Sunday, September 29, 2013

The scary life of teachers on strike

The Majorca Daily Bulletin
Wow!  I am quickly learning so much about the schools here in Spain, and more specifically, in Mallorca.  I received an e-mail yesterday from one of the schools I will be working in.  The language department has been in communication with me and informed me that even though I am supposed to start work on Tuesday, the teachers are striking and so I should not plan on coming into school until I hear back from them.  WHAT? Oh, so that’s why I’ve seen all those green t-shirts….

I had heard bits and pieces about local teachers on stirke but assumed it wasn’t a big deal.  Well I was very, very wrong.  Apparently the government has enforced a rule just last month that states, instead of teachers teaching in Castilian (the Spanish we know) and Catalan (the island’s native language), evenly throughout the day, they are being forced to teach in Castilian, Catalan, AND English equally.  So 33% of the day they will have to teach in English- a language that many of them do not know or only know the basics of. 

Ummmm, what?  How can we blame them for striking?  Do you know Castilian?  Do you know Catalan?  What if our government suddenly told you that you would have to spend 30% of the day teaching in Castilian?  Could you effectively teach math when you are only able to teach it in Catalan?  I know I would not, could not, be an effective math teacher like that.  The amazing thing is however, the teachers are totally fine with having to do this.  It’s just that it was enforced last month.  Where’s the training?  Where’s the support?  There is none.  Give them time and they can adapt.  However, time is not being provided and thus teachers are striking. 
The other side here is the students.  Not all students have been raised in homes that speak English.  So even if you were trained in Castilian and walked into your classroom and gave a rockin’ math lesson, in perfect Castilian, would all of your students understand the lesson?  In order to implement something like this, teachers and students need time.  They need to slowly be immersed into this.  They need to learn together, not separately or all in one month.  There needs to be proper implementation, which it seems there is not. 
I definitely do not have an answer to this problem but I am excited to learn more about it and see where it goes.  I know this is only the beginning of me learning about educational life in Spain.  I cannot imagine something like this happening in the States, unless a charter school begins a “Dual Immersion” program, or something of the sorts.  As a teacher here, I am so excited to broaden my knowledge of education and hope that we can all {as teacher bloggers and blog readers} start sharing what we do and what we know, so that we can all be better teachers.  What do you think about this strike?  What do you think about having to learn a new language?  Students having to learn a new language?  Have you ever heard or seen anything similar happen?   I cannot wait to see what you have to say.
In other, far less serious, news- be sure to check out my GIVEAWAY!!  You can win $25 to Teachers Pay Teachers!!  Go enter here NOW!!  It ends tomorrow J
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Saturday, September 28, 2013

The woes of living in Spain...

Are few and far between.  Except that as a teacher blogger, it is near to impossible to find internet.  The initial flat/piso we were staying in had internet graciously illegally provided by the restaurant downstairs.  We then booked an apartment for the week that was supposed to have internet.  But we’re in Spain and when you are told there is internet, it turns out it may just be in the lobby.  And it may or may not work.  And you may have to go across the street and blog at a café while drinking café con leche.  {Which are heavenly, btw, as I currently am sipping on one at said café}.  This also makes it a bit more challenging to finish my most recent product {Opinion Writing- Unit 3}, which I am working on bit by bit every day!  Thank you to those of you who stop by and read my blog and support me- it makes the running around much more worth it J  We’re off to explore the Wine Festival in a nearby town!  Happy Saturday teacher friends!  Be sure to enter my GIVEAWAY celebrating reaching 100 followers on Tpt!!  The winner will get $25 to TpT!  It ends Monday!!
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May I also mention that as I sit in a European café, sipping coffee, working on my laptop, I feel this crazy need to smoke a cigarette... So very Carrie Bradshaw of me. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Blue Water? Sandy Toes? Yes Please!!

Have you ever felt like you just had died and gone to heaven?  Well, that's exactly how I felt when we walked up to the beach today. 

We live only THIRTY minutes from here??
 I found a beach online that was a little trickier to get to than most, but still only 30 minutes away {via bus}.  So we took off to check it out.  And boy were we rewarded for our adventure. 

It's going to be hard to get back into a routine next week :)


Woohoo!!  Mucho gracias!!  Thanks to you all out there- I have reached 100 (101 actually!!) followers on TpT!  WOOOHOOO!!  Y'all are just the BEST!  Thank you for your support. 

Soooo, in order to celebrate, I am hosting a GIVEAWAY for $25 to TpT!  Just enter using the raffle below.  The giveaway ends at midnight next Monday! 

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Monday, September 23, 2013

It's about time for a GIVEAWAY y'all!!

Guess what I saw today when I hopped on TpT??  I am at 9... wait for it........

.....9 Followers.  99 FOLLOWERS!!  {A little How I Met Your Mother humor for ya}  Who will be #100??  As soon as we hit 100 I will be hosting a Giveaway complete with a $25 gift card to TpT to celebrate!  Think of all that you could buy!! 

Who will be #100?  Click here or on the picture above to go directly to my store. 

In other news.... this has created quite a game for me while trying to blog...

Can you see that?  That's right... it's all in Spanish :)

Well this makes for a new adventure
Happy happy happy Monday to y'all!! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

We're in SPAIN!

Holy guacamole y'all!  I am currently writing this post from SPAIN!  I *cannot* believe we're finally here.  We arrived last Thursday morning, after a looooong {like two hours of sleep in over 24 hours} trip.  It went nearly completely smooth however, thank the Lord, and we arrived in Mallorca!!  It is absolutely beautiful here. 

Mallorca {also spelled Majorca} is an island in the Mediterranean.  It has many mountains and hills surrounding it.  The weather is fairly temperate throughout the year- so I am able to keep up my love of dresses and flats that make up most of my wardrobe.  What can I say?  I. Love. Dresses! 

And I start work next week!!  I have already received an e-mail from my school welcoming me and offering to help out with the basics.  But in all honesty, I can hardly think about *work* right now. 

I am so thrilled to be back in a classroom in just a wee little bit, but am still trying to figure out the language/find a place to live/get used to living in Spain/etc.... and that's consuming all I have right now.

In other news, we managed to get cell phones that other day!!  It's the small victories y'all!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Oh my goodness! Who would've thunk it??

Do you ever have a moment where you want to be all like, Noooo, that can't be right.  Wait.  Me?  Well that moment came when I was checking my e-mail last night. 

I was nominated for a Liebster Award by the super adorable Jamie from over at Life as I Know It!  Thanks Jamie!!

With all the craziness in my life right now I am shocked and honored that someone nominated me for such an award.  But I'm super excited by it.  In order to accept the Liebster Award, you need to share my link and then {drum roll puhlease}.........
1)  Post 11 random things about yourself.
2)  Answer the questions that the nominator set for you.
3)  Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate. 
4)  Choose 11 blogs you love (with less than 200 followers) and a link to them in your post.
5)  Let them know you nominated them by commenting on their blog!

11 Random Things About Me:  {Just a heads up:  They're super random}

1)  I love college football!!  I was born and raised an Ohio State fan and then went to the University of South Carolina.  So I am all about them Gamecocks! 

Go Gamecocks!!

2)  I have a thing for all cardigans.  Like, I buy them all.the.time.  They're perfect for every type of weather.  Even Summer!  And are absolutely necessary to have in every color.  Have you ever been freezing in a restaurant??  Yea, cardi's are perfect. 
3)  My life is one huge mess right now.  In a good way.  My husband and I are moving to Spain on TUESDAY.  That's right- tomorrow.  We move.  To a new country.  Somewhere we've never been before.  And neither of us are super fluent in Spanish.  Please pray for us.  We'll be teaching English.

4)  I love Jesus.  Growing up my family was never super religious.  I mean, we went to church but it was rarely more than that and saying prayers at dinner.  I'm determined to change that now.  Jesus is the constant in my life and I pray He uses me for His purpose all the time.
5)  I just got married in June!!!!

6)  I love to travel.  I've been many places with my family, on my own, and with my now husband.  I hope to travel a lot when we live in Spain. I am an adventurer at heart.  My family and my husband's family go to the beach every year.  I love the salt water and the sand between my toes.  And an ice cold Corona as the sun sets.

Probably my favorite picture of all time
7)  I say words backwards.  A lot.  In my head... Not out loud.  Does that make it any less weird??
8)  I love to hike and be outside.  I love the sky and everything nature has to offer.  Camping?  Yes please!  I love it all. 

That's me!!

9)  I LOVE love love my job as a teacher.  I love being in a classroom full of kiddos.  Not every day is easy but every day is different and challenging and pushes me to grow as an individual.  I would not change anything about it!

Just holding a bag of dead frogs- no biggie.
10)  I have the best family.  They support me and my husband, love us unconditionally, and laugh and cry with us.  We are truly blessed and I thank Him every day for them.  I cannot imagine life without my family, no matter how near or far we are. 

None of us live in the same state!  Here we're representing Georgia, Ohio,
Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, and Pennsylvania. 
Me and my lil' bro
11)  I love riding bicycles and taking pictures... not at the same time.  But I've reached number 11 and had to squeeze two into one.  Taking pictures and riding bikes around are the best. 

And Jamie left some questions for me to answer as well....

1)  What does your Friday night look like? 
     Usually my Friday night looks pretty low key :)  It usually starts with happy hour after work and then hanging out with my hubby or with our friends at someone's house!  I love just lounging after a week of work.  And I love feeling rested when I wake up Saturday morning!
2)  What is your dream vacation?
     My dream vacation is somewhere new.  I am always up for a new vacation and rarely like to travel to the same place twice. 
3)  Who is your celebrity crush?
     My celebrity crush is JTT.  Okay... I know this seriously dates me.  But Jonathon Taylor Thomas is just too adorable.  My heart still goes atwitter just thinking about him...
4)  What is your favorite type of music?
     I love all types of music, it really just depends on my mood.  Right now I'm listening to Pandora's Coffeeshop Station and it's just perfect.
5)  Who do you look up to the most?
     I look up to my Mom the most.  I know it's cliché but it's just true.  My Momma is the one who shows me how to live, how to be a good wife, how to be a good daughter.  I respect her so much and am grateful that I have her to look up to.
6)  What is your favorite accessory?
     Scarves.  Lots and lots of scarves.
7)  What's your favorite holiday?
     Christmas!  There is something just so magical about the month of December.  You can't beat it.
8) If you could have any other profession other than teaching, what would it be?
      I think I would be a foodie.  I love eating... a travel foodie maybe??
9)  What's your favorite subject to teach?
      My favorite subject changes on a daily basis.  Especially depending on what unit we're doing.  I usually love writing, but sometimes I am just so into teaching math or science.  Or reading! 
10)  What's your favorite food?
     Artichokes.  YUM!  Steamed and with lemon juice. 
11)  Why did you start blogging?
     I started blogging to document my life as a teacher.  It forces me to look at what I'm doing as a educator.  I have met so many great bloggers and love seeing what other teachers are doing in their classrooms.  Blogging humbles me and pushes me to be better.  Always.

And my questions for my Nominees!
1)  What are you most passionate about?
2)  Who do you look up to?
3)  What is your go to "teacher" book?
4)  What do you like to do on Sunday night?
5)  What do you wear after work?
6)  What's your favorite store?
7)  What's your all time favorite song?
8)  What's your favorite movie?
9)  What's your favorite meal to make?
10)  What is your favorite place you've traveled?
11)  How did you feel when you found out about your nomination for the Liebster Award?

And here are the blogs I have chosen for a Liebster Award!  {I know it's not 11 but I am still trying to find blogs that have less than 200 followers and have not already been nominated that I love as much as I love these guys!  I'll add to this as I find them}
1)  Martina at The Hungry Teacher
2)  Megan at A New Box of Crayons
3)  Lacey at The Fabulous Life of an Elementary Teacher

Check out my Instagram account and Facebook and follow me!  I have been boring and quiet as of late- but with our move TOMORROW, I will have lots to share!!

AND I've almost reached 100 followers on Instagram!  As soon as I do I will be hosting a giveaway to celebrate!!  Be sure to check back SOON!  **Fingers crossed**


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Should all Kindergardeners Know Their Letters By Halloween?

"What struggling readers need is more and better reading instruction not a different sort of reading lesson."

Welcome to the world of Dick Allington.  He is most known for his amazing books, What Really Matters... and is an all around reading guru. 

Well, I had to stop and think when I read this article by Peter DeWitt.  It really makes you think about what's going on in some schools.  I've been in several schools and am always amazed at how different schools can be, even when they're in the same district or neighborhood!  It's hard to find a common ground on which we should teach reading.  Every student and class will learn differently.  And each teacher will have their own teaching style.

What do you think about this?  What's your philosophy?  Your school's philosophy?  Please share in the comments!

Should All Kindergartners Know Their Letters by Halloween?

What struggling readers need is more and better reading instruction not a different sort of reading lesson. In my view schools need to adopt a curriculum framework that everyone will use with all students. This includes remedial, special education and ELL teachers. Dr. Richard Allington

A couple of weeks ago I saw Dr. Richard (Dick) Allington speak at a regional training about college and career readiness. Dick Allington is a professor of education at the University of Tennessee. Before his present position at U of T he was at the University of Florida and began his university teaching experience at SUNY Albany.

Allington is not for the light-hearted. He is blunt, at times sarcastic and quite confident in what he says, and frankly he has served as President of the International Reading Association (IRA) and has numerous awards, so he can back up most of what he says.

 When I saw him speak at the regional training, I looked around the room. Some laughed, others cringed, and a few weren't sure how to take it all in...they were most likely the people who had not seen him speak before.

Dr. Allington began his speech by saying that all students, regardless of poverty level and past experience, should know their letters by Halloween in their kindergarten year. He continued his speech by telling schools what they do wrong. If school leaders attended the training hoping for a session of warm fuzzies and feeling good, they were sadly mistaken. I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride of emotions when he spoke.

Interview with Dick Allington
Truth be told, I like Dick Allington. I don't agree with everything he says, including his answers to the following questions that I sent him after the training, but I never feel like I have to agree with or like everything a speaker says. There are times when I think he wants to tell us how bad we are, but also give us guidance in how we can do better.
Allington has some good points about such issues as Academic Intervention Services (AIS). Many schools have a high percentage of students who qualify for AIS. Some schools have numbers between 20 and 30% in each grade level. Unfortunately, many of those students don't benefit from pull-out sessions by someone else, but they would benefit from different instruction in the classroom. I'm left wondering...where is the happy medium between both?
Dr. Allington is a big believer that if a teacher is certified to teach with an undergraduate and graduate degree, they should be able to teach students regardless of their academic ability. The following is some more of what Allington believes.

PD: You believe that all students, regardless of poverty level, should know their
Alphabet by Halloween, even the students who come in not knowing their letters.
How do they do that?

RA: Yes, even children from high-poverty and limited literacy homes should be able to provide all the letter names by Halloween. Remember that there are only 26 letters and by Halloween children will have spent roughly 9 weeks in kindergarten. That means we teach 2 or 3 letters every week and were done by Halloween.
Best way to begin is to make sure every child has a pencil and paper on the second day of kindergarten. Tell students to write a story about anything they want to write about. Now some kids will just draw pictures, some will scribble and scratch and make letter-like forms instead of actual letters, some will use known letters and others (two-thirds of kindergartners already know all the letter names upon school entry) will begin composing stories using invented spelling.
What we know is that writing produces a huge motivation to learn letters and invented spelling produces letter-sound knowledge faster than any other method available. Kids should have an alphabet displayed, usually over the blackboard where they can locate every letter they want to write. Even better, put the alphabet on every desktop.
• Sing the alphabet song with the kids every day and point to the individual letters as they are named in the song.
• Write language experience stories twice every day on large chart paper. Read and reread those stories as you post them about the room.
• Read library books and big books aloud at least twice every day and while reading point out letters and words so that the kids begin to notice print conventions.
In the end, every kindergarten teacher should read Anne McGill-Franzen's book, Kindergarten Literacy (Scholastic) to better understand how to create a print-rich literate environment for all kindergartners.

PD: You believe the last thing that struggling learners need is a fragmented curriculum, what did you mean by that?
RA: I use fragmented as the opposite of coherent curricula. In far too many schools struggling readers are working in two or more different reading programs. In over the half the schools we studied they not only were working two different but two competitive curricula. By competitive, I mean, what they learned in one was not useful or even harmful if used with the other curriculum.
Some programs, for instance, emphasize cross-checking and others emphasize relying on sounding out unknown words. When one teacher asks whether a misread word makes sense and the other teacher asks whether the vowel has a short sound the kid gets confused.
In the federal Title 1 program about 20% of the programs are well coordinated and those programs produce roughly 20 percentile ranks larger gains than the typical uncoordinated, or fragmented, programs. My favorite design has both the classroom and reading teachers sharing a common curriculum framework and moving kids through that curriculum at twice the traditional pace.
What struggling readers need is more and better reading instruction not a different sort of reading lesson. In my view schools need to adopt a curriculum framework that everyone will use with all students. This includes remedial, special education and ELL teachers.

PD: In your presentation you mentioned that most principals don't know what effective teaching looks like. What does effective teaching look like?
RA: You walk into an effective teacher's classroom and you see kids working and smiling and talking to each other. Rarely do see two kids doing the same tasks or reading the same books unless they chose to partner up. For instance, the effective teachers in high-poverty schools we studied most often had 100% of kids actively engaged in productive school work. Across the hall, in the classrooms of the teachers the principals recommended we observe at any given time one-third of students were not engaged in any productive work.
I'll recommend that interested parties read the two books we wrote on the effective 1st and 4th grade teachers. Each book has a chapter length summary describing 6 different effective teachers. While their classrooms were hardly cookie cutter images of each other what they shared, besides producing high-achievement, was fairly common. Fairly common in these classrooms but rare events in typical classrooms.

PD: You said that most schools over diagnose students with learning disabilities.
How many students on average should be labelled with a disability and why do you
believe schools over diagnose?

RA: I don't believe there are any children with this mythological affliction labeled LD. I think what we have learned in the past two decades is that there are some kids teachers give up on and then largely ignore. These kids get labeled LD. So for a total of how many students have an actual disability, I'll go with 3%. That pretty much covers all the severe disabilities (blindness, deafness, severe mental impairment, etc.).


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Busy busy BUSY!! Story of our lives, right?

Hey teacher friends!

Life has been uber busy for this teacher!  This past week my husband and I spent a lot of time with our family- first visiting them in Virginia and Ohio, then my parents came down to Savannah to stay with us for a while.  Then yesterday I threw a tailgate wedding shower for my lovely friends, Morgan and Drew at the Georgia vs. South Carolina game!  More to come on traveling, tailgating, and of course the part that is consuming my life right now- packing up for Spain! 

Martina from The Hungry Teacher, and I, were hoping to share our final installment of our series about Co-Teaching today, however we both need a little more time to pull together our interviews- life certainly has caught up with us recently!  So we will be back next week in order to share our parent and student interviews about Co-Teaching, with y'all!  Please be sure to stop by!

Monday, September 2, 2013

September Currently!

Can you believe it's September?!?  Holy cow.  This is the month we embark on our big teaching adventure in Spain.  I cannot believe it.  We are so excited and just ready to be there, sharing the adventure on my blog with all of y'all!

I'm linking up with Farley over at Oh Boy 4th Grade to join in her Currently Linky!   Be sure to check it out and join :)

Listening... to my family chat and drink coffee.  My aunt and uncle and cousins are visiting from all over.  They're talky, and I'm just sitting back enjoying it. 

Loving... that we're going to a red's game today!  We're in Cincinnati staying with my family for the long weekend.  I love Cincinnati!  It's where I grew up and I am a red's fan for sure.  My parents are taking my hubby and me to a game today!  Hooray!  Let's hope for a win against the Cardinals :)

Thinking... I'm ready for a good salad and lots of fruit.  I dearly love my family, but we sure do eat and drink a lot when we're together!  It's about time for some veggies and a cleanse perhaps... Anyone have some good suggestions?

Wanting... to fly home instead of driving 12 hours tomorrow.  Cincinnati to Savannah is not a very fun drive :)  I love the car time with my hubby and we're working on our Spanish by listening to some cd's.  12 hours is a lot of Spanish time! 

Needing... coffee.  Refer back to "thinking".  I need lots and lots of coffee today :)


1)  We need to find a home in Spain this month!  I hope that by our next Currently, I'll be comfortably writing from a café or a little studio apartment in Mallorca.  *Fingers crossed*

2)  Before we move, the house must get boxed up and the suitcases must be packed... by far my least favorite part of any move, right?? 

3)  Wedding thank you cards must be finished before we leave.  I'm not trucking my stationary all the way to Spain.  Cannot, will not.  No biggie- only 70 left to write...

Now go link up with everyone else!!  Be sure to follow me on Instagram for lots of Spain pictures, Facebook for quick updates on our move, and of course, BlogLovin' to follow everything that's happening in our crazy lives right now! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Raffle WINNER and Part 4 of our Co-Teaching Series!

Happy Sunday friends!

I am SO excited to announce the winner of our $25 TpT giveaway!  Congratulations Laura R!!  Be sure to check your e-mail for your prize!  And make sure you stop by Laura's blog to see all about her experience teaching grades 3-5!! 
The super amazing Mrs. Cahill and I are back to present part 4 of our co-teaching series- Making It Count. 

Seriously, as if you don't know this already, having a student teacher can be such an amazing process.  Utilizing another body in the classroom can be so much more than the basics.  When I went through my student teaching, I was definitely not utilized to the best of my ability.  I don't think it's because I was unwilling or my mentor teacher didn't want me to help out.  I just think neither of us knew how best utilize my time in the classroom.  After my mandatory teaching time, I helped out here and there, did DRA's & Dominie's, and helped manage the classroom.  But it was nothing like what Mrs. Cahill did in our classroom.  Compared to Mrs. Cahill, I didn't do anything.  At all.

Like I mentioned last week, as soon as Mrs. Cahill finished with her mandatory student teaching time, we started looking at data.  Using pages very similar to these- we would use standards based assessments and would input each standard into the top part of the page and then while looking at the assessments, take notes on how well students grasped each concept. 

From there we would form groups.  Kiddos that more than grasped the concepts, would even be "grouped".  From there Mrs. Cahill got to work.  {She got to work... and let me plan, plan, plan and do my teacher thang.  Again, she's totes awesome}

During math workshop time, she would pull a small group for 10ish minutes and present a little mini lesson {on top of what I had already done} and then give them a math game to play that correlated to her mini lesson.  If we didn't have a game, she made one.  She even pulled 6th and 7th grade lessons and began challenging other groups.  Like we stated last week, we would reassess ever six weeks and regroup.  We tracked growth by using small pre and post assessments.  Mrs. Cahill did all of the tracking and grouping and planning.  All I had to do was continue my lesson planning.  And like we also mentioned before- she saw growth and progress out of all students.  It. Was. Awesome! 

I still pulled my own groups and continued my own interventions and differentiation- but by allowing Mrs. Cahill to focus on these groups- she was able to do more.  More than I would ever be capable of doing!  I am not ashamed to admit my short comings!  By having Mrs. Cahill in the classroom, so many kiddos were able to learn more, get gaps filled in, and just genuinely grow.  Thank goodness for Mrs. Cahill.  I wish I had been able to add as much to my student teaching classroom as she added to ours.

Now go on over and check out her blog at The Hungry Teacher!!  I promise you'll love her :)  And be sure to stop by next Sunday for our last post of the series.  There will be some giveaways to look forward to!!