Monday, August 18, 2014

Teacher Week with Bloghoppin: Who?

Hey anyone (and everyone)! I hope you all have had a great summer, and if you are one of the "lucky" ones to already be back to school, that it is going well! I have one more work-free (haha) week, then I am back for PD and Open House. And I have a lot left to do! We start with kids on September 2, and I feel SO far from ready!

Despite that, here I am hooking up with Bloghoppin's Meet the Teacher week, because, why not? I loved doing their scavenger hunt this summer (even if I didn't win anything). What a fun group of teachers, keeping us inspired and motivated, and connecting us with one another. I think that is my favorite thing about being on social media as a teacher--I'm no longer limited to connecting with those people in my building (as amazing as they are).


So, WHO am I? 

I'm Becca :) I'm about to be 37 (shush! That surely is not possible!!!). I'm a career Kindergarten teacher. Yep. 

What about my Family? 

I am married to my favorite guy, ever, my hubs, Brian. That's us at my little sister's wedding last summer. My husband amazes me ALL the time. You might not know it to see this picture, but for most of our relationship/marriage, my husband was obese. And not just a bit, like, really. Over the past 2.5 years, he has lost over 150 pounds. He is skinnier now than in this photo. And he did it all through diet changes and just being more thoughtful and purposeful about what and how he eats. What else about him? We met in college, and have now been married for 8 years. He loves Joe Montana, collecting stuff, and rocks. By education, he is a geologist, but positions in that field were few and far between here, and needed tons of experience, so I like to say he is not a "practicing geologist", but put a few rocks and minerals or landforms in front of the man, and, well...he'll be there a while. 

We also have 3 little girls, though they are getting bigger all the time! Our oldest daughter is 7, and will be in second grade this year. It is the first year she won't be in my building, so that is going to be a big change for me! Our middle girl is 5, and coming to kindergarten, and is a bundle of movement and energy, so that will be VERY interesting. Our youngest is 3, and very excited to be starting in the preschool room at our daycare. These girls keep me on my toes! They love My Little Pony, How to Train Your Dragon, Transformers Rescuebots, playing outside, working in the garden, and "helping" in my classroom. These are my crazies back in was in the low 60s (at best) outside, but the girls were determined they wanted to put on swimsuits and get wet...they quickly changed their minds....but insisted on wearing the suits for over an hour outside..

I am also super close with my parents, and my sisters. They influence me every single day, and make me a better person all the time. I have been blessed to have an amazing and supportive family, and am thankful for them ALL the time. 

My friends...
Well...I'm one of those people who has a few good, close, friends, and who isn't really a social butterfly, if I'm honest. My momma is probably my best friend, with my sisters being next. I know I can count on them, and we have the best time together. Like I said, really blessed. My best teaching friend is my pal, Cheryl. She and I have had classrooms that were attached to each other for the past, gosh, almost five years (you had to walk through my room to get to hers). We just got moved to new rooms, which are separate...which was really worrisome to me! I loved being able to pop over and say "Hey, did you see... Or, "what are you doing about...." and losing that (even if she was still right next door!) was making me sad. The plus side? Our rooms have a folding wall in between, and we asked maintenance to keep one section open. We've blocked it off a bit (it was about a 5 foot opening, a bit too much), but I can pop over to her room, and she can pop over to mine still...YAY!!! I have some other amazing school friends who keep me grounded and motivated, and excited about teaching...our preschool teacher, Sue, one of our school SLPs, Carolyn, and my daughter's soon-to-be teacher, Lisa, as well as our district's instructional coach, Cassie....Miss Cassie gets me into all kinds of trouble as a teacher, encouraging me to get more and more involved, try new things, and be more of a leader. I am SO lucky to know her!    (This is my middle sister (I am the oldest of 3 girls) and I at our cousin's wedding in July). 

What I Love...

Oooh, here is the best part...

I love to read...and I have been SO excited to read a lot this summer! The last two summers, I have been taking grad classes, so reading for fun, didn't work so well. I have read a TON this year. 

I love social media...yes, I admit it. I love Twitter (though I go in spurts on it), and Instagram (I'm on there everyday).

I love Doctor Who and Sherlock. Yep, I'm a fangirl...I can't help it.   If you are DW fan, here's the deal. I adore 11. 9...fantastic. I love ALL the companions, but Amy and Rory, they are "my" companions. I love River and the Doctor. And I cannot wait for August 23, and to give Peter Capaldi a turn in the Tardis. I know I will end up loving him, too.. 

As for Sherlock...well...3 episodes every couple's an addiction. 

I also like sewing and crafting, even if I am not great at it, working in the garden (again, not great, but working on it), spending time at the lake (this is our crew of kidlets last summer, and this summer)...we are blessed to have a cottage on a small lake in mid-michigan, and another about 3 blocks from Lake Michigan. 

Other random loves: fabric, homemade macaroni and cheese, salted caramel, lemon cream cake, making stuffed toys for my girls, Marvel Movies (seriously. Iron Man. Thor. Avengers. Captain America.....), and being silly. 

I am looking forward to learning about more amazing teachers in this linky, and I hope you enjoyed learning about me! Please come back soon, even though school is starting back up very soon, I'm going to try to use this week of blog posts to jump start me into becoming a regular blogger! Enjoy your Teacher Week!!! 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July's Currently

I love Farley's blog. I love her Instagram. I love, love, love Currently...even though I didn't do it all school year. But, I'm back! I'm once again working on getting into a blogging routine (much easier when that pesky school doesn't get in the way, LOL), and that means linking back up with some of the linky parties I really enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by and checking out what I have been up to recently. Come back soon!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reboot Time!

I titled this post thinking mostly of getting started with blogging again, after losing all ability to focus on my social media life throughout this past school year, but the more I think on it, the more I think that "reboot" really is my "one little word" (to borrow an idea) for teaching this coming year.

Reboot...a whole new set of students...well, yeah. This happens to all of us (unless we loop, of course) every year. It's always a big proposition. A new group of kiddos, a new set of personalities, and, with kindergarten, only a little sneak peek into who these little people are who will consume so much of my brain, and fill so much of my heart over our days and weeks together.

Reboot...I have a student teacher for only the second time in my career. Ooooh, boy! I met her in the last week of school this year, and she seems nice, so I am looking forward to working with her. I hope I can be a strong and supportive cooperating teacher for her.

Reboot...I found out about two weeks before school ended that I will be changing classrooms over the summer. I have been in my current room for at least 7 years, so moving is going to be a huge change for me. I've been in the back corner of the school, out of the loop, but able to kind of do my own thing. I've been next to one of my favorite kindergarten coworkers, and across the hall from an amazing preschool teacher, who, though she has never been paid to be my mentor, has been the best mentor (as well as a wonderful friend) to me for years. And then...I will no longer be across the hall from the library, and from our librarian, who just happens to be my momma. Eeek! Oh, and let's not forget, I will no longer be across the hall from the printer and copier for last minute "oh, crap, I forgot to..." papers. I better really reboot my organization and prep skills!!!

So, classroom, whole new set-up, whole new everything. I've spent my whole career in classrooms with little to no built in storage (which is a pain, but which also makes for a LOT of flexibility in terms of room set up...I can put my cupboards wherever I can fit them), and I am moving to a room with two walls of built in cupboards. Yay, but OMG. Setting up my room might make me crazy. Plus, my carpet space will be SOOO much smaller...which is a big deal to me. I think my PTO money might just be buying me a new, not a cute school themed one...seriously, just a good looking bound carpet, to cover the not-nearly-so-nice one on my new floor...thank goodness my Dad owns a flooring store!

Reboot...So...I am completely rebooting the way I start the school year. We are required to do 57,000 baseline assessments with our kids at the beginning of the year. And I've always tried to do that AND begin all of my adopted curriculum right away, like diving into math and language arts series stuff. Not this year. Oh, no. I am rebooting. (and rebelling). I am taking the first 3 weeks of school to teach what I want to teach, the way I want to teach it. I'll probably start our math series pretty quickly, as it's still new, and a lot to get through...but the beginning of year "stuff" is sorting, positional words, etc, so I may not follow our series exactly (how many workbook pages do kindergartners need to do to know "above" and "below"??). But I am waiting for week 4 to start our Scott Foresman series. And I am not worried about it! I'm going to create my own lessons, I am going to teach basic literacy skills, like one to one correspondence, and tracking, and how to hold a pencil. I am completely geeked about it, but a bit terrified, too, because I've got to get my student teacher through it as well! Anyway, I am totally excited to try transitioning my students to a school day in a more thoughtful and appropriate way. I am excited to build relationships and community (even while I'm busting through those 57,000 assessments) because I am not going to force my kids into complete structure immediately.

What else will I reboot? I am working to be a better leader, on my grade level team, and in my building. It's challenging and scary for me, but it is what I need to do. I'm working to reboot how I use assessment and data WITH students to build knowledge. I'm working to reboot how technology is used in my classroom in meaningful ways. I'm rebooting a lot...and I'm looking forward to it.

What are you rebooting this year? What challenges are you taking on that scare you, exhilarate you, inspire you?

I'm off to browse Pinterest for more ideas to keep me pushing forward. Talk to you soon!


Thursday, March 13, 2014


Hey! If you stopped and spent part of your day with me today, first of all, THANKS. I know I am not as polished as many other speakers here, but I appreciated your time and hope you left with something valuable.

Here is a link to my presentation today, hope it is helpful to you!

Enjoy the rest of the conference!!


Friday, February 21, 2014

The Winter That Never Ends

Are you having one of these? I am! We were "off" (teachers had PD) on Monday for President's Day, we cancelled on Tuesday after getting 6-7 inches of snow dumped on us and our backroads overnight on Monday. We came to school on Wednesday, and by the grace of weather system moving AROUND us, for once, we got to have school, and our annual Tea Party, on Thursday. By the time school ended  on Thursday, and through our whole tea party, it poured down rain outside. All the rain and snow melt froze. Cue "treacherous" back roads, and main highways covered in black ice And cue yet another snow day.

As of now, we will be going to school beyond the 16th of June. Our original end date was June 10. The June 16 date was BEFORE our cancellations this week. We have two options for making up time--add minutes (in 30 minute chunks) to our school day, or add full days to the end of the year. We have very few "days off" that are changeable in our calendar...and, at this point, is using those two possible days really worth it? Never mind the backlash we would get for removing those days off (one, in particular, is the Friday before Memorial Day, and our town has a HUGE festival over Memorial weekend...though we may still be knee-deep in snow then). And, never mind the fact that we are still looking at more possible days off...winter doesn't seem to be done with us yet, and then what happens when it warms up, and all this snow starts to melt? Oh, yes, fog. And we cancel for that around here, too.

Here's the kicker. We start school in September. Not August. We are required, by law, to not start our school year until AFTER Labor Day, to help promote Michigan's tourism industry. is almost every school in Michigan being in session a week to two weeks later in June HELPING the tourism industry? Wondering if there is any talk in legislature about the fact that, had we been able to start in August (even just ONE week in August), we would still be getting out fairly early in June.

So, yeah. This has just been my ramble as I think about yet another day being spent in my classroom in June. As I sit in my home, listening to the wind whip, and hoping I keep power, and praying that winter will loosen it's grasp soon (note: we have negative and single digit temps in the forecast for next week).

Hope it is warmer wherever you are, and you are getting to spend time with your students!


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

First Grade Thoughts...

So, I am a kindergarten teacher, and I have been for my whole career. I've been lucky enough to never have  my position cut, unlike most of the other teachers I was hired in with. I love teaching kindergarten, and I try to be good at it. Last year was very interesting for me, as both a kindergarten teacher and a parent of a kindergartner. I didn't think anything would top it...but this year, as a K teacher and parent of a Firstie...oh...yeah. It's topped it. Last year, I knew what my daughter was being assessed on. I knew what the tests were, how they were scored, why those things were selected as important, and so on. This year? Yikes.

I've hit a lot of roadblocks this year, especially being a parent AND a kindergarten teacher. My daughter's first report card was an eye opener for one thing. In K, we assess over 20 skills, between ELA, Math and Character/Work Habits. Now, first marking period, we don't do all of them, but we do at least half of them. For second marking period, we mark more than 3/4 of the items. Total, for the year, first grade marks 13 items. Huh? Our report card is almost double makes no sense to me.

Next up? Writer's Workshop. We use the Lucy Calkins version, but we may also use the MAISA writing units which build off of Calkins, to meet the CCSS. Kindergarten? We start "writers workshop" within the first few weeks of school. Do our kids know how to "write"? No. Do they know how to spell? No. Do they all know how to hold a pencil properly, or draw anything other than a tornado shaped blob? For many of them, the answer is no. Does that stop us from "writing"? Nope. 25 kindergartners, one teacher, and "workshop" time? It's a horror. It overwhelms me, I'll be honest. It is HARD and frustrating, for me and for them. I keep it short and sweet, as often as possible. It's about the process, not the product...but by the end of the year, by golly, many of them ARE writing simple stories. They are making recognizable pictures and labeling. They are using sight words. We put ourselves through the stress and torture than is Writer's Workshop with kinders from the beginning. What does first grade do? Well, as I discovered this year, first grade doesn't begin Writer's Workshop until the middle/end of November (I know this, because I got the letter from my daughter's teacher, stating "We are beginning Writer's Workshop"). I asked, in a meeting, why they started so late. The reason I was given? "They aren't ready". "We need to teach skills like letter formation". "It's not developmentally appropriate". First, hello, slap in the face for the time and effort every kinder teacher on our team puts in at teaching writing skills to our students. They aren't ready? Well, they sure were writing in June of the previous year, so how are they "not ready" now? Add to that, "It's not developmentally appropriate"???? If it isn't appropriate for first graders beginning the year, how would it be appropriate at ANY point of kindergarten? My final point will be discussed again in a moment, but it is..."we need to work on penmanship"...this takes me back to so many speakers I have heard in recent years, especially those who speak about assessing in multiple ways--what is being assessed? What is the point of the writing? Is writer's workshop about having perfect penmanship, or is it about feeling the power of getting a message, a story, information, on the page and sharing it with the world? In my classroom, it isn't about perfect printing, though we try to "write it so others can read it".

Enter the daughter brought home a note, attached to a page of D'Nealian printed this point in the school year, students will be marked wrong for "letters that are made incorrectly on the lines, uppercases, and backward letters" on their spelling tests. Do I believe that students need to know conventions of print? Yes. Should they be able to recognize the difference between a b and a d, and print the correct one? Yes. Should they be able to print their letters? Sure. All that agreement aside, what is the spelling test for? It's name would suggest a word is being spelled, and children are being tested on spelling. A reversed b or d is difficult to recognize, and, I agree, should be marked incorrect. A backward t? An incorrectly formed lowercase (D'Nealian) k? If it is recognizable, and it is a SPELLING test, it should be marked correct. If it is about printing, then it should be called a PRINTING test. If it is about spelling, it should be based on correct SPELLING.

Am I crazy? Am I overthinking things? Am I being too sensitive, both as a parent and a kindergarten teacher? I don't know. Is there a right answer? I am not sure.

What are your thoughts on the whole "report card" issue? How does your district decide on report card content? Do you do a writing program in kindergarten? What sort of "penmanship" do you teach? Do you teach penmanship lessons? (We don't...we use D'Nealian, and as we do our letter of the week, we do a letter printing page, but this results in us not working on certain letters until the end of the year, and bad habits sometimes set in, because, clearly, we still need those letters, even if we have not yet learned them).

One final note...I am THRILLED with my daughter's teacher, and her classroom experience this year. She is happy, she is learning by leaps and bounds, and she enjoys school. She is not upset about her report card being smaller, or about starting writing later in the year, or even about the whole penmanship on spelling tests thing...but I am glad we sorted out her b's and d's earlier this year....

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thinking about Social Media and FERPA...

Okay, so this has been on my mind for a while. I am genuinely curious, and would LOVE responses on this topic, because I really want to understand all sides of this, and really need to work to figure out where I draw the line. I also want to apologize if this seems rambly or not as succinct as it could, or should be. This is basically a stream of consciousness, think-aloud about this topic, inspired by something I observed on facebook tonight, as well as other instances around social media.

As teachers, we all know (or should!) all about FERPA. We all know that our students, and their families, have legal rights to expect that their privacy, and the privacy of their child, is respected. So, where does that leave us as teachers on social media?

I've seen conversations of late where "anonymous" teacher questions were posted (teachers submit their question, another teacher posts it on her social media, and other teachers respond), but then the teacher who submitted the question has made public acknowledgement that it was her question, along with sharing details about the situation. Is that a violation of FERPA? To me, it would be. Do I know who that child is? No. Would other teachers who work in that building? Maybe. Would other parents from that building? Maybe. And that parent? Oh, that parent, seeing that conversation online, would certainly know to whom it was referring. That child and family have, in my mind, just had their FERPA rights violated. Just because we leave off names, it does not mean we aren't breaking FERPA.

I've read blog posts from teachers I think do a fabulous job, where they write about their students who struggle with behavior. I know we need a place and a way to vent. I know we should be able to write and blog about our lives and our experiences in the classroom. However, if you are a well-known (or even a totally unknown) teacher blogger, and a parent visits your website, and sees you going on about how you were doing such great things in your classroom, but then this nameless child went off, throwing things, etc, how is that parent going to feel knowing that it was his or her child? How do other parents feel when they read these summaries of life in your classroom? Is it a reality of teaching? Yes. Children aren't perfect. Some kiddos are struggling emotionally and academically, and don't have the skills or ability to manage their frustrations. Is it overwhelming for us as teachers? Yes. Do we have the right to publicly air our issues in social media? I don't think so. We CAN address things by asking questions, such as "what have you done when...", without giving details about the situation of a specific child in your classroom...if it is a question that can be generalized across many children, many experiences, without a specific story or example attached, I'm cool with that. I'm not cool with "here's this specific story that has just happened to me, what would you do?"

I'm not saying we need to paint a picture of teaching as sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. That's not useful for anyone. I am saying that we, as teachers, and as participants in social media, really need to remember that everything we put out there is visible to someone else...and that "someone else" may be one of our parents, grandparents, friend of a family, someone who loves that child, someone who may be embarrassed to see their challenges and frustrations put out in public for all to see. We don't need to agree with all parents, and we certainly need to be able to seek help when we need it, we just need to be thoughtful when we post, and remember, as frustrated as we can get, it is never okay to publicize private conversations.

As I said, this is really just my reflection on what I am seeing happening in social media...any thoughts and ideas would be appreciated!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Yikes! Blogging is Hard!



Yes. I am not the best blogger out there. No, I have not posted since September. Yes, that is bad.'s a bit of why!

Well, I think any teachers reading this know just how hard the start of the school year is. And when you aren't a solid blogger to begin with, it's one of the first things to fly out the window. Added to the start of the year crazy was the whole finishing-my-practicum for my masters thing. That took me until Christmas, and holy cow, was it a LOT of work!

Well, a month after Christmas, and here I am, back to give blogging another go! Here is what I am up to lately...

Lots and lots of SNOW. Yep, I live in Michigan, and we've gotten lots of the frozen white stuff this year. It's meant lots of days off from school (today included, and tomorrow highly likely).

Sewing :) I started sewing rather unexpectedly about two years ago, when I dove in head first making a doll for my niece. Two years later, my three daughters all now have new dolls (which 2/3 of them requested two years ago). I am finishing up the quilt for my youngest daughter's doll, as well as handsewing three little inchworms for my girls. I am finding it really relaxing!

Being a dance/tumbling mom. It's not much compared to many parents, but two nights a week at the dance studio is a lot for me.

Spending time with my family. This has been the nicest side effect of being done with "school"...I can close my computer, and BE with my family. My husband and I have been watching movies, Sherlock, Doctor Who, etc. So nice to spend time together.

But wait...this is a teaching blog, not a personal life blog! So...what have I been up to as a teacher?

Trying to adjust to our new method of providing interventions to our at-risk students. This has been hugely challenging for me. Not that I don't know how to reach them, but making the groupings work, managing the rest of class while I (and my assistant) are working with groups. This has been HUGELY challenging for me, and I have been brainstorming ways to improve what I am doing. It helps that my practicum is over, and now I can try to address student needs in the ways *I* think are appropriate, rather than to fit into a pre-outlined plan of intervention.

I am super excited because I have been asked to speak for TWO sessions at the MACUL conference here in Michigan. MACUL is the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning, and I have gone to the conference for the past five years. I LOVE it, and always come back SO fired up for teaching with and learning from technology. I get to give the two presentations I have posted in my last post, and I can't wait! I am going to be busy over the next month polishing those presentations up, adding information, removing unnecessary "stuff" and so on. Very excited, but also very, very nervous to present! Plus, Erin Klein (who is amazing) is presenting at the conference as well, and ALSO speaking on Pinterest in pressure there!!! Yikes!

We also just found out that our district has been selected to pilot the new K-2 Common Core assessment. We are all working to keep a positive attitude about this (more assessment?), and keeping the point of view that we get to give honest, brutal feedback about how the whole process goes. It's a little overwhelming, but we'll figure it out!

Our principal softened the blow by sharing the news that our building is FINALLY catching up with others in the district in terms of technology! We are going to get more netbooks for our students to use, new (refurbished) computers for staff, and 2 iPads for every classroom! WOW!!! (May I just say...the teachers in my building have NEVER had "new" computers...we have always gotten hand-me-downs from other buildings, with Do Not Resuscitate notices attached (well, not really, but the tech guys all know...if a computer in our building breaks, don't waste your time fixing it), so this is a HUGE deal!!! We thought we were hot stuff finally getting upgraded from Microsoft Office 2003 earlier this year!).

Hmmm...Have I blathered on enough? I am excited to be blogging again, to be able to use this blog as a place to reflect, share, and build my PLN. Thanks for stopping by to read, I'm off to catch up on some blog reading of my own!