Wednesday, March 19, 2014

8 Random Thoughts

Long time, no blogging!  I seem to hit these hiccups where life gets in the way of blogging as evidenced this past month.  So, in a random segue, here are some random thoughts on random things.

1.  Convention Anyone? I've been toying with the idea of going to the International Reading Convention in New Orleans.  First of all, New Orleans?  Yes!  I've never been but have always wanted to visit.  Second, I've also always wanted to go to an IRA convention.  There are some amazing workshops that I would love to attend.  Even better, there is a long list of AMAZING speakers such as;  Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Debbie Diller, Richard Allington, Gail Bushey, Joan Moser, Jeff Kinney, Dav Pilky, and more.  I also want to be around professionals that know literacy.  I want to learn more and bring it all back to my classroom.

So, what's the hesitation?  Well, the expense makes for a definite pause.  I figure it will cost me about 3 grand in all to do this between registration, air fare, hotel, meals, and more.  It is a lot of money for a working vacation.  And, it certainly isn't something my district will pay for.  While I can afford to do it, there is a big part of me that is a cheapskate and hesitates.  The other thing that makes me hesitate is that I would be going alone.  I don't have any colleagues that would take this trip and I would feel bad dragging a friend or family member when I would be leaving them alone all day long. I don't mind traveling alone, but I'm not sure what I would do with myself each night when I don't know anyone there. I guess I have until April 14, when the early bird registration ends, to decide what to do.  What would you do?  Any advice?

2.  I have a CRAZY teaching schedule.  We have 8 period days making a 40 period week.  Five periods are lunch, six periods are prep, and the other twenty-nine are teaching period.  Here is the breakdown of my twenty-nine teaching periods:

  • 6 periods are teaching Scholastic's Read 180 intervention reading program.  
  • 2 periods of small group, pull out remedial literacy
  • 17 periods of push-in basic skills guided reading groups in five different classrooms
  • 4 periods of small group, pull out enrichment literacy
In all, I have to keep track of sixteen different groups of children.  And, my schedule is not consistent across the week.  Every day follows a different schedule, often with days between seeing the same group again. As you may imagine, planning is everything!  You should see the hard copy of my lesson plans.  There are notes all over it!  If I don't annotate what we completed each period I would be lost.  I'm used to it now, but it took a while.  I do like seeing so many different children at different grade levels.  Still, CRAZY teaching schedule! :-)

3.  I'm reading some great books with my friends!  Between some of my classes, we are currently reading Stone Fox, The Sign of the Beaver, No Talking, and  Heroes for All Times.  All really great books!  I was very happily surprised by Heroes for All Times.  My friends reading it are loving it.  What got them hooked is that the first chapter is all about Florence Nightingale and talks all about her work in hospitals during the Crimean War of 1854.  Some of them immediately connected it to what is currently happening in Crimea, and I heard from a couple of parents that they were impressed with how the book connected to current events.  Totally not planned!  The book was in the plans for a while, but I have not control over when and where countries invade! My friends were also blown away at the lack of knowledge at the time regarding germs, hospitals, and sanitary procedures.  Easy way to hook a nine year old into a nonfiction book?  Start out with something a bit gross!

4.  Loving Read 180!  I posted a while back that mid-year my district implemented this new intervention program.  Three months in the kids love it, and I am seeing some real progress!  I actually hope my district will expand the program and offer it to more kids next year.  

5.  Looking forward to the new blog design!  I am next on the list to be done by A Bird in the Hand Designs.  I'm excited to see what Megan comes up with.  I love what I see her doing with other blogs.  Part of getting the new blog design involved some homework.  I had to complete a survey of likes, wants, and more.  It was much harder than I thought it would be.  I had to really put some thought into what I wanted.  Overall, I'm looking for a more modern-ish design. I think I might throw up a picture of myself, too.  I know I always like when I can see the blogger that writes the blog I'm reading.  I'm sorry to report I was really late in turning in my homework to Megan.  Sorry, Megan!!! If you need to push me back a bit because of that, I totally understand! Honestly, here I am a teacher turning in homework late!  Sheesh!

6.  I just completed my second observation.  We get three twenty minute observations each year, two unannounced and one announced.  This second one was my announced.  It went well, but I have to say this new observation model we use (the Danielson Framework) is soooo involved!  There is a ton of pre-observation questioning and uploading of documents to be done and then more of the same after the observation.  Not sure I agree with all components of the evaluation as in some areas it seem to be impossible to achieve their highest rating when you work with particular populations.  However, my observation went well so no complaints! But seriously, if you don't know anything about the Danielson Framework, click on the link and take a look.  You will see just how involved it is, for better or worse.

7.  Common Core Gaps?  I have noticed lately that in doing my lesson plans, I see some gaps in the common core standards.  There are things I need to teach that are not addressed in the CCS for the particular grade level.  I then look across grade levels but don't see it anywhere else.  It then becomes a stretch to say, "Well, this could fit this standard. . . "  Nothing terrible, just wondering if anyone else has noticed some gaps in the CCS as you have been teaching.

8. Enough with Winter!  Spring starts tomorrow!  I could happy dance all over the place!!  I am so tired of winter.  We used five snow days this year, had a few delayed openings, and one early dismissal.  Thankfully, we had four snow days built into our schedule, so there was only one day to make up.  They took back the Monday after Easter.  I'm good with that as Easter is an early day holiday in my family.  Plenty of time to regroup and get ready for the work week.  I saw that some schools are having their staff come in on Saturdays to make up the missed days.  I would so not be happy with that!  At this point, I'm just really looking forward to Spring Break. We will have the whole week before Easter off.  Yipeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Were these thoughts random enough for you? :-)

Any thoughts or suggestions on the convention?  
Because, this indecision bugging me!


  1. Megan is fabulous to work with! Looking forward to your new design.

    1. Me too, Brandi! I'm working on colors and such right now!

  2. That framework does look intense! Thanks for sharing it, though, because I'm always curious how other teachers get evaluated compared to what my school does.

    In math, I've been really happy with CCSS (I teach 4th grade), but every once in awhile I will run across something they've missed- typically it's been because of a curriculum move and not just missing, but there are certainly a few things that I am sure to go over even though they aren't in our standards. Good luck with that!

    Real Teachers Learn

    1. Hi Miss B! If you are curious about how other teachers get evaluated, check out this post I wrote on observations. Read it for the comments. They are so interesting. So many people commented about how they are observed. I was floored at how different it is from state to state!

      Thanks for reading my blog!

  3. Nancy,
    Just found your blog and I am loving it. Been teaching 27 years and getting tired. You have motivated and inspired me to mix it up again! I was reading your reading letters blog. I have tried many different kinds of reading letters in the past and have never really found a rubric that "fits". Have you found a rubric that works for your reading letter? I would love to see it, if are willing to share. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Leslie,
      Thanks so much for reading my blog. I'm flattered by your kind words. I don't have a rubric to share, sorry. At the time I was using the letters I posted about, my district was sort of working on our grading in literacy. As a result, I ended up using a few different grading options as things changed. Sorry I can't be of more help.
      Thanks again for reading,