It is hard to believe that so much can take place in just 10 months. I have wrapped myself in the whirlwind for more than a decade and each phase still amazes me. After several years of watching 3rd graders grow, learn, & evolve I found myself immersed in the world of Kindergarten. Brave or bonkers? The jury is still out on that one (smile). In the spirit of transparency, I must disclose the fact that I entered this school year with a mix of fear and excitement. Keep in mind the fear outweighed the excitement. This was definitely new territory and a lot was riding on my journey. There were 21 little ones who needed me to accept all challenges, face all fears, and conquer everything that came my way. What did I fear? First, I was moving into a new classroom and needed to find a way to make it a familiar work environment. While returning to my home district, I was moving into a new school; unfamiliar administration, staff, & routines. Also, as previously mentioned, Kindergarten was foreign to me and I needed to hit the ground running. As of this day, I am proud to say I survived Kindergarten with flying colors. It may have taken all year but, my classroom is completely organized. My colleague are completely awesome and much of my personal success is due to their support, friendship, and teamwork. I cannot omit my virtual colleagues, my amazing Twitter PLN family. Lastly, my students showed up and showed out. They came to me with a wide range of skill sets; many could not write letters or numbers, only a few recognized some sight words, and most were extremely dependent on me for everything. Today, these rising 1st graders are independent readers, writers, thinkers, and possess solid mathematical skills. They are not only writing their names but, most two or more sentences! I learned just as much from them as they did from me. They will forever remain in my heart and mind. My wish for then is continued success beyond anyone's standards.
Spring Break - what is the hype really about? From what I gather by comments of; students, parents, and teachers, it seems everyone simply needs a breather. Yes, the students are all pretty much on overload by this time of year. They have been instructed, engaged, and assessed day after day and week after week. There have been tons of class assignments, homework, and projects with high expectations. Then, the periodic progress reports and report cards that are not always a welcome discussion when they arrive home. Yes, students have earned this time away from school. Let's not forget the parents. Their plights begin a little earlier. During the summer months, parents begin stressing about school supply lists that may not yet be available to them. They are worried about finding the best school supply sales but, oops, they cannot purchase yet because they do not have the supply list. It does not stop there for them. Their minds are working overtime with the thoughts of the best school, the best teacher, will this year be better than the last, how can they best prepare their child for their grade level, and the ever growing clothing demands. Also, at the forefront of their minds are transportation and childcare challenges. This stress may also escalate during Spring Break if this week does not coincide with their availability to take time off work - yikes! Now for teachers all of the above may apply but, in triplicate. There are teachers who also wear the hat of Mommy or Daddy. Thus, they share the same sentiments of most of their parents. Oh, how well we feel their pain. Then there is the walk of shame. Teachers are experts at feeling guilty for actually having fun. Yes, the break is much needed, well deserved, greatly appreciated, and long overdue at times. With that being said, we somehow struggle with simply letting our hair down. You may find us on the beach grading papers, at family functions hiding out researching the latest professional development articles, or simply doing lesson plans every waking moment of our lives. So, as this Spring Break comes to a close I find myself wondering if I spent enough time on me. Can I truly say I rested and enjoyed this week? Did I work too much, worry about my students, or miss them a lot? No worries at all. I can honestly say this was a filled with family fun, relaxation, and this teacher also got a lot of work done as well. Thank you Spring Break - I cannot wait to see you again!
What are your expectations for the new year? Too often we set unrealistic goals for ourselves and others. Other times we set the bar too lie lacking any forms of challenge. In order to reach true success that bar needs to be lifted to higher realms. Expectations need to be raised higher than ever before. We should not underestimate the power of hardwork, diligence, and a natural drive to excel. As we face the new year, look up ecause the bar has been lifted beyond imagination. We can do this!
(Revised from June 16, 2014) The last twenty-four hours have been spent trying to understand. Attempting to comprehend why and how life ends before it really begins. The most difficult part of connecting with people especially children, is losing them. I met a unique young man eight years ago. He was a quiet, reserved, shy 3rd grader, and hesitant to share in discussions. One day I discovered he had a huge hidden talent. He loved music and it oozed from his pores. At the invitation to play his harmonica for our class he became a new child. He then laced up his tap shoes and danced for us as well. From that day on, we could not keep him quiet if we had paid him. Music became a part of our regular routine that school year and each year for me. I learned from this young man that music was the way to blend all souls. A few months ago, I received an email from a high school sophomore who was living in another state and wanted to check on his "favorite teacher". As time would pass, I ran into his mother and she promised to bring him for a visit when during his Spring Break. On April 10th, that visit became a reality and what I now know as the last time I would lay eyes on this gifted spirit. He came in completely transformed with confidence, braces, a huge smile, and bearing a gift. I introduced him to my present 3rd grade class and asked him to dance for them. They considered this a royal treat; when he was done they were asking to shake his hand and to have his autograph. Prior to leaving, spoke to the class about his views of how to be successful and they intently took it all in. They asked questions for clarification and agreed to take his advice to work hard and always listen to their teacher. His mother stated that he always said I was the best teacher he ever had. I do not know about that but, what I do know is that he made a great impact on my life and will forever remain in my heart. Rest In Peace - Noreen Johnson, devoted mom & Stephan Sydney, a dancing star
What an amazing week we had in Science! I am excited to see what my little investigating team will discover next. The idea of Inquiry Based Learning is just what our future leaders need. With an essential question here, some prompting and guiding there, these young minds were reaching for the stars. The weather was definitely on our side because the big chill came days later!
Please share with family, co-workers, and friends. Go to this link and donate today: www.donorschoose.org/eugeniacooley
My students are in need of resources and school supplies.
Thank you in advance.
Students can learn in a variety of ways. The days of sitting at a desk all day, reciting memorized facts, and working solely from textbooks have left with the stone ages. Math is movements, manipulatives, whiteboards, stations, games, computers, interactive journals, foldables, and so much more. My students have been really engaged and enjoying Math. Today's learning strategies are far different from my days as a third grader. What has been your experience?
Look who joined us for recess this week! Our theme for this week is Insects a.k.a. Bugs! The students participate in a variety of activities about insects such as reading informational texts, shared fictional readings, crafts, and the list goes on. No one would have expected to find a Praying Mantis on the playground. I would love to take credit for being the brave soul to pick it up but, not likely. I have some wonderful colleagues, I must say. One colleague (the discoverer) picked it up and let it walk on her hand and lower arm, we all took part in sharing information about the specimen, and then my hero (second colleague) actually took the picture for me because I was too afraid to get close enough. Yes, I love nature but, am a really big chicken! Moments like this just cannot be planned but, are greatly appreciated. This is only the third Praying Mantis I have seen in my adult like. These lovely beings were introduced to our continent and are not natives. So glad that teachable moments can happen any place and at any time.
Summer vacation is supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation. By traditional definition a vacation is an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling; a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday. Well for teachers this is not quite the case. As much as we need the rest, many do not get paid during the summer months. This means, off to work we still go! Teachers find work in a variety of places to make sure bills are paid and there is still food on the table. Then there is the other type of work - school related STUFF!! There is professional development workshops (which I have to admit I love!), informational literature (such as; Closing the Attitude Gap by Baruti Kafele, Push Has Come to Shove by Dr. Steve Perry, or What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whitaker), searching websites like Pinterest and Education World for new ideas/strategies, and planning for the upcoming school year. Yes, all this is going on during the summer vacation. Personally, I am generating a new Welcome Back to School letter for my new students. I do not know who they will be but, I am preparing how to introduce myself to them. As a parent, I always appreciated those letters my daughters received in the early grades. It helped ease our anxieties and my daughters felt so special. A big goal of mine is to reduce as much anxiety and tension for my students and parents. The first days of school can be traumatic for some. Teachers are not exempt from this tension. Thus, the easier I make this transition for them the better it will be for me in the long run. ToAnother goal, is to find ways to increase parental involvement. Studies have shown that student success and achievement is directly related to parental involvement. This does not mean I throw in the towel if I reach a road block. It means that I try new methods to involve parents and continue to move forward with those that respond. I will still find time to get away to the beach but, if you see me you are guaranteed to find me with a good book or possibly planning some new detail for the 2014-2015 school year. In any event, working is cathartic for me thus I am vacationing after all.