Thursday, April 23, 2009

Get to Know Laura Edwards

Laura Edwards recently joined Chet’s Creek to help safety-net the 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade ESE classes. She couldn’t be more excited to finally have a place to call home after two years of constant moving. Being the wife of a Navy helicopter pilot, Laura has come a long way from Lubbock, Texas where she went to school at Texas Tech University. There, she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development and Family Studies and went on to earn her Elementary Educator Certificate through Texas Tech’s Graduate School.

Shortly after finishing her teaching internship in Corpus Christi, Texas, Laura and her husband A.J. were transferred to Milton, Florida where she tutored children of military families. They were then transferred to Mayport, Florida in mid-June 2008. Laura immediately began looking up the local elementary schools’ ratings and websites. It wasn’t long until she stumbled upon Chet’s Creek’s homepage and just knew it was where she had to be. Unable to get a full time teaching position so late in the summer, Laura began substitute teaching around Duval County. Thanks to Julie Middleton, Laura picked up a few sub jobs at Chet’s Creek. Meeting the wonderful students and amazing teachers further solidified Laura’s desire to be a part of such a special family. With the help of Debbie Rossignol, Laura secured an introduction and interview with Mrs. Phillips, and the rest is history!

Laura enjoys spending her free time with her husband, A.J., and her Australian Cattle dog, Scout. She also has a passion for watching movies and reading. When she and A.J. can get away, they enjoy camping or visiting friends and family. Laura and A.J. recently took a trip to Disney World for spring break where they traveled around the world at Epcot. Laura hopes to one day actually visit some of those countries. But in the mean time, she will enjoy her virtual adventure around the world at Chet’s Creek!

It’s been a long road, but Laura has finally earned the title, “teacher” (even if it is just part-time ; ). She couldn’t be more thrilled to start her journey here at such an amazing school. Mostly she looks forward to building relationships with the wonderfully talented team of teachers and the caring and enthusiastic students at Chet’s Creek Elementary.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dealing with End-of-Year Stress

A new teacher recently told me that she had been hearing about how hard the end of the year is- "doom and gloom" I think she called it! She wondered if teachers who have been through it might give her some suggestions. Well here they are!

I know that this may be so logical that it does not warrant writing, but having a large paper calendar helps me stay organized. I also have a copy on my laptop on my desktop.

I would also recommend checking in with veteran teachers about the meaning of certain instructions. Ask tons of questions. Measure twice. Cut once!

Keep your kiddos busy with meaningful work right up until the last moments of school. Behavior issues will not escalate if kids are engaged. In 5th grade, behavior can become an issue quickly. Something about idle hands and minds.....
Thomas R. Ruark, 5th Grade Teacher

When you first receive your end of the year packet, your heart will race, and you will panic. This is normal. It happens to everyone. After a minute of panicking take a deep breath and take it day by day. As you complete a day or week mark it off. Write everything on your calendar so nothing is a surprise. If there is something there you don't know what it is, ask your mentor or office mate. Try to enjoy the end of your first year of teaching. Think back to the first day and remember how excited you were. Now think of everything you have learned this year. You should think about all the lessons you learned the hard way, the parents you pissed off, now think of the children you have touched. You made a difference! Try to stick to the deadlines and don't get behind and everything will be done by June 6th! Don't Worry!!!
Michelle Ellis, Kindergarten Teacher

It is a stressful time of year but a wonderful time of celebration. Susan has mentioned the "Fish" book and I think if those goals are kept in mind everything falls into place. Imagine a workplace where everyone chooses to bring energy, passion, and a positive attitude to the job every day. Imagine an environment in which people are truly connected to their work, to their colleagues, and to their customers.
Loving every minute of it.....
KK Cherney, Media Specialist

As a new teacher, the end of the year is a completely overwhelming time. I can remember thinking to myself last year, 'will this ever end?' The answer is, yes! And after it's all said and done you have a huge sense of accomplishment, you are drained in every way possible, but you know you got it done. If I can offer any advice to my fellow newbies, it would be this... There are two important things to remember as the end of the year draws near: 1) Try to take things one at a time. As teachers we are natural multi-taskers, but it makes a huge difference when you do something and can check it off your list, rather than starting twelve projects and not finishing any of them in a timely manner. 2) Remember that you can always ask for help. As a control freak, I tend to forget that there are people out there who care and want to help. I am one of those people who go into lock down mode and try to figure things out on my own, but I've realized that it's ok to need people and to ask for a hand out of the hole.
Rachel Happ, Kindergarten, 2nd year teacher

Make a list of everything....prioritize it....then do a little each week
**everyone is different...don't worry about what "veteran teachers" are doing
**if your worried about a "due date" talk to someone you trust and have him/her help you prioritize those ones with "due dates"
Victoria Groves, 1st Grade Teacher

Once you get the final checklist, map out and schedule in your planner - when to do everything. Some of the things can be checked off and done early like furniture inventory. There will be things you can't do until the last day so it helps to plan out those 'final days' and not feel tied down because the list is so long. Another tip is to do CUM folders ASAP. It is very tedious and you don't want to make an error. It is better to get that done first. You'd be surprised if you take a few tasks a day how much you'll accomplish. I also printed labels for the CUM folder sheet that gets inserted in. This saved time instead of handwriting them all.
Denise Evanko, 2nd Grade Teacher

To save time...type comments for yellow cards on small labels. Most people can type faster than they can write. Huge time saver!!
Ashley B. Russell, 3rd Grade Teacher

The PE Department is going to make our end-of-the-year so much easier this year by having their Play Day the last week of school so we don't have to plan a huge outside party event. Thank you for that wonderful gift!

While it might seem easier to put in a video and get your work done, the truth is that it's easier to keep the routine as near to the same as possible until the very last day. If you start moving and cleaning and watching the cartoon marathon weeks before the end, the children will sense that it's all over and you'll find yourself miserable. It's hard to get a class back once you let them go!

Use Susan's end-of-the-year packet as your bible. Go through it as soon as you get it and complete the things that you can. Mark each due date on a calendar to make sure you don't miss anything. Take some time with the yellow promotion cards and really try to get every one right. It's a teacher's first impression of each child and teachers return to them over and over. Also take some time with the Principal's Survey because, believe it or not, the Leadership Team goes over every suggestion and comment as they reflect and plan for the new year.

Make sure to ask a veteran teacher how they close out the end of the year. What do they do special for their students? How do they honor the Homeroom moms who have helped all year? Do they do anything special for the custodians? You might decide that it's all too much for you, and if it is, just acknowledge that and go on. After all, the vets have had years to figure all this out, but they do have hints for saving time and through trial and error, may have found some things that really make a difference.

The end of the year can get very frantic, but I think the thing to remember is that these are the last few days that you will spend with this class of children that have become like family. It will be your last chance to let them know how special you think they are. Let's face it, they won't care if you get the furniture inventory in on time, but they will care what you say to them the last few days. They, or their parents, will save those little end of the year awards or nice notes and postcards that you send. My daughter, Courtney, and I just took out letters that both her fourth and fifth grade teachers wrote to her on the last day of school (They both hand wrote a letter to every single student - still amazes me!) It meant so much then and it means even more now! Make sure to give each of your students something to remember about their special year with you - something to sustain them throughout the summer. You'll be glad you did!

Dayle Timmons, Special Education Teacher

Just smile and stay as calm as possible...take one day at a time. Lynn Patterson, 3rd Grade Teacher

Thursday, April 2, 2009

To Loop or Not to Loop

In trying to decide what to do next year, a younger teacher asked me recently about the pros and cons of looping. She suggested that I ask the faculty because many of them have done several loops... so I did. Below are some of their thoughts. Please feel free to add your own comments.

Haley Alvarado, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
I think that there are WAY more pros than cons to looping. One of my favorite aspects of looping is that you get to know your students so much better because you are able to develop a deeper relationship with them and also their families. I think parents feel much more comfortable the second year. The second year you do not have to begin at square one, you have a lot of information from the previous year about each student and you can pick up where they left off and do not have to waste a whole lot of time assessing them again. MANY of the students that I have looped with, I still am in contact with them and their families. I LOVE LOOPING! I think that it has helped me to grow professionally and also to make a bigger impact not only academically with my students but also personally, socially, and emotionally!

Meredy Mackiewicz, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
In the second year you are able to actually start teaching the first week- you know the students and where they are academically and can jump right in instead of having to get to know a whole new set of little people and how they learn. You also already have the parents trained for the following year:) They know you and know what to expect. They also know each other and they seem more comfortable the second year. Parents will also help you get ready for the next year! It is also really great for students who are shy or have a harder time making friends- they really come out of their shell the second year! Students are more comfortable and confident to take risks in class- such as sharing more, presenting in front of the class, voicing their thoughts and concerns in class meetings, talking out issues with friends, etc. They also know and respect each other. They already know how to treat each other the way you expect them to. The personal/emotional/social growth you see in them over 2 years sometimes exceeds the academic growth! You also have an awesome opportunity to really help them become good, cool little people. After 1 year you can just hope they remember some of the values you taught them but after 2, it really becomes a part of who they are:) Another perk is that the class practically runs itself with your rituals and routines soon after the second year starts! I also think behavior in general is less of an issue the second year because the students and parents know what to expect and have already tried all their tricks with you!

Debbie Harbour, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
1. You really get to know your kids
2. You can take them where they need to go and beyond
3. You only can blame yourself if they are not prepared for the next year
4. You can start teaching the second day of school because they know you and your expectations - and you know them!
5. Don't have to work extra hard to impress the parents - they already know and love you
6. You know their strengths and weaknesses
7. You know what to expect from their home lives

Julie Johnson, Kindergarten Teacher (who also offers a parent’s perspective)
I have a few opinions as a teacher and a parent. I think looping is fabulous for the child... especially in the younger years. At a young age a teacher/child relationship is VERY IMPORTANT to how they learn. If a child feels comfortable and safe, they will learn and love to learning. I believe that the child and the teacher know what to except going into the next year. The set up time goes smoothly because you know which small groups each child needs to be in for reading groups. You know which children work best together and which one don't. Also, the children know each other well and know where they work best as well.

Lynn Patterson, who looped a Second to Third Grade class
There is the obvious advantage of hitting the ground running in the second year!

Christy Constande, Intermediate Teacher who has done several loops
I think the biggest advantage to looping is that you know the student so well. There is no lost time when they enter your room for the second year. You know right where they left off academically, socially, and emotionally. The students know your rituals and routines. No time is lost introducing those, they have already been established. Teaching time is maximized. You also have established a relationship with the parents. Education is a two way street between home and school, and to have that bond and rapport is wonderful. I love looping. Plus, it gives you another year to educate and learn from the little ones you only had for one year.

KK Cherney, Media Specialist
Continuance of service, comes to mind. I love that the learning continues without weeks of rituals and routines reviewed over and over. Having the relationship piece in place prepares one to take more risks.

Melanie Holtsman, Instructional Technologist who did several loops as an ESE and General Education teacher
Already know those parents and have developed relationships/trust
Already know kids
You become a better teacher of both grade levels because you understand the connection
You don't waste any time with rituals/ routines the second year
Always better scores!

Haley Alvarado, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
I guess some of the cons could be that you do have to learn another grade level and new curriculum. However, once you do, you become such a better teacher because your understanding of how far they need to go academically helps you teach more purposefully. Also, if a teacher was not able to ignore bad behavior from the previous year or had a personality clash with a student or parent, this would not be good to bring that into the second year. Each student needs somewhat of a clean slate going into the next year without a whole lot of assumptions about how they behave. Thankfully, if a teacher absolutely doesn't think that they would be the best for that child, they or the parent can opt out for the following year:)

Meredy Mackiewicz, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
I would say the pros way outnumber the cons but....looping requires a little more organization to make sure you don’t do the same holiday crafts, activities, etc. the second year (remembering what you do year to year is tricky sometimes!) Sometimes with lopping by mid/end of the second year some students really start clashing- they have been with the same kids for so long that more problems seem to come up. You have to be very good about changing seats and being aware of the same kids always being together and mix up groups/clubs/tables often (may also have to mix up some parents during events/ field trips/volunteering/etc if they get too comfortable too!) You also have to mix things up to keep things new and exciting for the next year so it’s not the same old, same old- like rearranging the room so it looks different, adding new responsibilities and privileges, adding new books to your library, different systems, etc.

Debbie Harbour, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
1. By the end of the second year you are ready for a change of kids
2. You never do the same thing you did the year before - by the time you go back to that grade level things have changed.
3. You miss some of the kids greatly after having them for two years

Julie Johnson, Kindergarten Teacher (who also offers a parent’s perspective)
A down side may be that the children do get too comfortable and know each other way too well. Some children need a new teacher to learn in a different way.

Melanie Holtsman, Instructional Technologist who did several loops as an ESE and General Education teacher
You may be ready for something new
Not knowing what goes on with the grade level curriculum in the grade the year you're not there
Needing material/books for both grades

Lynn Patterson, who looped a Second to Third Grade class
Sometimes I've found that you don't necessarily challenge students to stretch their weaknesses...sometimes since you know them so well, you cater to their strengths.

Dee Dee Tamburrino, Music Teacher
From a resource perspective, I have noticed that the students become very comfortable with each other and because they have been together so long, begin to treat each other like family - not much of the "good," and too much of the "bad and the ugly." In our families, we say whatever we want to each other knowing that our ugliness towards each other will be forgiven because we are family. It doesn't work quite the same way in the classroom. I feel that the negative behaviors increase the second year because the students are so comfortable with each other. They are more physical and definitely more verbal with each other. They react to situations as a sister or a brother would; not necessarily as a friend or playmate would. Some of the "reverential" respect that normally occurs between teacher and student is lost. The teacher has to concentrate on distancing themselves to maintain the balance. If it were up to me, I would not allow classroom teachers to loop with their kids more than once (ie: K-1). From my vantage point as a resource, my experience has been that it seems to work best within the primary school.