Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Detective or Stalker

I got interested in knowing more about my history when making a scrapbook for my parent's 50th anniversary. I found out the names of my grandmother's birth parents and I was hooked. I joined Ancestry.com and began the journey to my roots.

14 years later I continue to find at least 2 questions for any answer.

Both of my parents are gone now. My mom was the last of her generation and I found stories she had no idea existed. I have recently started trying to find people from other branches that are the age of myself or my older siblings to try to connect dots.

This is where the question of detective vs stalker comes in.

In doing the research, in order to build a family tree, you consult census records, birth, marriage, and death certificates. You read obituaries to find out about the people so they become more than just a date. And you read about the married last names of female children.

Thanks to the internet, finding people is easier. All you need to do is input a name into Google. You narrow choices by location. Possible relatives are often listed along with address and phone numbers. Then you can go to fb and input a name. Often locations are mentioned. Then you can check their friends lists and see if you recognize any other names from your research and if so, you can message them.

I've messaged a few people. And a few of them have responded. Two have asked how I found them.

I had just been really impressed with my detective skills. I hadn't thought about how it sounded until I thought about the process. Now it feels a little stalkerish. And frankly, it's kind of scary to think how easy it is to be found.

Now I'm feeling a little hesitant about contacting strangers out of the blue. I try to asuage their potential fears by telling them about myself and how I think we are connected. But still...

I'm not sure how I would respond. Or if I would respond.

Hopefully intent is the final arbiter, because I would hate to be a stalker.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ask a question -- Get an answer?

There is a phrase that comes from Stephen Covey - "Seek first to understand-- then to be understood."

For me, the problem is I can't find anyone to answer the questions I have.

You see, although I have worked as an instructional assistant at an elementary for the last 10 years, my previous vocation was that of YMCA Child Care and Day Camp Director. I live and breathe: Spirit, Mind, and Body, so what I am exposed to every day goes against every fiber of my soul and I want to understand how and why it is the way it is.

I live in Indiana. The evil state where the evil Mike Pence was mean to the saintly Glenda Ritz. I realize that tone is sarcastic, but this is what friends, colleagues, and strangers I admire seem to have been saying for the last 4 years. I would like to know what it was that Ms. Ritz could have done had she "been allowed to"? Honestly the only thing anyone has ever talked about is how Pence tried to marginalize her power. I never read what she wanted to do but wasn't allowed to do.

I've heard forever how awful No Child Left Behind was. I've done research and all I seem to come up with is that teachers didn't like the accountability standards. But NCLB didn't rate teachers on students test scores. It took many years of a school "failing" before the government stepped in. And the main goal was to ensure schools in areas that served accademicaly and socio-economic disadvantaged people weren't shoved aside and over looked. Charter schools were an option for individuals over a failing school. When it was reauthorized in 2008 and Obama created Race to the Top, THEN teachers were held accountable for students scores. There was a rubric that awarded points to states adopting common core. Significant points. Points were also awarded to states that increased charter schools.


Of course money was attatched, so of course states jumped on the band wagon.

Now we have Every Student Succeeds. While it says it gives states more freedom it still seems to have strict guidelines.


However, people on social media still link everything to No Child Left Behind and George Bush. And now the incoming Federal DOE Betsy De Voss is being villainized for giving money to charter schools. Race to the top required it. I'm not saying she is the right pick or that there aren't people out there who have taught who would be better, but her support of charter schools seems to be of equal concern. I have seen people "with experience" become administrators and that experience seems to have done little to improve the overall state of education.

I also read how people blame the states for testing. In Indiana, am I right in saying that IStep is the big high stakes test and each district is responsible for beginning of the year, middle of the year, and end of the year progress monitoring? And am I further correct when I say that districts may choose which "progress monitoring" assessment they wish to use, but the assessments are based on pacing guides devised by districts based on state standards? Why then, in our school are we constantly "assessing"? The teachers honestly have to do assessments every week and log and report data or they get in trouble.

Everyone talks about rigor when it comes to educational standards. We have all read the definition of rigor and how it is an awful word to apply to education because "rigor" tends to mean more difficult. So much so that Kindergartners are now required to listen to 3 different stories and talk about how they are similar. They are required to write responses to stories. They are working on the "dr" blend in December. Is this because they have mastered short vowels, discussed silent e, and know all their word families? No. It's simply what is next on the pacing guide.

If grades K-2 are considered the "learning to read years" because from 3rd grade on they are "reading to learn", then why are they being assessed on story retell and knowing plot, setting, characters, and beginning, middle, and end? If we want kids to love reading, how does endless quizzing foster that love? If we want to foster inquiry how do folders raised on desks so no one peeks foster that?

Why do teachers, when they know what they are teaching is not developmentally appropriate, continue to accept the mandates? We need the job, I get it. But we complain that parents don't attend Parent/ Teacher conferences. We complain that parents aren't involved. Aren't we just as bad?

 I don't go to school board meetings because they don't care if I am there or not. I have no say in policy or procedure. Half the time, because there are no mics in front of the board members,  the audience can't hear what is being discussed. Is that how parents feel about being involved in school? Is that feeling justified?

The powers that be pull out studies that show the latest and greatest in how rigor boosts test scores. We can all pull out studies that show mental health issues among young children are increasing, how basic motor skills are decreasing, and violence against others -- even at the youngest ages--is on the rise. Can we really say it can be fixed by having "Starbuck" style seating in our classes, or wiggle chairs, or pedal desks? Is a 5 minute "brain break" with a Go Noodle really adequate for a 5 or 6 or 7 or frankly 8, 9, 10 year old to relieve stress, move their bodies, and rest their brains? To whom does this make sense?

Why is it OK to mainstream special needs kids without providing adequate supports? Teachers have special needs kids in class whether or not they have credentials to teach special needs kids. Physical disorders are not given the attention they need and behavior disorders are allowed to affect not only the individual child's education but that of every other individual as well, simply because they can cognitively function in a gen ed classroom? Why do we not assign a label of dyslexia for the reason that we would then have to provide the specific skills and resources required to help rather than the regular resources given the student who is not dyslexic? And why are teachers allowed to believe that giving a child a resource, like being allowed to write in cursive ( in hopes the studies that show cursive can be better for dyslexics) is a "privelage" the child has not earned based on the child's poor behavior choices?

I have other examples and questions to help me understand why the state of education is the way it is and why it's OK, but I will save them for another day because this has been long enough already. But I really do want to know the answers. I want to understand the other side so I can address the strength of my convictions. I want a dialogue. My friends in education agree with me on most things but feel helpless to change any thing. The administration is all about staff being team players-- which means agree or go somewhere else.

So tell me... How do you feel about education? Why do you feel Common Core is amazing? Why are charter schools the demise of public education? Why do we fail to address the whole child -- Spirit, Mind, and Body? What exactly do you think is a way to organize to make the changes you see being necessary to be sure every child really is successful?

I want a conversation.
I really want to understand.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Woefully behind

I had good intentions of writing every day what I am thankful for, but exhaustion and life have gotten in the way.

I can't promise the next days won't be the same. So some things I am grateful for on a regular basis:

Mondays youngest has newspaper after school so I stay after at my school and visit with one of my best friends. Her kids are in another district now and involved in their own activities so this is one of the only opportunities I have to talk with her face to face. It is a wonderful time to share frustrations and to laugh. She is one of my only confidants and I value the 45 minutes I get to spend nearly every Monday.

Said oldest son empties the dishwasher every morning. This makes the mornings so much smoother and I don't feel like I am the hired help. It has taken a huge amount of stress out of the mornings because I am not the only one working to get us out the door. For those with younger kids, it does get easier. I am grateful for that.

Husband is done with soccer now and is home on Fridays again. After the week apart, my very most favorite moment of the entire week is that moment when we are in bed and he spoons me. I feel so safe and cared for and knowing he is there to help with life again allows me to relax and breathe. That singular moment is what I am grateful for every weekend.

I have friends who have been married about the same amount of time that hubby and I have whose marriages are ending. Not for abuse or anything horrible -- they have just grown apart. I can't imagine starting over at nearly 50 by choice. I am so grateful for my hubby and the effort and work we both put into this marriage. He is the best thing that ever happened to me. Because of him we have two amazing boys. Because of him, things in his work world and concentric circles outward have changed for the better. He is a good man and I am grateful for him every single day.

We got to spend 3 hours with my sisters and their families yesterday. We are spread out in age and personalities and after losing our parents we could have drifted apart. We don't talk often. We don't get together often. But yesterday was wonderful and I am grateful we have each other.

And as a bonus, I am grateful they have finally come to appreciate the importance of the photograph. Memories can be captured by the heart but photographic evidence is wonderful.

And lastly for today, we got an email today that we don't have subs for tomorrow so I will be filling in tomorrow. I have to cancel reading groups for my K's and 2nd graders which disappoints me, but at least I have a heads up. Usually it is a last minute scramble. So I am grateful for early warnings of schedule changes.

Hopefully I can find more to be thankful for tomorrow despite the change.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thankful on the 16th

Our school has one to one technology.

In the old days (two years ago) a cancellation would mean using a built in snow day.

In the old days a two hour delay for fog would have gone to a three hour before cancelling.

Times have changed.

The district has decided they can save money by going to a cancellation if the two hour delay isn't enough. If they cancel, assistants do not get paid. Only a few food service staff get paid and not for their full hours. Bus drivers get a lesser pay. No food is used. Utilities are much less. Therefore cancellation pays off for them.

I find it a slippery slope to on-line education, but that is a topic for another day.

I don't know if it's the full moon or the predicted snow this weekend but the kids have been bonkers -- a continuation of last weeks upended scheduling craziness. So when the call for a delay came around 5, I was happy. When the cancellation call came just before 8, I was ecstatic. Even though it means the loss of a day of pay that I won't ever get back, I am thankful........for fog.

And they are predicting more for tomorrow. :-)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Thankful Day 14

Today I am thankful for flights that go as planned and land safely. And I am hopeful hubby's return flight repeats this fact.

What can I say... It was a super moon Monday. :-)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Thankful Day 13

Our oldest is in college and it still takes some getting used to.

When I went to college we had a phone in our room but had to use a calling card or call collect. And the internet wasn't really a thing. Needless to say I did not have many conversations with my parents.

I told oldest I would like one proof of life text a week and he has been pretty good about it. And I have been pretty good about letting him be the one to contact me. Baby steps to independence.  (just realized the irony and poignancy of that phrase. May be the seed of a poem.)

Today I am thankful for the technology that allows me to keep in touch with my kids and they with me.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Thankful Day 11

Our principal is an amazing party planner and her best showcase of that talent is our annual Veterans Day program. She hand picks the kids to be in the program. She selects the songs. The music teacher and band teacher help out by practicing during class. In all, the kids put in about 12 hours of practicing over the course of 3 weeks.

And the effort shows.

We usually have members of the military there to help as well. They are members of the American Legion and family members of staff. It always brings tears to my eyes as we place our hands over our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem but they stand at attention and salute. I see the pride in them and feel it in my soul.

These military members also perform a flag folding ceremony for us. This is my favorite moment of the program. The first time we had it was about 5 years ago and it was the first time I knew that each fold had a meaning. I knew how to fold a flag but had no idea there was a meaning behind each fold --that there was a reason it looks like a triangle once it is folded.

 I really listened today and took so much from it. It made me so proud to be American. Things are going to be crazy for a while. I am excited about the possibilities of a Trump presidency. But I also fear for the actions of those who aren't happy. The words of the Pledge, of the National Anthem, and the Flag folding ceremony really bring into focus all that America means -- at least to me. If you haven't seen a flag folding ceremony look one up -- or at least look up the meanings for yourself.

Three of my nephews served. Two of my brothers in law served. Several uncles and cousins have served. I am thankful for their service. I am thankful for all those who volunteer to keep us safe at the risk of their own lives. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.

So today, Veterans Day, I am truly grateful for all our veterans.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thankful Day 10

I'm realizing as the month goes on that it is hard some days to come up with something significant.

Today was a good day. We practiced our first evacuation drill and it went incredibly well.

Of course an hour out of the day first thing in the morning kind of set the tone for the rest of the day.

I'm thankful the ground was dry or frozen and not muddy.

Although we pray we never have to make practice a reality, I am thankful we practice.

We are starting to use elements of ALICE in regards to lock downs and for that I am thankful. I hated when we first started lock downs and had kids "shelter" quietly in a dark room. The young ones didn't understand and were scared. The older ones found it ridiculous.

We are learning and practicing other options and it has helped. While I hate hearing kindergartners speak of "bad guys" so matter of factly, they aren't really scared any more. The older kids have options no matter what the situation and that gives them power.

I hate lock downs and I hate even more that it is necessary to have them. But, I am thankful we are now being taught we don't have to be sitting ducks. In a world where people think violence is a valid way of solving disagreements, I am thankful we are being given options.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Thankful Day 8

I have kids in one of my reading groups that really want to read. The teacher they had last year did not and is not one who inspires learning. The teacher they have this year is so supportive and helpful. They listen to our coaching and try our suggestions and they are doing so well!

Today one child read a page of Three Cheers for Tacky that had so many challenging words. He never gave up. He proceeded with strategies we have worked on. I could cry. I am so proud of him and the others in this group.

I have a rule that no one is allowed to "help" when someone reaches a challenge. Individuals need the time to think and practice skills and these kids give each other that time. I could not love my time with these kids more.

Today I am thankful for breakthroughs and kids who try. God bless the kids who try!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Thankful Day 4

I apparently posted this to my old blog because I was using my phone in the last moments before losing Wi-Fi coverage. But I actually did post. 

Thankful day 4

Today, I am thankful for weekends. Plain and simple. It was a day that started frenetic, continued crazy, and ended insane. But it is over. The sun is shining and all my guys are home.
Today I am thankful for weekends

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Thankful Days 5 and 6

I am combining yesterday and today because we were in a land with limited Wi-Fi.

We went to our residence camp in Michigan for their volunteer work weekend. The same people tend to come back year after year and it is so fun to see the kids go from being on "stick patrol" to helping with more substantial tasks like painting and moving picnic tables.
There is always a new family or two that come to see what camp is all about and many are so impressed they end up sending their kids back for the summer.
Volunteering is important. Getting involved in something bigger than you and that you can be passionate about is important. Schools require volunteering. Colleges look at volunteering. Many jobs encourage volunteering. But I feel that volunteering needs to be more than a box you check. If you find that thing you love to do and find the organization that can use that skill, it won't be a chore -- it will be a bucket you fill that will overflow into your own.
Work weekends at camp are just that for our family. And I think for the other families as well. We are teaching our kids to give of themselves and to give back to those who have helped to shape their lives. Why else would most of us drive 3 hours or more one way to work muscles we forgot we had and get sweaty and dirty as we work to make camp a little better?

Because of camp I am thankful for opportunities to give back, and
I am thankful to all of those-- past present, present, and future-- who are willing to give their time, talent, and personal treasure to help ymca Camp Pinewood continue to change lives.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Thankful day 3

I am not a sports fanatic. I am not athletically inclined. However, I grew up near Chicago. And if you grow up near Chicago you are a Chicago fan.

The 1985 Bears. Superbowl shuffle anyone?  Mike Ditka is Da Coach.

Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Jon Paxton and the Chicago Bulls of the late 80s and early 90s.

I've watched games on TV. I've been to a couple of Bears games and they were fun.

And  then there is baseball. Husband and his family are Cub fans so I am a Cub fan. I have been to a few games at Wrigley and that is by far the better way to watch baseball.

Because baseball is boring. There is a lot of standing around in baseball. The games last forever. It is boring. But I'm a Cub fan by default, so I root for the Cubs and say, "There is always next year." when the season once again ends early.

This year after 108 years our Cubbies made it to the World series.

They lost the first game and I thought well at least we made it here.

Then they won. You start to believe it's possible -- really possible. And they were coming home for 3 games. Maybe they could win it all at home.

Then they lost.
And lost again.

But game 5? the last of the Chicago games-- and they won!

Hope resurged.

Game six we killed it. The series was tied.

For someone who doesn't care about baseball or sports in general I was holding my breath along with every other Cub fan. I had only checked in on my phone and watched the little play by play guy that showed the pitches and a tiny diamond that lit up green if a runner was on periodically so there was no way I was going to jinx it by watching the game. I got updates from hubby. Finally at 10:30 I checked in and saw were up 6-4. Then Cleveland tied it up. You could feel the collective groan from Cubs fans everywhere. I waited til the bottom of the 8th and then told hubby I was going to bed because either they were going to lose or it would be extra innings and I could not afford to stay up that late.

Subconsciously, I must have heard the cheering, because I woke up at 1:30 and thought the game has to be over, I'll see if they won.

I find out there was a rain delay and an extra inning but in the end the Cubs were victorious.

2 teams that hadn't won in decades meet in the World Series.
They take it to game 7.
Game 7 goes to extra innings.
The extra inning is delayed by rain.
The game ends with a 1 run advantage.

Today I am thankful for Miracles and for all those who believed it was possible every year for 108 years.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Thankful Day 2

I laughed out loud today. I went outside with the class I am scheduled to be with at the time as they took an extra recess. One little girl came running up and informed me that sliding down the monkey bars that are also used to stair step up and stair step down made it feel like she had "sparkles in her pants."

Can you think of a better way to describe static electricity?
I sure can't.

It might even be great in a poem. At least that's what I told her.

Today I am thankful for the amazing things kids say and their perspective on any given topic.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Thankful Day one

Growing up in northern Indiana, Autumn is the best of all seasons. The warm days and cool evenings lead to spectacular leaf colors. The angle of the sun is warm and inviting. Growing up in the 70's  leaf burning was allowed and in the country now, it still is. I love the smell of burning leaves so much, I would buy a candle with a "burning leaf" scent if it existed and they could capture it exactly. Being able to wear a T-shirt during the day but needing a sweatshirt at night is a beautiful bonus to Autumn's attributes.

If it were possible to hug a day, today was a day to bear hug. 

Younger son and I went for a walk after school down our country roads and as we walked the overwhelming thought in my head was, "What a gift!" 

Warm air stirred by strong breezes wafted leaves from the trees to shower the road as we walked. I love to take photos and as I listened to  my son talk about his day at school and what homework he had for the night, I kept wishing I had my camera with me to capture the angle of branches on the trees that were now uncovered from their summer layers. You normally think of "dappled" pertaining to the patches of light and dark on the ground, but the angle of the sun made the orange practically sparkle -- if it's possible for orange to sparkle. The sky was pale blue and made the perfect background for the colors of the leaves. I asked my son to take a picture of one tree in particular, that was stunning, with his phone since I didn't even have that with me. 

After we got home, my wonderful 17 year old son even agreed to humor me by collecting some leaves from the yard and tossing them in the air so I could get a picture of falling leaves. 

I wish there was a way to bottle days like this, but I guess if they were common we wouldn't appreciate them as much. 

For the beauty of the day and the gift of a teenage son I adore, I am truly thankful. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Stop Secrecy

Yesterday at our weekly half hour delay meeting, we had our annual "test taking procedures and protocols" presentation. Many of you probably have something similar. And even though we don't take the tests til Spring, and will have another training closer to the test, we still have to sit through the presentation, read a bunch of stuff, and sign that we have done so. As I was sitting there it was emphasized more than in the past that we are not to discuss the test. 
Not only can we not discuss the test, teachers will need to tell kids not to discuss the test with anyone -- not even parents. And a letter will go home asking parents not to ask their kids about the test. 

Schools are on a "need to know basis." "That's confidential." is the education motto. We can't know if a child is identified, or what their home life is, or what their behavior history is. We are not supposed to mention a child by name or discuss a situation with which we are having difficulty except with those in authority who have a need to know. 

Profiling is forbidden because it segregates people negatively. If someone commits a crime we shouldn't describe them by height, weight, sex, or ethnicity. 

Dramatically speaking, is it ever OK to tell a child to not tell their parent something? The Christmas ornament is going to be a surprise not a secret. The mother's day hand print is a surprise... not a secret. 

If I know a child is identified, then I know there may be other techniques I can use to help him or her to understanding. If I know a child used to live in a car, or that dad is in jail, or grandma has custody, it gives me an understanding of where the behavior stems and I can use that information to gain understanding and coach them through the emotion. 

If you are telling someone how to get to your house they need to know what roads to take, land marks along the way, and oh, yeah, whether your house is one or two stories, if it has a driveway, and maybe the color of the house and what the yard looks like. Shouldn't the same be true when describing people?

We are not all the same. We should not strive to all be the same. It seems to me all the secrecy has created less safety. It has created more shame than pride. It has created more tension than togetherness. 

We have special needs in our building. Of course I can't tell you what kind, but I can tell you how beautifully the Kindergartners adapt. After the first week or two Bob was just Bob and not "Bob who blahablahblah." It is we adults ( and the lawyers who are always ready, willing, and able to sue) who muck things up in order to prove we are above labels. 

But kindergartners are tested on their ability to sort things into categories. Friends for them tend to fall into two categories -- "those who are nice to me and those who are mean". Period. 

Knowledge is power and as educators I would hope we could use our powers for good. I can't be the only one who thinks we, not only as educators, but as human beings, need to advocate for what is best for children. A child who is blahblahblah and prone to blahblahblah needs blahblah in order to be his or her best self. Secrecy leads to needless struggle for Bob and a school career constantly disrupted for notBobs. 

Seeking information in order to understand is not gossip. It is not "labeling". It is not harmful. 

Let's embrace our uniqueness and teach others to do so as well.

 If you don't like women in their late 40's
 who have brown eyes and brown hair that they like to wear long so they can pull it up 
and are of German, English, and Native American heritage 
and who love to read and discuss book, 
are not great cooks but an OK bakers
who like to research genealogy
who have a thought to be an education activist when the youngest graduates
who married their high school sweet heart
who's said husband is of German and Polish heritage
who has two boys who are wicked smart and nerdy 
who chose to be a breast feeding, cloth diaper using, no pacifier using, stay at home mom 
who has a college degree from Purdue
who is to heavy for her 5'3" frame

then you don't have to be my friend or even like me. 

But I will wave and say hi if I see you. And if we get a chance to talk I may find out that 80's rock is your favorite music too. 

"And I said - well that's -- one thing we've got"
   (I realize this is from a '90's song) ;-)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Teacher Game Show

"Hey Teacher! Come on down! You're the next contestant on This Student Needs Help."

"You have a student who is an only child, young compared to the others in your class, and whines all day because he does not get what he wants. What are the top 5 ways to improve his behavior?"

You consult your team mates and the answers come fast and furious...

Call parent to inform of child's behavior..... number 5 slides open. Ding!

Ask child to do something for you so he feels important...number 3-Ding!

Create a sticker chart where you give him a sticker every time he doesn't whine. ... number 2 slides open. Ding

Start tracking time of day and location of whining so you can be proactive about the whining and head it off before it begins... number 4. Ding!

With time running out your group leader blurts out, " Have a sticker chart that allows him to earn a prize from the prize box for every two stickers he earns so the reward is immediate."  ...number 1!!!!! Ding!!!

It is now the next team's turn.

"Are you ready?" the announcer asks? "Ok. You have a student who doesn't do their homework. Is often off task. She disrupts the class by blurting out constantly and also has frequent angry outbursts. She is learning little if anything and is disrupting the learning of the other students. How do you get her on track so she can learn and the other students feel safe?"

The other team huddles briefly then answer confidently...

Call parent to inform of child's behavior..... number 5 slides open. Ding!

Ask child to do something for you so she feels important...number 3-Ding!

Create a sticker chart where you give her a sticker every time she stays on task ... number 4 slides open. Ding

Start tracking time of day and location of outbursts so you can be proactive about the outburst and head it off before it begins... number 2. Ding!

With time running out, their group leader says, " Have a sticker chart that allows her to earn a prize from the prize box for every three stickers she earns so the reward is immediate."  ...number 1!!!!! Ding!!!

The game ends and everyone is a winner!!!

And everyone is a loser because --

There is no quick fix. There is no magic bullet. There is no magic wand.

Teachers can be the entire pit crew of a formula 1 racing team.
They used to be specially made and hand crafted.
Teachers can be Merlin and Houdini rolled into one.

They need to be, because kids need to learn to function in a world that isn't fair. No one's life is perfect. And even those in terrible conditions have occasional slivers of sun.

There used to be an art to teaching.
Now there is a script.

Teachers found ways to connect with their students so they could know how to reach them.
Now they document behavior to- generate- data- that- will- inform- decisions -made- by -a- committee -that- may- or- may- not- ever -interact -with- the- child.

Teachers found ways to weave incidental events into their plans.
Now they can't stray from the script lest they be reprimanded for failing to follow the pacing guide.

There used to be solid ground to stand on. And older teachers will tell you things come back around.
But it seems as though the solid ground has been placed on a roiling sea.

Those people who may or may not ever see our student, attend conferences by phone or in person. They scroll through their network of colleagues who also haven't been in a classroom in years. They read trade magazines written by scientifically based people in their hermetically sealed labs who expound on the virtues of having today's student learning XYZ -- to be sure they are prepared for that magical world known as college and career ready. And those people who don't know our kids, don't know our community, and in many cases don't know us, make decisions that change with the seasons in an attempt to be the first to discover THE way to teach the kids in rural Kansas to know the same things as the child in urban Minnesota, and they will both know the same as the suburban child in Connecticut.

Because differences need to be eradicated while at the same time celebrated -- as long as the celebration is in context. If you know what I mean.

Fair. Equal. Same. These are words that relate to manufactured cookies.

But we aim to please so...

We make excuses where we should make clear our expectations.
We standardize in our attempt to differentiate.
We sympathize when we should empathize.

And that's why we will be there for the next episode of "This Student Needs Help."

And we will clap when the number one answer is "... to pick from the prize box." Because as you know, every child responds to a trip to the prize box.

And if not, he can always earn a trip to the Bigger and Better prize box.

Maybe I should buy stock in stickers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What is and what should be

Susie in Mrs. L's 2nd grade class. She reads at a level G. She can recognize numbers to 100 and can add and subtract single digit numbers. She has a behavior chart on her desk and gets a sticker if she stays on task for 15 minutes. She is in the RTI process.


Susie is a 7 year old little girl in Mrs. L's 2nd grade class. Her birthday is next week and she can't wait. She says she is getting a puppy because her Aunt Betty's dog had puppies and her mom said she can have one. Susie's mom and dad divorced when she was 3 and her dad and his girlfriend just had a baby boy.  Susie's mom works second shift at a factory so Susie goes to day care after school. Mom wakes her and her 9 year old sister up from the baby sitter and she goes back to sleep at home until it is time to get up for school in the morning. I could go on and on.

This Susie is made up to illustrate what school is and what it should be. Susie is more than the numbers on a Dibels, a score on a test, or a reading level. She is a living, breathing person with hopes and thoughts and feelings. Being 7 doesn't negate that fact. Being little doesn't negate that. Being in school doesn't negate that fact.

When I was in High School, I had my future professions narrowed down to teacher, librarian, or child psychologist. I knew for sure I wanted to work with kids, I just wasn't sure in what capacity. I chose teaching, but I realized after working with kids in a camp setting, that working with kids in a recreational environment is what I wanted.

In working with the y, I was able to listen to their hopes and fears. I was able to laugh hysterically, be goofy with them, and dry their tears. I was able to take the time to really listen to them and acknowledge their personhood.

When I first started working as an instructional assistant, I brought those skills with me and they were appreciated. I was able to take the time to calm a crying, angry, upset child and set them on the road to better choices while the teacher taught the rest of the class. Now ten years later, those teachers that respected me and treated me as an equal and a valuable member of the team, have been replaced by teachers new to the profession who earned their degrees in an era of data, extreme accountability, and endless reforms.

Today I am treated as someone who is there to serve the teacher -- an assembly line widget turner. Last year I was told I should do as I was told and shut up about it. Today I was told I needed to "refrain from side conversations because the kids need to get back to the group as quickly as possible."

I understand teachers have a lot of pressure to produce numbers for the higher ups to plug into spread sheets to submit to the politicians.  I also understand there needs to be some accountability. However, everyone can agree behavior incidents are rising. Schools are spending money to "pay" kids to behave. Our district has chosen PBIS. We have spent nearly a thousand dollars on incentives this year and today was only day 10.

I wonder if we remembered these are small people -- many with big issues -- and took the time to acknowledge they are more than the numbers entered into the computer, if the behaviors would decrease? In the end would they prefer we remembered they were getting that puppy for their birthday and asked how training it was going, or would they rather have the sticker for sitting criss, cross, apple sauce by the time we count to ten?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


There was spotting of blood before I knew I was pregnant and I worried.

I was "high normal" for amniotic fluid so I worried.

His heart rate dropped during labor and I worried.

When he was born the cord was wrapped around his neck, his arm, and his leg so I worried.

His bilirubin count at one week was 29 and the hospital tech person remarked, "Wow! I've never seen it that high before!" Boy, did I worry.

He wasn't tracking left to right when he was 3 months old and I worried.

We were told he had albinism and might be legally blind. I worried.

He skipped kindergarten because he would have been the 29th child and they wouldn't have an assistant until there were 30 kids. I worried it was the right choice.

We moved before the end of 1st grade and I worried.

Because of his vision, he was not good at sports in a town that plays sports. He was smart beyond his age. He loved to read. He did not love to talk. I worried because he didn't have many kids he could relate to.
I worried and my heart hurt.

Hubby had to find a new job the summer before 8th grade. He found one 2 hours away. We had to decide whether to move the whole family from our home of 6 years just as the boys were entering their critical teen years or have the boys and I stay and hubby commute on weekends. I still worry if we made the right choice.

There are so many decisions we make on behalf of our children. Most seem huge at the moment:

Breast or Bottle
Cloth or Disposable
when to feed solids
when to potty train
how to celebrate major and family holidays
stay at home mom or working outside the home mom

The list goes on. And at every crossroad we worry if it's the "right" thing.
There are copious amounts of books telling us how we made the "wrong" choice.

Then the day comes when your child leaves for college or the military or marriage or a job opportunity and you realize all your choices culminate in that moment. You've studied for this test with all those books and experts tutoring. And you worry.

At least I do.

We take oldest to campus in a few days -- not far away, but not here anymore.

I know we have a wonderful, intelligent, thoughtful, creative, kind son. People who see him say he is ready and he'll be fine.
He worked at residence camp this summer for 9 weeks. They say he'll be fine.
My husband tells me he'll be fine.

But I know when we drive away, leaving him there with 3 suite mate strangers, on a campus in the middle of a bigger city, to figure out classes and living and managing life his way, I will worry if we did enough to prepare him. I will worry that today's society is too dangerous to allow him to be out there without me to throw myself in front of danger.

And I worry that having done it right means he won't need me anymore.

It is said that to have a child, is to forever have your heart walk around outside your body.

Well, this week -- my heart leaves for college.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Listen to your heart

Two years ago was rough.

I watched as my good friend's health deteriorated due to the stress of work.

I experienced a group of children that rivaled all groups I had experienced to date. And not in a good way.

I noted a total lack of support and compassion from someone who judges others on their ability to offer support and compassion.

Last year was worse.

I watched as things unraveled.

I experienced crushing negativity.

I noted the wrong way to build a team or handle staff.

This year approached at a slow march.

The position I'd been interested in and denied each of the last 5 years due to my lack of a teaching degree was once again posted.

I did not find out my schedule until the weekend before the first staff day.

I did not meet my intervention partner until the staff work day.


She turned out to be great.

And I love my schedule and the people I'm working with.

And the kids this year are the way I remember kids being... very unlike  the kids of the past 3 years.

And I will be doing intervention with K, 1, & 2 -- the groups I have finally finessed and gotten instruction to a point I think works and can be successful.

After 4 days I am actually happy. Actually each of the 4 days I have left work happy.

And then the monkey in the wrench...

The person who was going to do intervention got a teaching job and only worked the first day of school.

And I was offered the job. The one I had wanted. But it would require RTI and ESL and record keeping and the possibility of math and writing as well.

But it was THE job.

I said I wanted to think about it.

I talked to my two best friends. I talked to my husband.


I declined the offer.

Because our oldest leaves for college a week from Friday.
Because it would be more work for the same amount of pay.

Because I am happy.

And because sometimes your heart changes it's mind.

And sometimes you have to listen to your heart.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Raisin Skit

There was a skit we, as counselors, did at camp:

We all wore black garbage bags with our head and arms poked through.
The skit starts with everyone jumping around and dancing while singing,

"Oh it's the raisins that make
the cereal taste great!
Oh it's the raisins that make
cereal taste great!"

until the Camp Director came in with a big wooden spoon at which time we would shriek, "OH NO! It's the spoon... the spoon!" as one of us was dragged off.

Then we would start singing... shaky and scared at first,

"Oh, it's the raisins that make
the cereal taste great!"

until we are once again dancing and singing.

The Camp Director picks us off one at a time until there is only one person left. That person, as he or she is dragged off, sings the old commercial jingle,

"Oh I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener..."

This is a very long set up to say another friend is jumping on an opportunity to leave our school and our district.

The difference between the Raisin Skit and real life, is people aren't being drug away in tears. The ones dancing, are the ones leaving.

How many people leaving does it take before the people with the wallet realize we need to change brands?

 Maybe something with those crunchy marshmallows.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tarzan Couldn't Stand This Kind of Hot

Heat advisories for several days have me grateful for air conditioning. 
I'll admit it... I'm spoiled. 

Growing up in Northern Indiana, we did not have air conditioning. 
We had a huge exhaust fan upstairs that supposedly drew heat out of the house. 
We had a box fan in the living room to circulate air. 
We had windows that stayed open unless it rained. 
And we had our very own, "slammin' screen door. 

Even if we had been allowed to be in the house, we would have gone outside. 
Outside we had a hose and the water was cold. 
Outside you could feel the wind on your face as you rode your bike.
Outside the streets flooded every time it rained and cars would drive by and splash us sometimes if we asked them to.
Outside is where we ate Popsicles. 
Outside is where our neighborhood friends were because they too were kicked out of their houses. 
Outside is where the beach was and where every now and then, Mom would take us after dinner. The smell of vinyl from the blow-up raft, the squeals of "Ouch, Ouch, Ouch" as bare feet skip hopped across a hot parking lot and burning sand, and finally the feel of tepid water warmed by a day of sun made this the best outside of all. 

Today we have air.
And we have ceiling fans. 
We live in the country on a highway so bike rides are not as easily achieved.
The lake in this town is a home to geese and, though people do swim in it, we do not. 
The hose is not as fun, when it is just you and your brother. 

Now that I think about it, I must rephrase my opening statement...

I admit it... I was a spoiled child. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Itinerary and Take Aways

I returned from a 10 day vacation yesterday and have a few take-aways.

We dropped youngest off at the camp the oldest is working at -- the one they have attended for 8 years now. Then we headed North to Mackinaw City. I had never been, so we stopped and looked at some of the touristy stuff and got ice cream. I took pictures from the beach of the bridge.

*The sky was grey which made the water grey which made it hard to get any real depth to photos. I need to research lighting situations I might encounter before these experiences.

Then we went across the bridge. I had heard stories about the bridge. I had heard some people have such a hard time that they require someone to actually drive them. Granted my hubby was driving, but I was on the side closest the rail.

* The bridge was not that scary. Maybe in fog I would feel differently, but... it's not that scary.

We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast. It was OK. The next day, we went to a beach to look for agates. A beach forever down a dirt road that a book said was good to look agates because it was so out of the way.
 Within 5 minutes another couple showed up. 5 minutes later a couple more people. 10 minutes later 3 more further down the beach. The first couple that arrived, started looking right next to us. We only stayed a couple hours because there were a ton of biting flies. Got some good rocks, but I want more. Maybe next year.

* It is easier to fake eat a breakfast you don't like, if your spouse does like it.

*Rock hunting right next to somebody else is like Phoebe's lurker in that episode of friends where they are in a casino. Not cool.

*Sand flies are mean!

Turns out there was an alert about those flies. As long as we stayed away from the beach we'd be fine. So we set off for our next stop, but found a waterfall we could stop and look at first at Pictured Rocks State Park. There was a little rain, but it stopped by the time we got there and the waterfall was nice.

We found a place to eat -- a road side stop.  They had Truffle Fries -- actual mushrooms. Yum!  Then we set off to find our next Bed and Breakfast. We could see rain moving in, as was the dark. We got a little lost and had to backtrack but we finally arrived at a sweet old lady's house. It used to be an iron mining town and her house was what used to be the company's offices. It was a really nice house and she was a sweetheart. Storms came through that night that were crazy. Really loud thunder and lightning flashes all night long. The innkeeper mentioned them in the morning too and said she expected there to be damage outside but she didn't find any. Breakfast was scary. I am not an adventurous eater. Some say picky. We say selective. :-) Any way, I had asked the night before what she was planning and she said she was making a special recipe. I should have pressed, because it turns out the special recipe was a sort of pineapple flavored mush with a hash brown texture. I tried a "No thank you" bite. Unfortunately we had cloth napkins and I had to swallow.

* Find out what your host is serving for breakfast. Be insistent so you can inform them whether they need to go through the effort or not.

We had plans to spend the day looking for waterfalls and were going to try Lower Potato Falls. I also wanted to see if the Wisconsin beaches also had those awful flies. We stopped at a visitor center to find maps. What we found out was the storms that had kept me awake the night before had washed out several roads. We couldn't get to anything we planned on. So we found alternate falls. The most amazing one was Rainbow Falls. I am talking about standing in the presence of God's power. Because of the previous night's rain, this Fall was a take-your-breath-away-stop-your-heart experience. And the other direction was a beautiful, tumbling, river of brown winding it's way through a canopy of green.
We followed a trail to find the beach because the road to it had a traffic barrier. We saw mud every where. Equipment was moving it around in an attempt to repair the roads. We tried to walk to the beach. What we saw was Lake Superior-- a rich,chocolate brown color because of the rain and wind and mud from the land slides. A land slide that was blocking the path. AND ... there were sand flies.

*There is beauty in danger.
*Sand flies are mean.

Next was a surprise for me. Hubby didn't tell me where we were going until we were in the town and looking for the Bed and Breakfast. The town was Ladysmith, Wisconsin. The bed and breakfast? A former Carnegie Public Library!  All hotels and future Bed and Breakfasts have been ruined for me by the perfection of this establishment. First off... it was a Carnegie Library! The breakfast area has actual library tables and chairs. The walls are lined with short bookcases that have old phones and business office type equipment you might have found in a library at the time it was built. There is a presidential bedroom downstairs that has a big screen tv. Upstairs ...is heaven. There are 5 bedrooms and all have themes. One is behind a bookcase! Behind a bookcase. There is a Sherlock Holmes room, a Titanic room, a Civil War room, and the room we had a Jane Austin room that was complete with a four poster bed. The attention to detail was amazing. There was a common area that had a fire place and comfortable seating. The books lining the walls were all older books and complete works. We were shown a closet where we could find snacks if we got hungry. Breakfast was delicious -- puff pancakes. I can not say enough about this place.

*I always wanted to live in a library. Now I know which one.

The next day was just driving to Des Moines. A boring drive.

*La Quinta is actually a nice hotel. We usually stay in the Comfort, Clarion hotels. There was a girls softball tournament going on, but you wouldn't know it. Very nice experience.

*New experiences can actually be as good or better than the routine ones.

The next day was the main reason for vacation... hubby had a y conference in Kansas City, Mo. We had the conference rate for the Marriott downtown. Our room was up to the second floor... Across the sky bridge... Through the door to the rooms in the building across the street... Then up to the 10th floor.

Hubby was now officially on the clock and I was partially on my own. The next day I went to Kansas to try to see if I could find information about ancestors who had moved there from Indiana in 1889. My Great-Aunt married the man who would be the first pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran in Bremen, Kansas. Did not find anything, but I did see the church and cemetery and got my own pictures so I have my own instead of those from Find A Grave.

* God bless the inventor of GPS and those that made it accessible by people like me. Because of them, I made the 2.5 hour drive to Kansas, found the church down 8 miles of gravel and dirt, and back to Missouri -- all... by... myself.

We ate with some of hubby's friends at a very nice restaurant. We are not fancy people so I was a little uncomfortable, but the food was amazing, the pacing of the meal by the servers was spot on, and the conversation was wonderful.

*While nice, I still don't think I am the type of person to get used to fancy meals.

Saturday was spent by me in the room and it was wonderful. After so much travel and people it was nice to read and surf the web and watch tv.

*Sometimes you need a break from vacation.

Sunday, after his last key note speaker, we set of for home. Google said 8 hours and 15 minutes of driving. So we broke it up into planned stops. The first was a BBQ place in an old train depot. Out of the way place but decent food. Hubby liked the BBQ pulled pork.

* Out of the way places can be gems.

Next, I had been craving an old fashioned malt so hubby found Becky Thatcher's Soda shop and Emporium in Hannibal. Such a fun little town. The river boat was docked. The malt was yummy. The museum was interesting. And we got pictures in front of Mark Twain's boyhood home and pretend painting the fence. Spent too long here it was so fun.

*Even touristy places can be fun. I usually don't like them. That's why I like rock hunting -- not generally touristy. But Hannibal I would go to again.

Ate at the first chain restaurant of our vacation-- Pizza Hut-- two hours from Hannibal. Nobody there, which would be scary to have a restaurant so empty, but although the service was slow, the food was good.

* Familiarity is nice when you are on the road.

Then supposedly 3 hours to go, but stretched to almost 4. We got a great light show from the storms in Illinois. Got to hubby's apartment a little after midnight. Then the rain arrived.

* The trip home, after a long vacation, can seem endless. In the end it is worth it though. Having an "Alice" (from Brady Bunch) to unpack the car and do the laundry would make it better. :-)

* I also learned that my husband and I can still survive hours and days in the car and still not only speak to each other but actually want to be together. The last time we spent this much time driving was when we moved to Alaska our 3rd year of marriage. We've crossed the 26 year mark and I still enjoy his company. That's a good thing. :-)

Can't say I want another 10 day vacation, but I will be back North to look for those agates. Just need to research those awful flies.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Mean Parents

My parents were mean when I was growing up.

At 6, in Kindergarten I walked to school with the older neighborhood kids. We were at the edge of the district line so we had to walk 6 blocks including 3 highways. Ok. One had a traffic light and another had a crossing guard and the other one wasn't really a highway in town but they are in fact highways. Then I had to walk home -- by myself!

After kindergarten I walked home with those also going home. We walked! And if it rained? Well that is what umbrellas were for.

Jr. High was 3 blocks away and High School was 9 blocks. In those ancient days (30 years ago) snow days were determined by school. Busses couldn't get out, so county kids got to stay home. In town kids were not always so lucky. And did we get rides? I can probably count on one hand the number of times parents picked us up from school -- k-12. That's what feet were for.

Then, if we wanted to go to the mall or the movies we walked or rode our bikes. In fact we practiced looking cool riding our bikes -- no handed-thank-you-very-much.

But it wasn't just my parents who were mean. Nope. The neighbor's friends were mean. My friends' parents were mean. These parents said they had better things to do than drive us around. So we found a way. Feet or bike--that was our only choice.

As I drive 7 miles to the track so I can walk 4 miles or put on my yoga pants to walk on the treadmill in order to get enough "steps" for the day, I think about how mean my parents were.

And I look up and say, "Thanks guys."

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New name. Same Me

The word I chose for my One Little Word was an amalgamation of three words.


Our oldest was graduating High School, was getting a job for the summer, learning to drive, and going to college. So many Rites of passage.

So much was happening at school, in our district, and in the world --and the older I get, the stronger my opinion and the bolder I am in stating my opinion -- what I feel is Right.

And I want to Write it all down. All of it. From my thoughts and opinions on what is happening in the world today to what is happening in my world and even working on my family's past through genealogy.

I really took to heart the part about speaking up about what I feel is right. Not in a demanding way but in a way that hoped for discourse and only when my opinion was invited. I learned that honest opinions are not welcome. In my performance review on day 170 I was told that my attitude had changed and needed to improve in order to keep my job.

My last blog had over 300 posts, but I don't want to go back and analyze every post for something that could be held against me should they try to find out if there is anything that could be held against me. So -- I'm starting over. I won't be cowed. I can guarantee that with all that is going on, I will have opinions and many won't be popular with everyone, but writing isn't about being safe.

My new blog title says it all : Must WRIghT.  For better or worse I'm here to live my OLW out loud.