Hook, Line, and Sinker

It’s Tuesday before I track back in. My teacher work days start on Thursday and I’m getting myself in the mindset to begin fresh in my classroom in 2017.

When I began this blog a month ago my plan was to review the NC teacher evaluation standards to try to better understand how I’m evaluated as an educator. Some of my posts have gone on small tangents but I think that’s ok because telling my stories shows how I meet each standard. After this, I’ll be telling more stories


(because stories are what’s important) about my classroom and reflecting on some professional books I’m reading. Today I’m exploring:

Standard 5: Teachers Reflect on their Practice – Teachers analyze student learning, Teachers link professional growth to professional goals, Teachers function effectively in a complex, dynamic environment.

The whole purpose of this blog for me is to reflect on my practice.

I’m sure I don’t need to say it out loud because every teacher does this but for the record – I look at what my students already know and analyze it to figure out what I need to teach them. I do this through formative assessments, observation, and conversations with my students.

I’m going to tell you a secret: at some point in the last 2 years I lost some of my passion and my “why” of teaching. Seriously! I lost it. I couldn’t find it anywhere… I tried looking. I’ll admit to you why – I didn’t have professional goals.  This year I got myself back into my professional learning and trying new things and even reading (professional and personal reading). Guess what… my passion is back! My “why” came back! I’m more amped and ready to get to school this year! My goal this year is to make learning more playful for my students. I started this year reading Purposeful Play by Kristine Mraz, Alison Porcelli, and Cheryl Tyler. I’ll admit, I’m a slow reader so I only just finished it last week. But it’s a great book and I highly recommend it (even for upper grades teachers)! All kids like to play. This book isn’t just about choice time and centers. It’s about making all learning all day more playful. I’ll post about this book after I finish the NC teacher standards. The other thing that changed for me is Twitter (give me a follow if you don’t already)! Once I joined twitter and began hanging out there and connecting with educators from all over and hearing their excitement, my “why” came back to me. I’m a teacher for my students. They’re obviously my why and always have been. But this year, I’m into them more. I want to build relationships and get to know their interests more. I’ve enjoyed twitter chats. I’m still slow at it and not consistently participating in any. I’m looking to grow my PLN so please comment some people I should follow, hashtags to check, and your favorite twitter chat (with the day and time)!

Our world is complex and dynamic and therefore our classrooms must be as well. It is our task as teachers to help prepare students for the fast paced world they will be entering. As teachers we need to embrace the complex and dynamic world and make our classrooms that way but first we need to be able to function in it. I’m flexible and I embrace change. It might take me a while to embrace it because I like to understand it but once I do, LOOK OUT! I’m a jump in the deep end kind of person! I will take new initiatives hook, line, and sinker (when I’m ready)! I’ve heard of teacher blogs. I’ve read a few but not consistently. I wanted to start one but never did until last month because I didn’t think mine would be any good and I wouldn’t have any readers. But I’ve grown. My blog is not for you #sorrynotsorry it’s for me. My next goal for blogging is to become an avid reader of other’s blogs. Right now I follow Kim Collins, Bill Ferriter, and George Couros. So, if your reading this… give me some ideas of who else to read and follow them.

New year. New post.

It’s early January. Everyone has made their resolutions and is ready for a better 2017 than 2016. Kids are back to school and the Twitterverse is full of excited teachers and students trying innovative ideas. Being at a year round school and on track 4 I’m still on break until the end of January. While I enjoy my time off, I feel a little jealous that I’m missing all the excitement and eagerness to begin a fresh new year. 


My #oneword2017 is motivation. I started this blog a month ago and am very proud that I have kept the momentum thought the holidays. I plan to continue to motivate myself to reflect in this platform and in order to do that I need motivation. My motivation is always my students. I do whatever it takes to make school better for them and inspire learning. However this blog feels different, a little more selfish. Reflecting here helps me become better in my craft, better at what I do. Granted, I do it for them…. I still feel this is for me. 

I’ve been working my way through the NC Teacher Evaluation Standards and today I’ll be exploring…..

Standard 4 

Teachers facilitate learning for their students. – know the ways learning takes place and appropriate levels of intellectual, physical, social, and emotional development. Plan appropriate instruction. Use a variety of instructional methods. Integrate and use technology  in instruction. Help students develop critical thinking and problem solving. Help students work in teams and develop leadership qualities. Communicate effectively. Use a variety of methods to assess what students have learned. 

I know my students and I work hard to have relationships with each student. It’s important to me to take their individual interests into consideration when planning for their learning. I’m a big proponent for developmentally appropriate practices and doing right by kids. Knowing their developmental levels is important to consider while planning for learning. While considering developmental appropriateness, one must always think of the whole child. As an early childhood educator, I plan lessons around the whole child and take into consideration what 5-6 year olds need physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. I change the order from how the substandard is written because I think the intellectual part of a child is the obvious place to begin when planning instruction. You may have noticed that I have been using the term “planning for learning” in this post. This is a conscious decision- an important one. I plan for student learning not instruction. Planning for student learning takes the whole child into consideration and naturally differentiates for individual student needs and interests. Planning for instruction is for the teacher and what the teacher will do. Learning is about the student. And, let’s be honest, who is education for anyway? STUDENTS!! So, I plan for my students, what they need, and what they’re interested in. For example, as stated in my last post, we’re exploring geometry in math. Here’s how I plan for each of those areas: 

physically – we get up and move around a lot in my class. To some, my room probably looks chaotic.  When introducing 2D shapes, I had my students walk in the shape. 

Socially – we talk a lot in my class. It’s quite noisy on a regular basis. Yes, it’s a struggle to keep kids on topic. But, I’ve learned that the more opportunities they have to talk, the more they do what they are supposed to. When introducing shapes, I show an example and tell the name. Then, they turn and talk about what they notice. This also gives me good information as a preassessment.

Emotionally – this can be tricky to include in regular lessons. Kindergarteners have a lot of feelings and emotions and they don’t always understand them. #allthefeels For me it’s important to acknowledge these feelings and  help them label and communicate those feelings. During the above mentioned turn and talk, I noticed a friend sulking. This little friend was sad because they don’t know shapes. I sat beside her after introducing the next shape and pointed out things she can notice about the shape’s sides and vertices. She gained come confidence and was able to talk to a buddy about the next shape.

Intellectually- um… All of the above? Everything I do is rooted in my standards and what my students need to know to be successful. This one is big though. It’s important that I figure out what my students already know and differentiate from there. My friend from my story above, she needed some scaffolding so she knew what she needed to notice. Other friends new these things but needed new math terminology- vertices instead of corners, rhombus instead of diamond. Different kids need different things from me and I plan for each of them to learn.

Yikes! All of that and I only really talked about part of that standard. There’s so much involved in it. And I’ll get to e rest. You can see an example of my integration of technology in my last blog post: My knowledge of content knowledge

Here’s a tweet my principal shared of a lesson I did for an observation. Students built a scene from a favorite book with Legos and asked and answered questions about their brick build. 

How do you plan for learning?

My Knowledge of Content Knowledge

Here I sit on an airplane on my way home for the holidays and all I can do is reflect on my teaching. It’s the end of December the universal time for reflection. It’s hard not to end the year and prepare for the next and not reflect on life in general. My professional resolution this year is momentum. I want to continue the momentum from #wonderwake and all that I learned and challenged myself to begin. I’m ending 2016 with a blog post and I’ll begin 2017 with another. 

This post was meant to be me reflecting on Standard 3 of the NC teacher evaluation standards. But, as I started to type it turned into my talking about a math lesson I taught in the hallway the last day before winter break and a track out. However I think this lesson I ramble about is a great example of how I meet this teaching standard. 

I started out on my plan to dissect standards :

Standard 3 -Teachers know the content they teach – align to standard course of study, content appropriate to teaching specialty, recognize interconnectedness of content areas, make instruction relevant 

My curriculum is based on the North Carolina Standard accursed of Study based on the Common Core State Standards. I am tasked with teaching 5 year olds to read and write, to understand how numbers work, basic science concepts (animals, weather, and properties), basic social studies concepts (citizenship, economics, cultural similarities and differences, and maps). I love that the standards I teach were written vertically. You can choose any strand and follow it all the way up through high school. I think this is so important for the students. It gives a purpose for every small piece I teach. Everything builds on the grades before and challenges students to learn more and think deeper. 

Here’s what I’ve learned about my curriculum- basic is not basic at all! Teaching a child to read and write in 9 short months is nothing short of a miracle! There are times I’m not even sure how it happened! Students in kindergarten come in with the widest range of background knowledge than any other grade level! (Here’s where the ramble begins) For example- my current unit in math is geometry. Yes geometry in kindergarten! We learn 2 D shapes, 3D shapes, Positional words, comparing and building shapes. I have students who have not had any experience with any shapes and others who know basic shapes (circle, square, triangle…), and others who know it all already! Here are 2 of my students explaining. How they are exploring shapes. My friend in green took the lead. My friend in red is a little embarrassed to be on camera! 😄

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My job is to take what they know and teach them what they need to know. If they already know it I need to teach them a deeper understanding and how to use their knowledge to teach others. Tasking students with tutoring a peer who struggles is a great way to deepen their understanding. Teaching another student requires a child to think about it in a different way. 

This lesson took place in the main hall at my school. We are a year round school and on our track out days I end up with out a physical classroom and need to be creative and flexible about where and how I teach. This was a shape hunting lesson- look for shapes in your world around you. How do they make up real things? (eh hem – engineering) pretty things? (errr – art) etc. My challenge is to not only have students who don’t know shapes to find and identify them but for students who do know shapes to describe, compare, and teach them.

In the video above Green was peer tutoring Red in shapes. He learned so much from her in 10 minutes that would have taken me at least 2 small group sessions to teach him. As they hunted for shapes they took videos using Chatter Pix Kids and SeeSaw (2 of my favorite apps to smash – if you don’t know them you need to explore!) Here’s Red’s post on SeeSaw after Green helped him hunt for shapes.

What do you think? Was my lesson here relevant? Connected? Appropriate? Aligned to standards? 

Can’t stop… Won’t stop…

I’m already excited to post again. I was nervous about this at first. I feel self conscious putting my thoughts in a public space but a new PLN friend encouraged me – this is for me.  Thanks Bill! Also, I learned a new trick – links in my post (don’t laugh I’m learning!).

My plan for this blog is for it to stand as my portfolio. I want to collect my growth and best work all while growing a positive digital footprint. So today I want to look closely at the standards I’m evaluated on and see if I can understand them better.

Standard 1 – teachers demonstrate leadership – classroom, school, profession, advocate, high ethical standards

I think that leading in my classroom and school and upholding high ethical standards comes easily for me. They’re kind of a given… A duh!moment.  How could I teach and not lead my students or take on some leadership role in my school? I don’t think I’d be effective… Educators have long be held to high ethical standards. We’re role models for our students. The families and community we serve expect a lot out of us. These are the easy sub standards.

The ones that make us stand out are leading in the profession and advocating for schools and students. My goal in life is to grow up to be just like my all time favorite teacher Dr. Mira Berkley. She is my most favorite professor from college. She is a guru of early childhood education. She is passionate and a leader in the field as well as an advocate for everything developmentally appropriate. I want to be all of those things! In my near future I plan to return to school for my doctorate degree then pursue a career in educating future educators. I see this blog as my way of pushing forward to becoming more of a leader in the profession and then advocating for students and schools will come…

Standard 2 – teachers establish a respectful environment for a diverse population of students –  positive nurturing relationship, embrace diversity, treat students as individuals, adapt teaching for special needs, collaborate with families

In my humble opinion this standard needs to be observed overtime and needs to be part of a teachers belief system. This isn’t something you can fake. You have to believe that diversity is an important part of a community. I work hard to create a classroom community each year with my young kinders. We regularly talk about the differences and similarities between us. I encourage them to all be friends and to include each other during play. I reach out to my families to learn about their home cultures and traditions. We include those in our classroom discussions. When it comes to diversity positivity is key. I think that diversity comes in many shapes and sizes. It isn’t all the color of our skin. We also have to look at religions, socioeconomic status, and other cultural aspects. Every student in my class is important to me and so is their happiness and well-being. Of course I care about their academics, but the whole child is in my classroom not just their brain. I give hugs when they need love, food when they are hungry, sleep time when they are tired, and band-aids fix most everything else. 🙂 When it comes to academics, I challenge my students as they need it at their own levels. I differentiate lessons, center activities, and homework. None of this is easy but it’s the right way to do it and it’s what needs to be done for the kids. At the end of the day… it’s all about the kids.

So I’ve come to realize that talking about the standards is going to take me a while and in an effort not to make this post a mile long, I’m going to stop here.  I’ll be back soon to talk my way through some of the other teaching standards.

Please comment with your thoughts on these standards!

First blog post… Eek!

Hi! I’m a kindergarten teacher always looking for something new to jump into. I’m starting this blog to share with the world my journey  as an educator. I’m passionate about play based learning. I also love technology. It’s a challenging balancing act in my classroom but I love it!

I was inspired by the wonderful folks at #wonderwake Fall Convergence at NC state, a Wake County technology conference. George Couros presented 3 amazing sessions and a life changing keynote. I’m convinced that I need to have a positive digital footprint and what better way than through a blog? I’ve been meaning to start this for a week now and never got around to it. I try to keep myself as busy as possible! Today, checking out at the grocery store, the young man told me he wants to be a writer but he hasn’t started yet. My advice- just try. Don’t expect perfection. Just write and put it out there. So here I am. Taking my advice. Just writing and putting it out there.

I also keep hearing this amazing song in my head as I type – “Failure is an option. Failure to deliver is not.” – Kevin Brookhouser. Wish I could find it on YouTube!

Full disclosure – this is way outside of my comfort zone and is absolutely nerve wracking to put myself out there. But as George Couros said, “it’s not about you. It’s about the kids. Go backward from there.” So here I am starting today. Some of my blog posts will be about my background and others about the present or my hopes and dreams. All of them are for the kids. My purpose is to become a better educator than I was yesterday always for my students.

I welcome any and all feedback – it’s the best way to grow!