Monday, July 15, 2013

Little Glamour Baby...famous already.

Can I just confess that I have done NOTHING school-related this summer?  nothing.  Haven't cut laminating, haven't made any new units {sorry!}...I haven't even unpacked my teacher bag from the last day of school!!  I feel a little guilty, but I also know I need to put some priority on getting the nursery together before Little Glamour Baby comes.  It's just so weird not putting school projects first on the to-do list!

Along the lines of baby focus, hubs & I had a super fun morning...we got go on the air with our favorite syndicated morning show, Ace & TJ!  It's a random story but I've listened to them for almost a decade and after liking their Facebook page, TJ and I somehow became Facebook friends and he started sending me messages about how excited we looked to have our first baby, etc.

The next thing I know, they're doing a segment on the radio about people you cyber-stalk and they start talking about how TJ is cyber stalking us!  Hilarious.  Well, people start calling in and emailing the show to see what's going on and if "that couple has had their baby yet" so now it's become a full-on segment and they've adopted us to follow the pregnancy until she's born!  :)

If you've ever been curious about my voice or what I sound like, you can listen to our radio debut here, starting around the 8 minute mark.  {And yes, I sound like that all of the time.  I don't have a cold, just a nice, raspy voice!}
{My 20 minutes of fame as a radio girl.  Click the pic to listen.}
I hope you're all having some fun adventures this summer, too!  My "last free summer" has turned into one of the busiest ones yet {how does that happen?!} but I'm still hoping to work in some new school projects when I find the time between setting up the nursery, washing baby clothes, etc.  Thanks for sticking with me and being loyal readers!  ;)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Kindergarten Readiness. Is there a skill set to measure?!

As I was browsing Pinterest last night, looking for good mommy-daughter ideas & tips on being a super fun mom, I came across this list of 71 Things Your Child Needs to Know before entering Kindergarten.
Out of curiosity, I read it.  But I'm not so sure this is a list I'd pass around to rising kinder parents.  There were some good skills to practice like asking for help, transitioning between activities, interacting with others and showing meaning through pictures.

As far as academics are concerned, this list suggests that children should be able to recognize & match all 52 letters {26 capital & 26 lowercase}, identify numbers 1-10 and count to 20.  It also suggests that children should be able to demonstrate skills requiring prior knowledge in color, shape & size.

I don't know about you, but that is not the norm in my classroom.

As a child's first teacher, I have to say that one of the biggest missing links in our education system is the lack of benchmark for kindergarten readiness.  Should they have alphabetic knowledge?  Should they be able to recognize or write their own name?  Should they able to count and work with amounts?  Or all these all skills that we as kindergarten teachers are expected to teach them?  It used to be that kindergarten was the place we taught the basics and if our kids didn't come in knowing anything, we opened our arms for a welcoming hug, gave them a smile and were thilled to start with a blank slate, imparting as much knowledge as we could from day 1.  At the end of the year when those children demonstrated growth and were able to read simple sentences, we would marvel {and probably cry} at how much they had learned and the progress they had made in our classrooms.

Currently, if we don't take those blank-slate children through multiple reading levels where they are using higher level strategies, reading blends & dipthongs and comprehending books with 100+ words independently, they don't meet our EOY {end of year} benchmarks.  Do our policymakers and government officials really know what that means?  It means they fail.  It means that all of their progress of learning letters and sounds, learning to decode and break apart words, blending sounds together, identifying high frequency words, pulling meaning from picture & context clues and choosing appropriate reading strategies to figure out new words is not enough.  That regardless of all of the work they did, coming to school excited to learn everything, it is not good enough for us.  While we may not be able to do anything about our report cards or test scores, I refuse to reflect that value system onto my kids.  What they accomplish in a year is incredible and deserved to be recognized, regardless of where that year's growth falls on the very wide spectrum of scores.

The problem is that we don't have a level playing field.  We have kids come in who already exhibit reading skills sitting next to peers who have never picked up a pencil, book or pair of scissors.  With Common Core, emphasis on test scores and competition in education pushing benchmarks higher and higher with each coming school year, we are so focused on an ending point that we are forgetting where our children are starting from.  And I don't mean the BOY {beginning of year} assessments that most elementary teachers are required to give each fall.  I mean where they're really starting from.  As in, Day 1 of Kindergarten.  The only requirement to enter kindergarten is a child's age.  That leaves everything else - all skill levels - wide open.

Now, please don't misunderstand me.  I am not at all trying to say that my job should be made easier or make this about the work load of teachers.  In a flat-out, patting myself on the back gesture, I know that I kick you-know-what at this job because I work that same body part off day after day to jump through hoops, finish paperwork, read about new policies and implement new programs.  Once I finally have that check-list narrowed down {because it's never ending} I use whatever time I have left at home, after spending some time with my family, to actually plan lessons and activities for the classroom.  And I love my kids.  And I love teaching my kids.  It's just feels as though we've lost that as the focus in the mumble jumble of everything else.  If we really want to measure the growth of our children, we need to know where they're starting and think about doing something to level the playing field.

Maybe that means investing more money into pre-K programs.  Maybe it means implementing classes to teach parents how to work with their children at home.  As a teacher, I'll start using academic vocabulary with my daughter the day that she's born because it just comes naturally to me to talk about colors and communicate even in the most mundane daily activities.  But we all know that's not the case with parents across the board.  And it doesn't make them bad parents and it isn't their fault.  {Please hear me here.}  But we can't expect all children to come to kindergarten with a background of academics if we don't show parents how to start those conversations at home.

It's been made apparent that our opinions don't count for much at the district, state and national levels but luckily, some of our parents still value our experience and knowledge.  So, like with much of everything else we'll face this school year, it has to begin with us.  What do you think is missing?  What do you think is important for students to know when they enter your classroom?  And if you have simple strategies on how families can do that at home, feel free to list them!  Let's come up with our own list - for we truly are the experts - that we can pass out to your rising kindergarten families.

Thanks for listening to my rambling and please do chime in with your thoughts.  For now, I'm back to Pinterest to make some Dunkaroo dip to snack on while I spray paint frames for baby girl's nursery.  :)

Monday, July 01, 2013

July Currently & a winner!

Happy July friends!!  In case you're wondering why your screen or Google blog page looks different today, remember that Google Reader is going away today.  But you can still follow along...just transfer over & follow me on Bloglovin!
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It's also July 1st so it's currently time with Farley!

Listening: I love this album.  It's so jazzy & big band.  I love it.

Loving: I have really done a great job of restraining myself from buying every little outfit I've seen but I have broken down a few times when I see a good deal on latest obsession, I know.  How cute will little Glamour Girl be in this outfit next July 4th?!  Stop it.  So cute!!

Thinking: Hubs & I usually end up at the beach in the summer but at 30 weeks pregnant I can't really lay out all day in the sun & drink fun beachy drinks.  :)  We want to go somewhere we can drive to, where we haven't been, with fun things to do, but not spend a lot of money.  Maybe that's why we're still trying to find a place that meets those criteria!

Wanting: I am 30 years old and I am a hair virgin.  No color, no highlights, no sun-in.  Not even kool-aid or lemon juice has touched these locks.  But I broke down today & got a color rinse put on because my gray comes in all in one place and my skunk stripe is getting OUT of control.  I was super anxious & almost cancelled but my friend did such a fabulous job and I am so so happy.  I didn't tell Hubs that I was going to see her because I want his honest reaction.  And it's so natural looking I'm wondering if he'll even notice!!  :)  I'm so relieved!!!
{must-have bathroom mirror before & after pic}
Needing:  I'm working on a new vocabulary tool to help teaching writing.  But I need more clipart...and theme ideas!  I've done farm & ocean so far.  What else would you like to see?  And if you have a favorite clipart seller {or you make your own!} consider this your opportunity to shamelessly promote the link in the comments.  :)

Blogging & Selling Tip: Don't compare yourself to others.  It's as simple as that.  It is so easy for me to look at other blogs, see how many followers they have, read about how much they're making on TeachersPayTeachers, etc and put pressure on myself to do the same.  But I didn't start this blog to compete with others.  I started it to push myself to be a better, more creative educator and to share what I make with others, hopefully to give other teachers a break & save them some lesson planning time.  When I write & create for myself, I get better feedback & have more fun with blogging.  When I try to force a post or product, it never goes over well.  So if you have a blog or store, my tip is just to remember why you started and don't let the success of others make you feel inadequate {or super jealous, which can also be hard!}, just be happy for them & post when and what you want!  At the end of the day, it's really just me & my keyboard, so it doesn't need to become one more thing I feel pressured to do.

The winner from my quick giveaway is Ashlynn!  You get any item of your choosing from my TeachersPayTeachers store so have a look and let me know what you choose!  :)  Follow me on Bloglovin & Facebook so you don't miss the next opportunity.

Have a safe & happy holiday & check out my post from last summer if you're looking for fun July 4th ideas for you or your kiddos!

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