Friday, June 26, 2015

A Bitter Sweet Day

Today was the last day of school…. I was filled with mixed emotions. Usually at the end of the year I'm sad to say goodbye to my students. This year I knew it wasn't goodbye, but rather a "See you in September!" A very strange feeling. I told some of my parents I would be looping with their kids and they seemed excited and grateful.

I think it's hard not only to be switching grades but to know someone else is going to be in "my room." Someone who may or may not care about the room like I did. I did my best to keep everything in order, keep things clean and neat and like new… I can't say that someone else will take the same pride in the stuff that's in that room like I did and that makes me sad.

My kiddos only had a half day so I spent the rest of the day doing some last minute cleaning. I swept the floor, wiped down the tables, and made sure the last of my stuff was in the closets of my new room. I assessed the damage checked out what was awaiting me in my new room and took some pictures to help prepare for the upcoming year.

I think I'm still in shock that after all these years I'll no longer be teaching Kindergarten. Even our Math coach was a bit surprised. She felt bad because I spent the last two months putting together as many Math centers and activities for our program as I could. Now I get to start all over again!

It really hit me today when I turned around one last time at the door of my classroom and turned off the lights (I waited for the sad music to start playing like in the movies… it didn't but it should have!)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

It's All Changing - Again

Kindergarten, my passion, my love, where my heart is… for 8 years I have taught kindergarten. I have been in two different schools. I have taught 2 different ELA programs, 2 different phonics programs and 3 different math programs. I have felt empowered. I continue to learn each year trying to make myself better. I have done research. I have read books. I have scoured the internet and blogland for information, activities and programs to try with my students. I have worked hard to establish myself as a well respected kindergarten teacher who others can come to for advice. And now… now it will all change….

When we return to school in September I will not be in my classroom that I have called home for two years. I will not be with my kindergarten team whom I have come to love. I will not be holding the hands of little ones who have never been to school before and showing them the way. I will not be hugging parents promising that their child's first year of school will be enjoyable and that they will learn new things and grow. All that I know will not be anymore in September.

I'm no stranger to change. At the conclusion of the 2012-2013 school year I packed my things one last time and said goodbye to the school I called home for 6 years. I needed a change, it was no longer the right place for me. I could not grow, or shine there any longer. Where I landed surprised me from an affluent successful school to a lower income title one failing school… and yet I shine. I love going to work. I have the freedom to try new things and even if they fail I am given permission to try again. It's ok to try and fail as long as I learn and move forward. It is exhilarating knowing that as long as I can show logic and reason and prove how something may benefit my students I can try anything I want (within reason of course!) From this I know change can be good. Change can be exhilarating. Change can be challenging. Change can be rewarding. Change can be scary. Change can be good!

Keeping this mantra in my mind and heart I have spent the past week packing my classroom. Putting 8 years of Kindergarten materials in boxes. I watch as someone else comes in my room daily and moves her stuff in, my heart sad as I know she will have my job in September. She will be the first teacher some of the incoming students will have. She will set the tone for their learning. I will not be going far but I will not be the one preparing students for the roller coaster of school.

Next year I will be looping to first grade. I will be with my students again, and a few new ones. I am scared. I am excited. I am terrified. I am looking forward to new challenges and a new adventure. I am sad that I will not be in kindergarten any longer (or at least for the upcoming year…). I am overwhelmed. I am mad that all the time I've put in to organizing and making the curriculum work for me, all the binder I've made and the focus walls I've typed are now going to sit in storage not being used. I am frustrated that I have to redo all that work. I have to type everything again for a new grade. I am excited because I can continue to grow and learn as an educator. I am looking forward to new challenges. I am hopeful. I am on an emotional roller coaster. Some of my fellow kindergarten teachers are looping with me, which brings me great comfort. I am looking forward to working with them again. I am sad to leave behind my other colleagues. We may have had our differences but we balanced each other out. We respected each others opinions. We yelled at each other like siblings do. We hugged each other on rough days and laughed together. We shared our families. We shard our lives. While I'm only going upstairs I know that the two colleagues I will be leaving behind won't be in my room daily to share the small moments any longer. I know when teachers change grades somehow bonds that seem so strong aren't as strong any longer.

The year hasn't ended and yet my mind is already focused on the fall. Since I am looping I know that I won't need to spend a lot of time going over the basics. My students know me - good or bad we know each other. Some of us work well together, others, well, we are working on it. I've got my classroom management down and won't need to spend hours upon hours teaching and reviewing my expectations. I will continue my guided reading and centers. I will need to find new ways to rotate and new ways to implement my centers as the room I'm moving in to is much smaller with individual desks not shared tables. I had planned to revamp my guided reading next year - I was looking to read more about the Daily 5 and begin to implement the program. I will continue with this plan… but now instead of learning and implementing one new program I will also have to learn an entire new Math, ELA, Phonics, Science and Social Studies curriculum. I have started to plan. I have started to recreate the focus walls I so painstakingly spent hours making for kindergarten. I will spend my summer getting ready for the fall. I will spread it out over two months so hopefully when the fall comes I will not be too overwhelmed.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's Never Too Late

We are coming towards the end of the school year… Only two months left to go… and yet I find myself revamping and redoing my entire curriculum! When something is broken you don't just leave it be and let it sit there broken, taking up space… NO, instead you find a way to fix it or throw it away. That my friends is what I have decided to do.

Let me give you a little refresher… I was on leave for the first two months of school (gasp!!) I know EXACTLY what you are thinking, and you'd be correct. I came back in November to a giant mess!!! And I mean a M-E-S-S!!! While my kiddos were safe, and loving school, there were no expectations set for them, well at least not up to my standards. So for the two months of school I had to "retrain" my little ones on how to do EVERYTHING - from how to unpack, no we do NOT hand the teacher each paper out of our backpacks one at a time, to review bathroom rules - no we cannot all go to the bathroom every ten minutes. It was quite the uphill battle and I'm still facing some struggles now at the end of the year but each day we are getting better, we are learning more, and we are becoming smarter! Another unique characteristic of my little class is that 21/25 of my students are seen by the ELL teacher four days a week. Because I have such a high number of students who receive services I work closely with the ELL teacher and she typically pushes in once a day… at times she will pull my most struggling students out to work in a smaller group in a quiet setting.

That being said I realized after our second benchmark assessments for the year that my kiddos just weren't making the grade, so to speak. I found this both disappointing and frustrating! Most peoples first reaction might be to blame my circumstances - well you missed the beginning of the year, you work in a Title 1 school with high needs students, the majority of your students don't speak English as their first language and most of their families cannot read, write or speak English so there is little help and support at home. And yes, in some respects they would be right. But it's too easy to place blame elsewhere. SO I sat and I sat and I sat and I thought and I thought and I thought some more… I was at a loss… what can I do, how can I change this. This my friends, is where the blogging world was my biggest resource! I started scouring the Kindergarten blogs to see what everyone else was doing and I started reaching out to other Kindergarten teachers for advice. My greatest source of help immediately was Mr. Greg over at The Kindergarten Smorgasboard. THANK YOU MR. GREG!!! Not only was he patient and kind in answering my questions his advice to purchase the book The Next Step In Guided Reading was AMAZING! I can't sing his praise enough. I took this book and I have made it my most prized possession (for now!)

After reading the book I then got down to making literacy centers. They aren't perfect and they are a work in progress but they are something, and the kids are independent at them!! So to me that is a major plus! Using this book I began my guided reading… well, let me just say that my kiddos have LOVED the new curriculum. They are enjoying meeting with me at least once a week (I'm working on managing my groups and my time better to meet with them two or three times a week - I CAN DO IT!!) and I'm seeing such positive changes in them. They are beginning to develop a love for reading. They are feeling empowered because they are completing their centers on their own.

You'd think with two months left of the year I'd just keep going the way I'm going since things are running smoothly… if you believe that, then you don't know me very well! Now that I've got a decent handle on my guided reading I'm on to make my centers even better. For this I've reached out to Marsha at A Differentiated Kindergarten. First off she already has amazing centers that she makes and sells, but again I found someone who has been patient and kind and willing to share her knowledge. I am currently reading EVERY (yes I said every) post she has written about Daily 5. Not to mention on my wish list to purchase next is the Daily 5 book. My goal is to hopefully get at least one, if not two of my 5 independent centers differentiated by the end of the year. I'm also working to get a sensory station up and going in the next week or two! I cannot wait for this, and Marsha was my inspiration. I went out on a limb this past week and asked if I could try one out. I didn't get a two thumbs up, but I did get a give it a try and I'll come see what it's about… for me that's good enough! (At my former school a sensory bin would have been frowned upon!)

I've gotten so push back from some people about the logic of changing so much so close to the end of the year. But here's my logic - 1) Don't these kids deserve to get the best I have to offer? So if I find something new that I think will help them shouldn't I give it a try? 2) These kids are great and they are flexible, they adapt well, and they understand the ideas of how to work in centers - so why not try new things with them? I'm not talking about totally changing their centers - but rather make them differentiated!

And guess what - while some teachers might be shocked at the thought of changing so much so close to the end my administration is smiling! They are loving it! They have given my their blessings. They come in often to see what I'm doing and are hoping to have others come and visit me too! I'm no expert yet, but that is my goal! I'm hoping to be the best I can be and expand my knowledge and learning even more to better help my students succeed!

I'm looking forward to continue my adventures of centers and guided reading - and hopefully, eventually daily 5… (I do know I need to work on getting certain supplies, like items to use for listen to reading, guess I'll be looking in to Donors Choice soon)…