Education Professional

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NaPoWriMo 2015.16

Posted by on 17 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: caring, education, Education Professional, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, Uncategorized

a day late
a dollar short

teachers have many choices
and schools have services
but not much influence

when a child enters late
departs early
naps through social studies
or math
or science-reading-all
day after day

who watches the children after school
who nurtures them at night
who wakes them lovingly (but insistently)
in time for them to eat
before they catch the bus

who cares for them
as a parent
when the parent
does not care

the teacher appears in a child’s life
a day late
and resources abound for education
but a dollar cannot make up for love

NaPoWriMo 2015.13

Posted by on 13 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, good things, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, Uncategorized

Monday the thirteenth I
went to school
and learned some things.

In third grade you have to listen carefully
and stay on task
or the work speeds by too fast.

I learned to speak clearly
to enunciate
to express my thoughts.

I learned to write carefully
and take care with
letter formation and punctuation.

I learned to add, and subtract
to explain my reasons and to

I learned because
I taught.

Long silence but not low effort

Posted by on 29 Nov 2014 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, 3rd grade, education, Education Professional, teaching, Uncategorized

This school year has, predictably, been a time of extreme effort on my part. I rarely have time to just sit and enjoy fun things, when I do sit I am usually working on a small present or reading the news.

I feel inadequate most days, knowing that there are so many more strategies I could be using, so many more data points I could be tracking, so many other things I could be teaching. I keep telling myself, “next year,” as if that means that this year’s inadequacies are somehow understandable and therefore I should stop worrying. Each day I go in, I teach the best I know, I learn more about these particular students and this grade level’s expectations and abilities, and I fit more pieces into the teaching puzzle.

“Next year” has a reassuring ring to it — I work so hard to try to meet the needs of all the children (24 at the moment, but up to 25 again soon I expect), and I am seeing progress. But I don’t see as much progress as I would like, I don’t know how many missed opportunities I have, and about once a week I have a moment when one student or another clearly doesn’t get what he or she needs. Next year I think that I will be able to predict many things and spot many things, and prepare in advance for many things (truth be told, a lot of the preparations from this year will serve for next year).

In the moment, I respond appropriately and catch many misconceptions, I predict what kids will need in advance most of the time, and my explanations are making sense to my students. We have a couple of long-term projects underway, and I am feeling comfortable modifying those as needed. Usually I overestimate their readiness and understanding of concepts and have to go back and fill in. But I am getting better at figuring things out quickly so we don’t waste too much time!

And one last niggling teaching issue I have been struggling with is balancing the good of the whole class with the excursions of individual students to specialists, not at the same time or for the same purposes. I cannot fill in the gaps for all of them, so have finally made the decision to stop trying. I will provide some students with less instruction in the “exploratory” instruction for this grade level, such as science and social studies. This saddens me because I think all students need to learn in a wholistic manner — but I have a responsibility to make sure that the most essential learning is taught. Perhaps next year I can figure out a way to incorporate everything.

Next year. Always next year. Next year I will be more knowledgeable. Next year I will be more organized. Next year I will be more prepared. Next year…

It’s good to think about a “next year” and so I will continue to give this year my all, knowing that these children are teaching me far more than I am teaching them.

Going Back to School

Posted by on 23 Aug 2014 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, education, Education Professional, Uncategorized

As adults, we often forget what it is like to have regular opportunities to start anew. We become used to having made enough mistakes that from here on out we can reliably predict what will happen as a result of our actions or inaction. And so, we float along secure in the knowledge that we are “done” learning and can simply work hard to get ahead.

But children, and adults who are trying new occupations, walk on shifting, uneven ground. The familiar terrain of the people who have “been there, done that” is off beyond the horizon. Rather, each step, each turn, each moment and day provide the unknown — situations where the outcome is unclear; disappointments from which recovery is not certain; words that are unfamiliar; even the roadmaps of directions and examples are so new as to be unintelligible.

This year (2014) I am going to do something “completely” new. I am going back to third grade. Now, truth be told, third grade was probably not my finest year as a child. I butted heads with my teacher (I am sorry, Mrs. Russell!) on many occasions, based probably more on factors outside of school than inside her classroom. I remember pronouncing a word in one way, to be told that it was incorrect (it was an alternate pronunciation, not incorrect!). I remember staring out the classroom window at the old, abandoned house outside, in a snowstorm and wondering about the people who used to live there — and whether that house felt sad like The Little House (story by Virginia Lee Burton).

I don’t remember what I learned, but I do remember “my” spot on the bench outside the principal’s office… and if Mrs. Wright ever reads this, thank you for being so patient!

I have taught in middle school classrooms mostly; even as a substitute my calls were mostly for middle schools once they knew I liked that age. I have volunteered in grades K, 1 and 2, and 4… and student taught in grade 5. But no prior contact with the missing year other than three sub assignments (I went back and looked). So going to third grade? Shifting terrain, for sure!

Add in to this learning I had the job only ten days before the school year. Today is the day after —

And I can tell that already, before the school year starts, I am “behinder” than I have ever been. I will try to pick up copies of the teacher manuals tomorrow, and read over them in the evenings.

I am researching (this is one of my strengths) and, having subbed for many teachers in many places, I know that kids are resilient and any beginner’s mistakes I make this year the students will be fine. I can figure out what they need to learn — and teach it — and they will learn a lot, and grow.

I am fortunate that, in this new territory, I have the most amazing guides. Publicly, I want to already say think you to my colleagues Marilynn, Kim, Cindy, Liz, Cathy and Jeff who have already offered to help me with everything from setting up the room to figuring out the first days and beyond.

And yet, still, persistently, I feel unsure. I am uncertain whether my decisions from day to day are the “right” ones, if the outcomes will be what I hope. I will need to learn new vocabulary — from having taught primarily Language Arts at the middle school and upper intermediate level, I now move into teaching “everything” (except music and PE and computers) with much younger students. Will my vocabulary be appropriate? Will my demeanor?

I am in a new land. With strange and wonderful creatures, landscapes and denizens. Everywhere I turn there are (and will continue to be) amazing sights, wonderful vistas, and occasional frights.

The advantages of starting anew are not inconsequential. Old ways that didn’t work can be left behind. Ideas that weren’t useful can be forgotten. The gait of the walk, the rigidity or fluidity of responses, the optimism that things might be somehow more magical here and now… those are precious gifts, and unusual in adulthood even if the accompanying growing pains are not much fun.

This is my second time in two years to feel this way. Excited about new beginnings, unsure (and a little anxious) about the unknown.

My students are feeling this way for the third time in three years (more, if they move often!). I hope to remember this as we get to know each other and develop our class into a community. When they are unsure, I will be patient with them. When I am unsure, I will be patient with myself. And I will step out confidently knowing that my guides can keep me on the right path!

We may be on different journeys, but for this segment at least we travel together.

New Beginnings

Posted by on 23 Aug 2014 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, Gardens and Life, good things, Uncategorized

Well, this past month has been a series of ups and downs. Losing a friend to cancer, doing poorly at several interviews (including one I really had my heart set on), and dealing with a series of allergy-induced migraines made it hard to get much done. So add guilt to the list of negatives…

But thanks to good friends, and a small amount of desperation — and rethinking my health — I can finally report good things again.

I realized that allergies were the cause of the headaches and used the “sanitary” feature on the washer for the sheets and blankets. Cost: three hours of washing and an hour of drying. Waking up headache free? Priceless.

I asked for help improving my interview technique, got better for each one, and finally it paid off.

I lost my friend, but in thinking about it, I have such good memories and a desire to see her legacy continue. And now…

In my own elementary classroom, I will!

I have been hired at a district I never subbed in, but is closer than many I considered! Third grade will be a real challenge this year, it will also be a joy. To be able to work with students at this age all year long, to see them grow (and they grow a lot at this age) and help them explore and interact with the world will be priceless. My friend who works at this new school has told me for years what a great place it is, and I am very hopeful that I will be an asset to the community.

I met the other third grade teachers and a few others,, and they are going to be wonderful to work with. I can tell this is a caring, focused community.

And now — open house is in five days. Students in the classroom on the second of September. I will be posting here as a way to think things through — and to record the small successes we have.

Pictures — house/yard/classroom — when I have the time again.


A full week teaching!

Posted by on 15 Sep 2013 | Tagged as: children, education, Education Professional, Family Matters, fun, Gardens and Life, good things, house building, Kid Activities, seasons, teaching, Uncategorized

I am still having pretty much the time of my life with the 7th and 8th graders I get to work with. There are plenty of things that are confusing, but I have so much support that I only have to ask a question (or if I have to fix things retroactively) and I get all the help I need. It’s a wonderful “nursery” for a new teacher.

And the students I have are quirky, interesting, energetic, and good-hearted. I have really lucked out with this assignment. Although I have a “full house” in my Language Arts class (30 students! – no room for more desks) I am having so much fun learning about them, thinking of ways to help them and challenge them, and I wake up smiling (most days) just thinking about going in.

And I go in earlier than I have to, most days — I don’t officially have kids until 4th period and could put off going in until partway through 3rd period — but as a morning person anyway I get up with Tom and go in early. So I am there early enough in the morning that I can see some of the other teachers (I catch one mentor-type at 1st period planning and another mentor-type at 2nd period) and then get a tutorial on anything I want help with for my students by sitting in on a master teacher’s 3rd period… (I get the room immediately after her kids leave).

It’s like a nice, soft cocoon where I can grow the wings I need for my next teaching assignment.

This week, we do some benchmark testing, establish regular routines and talk a little bit about setting personal goals for literacy. I am going to try a modified model akin to that of the “Two Sisters” whose workshop I attended in June. It won’t be as smooth or elegant as their approach, but I already see how I can incorporate some of their ideas in the well-rounded curriculum already established in this school.

And Matthew starts at Western this week (moves in to the dorms) and both boys start their classes in another week (Matthew as a junior, Grant as a freshman (H.S. senior)). Tom goes off to a college reunion in Walla Walla at the end of that week. I will be pretty busy by then just trying to keep up with my workload.

And then, of course, the house…

Buckle up, folks, it’s going to be a fast, fun year!


Posted by on 27 Aug 2013 | Tagged as: Education Professional, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, good things, house building, school, teaching, Uncategorized

This was today’s “reveal” —

Moving up the driveway:

Murphy, learning who has been visiting "his" yard.

Murphy, learning who has been visiting “his” yard.

(Murphy is Mother’s dog!)
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Micro-Literature, revisited

Posted by on 29 May 2013 | Tagged as: Education Professional, Gardens and Life, good things, teaching, Uncategorized

I needed a holding place for the thinking I am doing for an interview tomorrow. Did I mention I have a job interview? Exciting stuff! I chose to go with an old stand-by lesson, the same one in fact that spurred me into action 5 years ago. The one that convinced me middle schoolers were my destiny…

Creative writing, micro-lit style!

The original unit, which I cannot find easily (I am on the third computer since that time and my earlier backups are not currently accessible), included some poetry, some writing to prompts, and some free writing as well as this lesson on “Twit Lit.”

This was the first year that I didn’t have a chance to use the lesson, so it felt good to pull it out and rework it.

I am still reworking it, and nearing 11 pm… adrenaline will do that for a person!

I have a haiku deck presentation that is loaded online, a re-written lesson plan, a new rubric, pre-writing worksheets and a final draft sheet. I am re-using the original example sheet. There is only so much I can do!

What else have I done? I have looked at the district’s interpretation of state standards, and the scope and sequence that were available online. I have thought about the way that kids at this age walk through their days and considered the way that they learn. I have reviewed the work I have done with students in the adjacent grades. And I have been running my brain around in circles. It is time to say it is “good enough” and iron my clothes for tomorrow.

Techdate: crosspost from LiveJournal

Posted by on 17 Feb 2013 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, good things, teaching, technology in education, Uncategorized

This is a crosspost from the online journal I keep mostly for technology-related posts. However, this is also about teaching, and perhaps explains (along with daily grading of papers, lesson-planning, meetings and tracking down experienced teachers to bounce ideas off…) why I have been posting irregularly and rather poorly the last two months.

I owe my readers an update on the garden and personal life as well, but will do that this evening, when I hope to take actual “downtime” with no papers hanging over my head!

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Three weeks in…

Posted by on 03 Feb 2013 | Tagged as: climate, education, Education Professional, environment, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, seasons, teaching, Uncategorized

I have just finished planning for the fourth week of my tenure in 7th grade. I had a series of very long, difficult days in the past two weeks. Conferences with parents and students who are at risk of not being able to go on to 8th grade. Learning a little bit more about how to reprimand students before sending them to the office. New students coming in, other students leaving (short-timer syndrome was rampant this week, NOT easy to deal with!). I am trying to leave the school no later than 4:30 or 5, but a couple of nights I was past 8 pm.

It’s the sort of thing new teachers do, planning. Working longer hours to refine and recraft. Thinking about what would work better, trying to find resources to make the learning stick quicker and last longer. Considering the best methods to reach various students. Trying something, and then trying something else. I am enjoying most of it, and realizing that I need to set limits. So on Friday, I left as soon as I had the classroom in order, all the materials that needed grading, filing and sorting in my bags to go home.

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