Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Quiet Thanksgiving...

I've been looking forward to this week for quite sometime.  It meant quiet, peace, and quality time with family.  The break was much needed.  Cheney and I had planned to leave this morning to drive back to Greenville to spend Thanksgiving day with his family.  That was before the two days of work were some of the worst that I've ever experienced, before I fell in a hole and sprained my ankle, and before the Thanksgiving Storm of 2013 decided to hit.  Temperatures dropped drastically, snow began falling on Wednesday, and the roads iced up between here and there.  If we wouldn't have had to drive through a mountain pass, we would have gone, but the I40 pass is not a good place to get stuck or stranded.  So, this week has not been what I had planned. I spent some time in self-pity, but as I sit here on Thanksgiving evening and reflect back on the blessings that I do have, I feel down right shameful that I was focused on how I wouldn't be having the Thanksgiving that I had dreamed.

Two months ago, I came too close to losing my dad.  I received a call around lunch time on September 20th while I was in training from my brother.  I chose to ignore it.  Right behind it, Cheney texted me and said to call when I had a chance.  I thought that was pretty suspicious since I had just seen him 15 minutes prior.  So, I left the room and called.  The news was devastating.  My dad was in the ER in kidney failure and the outcome didn't look good.  Apparently for 2 weeks, he had been having symptoms that his kidneys were shutting down, but he didn't let anyone know.  His creatin levels and his potassium were at fatal levels.  His potassium was at a 9 and all of my nurse friends have told me that they have never seen anyone alive at a 9.  After emergency dialysis and a time spent in ICU, followed by a few days in the hospital, he finally came home.  The next few weeks were full of cardiologist and renal appointments.  A mass was found on the kidney that was 9 cm long.  The kidney itself is only 12 cm.  The doctor told us that it was probably cancer, but it was contained.  The decision was made to remove the kidney and the gall bladder and to clean the prostate out.  Surgery would be scheduled for November 20th.

Living out of state has its advantages at times, but when your family is working through life changing events, it is difficult.  I was unable to make it to the surgery last week, but I've kept in constant contact with my family since - multiple calls a day.  But today, I am reminded at just how thankful I am for family.  Sometimes it takes a wakeup call to make you realize how you have taken their presence in your life for granted.  Cheney's grandmother is 95 and we don't know how many  more Thanksgivings we will have with her, so it was bittersweet not to be there with her today. 

Cheney and I have spent the day lazing around the house.  Me with my cup of coffee.  I've taken the time to enjoy the quiet.  Thanks to a dear friend for supplying me with instrumental Christmas music.  It has been the soundtrack of my life this week.  Taku has spent the better part of the day curled up beside me as I've plugged away on a little project.

I know I'm not technically supposed to be working on work things, but when you get the chance to work on something you are passionate about, it really isn't work. I'm in the middle of writing a writing curriculum for my teachers, so I've been neck deep in mini-lessons, mentor texts, anchor charts, etc.  Not having cable television has allowed me the focus I needed to get it done. Sure, I missed my first Macy's parade in 30 years, but it's been nice to be quiet.

Cracker Barrel served us a nice hot Thanksgiving meal, so we didn't go hungry. For that I am thankful.

So that quiet, restful, and relaxing break - I am having one, just not the one that I had planned.  The candles are lit, the music is playing, Cheney is in the woods, and I am enjoying the peace that comes from having a full life.  Saturday we are headed to Greenville for a late visit to make up for missing this one :)  Hope you and yours have had a wonderful Thanksgiving today!

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Truth Monday (on a Tuesday)

A quick little post because I need a mental escape right now.  It's the eve of Thanksgiving vacation and Denise over at Sunny Days in 2nd Grade has us talking about a real vacation.  Gah...a girl can dream, right?!

If you are thinking that the below picture looks familiar, if you've seen the movie The Goonies, this is where the ending scenes were filmed.
Anyone willing to come with me?
Link up with Denise and take a mental vacation!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Routine

Sundays look relatively identical in our house. They start the same and end the same. Here's a peek into what my Sunday schedule looks like.

 8:00 AM An impatient little pup climbs out from under the covers and begins the day with a request to go outside. When I finally do roll out of the bed and put real shoes on to trek in the backyard, I start a pot of coffee to brew while we are out. Sunday is the day I brew more than my share. Usually, it's a full 8 cups, sometimes depending on the temperature, it will be an entire pot. Taku and I begin the journey around the yard until he decides he's found the perfect spot.

9:00 AM  Breakfast while I check in on all the social media that I've missed in the 8 hours that I've been asleep. catches my attention as well as Pinterest, all of the blogs I read, and other celebrity mags.  I know, not good for a Sunday morning.

11:00 AM  Husband is usually awake and I fix him breakfast or a "brunch" because it is so close to lunch time.

12:00 PM Laundry begins.  I wait until Sunday to do the laundry from the week.  I despise laundry and put it off until the last minute.  That usually means no more socks, undergarments, or pants to wear.  

2:00 PM Work begins for me.  Lesson Plans, grading papers, etc.  It's a lot.  For the last 13 years, I've spent the better part of Sundays working on school stuff.  I hate it.  I had a time for about 2 years where I didn't bring anything home, but life doesn't work like that now.  I wish that I could show a visual plan like everyone else has been doing as of late, but my plans are SO detailed that I can't.  Here's a peek. Yep, it's all for one day for a 45 minute Science lesson.  These aren't even the most detailed of the lot.  

Lesson plans give way to support documents like graphic organizers, handouts, etc.  Then flipcharts need to be developed.  It makes for a very busy Sunday evening.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why I Agree with Common Core Standards and Teacher Evaluation

I know this post has the potential to cause a lot of backlash and disagreement. I am owning that, but I feel like some things need to be said. This is MY opinion, feel free to agree or disagree. Also, understand that I'm not agreeing with CCSS 100%, but I do see some benefit in certain areas.

 1. Student Centered Classrooms - I believe wholeheartedly in students having ownership in their learning and Common Core is allowing that to happen. Empowering students with this piece of their education will do far more good than bad further down the road. Students should be talking in classrooms instead of sitting and getting information from one person. Students should be taught to question the credibility of sources, content, even the way that instruction is being delivered. They should have a voice. Common Core is moving classrooms into this realm of students analyzing their own work, providing feedback to others on their work, asking questions about relevance. I want to live in a world where people learn to question instead of just doing what is told.

 2. Multiple Strategies to One Answer - Life in the real world is messy, let's admit that. There are many, many ways to solve one problem, and there is not one that is greater than the other. If a student uses a strategy that takes more time than a traditional algorithim, but gets the same answer, shouldn't we be okay with it? I've taught Common Core Math for 4 years now, and I've seen my struggling students who struggle with math succeed with place value models and other strategies. When their understanding is solid, they then progress to the traditional method of multiplication and division. Am I okay with it? You better believe it. I want my students to succeed and not be penalized because of not using the same strategy. We are a world of diverse learners. No one learns in the same mode, so why do we teach in the same mode?

 3. Communication is critical - I've lived in many different places around the US and taught in many different schools - private and public. There is a need everywhere for effective communication. Common Core puts a huge emphasis on writing, speaking, and listening - all skills that we need to be good at in order to be successful. I LOVE that writing is being put into every subject area! Everyone should be able to make a claim and provide evidence. Everyone should be able to really hear both sides and debate an issue. Everyone should be able to listen effectively and join a conversation. These are skills that are being lost.

 4. Common Core allows for authentic learning - One of my favorite things about CCSS, is that it allows freedom to step out of a textbook and really begin making decisions for the students in the classroom. I think this is the scariest part of the standards because there is no one way to approach them. There is no one resource that will meet all of the needs. However, it gives freedom to teachers to use authentic texts from newspapers, magazines, internet articles that are geared to the interests of their students instead of just being the next story in a reading book. Real world scenarios and situations are knocking on the doors of classrooms and begging to come inside with CCSS. This excites me. I am not bound to textbooks. Hallelujah!

 5. Evaluating Teachers is Necessary - As a teacher, I have been given a HUGE responsibility in educating the young minds of today's world. I know that I am strong in some areas, but others areas need my attention. Evaluation helps me to know where I need to improve. It helps me determine what I need to change to provide the best education to my students. Is it nerveracking? Yes! I get nervous every time, but I value the information that I gain from the evaluation process. Should it be tied to test scores - not completely. I don't believe in hiring or firing teachers based on test scores because that is one day of an entire school year. But, I do believe that we have a responsibility to grow students. If our students are not growing under our tutelage, then something does need to be done. I should be held accountable for that. Teaching is a profession with a lot of pressure and a gargantuan amount of responsibility. In addition to teachers being evaluated, I believe that principals should have to go back into a classroom from time to time to see what we deal with on a daily basis. Those principals should also be evaluated teaching a room full of students. That would definitely add a different layer of interest.

 Now, do I agree with EVERYTHING or the way that CCSS has been brought about, no. But that is a post for another day.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thankful Week...

My friends over at BlogHoppin' are hosting a spectacular Linky this week - THANKful week for teachers.  Each day, for 4 days, the gals over there have chosen a theme and on Friday they will host a huge giveaway.  I know some of these ladies personally, and I'm confident the giveaway will be amazing.

So, here's the scoop.

So, today, being the 11th focuses on Time Savers.  Oh, I wish that I was an expert in this field.  However, my new position has FORCED me to use my time wisely and I am working on it.  I have a couple for you today.

1.  Windows 7 Sticky Notes:  All computers with Windows 7 installed have access to sticky notes.  Just go over to your start menu and type in the Search box.  *That's another time saver.  You no longer have to go to your library to get to your documents.  Just type the name of it, if you can remember it and you can access it right there.  Any who, on to Sticky Notes.  Most of the time I can't find the pad of sticky notes under the pile on my desk, so these electronic notes are the ticket for me.  I will likely lose it if it is on paper as well.  The only problem I have is putting too many on my desktop.  I color code them for different purposes and then delete them when I'm able to do everything on the list.  I'm saving trees too :)

2.  iPhone Reminders:  I live by my calendar and those electronic sticky notes, but my Reminders allow me to put a time deadline and an alarm on a task.  I use them DAILY!  You can see that I'm overdue on getting my transcripts to the District.  Oops!

That's it for today.  No big revelations here.  But, these work for me and save me countless hours of searching for that written to do list.

Link Up over at BlogHoppin!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November Currently...

I cannot believe that November is already here!  In some ways I feel like the year is passing quickly, but on some days (or weeks) I feel like it is passing as slowly as molasses in January downhill.  This week was one of them.  We had fall break the week before last and our week of return has been so SLOW!  I know that the next few weeks will fly by though and the holidays will be upon us in no time.  Time to get Christmas shopping!

I'm joining up with Farley again this month for her Currently series.  Honestly, this is the only consistent blog post that I can keep up with - sorry followers!  Thank you for loving me despite my sketchy blogging habits.  I think this one is easier to post regularly because it is quick and someone has come up with the topics for me.

Here goes!

Listening:  It's Saturday morning, so that means the hubby sleeps in late and I am left in the silence of the house.  Nothing but the ticking of the clock in these parts today.  I do have a snoring pup curled up under the blanket with me so I'm hearing those sounds too.  I love the weekend mornings.

Loving:  I try my hardest not to work too much on Saturday.  I leave all of my school stuff in the car until Sunday usually so I can relax.  This week though, I'll be pulling a few things out because of my "thinking" task.

Thinking:  Part of my new role this year is evaluating teachers.  I evaluated two this week and that means that I have to write up the evaluations, score, and then conduct a post-conference.  Each evaluation requires 4-6 hours of work, so I've got a busy weekend.

Wanting: A vacation!  I haven't had a break from work since Spring Break of last year.  When school ended in SC for me, I immediately moved to TN and dug in here with training.  School started the last week of July, so no summer!  I need some time to get away from the every day routine and recharge my batteries!

Needing:  A Fall/Winter shopping spree!  At my previous school teachers were required to wear white, navy, light blue, or khaki, so I didn't really buy any clothes that weren't appropriate for school during the fall/winter.  Now that I can wear what I want, Praise Jesus!, I am in desperate need of some great fall and winter clothes!  But, I need a bit of extra cash to do what I want!

A Yummy Pin:  Glazed Pork Chops - I know, nothing fancy, but with my crazy schedule, fancy is the last thing that I can tackle.  I made these last week and my husband asked for more.  A sure sign that it was a yummy pin.  And EASY PEASY to make!  Click the picture to head to the original source.

Head back over to Farley's and check out the other Currently posts!

I Don't Have the Answers...

It's taken me all weekend to begin to process what happened in Parkland, Florida.  I put it aside and compartmentalized it until I...