NOLA 2014

NOLA 2014

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Is Anyone Happy with the State of Education??

Maybe Pearson? Or Bill Gates? Who is benefiting from our current educational system? I can say it's not the teachers and it's certainly not the students.

I'm fed up! 

I have children on both ends of the spectrum, SPED and GT. Neither is getting their needs met. My youngest GT child began third grade this year, full of excitement to meet her teacher and see her classmates and learn cool new things. She wore her back pack for the whole week preceding the start of school and had me pack her lunch to eat at the dining room table. She LOVED school.

This is not the smiling face I'm greeted with when I pick her up. The pressure of testing and content and curriculum (that isn't even developmentally appropriate), the lack of play and choice and exploration, compounded with inconsistencies with staffing and stressed out teachers are all making my little eight-year-old's passion for learning disappear.

Sadly, I don't see any of this changing any time soon. Am I to just roll with it, tough it out, and send her off to test or practice for the test or "build stamina" for testing everyday with a knot in both of our stomachs? Everyday--for the next 9 years?? I can't do it. She cries at night. Complete meltdowns. 

Her class recently took Unit Assessments in ELAR and Math. She received a 73 and 81 and was overcome by anxiety and the feeling of failure. This is not okay. At what point do we do something? What can we do? I'm a teacher in the same district and don't see any enjoyment---staff, students, no one. 

What are we doing to our schools? What are we doing to learning? What are we doing to our future? Who's going to say enough is enough? How do we change this? We're all dying inside--our creativity, our passion, our love for knowledge, all of it. What are we going to do and when? 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thank you, Swivl!

I often wonder how I leave school feeling beaten up, run down, and truly exhausted--while my students leave with as much excitement as when they arrived. Do they have a way of sucking the life right out of me and filling their little bodies with all of my energy? I really don't think non-educators, test-creating companies, and politicians have a clue what we do every day in our classrooms.

So, Monday morning I recorded a lesson. Our school just got a Swivl, and I was eager to try it out. Every other week, at 7:45am, a group of fifth grade students who struggle in reading come to me for reading intervention. We use Fountas & Pinnell's Leveled Literacy Intervention kits to help bridge the gap from where they are to where we're heading.

I now know why I'm so warn out and they are not...I'm doing ALL of the work. As teachers, we try to squeeze in so much in such a limited amount of time. We often don't give students enough time to process. Granted, my students are Tier 3 students with limited experiences and reading difficulties, but I definitely can see lots of room for improvement on my part. 

With technology literally at our fingertips, teachers everywhere need to seek it out and use it to reflect on their practices. Watching my lesson has proven to be far more valuable than any walk-through or PDAS I've ever received.

How many times do I really need to say "Ummmmm" anyway? 

Monday, Monday

Monday, July 27, 2015

What to do with all of these peaches?

Thank you, Fredericksburg! 

Seriously. If you haven't eaten a peach from Fredericksburg, Texas, you are missing out. My husband and I took a last minute trip to Austin this past weekend and visited the Barton Creek Farmers Market before leaving town. Great idea. We were able to find some of our favorites--Buddha's Brew Kombucha on tap, Hello! Grass-fed Texas beef. And Fredericksburg Peaches.  

We always do a lot of eating when we're in Austin, so we try to stay active as well.  This weekend was a bit hot to climb Mt.Bonnell, but we did kayak on Town Lake. Lots of fun. 

It was my first time, so we went to EpicSUP on Lakeshore Drive. They're a bit further away from everyone playing around on the lake downtown. I was able to practice a bit with steering and syncing up with my husband before we hit traffic near the South Congress Bridge. And it made me feel less guilty for that avocado margarita from Curra's.

Anyhow, back to the peaches. We came home with a box of peaches. I have been eating them like they're going out of style, but don't want them to go bad. I sliced some up and paired them with our organic mint to do a second fermentation on a couple bottles of my homemade kombucha. Can't wait for that to be ready. I've also done a peach/jalapeno salsa to go on fish tacos tonight. 

And I'm making peach ice cream. Yes it has dairy. And sugar. But I'm going to splurge. Only the best for these peaches. 

To make me feel a little less guilty for eating this REAL ice cream, I drank Bulletproof coffee from Picknik Austin the whole time I was there, which was delicious. Just dairy-free. I'd say this just balances things out. Isn't that what life's about afterall? 

This is my first time using the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. Here's my recipe, thanks to Doug all the way from Negril. 

1 cup Organic Whole Milk
1/2 cup Organic Cane Sugar
1 Fredericksburg Peach, peeled and pureed
1 Fredericksburg Peach, peeled and chopped, place in fridge until the very end
1 tsp Vanilla Extract 
2 cups Cream (I used Organic Valley's Heavy Whipping Cream)

1. Add the Peach puree to milk and sugar and blend. Then refridgerate to chill.
2. After about 30 minutes, add vanilla and cream to the mixture and pour in Ice Cream Maker.
3. After approximately 25-30 minutes, when the consistency is just what you expect out of fabulous homemade ice cream, add in the chopped peaches.
4. Freeze in Rubbermaid 5 cup dish, and eat within a week. (Yeah right, this will never last a week.)

Now, just because I know you're singing it in your head too...Millions of Peaches


Friday, June 5, 2015

School's Out for Summer!

This is always a bitter-sweet day for me. I will miss my students greatly, especially those moving on to Middle School. I still remember my first group of 5th graders and the tears we shed on the last day of school.

I held it together today. But I will miss them just as much. I can't wait to see the wonderful things they will accomplish! Amazing young ladies.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I have foresaken all my pride...

Growing up in Flint,  termed “the toughest city in America” in the New York Times, and born to parents who barely finished high school, my future could have
been drastically different. I was fortunate to have parents, family, and teachers committed to my education, constantly telling me to “Work hard and go to college.” 

I was convinced that my future depended on it. Upon graduation, I returned to my roots and once again called Flint home. Bright-eyed and fresh from college, ready to give back to students like me, I accepted a teaching position with the same district I attended. I loved my students and truly felt I was doing what I was meant to do. But as time went on, I became increasingly frustrated. 

Many students didn’t have parents like mine, pushing for college, but that was out of my control. So who do these kids have to encourage them? To motivate them? To get them to college? 

Teaching isn’t the end for me. I want to be a voice for students, teachers, and school systems. As I continue to evolve as an educator, I have discovered that the greatest gift I can give students and teachers is the high expectations I hold for them. I want to ensure that the teachers in my school bring great pedagogical skill and knowledge of their content to the classroom, but more importantly, dispositions of genuine care, concern and love for their students. I appreciate directly how important schools that are organized around High Expectations and a culture of “No Excuses” are. 

I have seen the difference made in educational settings that integrate the family connection. We need to put the community back into schools. The more support centered around the success of our students, the better. 

This is my ideology and my passion, and probably one shared by many teachers. But then who is left to look out for us--the teachers surviving on a minimum salary with student loan debt? There is all sorts of talk about incentives to become a teacher and Loan forgiveness. Apparently, that does not apply to my situation.  I attended the University of Michigan from 1994 to 1999. Did you know that if you took out a loan BEFORE 1997, you don't qualify for loan forgiveness programs? Not even if ALL of your teaching has been done in Title I, Hard to Staff schools.  I have been teaching for 14 years and still have student loans in excess of my yearly salary.  I can't help but become frustrated. If I'd have pursued engineering like my high school counselor suggested or business, I may have been able to pay them back already.  

It's heartbreaking to know that in order to maintain my Teaching Certificate, I need to continue earning credits. I took out another loan to help pay for my Masters Degree.  I returned to Flint to teach--and the housing market crashed. I attempted to sell my home and was offered a short sale, but the mortgage company refused. When I began working in Flint, there were 31 elementary schools. Today there are 12. I was laid-off every year.  I moved to Texas to teach. 

I had a daughter that needed multiple surgeries as a child. She was born with a chromosome deletion called 22Q. She is amazing! We struggled. My income was too high for her to qualify for SSI and receive financial assistance. Too high? I fall into the too high to qualify and too low to succeed financial category every time.  Is there any wonder why there is a teacher shortage?  I've been too proud to ask for help or even admit needing it, but paying $490 a month and not having it paid off for another TEN years is horrific. 

I am proud to be a Michigan Wolverine and am extremely fortunate to have received the education I did, but I need help paying for it. I have created a crowd-funding campaign and appreciate any and all assistance.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hello Animoto!

As I continue my journey towards Google Educator Certification, I've begun to explore Google Sites. How cool is Sites and why didn't I know about it last year when I bought

I decided to play around with designing a class site before taking my Google Sites Exam.  I passed my first two and don't want to press my luck. I've had way more experience with Gmail and Calender.  Before creating my site, I wanted to check out other classroom sites and kept coming across teachers using Animoto. Another program I have never used. Yes, I must be living under a rock. I created a short video showing off my most recent trip to Jamaica, just for fun. It was super easy to use. I mean, it took me a whole 5 minutes, maybe. Easy to upload your pictures-right from facebook or instagram. I just used a ready-to-go template and song.

Just from this brief experience playing around with the program, I can really see how much fun my students could have with this! I'm going to have them create an Animoto video as a culminating project for the book we're currently reading The Mighty Miss Malone, by Christopher Paul Curtis. I'll post a link when they've finished it.  The possibilities are endless though. Imagine a math class creating a video on angles, where they have to take pictures of angles and share. Or a unit in science on habitats. I can already see that I will be using more of Animoto.

If you want to check out my Animoto, just click the link below.

*Hey, and you can change the music... Jamaica 2.0

Monday, March 23, 2015

Google Educator...In Training

I have decided to pursue the prestigious Google Educator Certification. I began this mission with an ulterior motive...I want to apply for the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) program and learn from all of the innovative educators out there.  I first found out about the program when my school was selected for Apple's ConnectEd Grant, which will provide every student in my building with an ipad! Talk about exciting. But once that initial adrenaline subsided, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to make the most of it. My school is being given the tool of technology to help level the playing field for our students, I need to maximize this amazing opportunity.  As I began searching for what other 1:1 districts are doing--what's working, programs being implemented, I discovered one thing many of these leading educators had in common. Most of them are ADEs and Google Certified. I had never even heard the term. I guess, I'm probably considered prehistoric for not knowing. I use gmail. I "Google" everything. I'm on twitter. After reading and learning and connecting with some of these ADEs, I am even more determined to become part of this network of innovators in education.

I am still in the beginning phase. I have completed the Gmail and Calendar Exams and am currently going through the Sites Training. It's crazy what all these programs can do that I was completely unaware of! Can't wait to learn more.

I welcome any and all advice! Also, if you are currently a 1:1 school or classroom, what are you using? What's working? I'm especially interested in programs being used to help students struggling in reading and math.