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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

As the Year Begins

Sure, I started 2 weeks ago. But I had a morning class of 10 kids and an afternoon class of 10 kids. And I thought it was rough (routines, procedures, school, standards). Ha!

Now I have 20 kids all day long. And we have all the same stuff, but it seems like more.

After school today I said to my teaching partner: I know I can do this, but I don't know how I'm going to do this. I know I can do this. But a big heavy weight on my shoulders.

This is an amazing group of talented and fun-loving little people.

I found myself in a situation--do it because I said to do it. We know I am not winning that one. Sigh.

20 kids with needs, like how to hold a pencil correctly, and one of me. Sigh.

But I will not dwell here tonight.

What went well today? Everyone had two recesses and lunch at school.

What can I improve upon tomorrow? Look into each set of eyes and respect who they are. Love them for who they are. Remember to look at behavior as communication. Label it. Offer alternatives. Practice breathing when we are calm, so that breathing when we are upset will become easier. 

That's enough.
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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Assessment

The class I am currently taking is called "Assessment."

So far it's been knowledge building. But has gotten me to think...

**How can I add more questions/activities for formative assessments into my lessons?

**Why do the big company resources that I have to teach curriculum not have great questions in them? (For as much money as we spend on them, I would like to have one less thing to create from scratch, but have a starting point to jump from.)

I'm talking about during the lesson, to make sure that they are getting what I'm giving.

During independent/small group work time I feel good about the feedback I give, but the whole group time, this is definitely an area to improve.

So, my blogging friends--- 

How do you use formative assessments during your whole group lessons? I'd love some ideas/strategies/thoughts.

And, how about a picture from my room. I just love my room. It is a work in progress and I know what I want to do to improve, but still looking at options/furniture/space.



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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Questions

I'm a naturally curious person.

Some days my family answers my questions willingly, and some days they do not. They tolerate my curiosity, but when I get that look or frustrated sound, I know it is time to put my questions away.

How does your trumpet work?

What is 32 times 2 plus 18 plus 14?

Why did Wonder Woman do that?

What was the Pacific Ocean like? Who were you with? How cold was it?

I'm not trying to annoy anyone, just looking for answers to questions that pop into my head. I don't really remember my students asking many questions. (Let's hope it's because I'm too far away from school and I can't remember any more.) 

5 year olds should be asking LOTS of questions. 

What can I do to promote questions in my classroom?

How can I structure lessons so that kids are asking more questions?

How will I support the students in finding the answers to their questions?

It seems to me that the more questions I ask, the more questions I have...

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

My Neck of the Woods

Here's what's happening in my neck of the woods...

An 8 mile morning bike ride to help me feel strong.

Blogs and books to grow my brain.

My sewing machine to practice a hobby.

A nap to remind myself that it is summer (and I stayed up way too late last night).

Water to hydrate my brain.

An oreo, just because.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Worried No More

I have many friends (some don't know it... blogland...), and several really good friends. 

One friend has worried about my obsession dedication to my teaching job. She is concerned that when I retire (in 20 YEARS) I will have nothing left, have a heart attack and ...

Thankfully, I have proven myself this summer to her. She has seen my renewed obsession dedication to my sewing projects and yesterday let me know that she is no longer concerned for my future well-being.

This makes me smile, laugh, and be thankful for friends who care for me.


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Thursday, July 6, 2017

2016-2017 Year End Reflection

Reflection: noun serious thought or consideration.

One of my favorite things to do is reflect. It is in those moments that ideas spring to life, a bridge to a challenge is built, and feelings of accomplishment fill me.

I reflected with my principal on the last work day. What a humbling experience. I do it by myself a lot, and with my BTPSM and teaching partners, but not often with my supervisor.

It was easy to talk about good things in ELA, and so many ways I want to improve math for next year, but to whittle it down to a manageable task? She really needed to guide me in that. 

That document is somewhere in Google Doc land, to be found at some later date. I wonder how close it will match to what I write here...

What went well:
1. Intense, systematic instruction (also multi-sensory) in letters (names and sounds)
2. Strong, whole-class phonemic awareness instruction
3. Recess--we had great recesses, some were messy (sand, water, broken bone), some were mediating arguments, all were full of smiles and fun



What do I want to improve:
1. Small group time? I did a LOT of whole group instruction, and not a lot of small group instruction, but when we studied the data, the kids made huge gains. So, change what worked and hope it is even a bigger gain or leave it?
2. Better plan for kid-play. They are 5 years old. Find ways to incorporate more play into our day.
3. Collaborate with the science teacher. We have already been talking and I am excited for what we might create together, and what the kids might learn from us integrating the science into our reading, writing and math. 



There is more. But focusing on one (or three) thing(s) is enough, and maybe I can have a big feeling of accomplishment next summer.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Technology for Teachers

I took 2 classes this summer. The first I already wrote about, here is the second.

Technology is good. Technology is changing. Is there ever enough technology?

I've heard a little about tech. SAMR. And by a little, I mean, A Little. Just enough that I felt bad for not incorporating tech more. I can problem solve a few things with my laptop and SmartBoard. I can create some SmartBoard lessons. 

For me, tech has been a substitute or a way to do the lesson/worksheet with tech. That is not what I want. I want the tech to teach the lesson, be the creative outlet for the kids. Not a cute game that is basically a worksheet on the iPad. 

And the question I come back to is: How do I do this for 5 and 6 year olds? They already play games on their parents phones/tablets. How do I use tech in ways that is different from what they do away from school?

I'm not sure I really got those answers, but I do have more resources to go to. 

Early on I got onto Atomic Learning. I had to go through my university and use passwords and stuff, so I'm not sure how long I will have this resource. But it was amazing. 

I watched tutorials, and got lost in the website, and watched more tutorials. Some I had to watch, some I chose to watch. One tutorial completely changed my view on Powerpoint presentations. I gave a presentation last February (snoozeville) and am giving a version of is in August. I totally changed the visual of the presentation and am so excited to try it out.

Also, I've been a little (maybe a lot) more observant in the few presentations I've been in lately, and wonder if I could point the presenter toward Atomic Learning and let that presentation WOW the audience.

Here's what I learned about presentations:

1. Plan the presentation in Word first
2. In the powerpoint, use a photo instead of a title
3. Use text sparingly (don't put everything I'm going to say on the slide! the audience won't be able to read it anyway--it's too small), 24 point minimum, 48 point and larger is prefered
4. Tell the story:
     a. Define the problem
     b. Solve the problem
     c. What's next, or how to get started
5. Every added element should support the Big Idea
6. If you use a video, use it at the beginning or around breaks
7. At the end, give a handout that enhances the presentation

I was telling my younger son about what I learned and he just gave me a "duh" look. Apparently he has learned this already from one of his teachers. Great job Mrs. McGuire!

Now, to change some of my alphabet lessons into wowsville...

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Gratitude Lately


Thankful for a summer break full of activities that fill my soul.

Thankful for my sewing machine and awesome projects.

Thankful for friends and time to see them.

Thankful for technology and being in touch with those who live far away.

Thankful for ice cream and new ice cream shops.

What are you thankful for?

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Teacher Leadership

Taking classes (real classes, not workshops) this summer has stretched me. It's been good and rewarding.

The first class was (yep, it's over already) "Teacher Leadership."

Looking back at the class I see how it moved smoothly from topic to topic. But some of the time I was thinking HUH? I wonder if that was due to the fact that I could only see my next step, and not the whole road that was in front of me.

Reading articles about leadership characteristics was fascinating. Discovering the skills that I have, the skills I want to cultivate, and the parts that just are not going to change gave me lots to think about.

Want to read some about leadership?




My final grade has not been posted, but I'm hoping for a good one. (We celebrated a potential good grade last night with ice cream.)


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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Summer



This is totally how I feel most summers. But this summer is different.

This summer I have not read teacher books (except the one I skimmed the week after school was out, that doesn't count any more). Have not spent hours and hours, days and days reading blogs, taking notes, planning like a crazy woman. 

The last time I really took the summer off was 2010, and that was before I went back into teaching.

I've filled my time with sewing, coffee dates with my friends, grad school classes (very different form of learning from previous summers), and general hanging around my family with no agenda other than to be near each other.

I hear some teachers talking about how quickly the summer is going. I can honestly say that I do not feel the same. It has been a glorious mix of days. And we still have ALL (except one day) of July left, and some of August. So much time!

Teacher friends--hope your summer is as wonderful as mine.






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Saturday, July 1, 2017

I'm Sorry

I said those words to my husband last night.

"I'm sorry for how I've behaved the past 7 weeks, and for how I most likely will act in the next 11 months."

Starting a Master of Education in Teaching and Learning program sounded great. It still does. But it also is reminding me of how I am as a student.

It's a roller coaster event!

When things are going well, assignments are clicking along, everything makes sense, then the sun is shining. 

When I hit a technological snag, or have difficulty with an assignment, then the storm is fierce.

Perhaps I do not need to change this roller coaster, but let my family freely ride it with me (they kinda already are). 

My hope is that my sons can watch me struggle. Watch me win. Watch me question. Watch me celebrate. And in this roller coaster event, they can learn about the resilience we all have inside of us. The power and drive to tackle every challenge and figure out a way to the other side. 

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Relationships

Summer = Homework!

I'm two weeks into my coursework and some is fun and some is less fun. ;-)

I think I've watch Rita Pierson's TEDtalk 4 times in the past couple of years. And today she inspired me to improve and be the difference I was born to make.

If you have never watched it, or if you want to watch it again, check it out!



Now that you've been refreshed with her message...

There are a couple of kids last year that I did not do my best with making a connection. I need to do better. The kids deserve my best. 

As I look to the future I ask my community: What do you do to build a human connection with your students? How do you build relationships? 

My go tos:
--hugs and smiles
--playing at recess (not often enough)
--telling stories about me as a kid, or my own kids, to make connections with their lives
--accepting and encouraging different ways to learn

I'm sure there are more. Would you please leave me a comment with what you do to build relationships with your students? I want to learn from YOU!!!

Thanks

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Friday, May 19, 2017

The Last Day

It was a great year. A magnificent year.

I'm tired and the kids are tired, because we have learned and grown so much. We have put a lot of energy into learning.

And now it is summer vacation.

It started about 1:00 today. I was feeling angry and had to somehow stuff it down and make it to the end of the day. To dismissal.

After school I was irritated, but didn't really know why. And angry. Still trying to be a grown up and manage my upset. 

At dinner (eating pizza with my family) it dawned on me. My sadness of the year ending was showing in the form of irritation, anger and general upset.

168 days together means something. To me and to the littles. The routine and rituals we created together are gone. What is next? Who are we if we are not together?

When I think about how this end affects me (and supposedly I am a grown up and can handle these strong feelings) I can start to understand why my class was a complete MESS today.

Now, will I be able to remember this next year and create a classroom where there is ROOM for all of the feelings of the year ending?
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

No Big Deal

But it IS a big deal. To me, to the parents, to the people who monitor "data."

Background information:

First semester of kindergarten was full of letters-names, sounds, words.

Second semester was full of review, review, review. And practice, practice, practice. (Review and practice of reading and spelling.)

Today:

Two kinder friends asked to play CandyLand with me during reading intervention. (Do not worry, I altered the cards. ;-) I wrote nonsense words on them--cvc, ccvc, ccvcc, cvcc)

These two kids were reading and playing with ease. Almost made me cry. When they would read a word, they would say, hey--that is the beginning of ... Just add ___ and then it is a real word.

Here is the example that has stuck with me:

Student 1 reads muff and says, that is the beginning of muffin.

Student 2 says, just add 'in' and you would have muffin.

Teacher (me) says, how did you know to add 'in'?

Student 2 says "I listened to the sounds." (He was a bit perplexed that I asked him--why would I not know this??? This was NOT a big deal to the student, just another day in kindergarten.)

The Big Deal:

These kids are leaving me tomorrow and they are confident that they can listen for the sounds to read and spell. These kids do not need me to spell anything for them. If they get stuck, all I have to do is "unblend" the word WITH them, and then they do the rest. 

Did I mention that they are 5 an 6 years old?

I am one happy teacher! 



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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Currently

Farley has retired the Currently linky, but I feel like writing a Currently tonight.

Listening to the Royals baseball game.

Thinking about my ELA block for next year (what went well--systematic, direct instruction in letters/names/sounds/and how to read; what needs to be improved--more kid talk time/Kagan/centers)

Loving my school buddies near and far. Also loving the progress of my wonderful Kinder Kids.

Wishing for a light table and a sensory table for my classroom.

Thankful for a job that I love.

What would be in your Currently?
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Monday, April 24, 2017

The Good Kind of Surprises

I had two good kind of surprises today that I want to remember.

1. Students were drawing/writing to go along with our story during our chapter book read aloud. (I find that it keeps their attention and allows the ones who want to be creative the space for it.) A cutie held this up for me to see.


I was surprised at how easily I could read it, so I asked--who helped you write that? The answer, "no one, I said the sounds." And a look of "duh!" But not disrespectful at all.

What I see every day is a group of 5 and 6 year olds who are not afraid to write a sentence (or a story). They compose the sentence, think about the sounds and go for it. And, by golly, I can read it!!! If they get stumped, some will ask me, and I say: say the word, say the sounds. And at about that time, they turn around and go write it. 

I love that writing is in their backpack, not mine. It is not up to me to tell them how to spell anything!

2. I am finishing up Aimsweb testing this week. Today I worked with one who I thought would struggle. Nope. Crushed it! We may need to party tomorrow...

So I want to remember today when the next difficult day comes around and surely it will come.
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Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Big Picture

Stuff comes to me just when I need it. Information comes at the most opportune times.

OR

I am open to the stuff and information that comes my way.

Either way, I'll take it!!

School has been difficult the past three weeks. I have been challenged professionally in a way that has rocked me to my core. I have not slept. I worry. I cry.

In a moment of severe self-doubt my principal said to me (some version of this), "You are not used to not figuring it out, it is difficult for you to have to try many things, you will get this, you are already doing this."

She ''gets" me. I am used to things going my way. Things are good. I am successful. I feel good. If things are tough for an extended time I take it personally. Hard.

Last night, in a different training, totally unrelated (yet related) a wise man said, "Understanding helps us to not take it personally, it is larger than me."

That comment stopped me cold.

The stuff that has been difficult IS larger than me. I do not have to carry it in my backpack. 

My next hope is that I can be caring and compassionate, and work at the stuff, and see the big picture.

Wish me well!
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Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Struggle

How do I challenge the kids and create a culture that values growth and struggle and not just value the correct answer quickly?

This video is quick and full of ideas.


I am excited to use some new Feedback Stems this week to start valuing growth, not perfection.

--Look at how much progress you've made on... (be specific!)
--I noticed how... (be specific!)
--I admire how hard you have worked on... (be specific!)

Starting with these three, then I will add some more!

Also, we NEED to make a class matra...

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Important Ideas

I love learning. And applying the learning to my life and my classroom. 

That being said, I wasn't too excited to see an assignment pop up for my online class to watch a 47 minute long video. I didn't even get my notebook out for notes. 

That changed at 4 minutes in! I was scrambling for my notebook and was quick to pause and write my thoughts and ideas from the video. And 2 hours later I have finished the video (and my wings and pizza--Super Bowl, you know!).

Mostly I am thinking about how to apply this knowledge in my classroom and with my own sons.

Some thoughts:

1. Teach the love of learning, the thrill of improvement (like that one science class in college where I got a D on my first big test and worked my way into an A for the final grade--that's improvement), and to love the challenges

2. Be aware the skills and talents are malleable--time and effort may be needed

3. Look at errors, analyze them, learn from them

4. "What is my greatest failure, and how has it changed me?"

5. The power of Yet (I heard this from Ginger years ago, and now it makes even more sense, thanks Ginger!)

6. Developing a Growth Mindset is a life-long journey, monitor triggers that put me in a fixed mindset, learn from challenges (this is particularly important as I take the big classes)

7. Instead of telling my students "how smart they are," focus on effort, improvement, perseverance, and strategies used

And the ending, which is the most scary for me: Environment is totally a HUGE factor in whether a student develops more of a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. I set the stage.

So, here is my challenge for me: accept the kids, value who they are, teach rigorously (yes, even in kindergarten), understand how trauma influences learning (yes, more to learn), and be willing to share my learning journey with them.

Remember to send my your thoughts and resources for teaching kinders about Growth Mindset! 

Thanks in advance!

Just in case you want to see the whole video...

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Professional Journey

I'm taking the plunge. Growing my knowledge and not being afraid.

For years (maybe even since I completed my undergrad) I have avoided the thought of a Masters Degree. Well, not avoided, I have thought about it a lot. But have deemed myself unable to do the work. However, recently several interactions have propelled me into this journey, and I will officially start course work in the summer for a Masters Degree. 

I could have waited to write about it until then, but a portion of the degree is taking "workshops" that directly relate to classrooms right now, with skills and strategies and everything that I love. And I am taking 3 workshops this spring.

The first one is one week in. And I LOVE it.

We are using the book The Growth Mindset Coach, by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley. 

I can now see that by saying I could not do this Masters work was a fixed mindset and I am SOOOOOO glad to have gotten past that and decided that I could be brave and do this. If all students can learn (and I do believe this with all of my heart), then, I too, can learn and do this.

Our current reading is chapters 1 and 2 and these are my responses to do I have a fixed or growth mindset, and what is the difference between the two:


I feel like I have been working on my growth mindset for decades (even before I knew the term). When I am in a good place I find that I flip most things to be positive, and that has helped me a lot. In the quiz I did not mark any "fixed" statements (but see that they could creep into my mind on a bad day), and I marked 3 "growth" statements. In the educational setting, I can see that I do like to get out of my comfort zone and accept new challenges (so I could have marked those), but in my personal life that is not as prevalent. 

As I reflect on my circle of teacher friends, I see that many (all) have a growth mindset and we absolutely love to share and inspire and build each other up. I used to call it teacher magic. Now I know that it is living and growing our minds.

The difference between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset is both simple and complex. It is simple, because fixed is doing the same thing, and growth is being willing to learn and grow and do things in a different way. A Growth Mindset reminds me of thinking outside the box. The difference is also complex because of a subtle difference. In a fixed mindset, a person wants to win (I like to win or be the best), but in a growth mindset a person can win, but not to the exclusion of others. I LOVE it when I can work with my fellow teachers on skills and strategies and then all of the students benefit, no matter who their teacher is. I find that I would rather talk and write about Growth Mindsets, it is where I feel relaxed and good about me.



I am hoping that my bloggy friends will point me in the direction for resources and lessons for teaching the little 5 an 6 year olds in my classroom about growth mindset. It is a process and I am eager to learn with my classmates, bloggy friends and my students.
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Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Pep Talk to Myself in Early January 2017

8:45 am: I can do this, breathe, focus on what I want.

9:15 am: Golly, when is lunch? Ok, smile, love, do what is right.

10:30 am: Ack, the lesson went quicker than I thought, now what? Pull out that sticker story paper, teach it, smile.

10:50 am: Well done, the stories are great

11:20 am: Already 5 minutes into lunch? It is going so fast!!

11:50 am: We need to count, but they need to move. Jack Hartman!

12:30 pm: The outside temp is 10 degrees F. Another inside recess, breathe, focus on sharing and kind words

1:15 pm: YES! Today a kiddo blended a cvc word without my help!

1:45 pm: So much to do.

2:35 pm: Almost there--keep smiling, use kind words

3:00 pm: Use kind words, smile

5:00 pm (At home reflecting on the day): it was a great day, maybe the parents will bring the kids back for an evening session, I have so many ideas...

Being a kindergarten teacher reminds me a lot of the time I was a parent of young children. My sister and I said this to each other a lot:

The days drag on, but the years are flying by.

All day long with my kinders I find myself thinking--how much longer til the aide/para/parent volunteer comes in? I just want to use the restroom. Please, someone bring me a hot drink. This lesson is not going where I expected. (The days drag on. I feel isolated in my classroom.)

And then the kinders go home. 

And I miss them. I think of what I want to do the same the next day, or different the next day. How I want to do an interaction over, better, with more love. Smile more. Sing more. Teach with more purpose. 

And I see that the year is flying by. 


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