this year is:

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Other ideas for coziness – reading space with mats

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All my plans and ideas aside – once my littles walk through the door, I want them to feel love, warmth, and welcomed.  I want them to feel a part of the classroom and a part of the school.  I want them to take ownership and responsibility in their educations.  Our classroom should be their home away from home.

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#Kinderblog14, Letters to the Editor

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I had a difficult time with this post – which was surprising to me.  Through my Pinterest browsing, I stumbled across another teacher’s blog post about getting her second graders to write more.  Although she made some good points, she also left me with an “uh oh” feeling and had my mind buzzing with questions.  Surprisingly, I used the Common Core as a basis for one argument, despite my issues I have with them (discussed here).

This is my comment:

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There is always a little hesitation for me when commenting on another blog, especially if I disagree with something.  So much can be read between the lines, whether it is meant or not.  Tone doesn’t always come across appropriately in comments, texts, posts, and emails. So this #kinderblog14 challenge was just that, a challenge, for me!

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#Kinderblog14 Week 1

My friends over at Kinderchat have started their summer blog challenge.  This is the topic for week 1: Write the post that has been in your head (or your drafts folder) for a while now. You know the one. The one you write while you drive to work, or while you are in the shower. What is the question, or issue, or opinion, or emotions, you have been chewing on for a while now? Alternatively, what is the post that you have started a million times, picked away at, edited and re-edited, and almost trashed?  Did you read an article or a Facebook post that provoked a reaction, and that you can’t stop thinking about? 

For me – the post I am always thinking about, yet have difficulty putting into words that aren’t overshadowed by my loud stomps up on the soapbox, is DAP: Developmentally Appropriate Practice.  My teaching career has seen 3 shifts in standards in eight years.  When I began teaching in Georgia in 2005, the standards used were called QCC’s – Quality Core Curriculum.  A couple years later, the QCC’s transitioned into the GPS – Georgia Performance Standards. And then came Common Core.

My questions regarding DAP and standards did not really begin to arise until I moved from fifth grade to first grade.  I was reading standards that were laughable to me.  Standards that expected six and seven year olds to be able to explain the historical significance of and positive character traits demonstrated by Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and a few others deemed important for that grade level.  Combine this with the expectation that students be able to name all seven continents and UNDERSTAND that they live in a city, state, country, continent… Well this left me reeling.  What knowledge of child development do standards writers have?  Do they not understand that children of this age are still egocentric?  To understand that someone has the same name can blow their minds. And we want them to understand a world that is not tangible to them just yet? I believe in global education.  I believe in students learning about places far away, people from those places, how we are similar and how we are different.  I do believe in global community.

Don’t get me wrong – I fully support there being some sort of “standard” for grade levels.  Goals that we want to reach.  Content that is important for children to learn at a particular time.  What I take issue with are standards that are completely inappropriate for students developmentally. So much of what is taught in the first few years of school is social.  That is why there is a poster you can buy about everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten. When I see students struggling with social cues or how to “do” school – the last thing I want to do is force an academic standard on them that they aren’t ready for.

Coming into my third year teaching kindergarten, this issue feels more important than ever.  If you google kindergarten news stories, several different opinions pop up. Huffington Post has pages upon pages of stories about kindergarten success and concerns for early childhood practice.

My main concern is for the children I teach.  I teach CHILDREN.  Yes, I am a kindergarten teacher, but I teach CHILDREN.  Yes, I am expected to teach the common core standards for my grade level, but I teach CHILDREN.  At the end of the day, I find the responsibility of being a child’s first teacher – showing them how to get along with others, guiding them as they explore and learn things at their own pace, providing a safe environment where a love of school is grown – to be the most daunting. Yes, I want them to learn how to read.  Yes, I want them to learn how to count and use numbers.  Yes, I want them to learn about history and science.  But more importantly, I want them to LOVE doing those things.  I teach CHILDREN.  Children are people too.  The foundation of my teaching philosophy is that a child will know I love him and see him as a person first.  With that knowledge comes a connection.  And with that connection comes learning.  Standards or no standards.

[Off my soapbox now]

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#Kinderchat Challenge Wrapup

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Day 30: Progress on Resolution

My resolution for this year is to work on getting a children’s picture book published. I have sent my manuscript to 5 publishers and a query letter to another. It can take 4-6 months to hear back, so with that timeline, I think I’m in a good place. I’m researching other publishers I can reach out to. Many big name publishers do not take “unsolicited” manuscripts, i.e. “If you’re non one we don’t want it”. Fingers crossed!

Day 31: Celebrate finishing the challenge

I missed a few days here and there, but I think I participated in most! This was a great way to get to know more of my #kinderchat PLN!

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#Kinderchat Challenge Smorgasbord

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I fell out of the loop regarding the #Kinderchat kinderblog challenge… I’ve been redirected and I’m back on the route!  Since I’m quite a few posts behind – I chose a mishmash of sorts to catch up!

Day 19: If you could live in any place in the world, WHERE would you live?

Well, I’m pretty content where I currently live.  The weather is more often beautiful than not, I’m within 20-30 minutes of various beaches, and close to my family.  However, if I could live ANYWHERE, I would live somewhere with warmer weather pretty much year round.  Yes – I would miss the changing of summer to fall – but to live in one of the places mentioned below, I will have probably won the lottery and I could afford to fly somewhere to watch the seasons.

Hawaii – Average low of 66?  I’ll take it

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Seville, Cordoba, Andalusia, any place southern Spain – sangria, flamenco, and cathedrals

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Miami or Key West, Florida – I’ll ignore the hurricanes for now

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Day 20: Monday lists: 5 things you eat or drink every (or nearly every) day

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Coffee! The cups vary from 1-3 a day
Water
Some sort of chocolate
Nature Valley Protein granola bar (every school day for breakfast)
Some sort of dairy – usually yogurt or cheese

Day 25: Pet peeves: let them all out!

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My number 1 all time pet peeve is incorrect spelling for the purpose of cutesy alliteration!  Take note:  Alliteration has to do with the sound, changing the actual letter is not necessary.  It especially burns my grits (like my southern idiom?) when the misspelling is part of something education oriented, i.e. a daycare or school marquee.  The image below is from the 19th circuit court of Illinois! PLEASE stop!

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I have a few other pet peeves – I’m a little OCD – most involve sounds and textures… But those are between me and my therapist! 🙂

Day 27: Monday lists: Your top 5 favorite children’s books

This one is a toughy… I LOVE LOVE LOVE children’s books.  I read more young adult lit than adult.  When I worked at Barnes and Noble and was dragged from the Children’s/Teens’ section to help out front, I was pretty much useless at recommendations.  Leave me with my people so I can have awesome conversations about Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Pete the Cat, Skippyjon Jones, et. al and I’m a happy camper!

My top 5, some of my favorites and I believe best books ever written period, in really no particular order:

Charlotte’s Web:

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“Where’s Papa going with that ax?”
And that, my friends, is a hook (Not to mention the themes of love, loss, and friendship)

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon :

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“Believe in yourself and the world will believe in you too”
A must read for any age, great gift for anyone

Pink and Say

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“I had never seen a man like him so close before. His skin was the color of polished mahogany. He was flyin’ Union colors like me. My age, maybe. His voice was soothin’ and his help was good.”
Great historical fiction read aloud to accompany a Civil War.  I can’t make it through a read without tears.

The Book Thief:

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“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”  Seen the movie?  Read the book.  Already read it?  I’ve heard the movie does the book justice.

The Harry Potter Series Books 1-7:

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I was late to the Harry Potter Bandwagon.  I tend to resist bandwagons, especially when books are involved.  However, after a required reading of the first book for a survey class, I fell in love.  Upon reading the entire series, 1 to 7, without interruption, I’m convinced the collective story is one of the best ever told.  Despite the critics who cite magic and evil, the themes ring true.  Love.  Friendship.  Loyalty.  Bravery.  All the best qualities we would want to instill in our children, the setting just happens to be a castle and the students just happen to be wizards.  There are way worse influences out there – check out the video games some of these critics would buy for their children, but would not purchase Harry Potter. <Insert step down from soap box here>

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#Kinderchat Challenge: Days 13-15

You gotta love a teacher work day!  I’m supposed to be finishing report cards – but I’m choosing to catch up on blogging instead.  Shhhhh!

 

Day 13:  Monday Lists – 5 Songs that make me sing/dance

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1.  Livin on a Prayer – Bon Jovi (Sing, dance, everyone has to)
2. Stay – Rihanna (I belt it out as if I can carry a tune)
3. Toxic – Britney Spears (Always a Britney fan and I don’t care who knows it)
4. Senorita – Justin Timberlake (LOVE!)
5.  Fancy – Reba McEntire (Born and raised in the sticks – country girl at heart)

*I could add so many more!

 

Day 14:  A Goal for the Week

Goal.

Well, the rest of my week involves being without my students because of work days.  So – my goal is to finish report cards and schedule conferences.

 

Day 15:  Wordless Wednesday – Picture outside your Window

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1st grade garden and 2 5th grade “learning cottages”

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