Thursday, April 30, 2015

Day 30: How the #BlogADay Challenge has Impacted Me

Well, that month is shot.

I gotta admit, I felt crummy missing the last 8 days of the blog challenge.

Everyday I would get the text reminders and totally expect to have time. And everyday my time ran out. Between Tball, losing my voice (the kids are hoping I "find" it), and going to a conference (which as teachers we know is code for spending 2 hours writing sub plans) I failed.

Or have I?

The #BlogADay challenge brought my blog to the front and center. It made me conscience of it and made me want to write. It also got me focusing on the great things about education, rather than staying mired in the educational despair that envelopes many of us this time of year.

It also helped grow my PLN on Twitter and gave me the confidence I needed to continue.

I am thankful for Chris Crouch's idea to start a #BlogADay challenge and look forward to failing at our next adventure in May.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day 22: 5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending in Education

1. That we are Mary Poppins.
I like the quote, "Not every day is good, but there is something good in every day." Because, let's get real...when I have to ask my students to put their heads down, when no one appears to be listening to me, when I feel I need a bullhorn to get my students attention, it's not a good day and that is OK. We are human. We can have days when we'd like to park ourselves at happy hour.

2. That we need to look like teachers on Pinterest or Instagram.
I LOVE both Pinterest and Instagram. I love the ideas and inspiration. I love that I can think about getting crafty, at the last minute, on Earth Day, and can find something just right for my students. However, when it steps beyond that, when we start to compare ourselves to others and end up feeling like "losers" because our wall doesn't look like a scene out of Frozen, we need to back away. Great pictures don't equal great teaching.

3. That we will be provided the training we need.
It seems most teachers have the nice gene like me. We sit and quietly wait because SOMEONE will surely offer us the training we need. SOMEONE will make sure we grow in our profession. SOMEONE will tell us what we need to do. Note to Self: That SOMEONE IS YOU. You are your biggest advocate. Realize where you need to grow and ask for training in that area. Otherwise you'll be sad.

4. That we will be treated fairly in all things.
I like to believe in the inherent good in people, but not everyone out there is kind. Realize your boundaries and stick to them. Just because a veteran teacher asks you to do something doesn't mean you have to. Just because its a veteran teacher who is being rude, doesn't mean its OK. Be kind but assertive. Look after yourself and your family time.

5. That we can ignore technology.
Technology is here and it isn't going away! So don't hide from it, embrace it! Realize you need to learn how to check your email if you don't know how. And that it is a good idea to learn things that will better your students in the long run. We can't hide out in a cave because we feel Facebook is the devil. Become informed so that you can be a beacon for others.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Day 20: The Year of Training Dangerously

Today's blog topic (What are You Working on NOW?) came at an appropriate time. Today I was away from class again, this time to train on a math program called Origo.

Each time I am gone I feel guilty about being absent from class...I really do. I want to be there changing my students lives for the better. I worry what the parents will think. I worry the kids will forget what I look like. But then, after stewing about it, for long periods of time, because that's what introverts do, I came to the conclusion that I am not going to become a better teacher if I let guilt hold me back.

I'm going on my 7th full year with my district and although I've had trainings in the past, nothing as frequent, and worthwhile, as this year. This year I broadened my mindset by attending GLAD training, the NCCE (Tech) conference, and Origo. And, although the year has only 37 days left (yikes!) I have a 1 day Dr. Jean workshop I'm attending (thanks to Lincoln Parent Council!), Handwriting without Tears, and a week long pre-school GLAD program.

When I think about training I am reminded of the Maya Angelou quote:

Because, although I am bright, I am the first to admit I do not know it all. As I tell my kiddos, I learn something new every day...and its not just a Foleyism, but a truth. Hence, if I stay in my fortress, guarded by my constituents, and continue to plot along the best I know...I won't be able to become a better teacher and thus impact students with more efficient and best practices.
And yet 2 years ago, I was embarrassed to ask to attend the national, "I Teach K!" conference (the first MAJOR conference I had EVER been to) because every time I told someone it was being held in Las Vegas they looked at me with a stare of disbelief. As if learning cannot occur in Vegas, the convention capital of the world mind you, because its Vegas. And yet to be there for 4 days with only KINDERGARTEN teachers was so empowering. To talk to people who understand that kindergarten is an undiscovered planet in our solar system, a place where glue eating is commonplace and sainthood should be granted was powerful. And yes, to Zipline across Fremont street provided me with the strength to start another year. Yet it also provided me with 100s of new ideas, ways to improve, ways to "be better."
So where does that leave me? With a new mantra. I believe every year should be, for every teacher, a year of training dangerously. To get so much outstanding, effective, passion filled training that we, as teachers, are ignited to come back and to do so with gusto. In my mind an ounce of prevention (by providing quality training) is worth a pound of cure (trying to figure out how to "fix" low performing schools).
So I implore those in charge, those making the decisions, those teetering on the edge of whether to send teachers to professional development to JUST DO IT. Because the kids are worth it.
As for Vegas...there is always next year :)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Day 10: What Haven't I Tried that I Wish I Could?

So it's Friday night and I just got paid...scratch that...I'm a teacher...I only get paid once a month.

However, it is Friday night and it's time to catch up my past due posts.

What haven't I tried that I wish I could: Coding. Yes, geeky, wannabe techy me wants to teach coding to my kinders.

I just attended the NCCE in Portland, Oregon, (completely AWESOME BTW) where I attended seminars and workshops on coding with programs like Scratch, Tynker, and Alice. I wish so badly to implement this in my class but I don't know that I want to attempt it in a computer lab setting. I am wishing I had more technology for the classroom besides the 2 working Kindles and 1 working tablet. I want so much to take kids to the next level and yet I feel so stuck in implementation. So much to do, so little time.

Dear Bill Gates,

Please send me 6 iPads for my totally awesome kindergarteners to use so we can learn coding. They deserve it. Living in the country should not be a detriment to learning.


Constantly Poor Kindergarten Teacher

That should do it ;)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day 19: Tech in the Classroom--Should We? Or as I call it, "Are You Kidding Me?"

I have always be fascinated by all things techie. I may never work for Microsoft, but send me to a tech conference and I get as geeky as they come.

So, it's hard for me to understand the reasons teachers fail to embrace technology.

I teach in a small district and so technology has been one of those things looming on the edge, never attainable. My first year I was excited to have an antiquated computer for student use. I was given a projector to use, you know, with was 2008. To me, that was bizarre.

Did I know the latest inventions I was missing? No. But I knew there had to be better out there and I wanted it for the students. I knew that if I found it interesting, they would too, and it would be part of the world they grew up into.

Fast forward to 2015. Thank the Lord the old, roll the cart out, get out your transparencies from 1992, projector went away. I now have a doc cam/projector. I gave up the student computers (even though I had a whole 2 now) because they reminded me to much of dial up Internet (Wait, wait, wait some more, no, I'm sure it's going to load soon...).

Some K teachers at another school had attained some Kindles from parent group funds and my motivation was lit. We ended up with 6 for my class and the students were beyond excited. The Kindle center was one of our regular D5 rotations and they couldn't wait each day. They were beyond excited to do math with Team Umizoomi, and phonics skills with Dora the Explorer to name a few. It was engaging, it was fun, it was a game in their mind. This wasn't boring, "learning" they were, "playing."

I understand the complexities of screen time usage and kids...I understand the fears some teachers have that the kiddos will be exposed too soon. However, it's already happening. Computer programming, in all its capacities, is the wave that will take us into the future. By sheltering our students from it, thinking we are doing them a favor, we are instead putting them at a disadvantage.

Signed, Mom of incoming Kindergartner

Day 17: TGIF--mindfulness

I'm beginning to think I need to join an, "Every 3rd Day Post to Your Blog" challenge. As that is about how often I am getting time to write. However, I truly am enjoying posting for a reason and having an incentive, a little knock-knock via virtual friends, to keep me mindful. It keeps my blog in  the forefront of my mind and not the attic.

Friday's topic was, "What are You Thankful for?" Gosh, more like what am I not as there are so many things I am thankful for.

When I entered therapy I learned about mindfulness--the ability to live in the now, be present, be aware, how to change thoughts and body to enjoy life more. It has been such a great skill to have. The ability to realize when things are amiss, when I'm overly stressed, and knowing how to rectify the situation and think clearly has been such a blessing.

I have always believed in the mantra: life is short...don't put off until tomorrow what can bring you great joy today. But it seems to become more imperative as I age. After my brother in law was killed, I realized you truly can be here today and gone tomorrow. After my brother was diagnosed with ALS I truly no longer cared how long the car ride was, or how tired I would be, it was important to see him, be with him, let him know how much he would be missed. After he passed away last year, we lost a family friend, who was like a brother, to kidney failure. The sad list, at my age, seems to grow longer with each passing day.

And so, I am thankful, for the sun on my face, a bird singing, a flower blooming, nature in all its boring (to some) glory. Thankful for the family I have still with me, the ones that truly stand behind you, walk the walk, talk the talk. Thankful for my grandmother Della who means the world to me. Thankful for the daughter I never thought I would have due to my struggle with infertility. Friends and strangers who helped me get from the dark of 4 years ago back to the light.

And I break into song like my brother in law used to do, "I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down."

Happy Friday.

Tubthumping (I get Knocked Down)


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Day 14: Why I Teach

Today was one of those days when the only quiet time I got was in the bathroom. Seriously, I was wondering if there was a full moon? Early donut day? Give every kinder coffee day?

It didn't help that my para was TESL practicum didn't show...and the light bulb broke out of the socket of the chicken lamp...(early chick death, anyone?)

Whatever it was, the class was on fire. There was no inside voice to be found. I mulled about all morning with an, I don't want to be here mindset. Why am I here? and Is Starbucks still hiring? was bouncing about my brain. It didn't help when several kiddos asked if it was lunch time...and it was 1030.

During math, I went to use my doc cam and knocked over my Pepsi across my plan book. So much for the inspiration to make my desk smaller (mid day it resembles tornado alley).

And then it was rest time...the glorious time when, hopefully, kiddos are resting and writing books. When the 15 minutes was up a little guy wandered up, "I have something for you, Ms. Foley."

A little guy who struggled the first few weeks adjusting to life in a new class, who used to melt if he didn't finish in time, and look at him...beaming with pride.

This is why I teach friends, this is why... not for the pay, or lack thereof, or the summers off, but the impact I make on precious lives...even on the days I cannot hear myself think :)

Monday, April 13, 2015

April Blog-a-Day Challenge, Day 12: My Passion, Saving Fred, and Anyone Else That Needs Saving

The other day my sister mentioned how some of her students were crushed when another student killed a spider in class.( Score: Ms. Foley 1) My friend followed that comment with, "Yeah, I was pretty sure our relationship was over when I killed a spider and mentioned it to her." (Score: Friend -1)

Each year I put my passion of kindness into my lesson plans on spiders. I try to instill an understanding of how the earth, and all its residents, are interconnected. And how we don't need to fear things out of misunderstanding. How we should be kind to all living things.

It goes without saying that the unit starts with many friends telling me how they routinely crush spiders, bugs or insects. What's the big deal, you might ask, "it's just a bug." I find it a very big deal. I see that a lack of caring, for life in general, leads to less empathetic kiddos. Kiddos that are less empathetic don't see the big deal when the line is crossed into animal abuse (overt or merely rough handling). They are not concerned when a stray kitten is injured in the trailer park because, "it's just an animal." Yet, it is well known that animal abuse can be a pre-cursor to abuse in general.

Big step? Why take the chance. Teaching kids to be KIND is a virtue that should be embraced and appreciated.  Curiosity in the world around them is great. As long as said curiosity doesn't include destruction. Our kids need to learn that being respectful, in essence being kind, is what we should strive for. Respect for the Earth involves being kind to plants (living), insects (living), animals (living), and humans (living). Do you see the connection here? How we act on one group or specie transcends to the next, and the example we set for our kids is likely to become their basis for all further interactions.

I even take it a step further in the classroom. Beating up stuffed animals, or toy babies, is not allowed. The kids will routinely say, "but it's not real, why can't I smack it against the floor?" When we get our kids to think about why it's not ok, and talk about why it's not ok, that is when they begin to understand the connection themselves. Meanness, whether through actions or thoughts, is not ok. It leads to the assumption that meanness is a quality that we approve of, when we should not.

My ultimate goal is to teach about spiders for opinion writing, lifecycle knowledge, knowledge of scientific facts and future occupations. It is also my goal to quell fears and anxiety young children have about spiders in general. Yet in the end the most important lesson comes from the conversations we have about, "Fred." Fred is whatever spider takes up residence in our classroom. Always small and innocuous Fred gives a name, and therefore meaning, to the life of the object--in this case, an arachnid. Fred is living his life, minding his business, as we are. My kiddos go from freaking out about Fred/wanting to kill Fred, to ignoring Fred/saying "hi" and leaving Fred alone. Parents thank me when their over anxious kiddos no longer freak out, but instead explain facts about spiders.

So each time I hear one of my former, or current, students speaking up for not killing a bug or spider I give myself a point. It's my passion, it's important, and I'm changing the kindergartener at a time...

PS--I tell my students, as well as their parents, that by no means am I abdicating for taking a spider as a pet. Or petting a spider, or otherwise engaging in dangerous activities. My goal is one of understanding and respect.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Day 11: What Have I Been Reading? 5 Books Everyone Should Read

 I read 3 books to my 4 year old each night. So you might say my current reading includes, Is There a Dog in This Book? The Baby Trap and Pete the Cat Saves Easter. As a kindergarten teacher I realize daily reading is SO important for kiddos to understand speech, vocabulary, and literacy skills in general. READ! READ! READ! (at least to kids if no one else).

Personally, my last read was, If I Can't Have you: The Susan Powell Story. So sad and tragic. I felt kinship in that I believe my ex is a sociopath, unable to take responsibility or empathize. And in the end, that is truly what Susan Powell had: a sociopathic spouse. We, as women, need to recognize the signs of a unhealthy relationship.

I speak from experience...After what happened to me, and to my family, I felt the need to understand why. And that is what has led me to read several great books including Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.
And Psychopath Free by Peace. Yes a pseudonym. As what we go through is embarrassing and we don't want everyone to know. (I started an anonymous blog to help me at the time-AnonyMrs)
And then The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize and How to Respond by Patricia Evans. Remember: VAR's are not just with partners, but anyone we deal with in life--family members, co-workers, friends. It's a real and prevalent problem.

These 3 books were the most helpful to me (and actually a great read for anyone). Understanding what is verbal abuse and how to respond is monumental. For our own health and well being, as a population we need to recognize and identify these toxic behaviors.

After reading these I felt so much better. Things made sense. I understood so much more. And yet I found myself in a dilemma of being, "a good girl." In a sense of, "I can't say THAT, because that wouldn't be NICE." It is something women can get stuck in...if we are assertive, we are a witch, and if not, we are nice. Not good. And so I recommend Civilized Assertiveness for Women: Communication with Backbone not Bite by Judith Selee McClure.
It's OK to be assertive. It doesn't mean you are a witch, it means what is happening is not OK with you.

Well, there you go friends. I started this blog post a few nights ago without knowing where to take it. And then it hit me: I have a lot of good information to share, just like someone shared with me one time. And it's my turn to Pay it Forward.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Day 9: Is It Bad to Tell My Beginning Teacher-Self to Run?

I can't be alone, can I? In thinking I would have told my teacher-self to chose another profession?

Don't get me wrong...I love teaching. I LOVE the moments when the light bulb comes on. When my students scream my name across the cafeteria like I am Katy Perry. When someone comes into my room at the beginning of the year not knowing their name and leaves reading. I love those moments.

What I don't love is the constantly changing hoops teachers jump through that I don't see other occupations doing. The holding back of much needed wage increases. The every decreasing amount of health care coverage. The anchoring of worth to student test scores.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Day 8: Throwing it Back to Day 4, iMatter

It was one of those know the type.

I went to bed to late the night before...trying to keep up with this Blog-a-Day challenge. I then had a nightmare and tossed and turned the rest of the night.

I told my kiddos what a horrible night I had, and asked if anyone else had trouble sleeping, when 95% of the class raised their hand, I knew it would be a stellar day...and it was. One of those when you are wondering if anyone is listening...if any attention getter will ever work...if you will make it through to the end of the day and then it happened...

I was spray painting flower pots during the peace of recess time. I was down on the library rug, which the kids had picked at so relentlessly that it now looked horrendous. I figured I'd use it to catch the paint and then toss was then I heard a knock on the door, then another, then another. Ugh! I thought to myself, I can't even get 15 minutes! I need alone time. The knocking continued, with periodic breaks. I decided to just wait it out...unwillingly to crawl off the floor into a standing position. Theoretically I could be in the office or the bathroom...I thought...

The bell rang and I assumed the position. As I opened the classroom was then that I saw it...the reason for the knocking. Scrawled across the asphalt in front of my portable was this:

My former student, now a first grader, had written it during recess.

The stress, the exhaustion, the ruined rug all faded into the no longer mattered. iMattered.

I had made such an impact on this kiddo that she chose to spend her recess time to let me know.

I was speechless.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Day 5 of Blog-A-Day: What Needs to End for Education to Begin: Over-testing

So I got an was pertaining to our legislature and how they planned to tie our evaluation to student performance on tests.

It may sound familiar, it's happening all over, but my state, Washington, had actually declined to do it...because it wasn't RIGHT.

But since they lost the ability to use 40 million dollars the way they want to, due to losing the NCLB waiver, and thus propelling themselves into AYP, they have now backtracked citing it was "hard" on officials.

Let's talk about what really is, "hard." Hard is hearing your evaluation will be tied to state testing that you have no control over. It becomes "hard" to understand how legislators, who don't teach by the way, came up with tying student performance on a state test with teacher ability.

What is not hard is figuring out why this is a bad idea. In my day I had one test: the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. I was an anxious introvert and had no qualms whatsoever about taking it. It was one didn't last long...and no one made a fuss over it (from a student standpoint).

Enter in today's world of testing: anxious students, anxious parents, anxious teachers trying to figure out what hoop has to be jumped through in the continuous, ongoing, weeks of assessments. Which now include, get this, third graders typing essays on computers!! Third graders with no keyboarding skills, mind you, are being asked to read, comprehend, analyze, and then produce an essay...on the computer. I can see no stress for them. They are still figuring out how to get along socially and emotionally with others, they are worried over who doesn't like them, they are nine, and we are asking them to perform well in situations that even some adults would fail at. And when they cannot "show what they know" not from a lack of trying, but due to anxiety, lack of keyboarding skills, lack of ability at age 9, etc. we will say, it was that teacher! Let's ding her on her evaluation, that will surely help. Really?

This is so wrong on so many levels. A student is successful when he or she shows growth. Period.

Want to know what will really impact Teacher performance? Pay that is sufficient and equivalent to the true time spent preparing. Training and advancement that is pertinent and paid for. Technology that is up to date and provided without request. Being respected as a professional for the years of education earned. Less testing. More teaching.

Day 7: You Really Don't Deserve this Top 10 Student Teacher Award...

OMG. I am behind by 5 days on this April, blog a day challenge, but who's counting...oh that's right. It's me. That person who cannot just jump forward but just spent 2 hours composing the day 5 post. Note to self: it's a blog, not a college class.

Moving something that doesn't throw me into flashbacks of coursework and editing dilemma's.

And yet its about college. Oh the irony.

I was finishing student teaching when I found out I was receiving an award for being a, "Top 10 Student Teacher."

I was thrilled...

My field supervisor was not...

She said, "Well...even though I had others that were stronger have the teaching AND the you get it."

I felt so...worthy. I still can't believe the field supervisor just had to share that info. Apparently it peeved her that someone else didn't get it, and I did.

I was mentioning this story to another field supervisor, just out of happenstance, and she said, "you really should be proud of that. It wasn't just the GPA. That was only a small portion. It was truly your teaching too and what your mentor teacher saw and had to say."

It's been 10 years since I graduated college (late bloomer), the memory far from my mind, yet hearing that made my week. I was deserving. I did earn it. It is something to be proud of.

Thank you, Mrs. Saxton, for seeing a student teacher that deserved recognition...for championing for me at a time when I had doubt. And thank you field supervisor for taking the time to let me know that I was deserving of the award and earned it. You didn't have to, but by taking the time, and connecting with me, you made a world of difference.

And with that...I plan to see how I can pay it forward...

Friday, April 3, 2015

Day 2: Raise Your Hand if You Are Always Behind....

So...I started this once a day blog challenge for April. Motivation. I need motivation. What's better than just 30 days of blog writing? That should be easy, right?

Day 2: I failed.

I didn't mean to fail. In my true kindergarten teacher voice I can say I made choices that led to consequences. The consequence: no blog post for yesterday.

If you are at all like me, you realize the day is short and life is full of choices to make. Heck, life is short. better make damn good choices.

So...when two options came up yesterday...visiting baby goats next door and making homemade Mac n' Cheese (that my daughter wanted) versus going to Jazzercise...the former won out. For no other reason than I can't be in two places at once.

Some of you might say, "Good excuse not to exercise." On the contrary I am loving Jazzercise since I joined in January and realized, unlike 1986, I no longer have to wear a leotard and tights to go.

But, life is truly short...and there is only so much time...and when life says, "Hey, don't you want to see those adorable, just born goats next door?" You go.

Isn't this the most adorable picture? I love goats!
So go ahead and join me on the road to failure...I mean, enjoyment.
If its one thing I can share with you this day it is this: life is too short to do anything that doesn't make you happy or grow you.
So Cheesy. So Easy to Say. But it's 100% true.
Because see...I know it now. I know it because my brother died from ALS last year...WAY too young... And I know it because the guy I thought I would spend the rest of my life with ended up convicted of manslaughter of my brother in law and therefore is now my Ex and in is that for the unexpected? I sound like a movie of the week.
No one knows when AWFUL will happen...but it will me. So chose enjoyment above all else...stop and smell the flowers, really actually smell them, gaze up at the sky and enjoy the beauty nature provides, enjoy time with folks who matter, doing things that are fun...because when you die, you won't look back and say, "Gee, I really wish I wouldn't have spent that money going on a trip to Seattle, riding the Great Wheel, enjoying my life." Instead you'll say, "Damn, that was quick."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Day 1: Blog a Day in April? Sounds like an April Fool's Day Joke...

So...Twitter reached out to me yesterday. There was a post to sign up for a blog challenge. The challenge: Blog each day in April. "I can do this," I thought with no belief in myself what so ever. I mean there was a little set back when I couldn't even fill out the join form because I couldn't recall my blog name, nor locate it. But after numerous searches in Google (who didn't even add it to my search results, but did add a lot of PRIVATE info I would have preferred to leave PRIVATE--Thanks for NOTHING Google!), and some road blocks on our school blocked system, I found it and joined.

I'm here...blogging instead of showering as that's what this procrastinator does A LOT. Waits until the last minute.

I'm also ask for help. I want to change my blog...customize it, but I get lost in the settings and have a hard time getting it to do what I want, not what it wants.

I also want it to be easier to find (obviously, since even I couldn't find it!)

So help me out peeps and help me stay on time as the clock waits for no one :)