Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Chris Van Allsburg Author Study

Blog Post Part 1

Well over 10 years ago I started an author study unit of Chris Van Allsburg books for my fourth-graders.  One of my colleagues, Shane, worked with me to refine this unit over the years.  Then I moved to third grade and had to leave it behind.  No big deal, for me it was a chance to create something new.  Then I came back to fourth grade after 6 years.  The level had continued to make tweaks to the unit while I was in third.  However, it no longer completely aligned to the updated standards, so back to the drawing board I went.

After several weeks of frantically trying to cram curriculum into the days where school wasn't closed due to snow/cold/etc, and trying to help prepare my students for the upcoming PARCC testing (which I would only do a minimal amount of because of principle), this was a needed day of enjoyment with my students.

It was Read the Most from Coast to Coast, and every student had a blast reading and answering questions about these great books!  Upon getting home that evening, my husband asked how my day was (which he always does) and for the first time in a while I replied, "Great!".  Here are a few pictures.  You can visit our classroom blog to see more.

Blog Post Part 2 - Warning, this will contain a lot of rambling!

It's been over a month since I've posted, over even kept up with reading blogs for that matter.  Somewhat due to the stresses mentioned earlier in the post, I pulled back from my usual rigor with school related things.  I did some serious soul searching to try to figure out what was going on.

What I realized was that the wonderful ideas I've been bookmarking, liking (or "heart"ing) to save for later were piling up.  Yet, I was unable to implement hardly any of them because of the time needed to complete other parts of my job that also have been piling up over the years.

Here are some things that now eat up my time, either at home or during instructional time, that weren't around 10 years ago:
  1. Standards-Based grade cards (this one counts as 10)
  2. PBIS
  3. RtI
  4. OTES (our new teacher evaluation system)
  5. SLO's (although I didn't have to write one this year)
  6. UDL????  Don't get me started on this one...

I'm sure I'm missing several other small details, but these are the biggies.  Now, most can't be controlled, as they are state mandated, but number 1 on my list...  That's a local decision.

I'll spare everyone my long list of problems with trying to assess over 60 students on 43 individual standards (in just ELA) with allowing every student multiple attempts to demonstrate mastery.  I can't do it well, AND find time to plan, prepare, and implement great new lessons.  I'm stretched, frustrated, and resentful.

Believe it or not, I don't mind the idea of report cards.  I like being able to communicate with parents about student progress.  But knowing that parents don't give our current grade cards much attention (some not at all!), and then thinking about the hours, HOURS, spent creating them...I'm just done.  If I'm in the same position next year and things don't change, well, I don't really know.

Blog Post Part 3 - Focusing on Me

I'm a hyper, high-energy person who needs a project.  School usually provides me with ample projects to keep me busy.  Yet, for the reasons mentioned in Part 2, I just haven't had the desire to go in that direction.  So I'm back to running.


Now, I've signed up for the half marathon, and am so glad I did.  For the first time in a while, running feels good.  In the back of my mind of been contemplating this as a springboard to a full marathon in Detroit in the fall.  If things keep going well, there's a good chance I will.

With focusing on a healthier me, comes eating better too.  We already eat pretty well at our house, but there's always room for improvement.  I bought the Runner's World Cookbook, amazing!  I've already made several things, and I hate cooking.


These muffins were my first success - and yummy!
 If you're interested, I highly recommend this book.  It's full of great recipes, and wonderful information about nutritional needs for runners.

Well, that's all for now.  I'm sure few people will read this to the end, and that's okay.  I needed to get back on the blogging-horse, and get a few things off my chest.  This entry was really for me anyways, but if you read it - thanks!