Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

100 Happy Days, Day 4

My favorite lunch at Panera: Creamy tomato soup and fontina grilled cheese with a lemonade

And running errands with my favorite cranky 9 year old and his bro

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

100 Happy Days, Day 3

Two sweet nine year olds.  Learning Minecraft from an expert.  Oh happy day!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

100 Happy Days, Day 2

What makes me happy today?  Crafting.  Last week, I was ill and unable to make it to a Stamp-A-Stack.  My pal, Karen, saved the stuff for me to make the cards today.  They are oh, so cute.  Here's a peek at the originals.

I then worked a bit (finally) on Ignatius' New York trip album.  A bit more work on that is needed this week.  Yeah!  I'm game.

Monday, March 24, 2014

100 Happy Days, Day 1

 This morning, the first official day of Spring Break 2014, I woke up to a checklist in my face.  Max was already awake and planning a "show."  I believe he is thinking of a magic show, but he decided to bring a bunch of "props" down, along with snacks.  He created his "stage" in front of the fireplace, which he has done many times before.

The thing that made me happiest is that he read a scrapbook I made him long ago.  I do a lot of scrapbooking, and he is my biggest fan.  This was a scrapbook I made using the book "How Do I Love You?" because he wanted me to read it over and over when he was younger.

The absence of his brother today also makes me happy.  His brother is sleeping over at a friend's house.  It has taken them a while to coordinate because of the busy schedules of high school juniors.  I am thrilled that he has such good friends and that he was able to finally schedule this in.

100 Happy Days

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

I cannot hear this song by Pharrell Williams without being happy.  My exercise buddies and I have our own little TeamBeHappy hashtag that we are using to remind us of what's important.  Some card ladies and I have a Happiness Project Pinterest board for our crafty creations--a reminder that crafting cards makes us happy.  So, when I saw on Facebook a movement called 100 Happy Days that challenged people to post things that make them happy for 100 days, of course I had to jump on board.  

Onward to focusing on the happy!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Common Core Standards

If you have a child in public and most private schools right now, you are familiar that the standards are changing in most states in the United States.  Many states are adopting the Common Core State Standards.  As a teacher, a mother, and a curriculum enthusiast, I have been learning the standards in small, digestible bites.  Even though I have had access to them for three years, there is no way I will write that I "know" them well.  I have a fairly good idea of the standards at the fourth grade level for math and English language arts.  However, it seems like, in the dawn of social media, "everyone" seems to be an expert on the standards, and "everyone" has an opinion on them, mostly negative.  So, unsolicited, I would like to share some advice, whether you are a parent wondering what the heck is going on or a teacher wondering if it is time for a new career.

Tip #1: We've been down this road before.
Nothing is new in education.  Standards change to meet a changing world.  I was educated in a time where "standards" did not formally exist.  I was part of the "Before A Nation at Risk" generation.  It's not that there were no educational goals, it's just that the nation was not so hell-bent on quantifying whether a human had met them on a common level.  The closest we had were the SAT/ACT tests that gave everyone the same material in the same format and said, "Let's see what you know."  Even so, did that test really show capabilities?   We all had the kid in our class who aced the test but had no work ethic.  But I digress.  My point with Tip #1 is: This is not new information.  Thank you for waking up to what we "Careers" have dealt with for decades.

Tip #2: You might not have been taught well.
I will focus on math, since that has taken a beating as of late.  Many criticisms come from alternate ways to teach concepts.  These ways have been around for a long time.  These ways are NOT all bad.  Some of these ways are better for students than the ways we were taught.  The CCSS for math asks teachers to teach concept BEFORE algorithm.  Problem: parents want to help their kids but only know algorithm.  Conclusion: teacher is doing harm.  Be careful of jumping to that conclusion.  Algorithms mean nothing if a student cannot recognize whether an answer is right or wrong.  Steps do not always mean a reasonable answer would be had.  A recent post was criticizing a question that asked a student to look at a number line subtraction model and discuss what the student did wrong.  The criticism: Why do it this way?  Why not just have them subtract using the algorithm?  I am an engineer.  I would be fired if I did it this way.  Why yes, you would, and should be fired if you used a number line to subtract.  You are an adult.  It's not efficient for an adult to do this.  However, engineer, how many times do you have to look at a problem and try to figure out what was wrong?  I'll wait for you to think about that.

That was the point of the question.  Not "Where's the algorithm?!"  Why do we "waste" time having them do this?  Because creating THINKERS is our job.  Not creating calculators.  Because Japan has been doing this form of teaching for decades.  When Japanese teachers prepare lessons, they think about what mistakes students will make and they plan for how they will teach them.  They present students with mistakes and ask them to discuss the errors.  And they have always tested better than the United States.

Tip #3: Not a Kool Aid drinker just yet.
I know it sounds like I am defending the standards.  The truth is I am a critical consumer.  Here are my criticisms:
  • Each child is different.  Not each child is developmentally equipped to hit the standards in their present form.  That does not mean I don't believe in kids.  It means I don't believe in educational malpractice.  If your child broke her leg, and the PE teacher said the whole class, no exceptions, would be running a mile, would you expect your child to participate in that?  Or would you expect some individualization/exceptions?  We can easily swallow that for physical disabilities, but we won't for learning disabilities.  Makes me scratch my head.
  • The English Language Arts standards are asking for teachers to do too much in one year's time.  I can get my students where the standards indicate.  I cannot do it in 176 school days, some of which include testing, parties, special events, the teacher being pulled to learn how to teach the standards, and the like.
  • The math standards border on developmental inappropriateness.  In fourth grade, for me to do all that is needed, my students must have mastered multiplication and division facts in 3rd grade.  Think about that.  The third grade teachers are supposed to teach what multiplication and division ARE, and the students are supposed to have facts memorized before they leave.  Students are expected to retain those facts and use them immediately in fourth grade problem solving.  Notice I did not even mention addition/subtraction.  My son has a math learning disability.  He is in third grade.  If the standards are already too high for typical students, imagine the mountain that lies before him.  The lower you go in grades, the scarier that becomes.
  • Cutting, gluing, following directions, creating.  Primary teachers no longer have time for it.  Don't think that's a big deal?  Think again when this generation enters the work world that demands creative thought but wanted standards that have no room for its development.  Think again when your kiddo starts Kindergarten and cannot deal with a lack of play time because of the added "academics."
Tip #4: Parents-->ASK!
Teachers should always be able to defend their curricular choices.  Parents who are not sure why their students are doing something a certain way should ask.  It's actually easier than posting on social media. And it might get something done, other than complaining and seeing how many people agree with you.  There is a research base for a LOT of what is in the standards.  Every time I have to explain myself to a parent, it's a great growth opportunity.  Do I really know why I am doing what I am doing?  Can I explain it to stakeholders?  Is it getting the results we seek?  Make teachers think about what they are doing.  Do not accept that it is the standards, because we all have choices in presentation methods.  These are your kids.  Be a squeaky wheel. It does not mean you need to be on the attack, but help a teacher or two out and REALLY listen to their responses when they give them.

We all have the same goal: Successful children who can make it in any situation in the adult world.  They need to see the adults in their lives using the skills that they, too, will need.  Discussing and analyzing these standards are a great step toward the final goal.