Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Recent News

In recent news, it was brought to our attention in NC that the Governor gave a hefty pay raise to some of his "peeps" and took heat over not giving a raise to his teachers in the state.  His response to that was "he tried" and "there was money needed to pay for the hole Medicaid was in."

As usual, NC teachers get put on the back burner.  What really bothers me is the perception and lack of respect that people have on teachers in this state.  We keep going and pushing through the nonsense and doing what we need to do for these children.  We have a responsibility to the kids and their families.  They are expecting a good education and not just being taught the minimum.  I have said it before and I will say it again, there is not ONE teacher in my school that does not try their hardest.  I can't say that for all schools in this state I am sure, so maybe that is where the views on teachers comes from when people comment on forums and news articles.

Some people are really harsh with the way they view us.  It's been an eye opener and I am thankful I am in the school I am in.  We have wonderful families and they value the teachers in our school.  That is what makes my job a little easier to swallow when the Governor and other state officials want to take things away from us.  No raises in years, taking away pay from Master level teachers, getting rid of career status... it's a real poo fest on teachers.

BUT, we have to still perform to their new evaluations and standards.  We still have to carry on like nothing is wrong.  Year after year there are new programs and assessment thrown at us like the rest of the country, and we are still expected to be paid the same?  They talk out of the side of their mouths.  They say they want the best for the students in NC but they certainly are not showing it.  A principal in another county had a letter go viral to the Governor.  She hit the nail on the head and called him out on some things.  I was very grateful to hear someone stick up for us.

I'm not sure where this is going but what sparked my blog was me, sitting here, watching a training online for NC Teacher Mentors.  We have to do 10 hours of training before Sept. 16.  I came across part of the video where we talk about new teachers and the evaluations they must go through.  Actually, every teacher has observations, evaluations, and we have PDP's {Professional Development Plans} that we must come up with every year.  So, they are taking away career status in a state that is already "right to work" and no union.  They can get rid of the "bad" teachers if they really wanted to.  So why punish the rest of us.  There are things in place to make sure we are on target and doing the best teaching for our students.

It's a sad state of affairs folks.  People think we have all the time off in the world {well, I am currently tracked out, HA!} and so why should we complain.  Really, we work even when we are not physically at school.  When we are at school we are teaching... not planning lessons for next week or grading papers.  We have to use our "off time" for that.  When else do they think it gets done?!  I am constantly thinking about my students and what else I can do for them.  It's what a good teacher does.  Duh!  Now I just want credit for being a good teacher.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Will Not Feel Guilty

I tracked out on Friday and I left ALL of my planning materials at school and I refuse to feel guilty about it.  I keep peeking at Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teacher though.  School is always in my head and I am always thinking about what we will do next.

I love farms, apples, pumpkins, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin coffee, and everything fall!  After this week goes by, I will most likely find myself stopping by school and picking up my stuff so I can plan out my themes/units.

We will be very close to ending our first quarter and I plan to start sending word rings {rainbow words} and book bags home.  When do you start yours?  Every teacher is different  but coming from first grade, I feel like I am rushing these babies in some areas.

Anyways- back to vacation!  I hope you traditional schoolers have a great start back to your year.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Up Way Too Early

I was up WAY too early for this Sunday morning.  My three year old came in shortly before 6:00 am and announced he was feeling mad.  I told him that me feeling tired trumped his feeling mad and he needed to go back to sleep.  SO I marched his little butt back to bed and he did go back to sleep, thankfully, but did I?!  Nope!  I decided to use that time for lesson plans.

We have been using Letterland the past two years in Kindergarten.  The first eighteen days of school is what's called a "Fast Track".  It's a quick dip into each letter of letterland in those eighteen days.  After that, we jump into a more closer look at each letter, their name, shape, sound, you name it... we spend time doing it.  I am now going on days twenty-six to thirty.  We will have focused on four different letters: Annie Apple, Clever Cat, Dippy Duck, and Harry Hatman.

Here is my trouble... WHY is this program teaching those letters/sounds first?  And WHY do they teach the vowel sound with the letter, like Annie Apple?  She says 'a' as in apple but she belongs to Mr. A who says 'a' like ape.  SO confusing for these beginning Kinders.  They looked at me like I had ten heads.  Now, I know it was many years ago that I taught K and I have been with firsties for quite some time, but if I recall correctly, we taught in this sequence: rhyming, initial consonants, final consonants, and then vowels very last. When did this change?  I feel like I am teaching rhyming for those who cannot hear OR produce one and then initial consonants at one time.

Anyways, I created an initial consonant sort for the four Letterlanders we are working with recently.  They will use a pocket chart sort with the picture cards and then come back to the table and complete the sort I made.  Use if you like.  It's nothing fancy but just enough to get the point across to the kiddos.  I am going to make one each time we come across four more Letterlanders and even throw in some review.  Click on Annie Apple to grab the sort.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Open House

It's that time of year already.  We are six weeks in and it's time for Open House {our Curriculum Night}.  Since moving to Kinder, all of my stuff is null and VOID!  Everything I did in first grade had to be changed quite a bit.  All of my hand outs and even my Power Point {yes, I said Power Point} had to be changed quite a bit.

I just figured out that people are no longer using Power Point and there is this wonderful little thing called a PREZI!  It took me a few days to figure out how to make one and then a teacher friend sent me her's.  I studied it and then went off and made my own.  Not too shabby for my first time.... Check it out!  

We also have to make something for families to take that night.  So each year I do an apple with a little poem stuck to it and then have a hand out for them to take home with things they need to know for the year about our learning.  The poem reads:

An apple for the teacher is really nothing new, accept when you remember that parents are teachers too.  I look forward to working with you and your child this year.  ~Mrs. Smith

The hand out I give them is a tri fold pamphlet.  It's quick and easy to make.  I am sure most of them go home and trash it anyhow.  I like to think they don't but I'm not wasting printer ink and paper for hand outs.  I am going to post my PREZI on our class web site, so they will always have the info there if they need it.

FIVE more days until track out!  That's all I have to keep telling myself.  Then I have three sweet weeks off. Well, it may not be too sweet since my three year old is having his tonsils and adenoids removed, but it's still a vacation away from school no matter how you look at it.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


I had been asked if I blogged about Letterland yet.  So I thought, "self, that's a good idea right there".  Our school district picked up Letterland last school year and it started with Kindergarten.  Then, this year, it trickled up to first graders.

Letterland is a program to teach early reading skills, spelling, and phonics.  It also has a handwriting component which I LOVE but more about that in a minute!  Our school needed a handwriting program in the worst way.  I noticed how well it worked after my son had went through Kinder.  He was able to decode and blend sounds like nobodies business. His handwriting however, is like my husbands, so I am guessing the handwriting program part of it worked as well as it could have for him.

Letterland is actually a British program and most of the songs that go with it, have the accent of British people.  It's quite amusing.  I can sing like Super Nanny now.

This is my first year doing it with Kindergarten and the kids love it.  Each day, for the first eighteen days, we introduce two Letterlanders a day.  This is called "fast track".  It's a quick way to introduce the characters, their letter sound, and their letter name.  In Letterland, they all have a character, such as Annie Apple, but in real life, you just see their black and white, plain letter.  The kiddos really look forward to who we will meet and hear their stories.  Each Letterlander has a story, action, and song to go with him or her.

One of the negatives is that there is lots of assessing.  In Kindergarten, how can you assess, individually, every five days?!  That has been a challenge.  I just see what's right for my class and keep plugging along.

After the fast tracking, we go back and spend more time on each letter.  We practice the letter, it's sound, and letter formation.  The only thing I do not care for is the order it teaches the letters.  I may need to study up on it some more but I used to teach handwriting and letters by the form of their letter.  So I did c, o, a, e first because they all have the same round shape.  I know there are others but you get my point.

I have always been a stickler about handwriting and the way I taught in in Kinder a long time ago.  This part is tough for me but I am going along with the program and maybe next year I can make some of my own tweaks to it.

One more downside is the materials that this program has.  There are so many materials but our ditrcits only purchased the bare minimum.  When I am looking through the teacher manual, I see activities, etc, but realize that I cannot do them because I do not have some of the stuff.  That is where I need to make changes as I see fit and add other things.  They ask we use this program with "fidelity" and use ONLY Letterland characters when decorating our classroom and use their ABC line.  But if we do not have all of the materials, that is kind of hard to do.  So I use what I want!

All in all, it's not a bad program but it takes up a lot of time for each lesson.  I use the Daily 5 Literacy format and I am trying to get my lessons to fit into Daily 5 Focus Lessons.  I'll let you all know how that goes once we are up and running with D5.