Mother’s Day

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I used to say that my mom knew everything but dinosaurs.

I get that I was wrong, but in some ways, I was also right.

My mom is one of the most courageous woman I have ever met.  Or probably ever will meet.

A lot of people would say beautiful, and my mom is beautiful, but she’s also beautiful because of her courage.

What I’m learning as a teacher and as a human being, a lot of great parents are that much greater because they didn’t exactly have a fluffy upbringing.  My mom is no exception, but it’s not my place to discuss any of that.

Anyways…

But all that she has been through and all the choices that she has made, makes her incredible.  There really are no words for that.

She was a teen bride and mom (yes in that order), and because it was what you did back then, she didn’t finish school.  By the time she was the age that I am now, she had two kids and had gotten divorced.  That’s a lot to handle at 25, and I struggle with balancing my work and home life WITHOUT the kids factor.

She married my dad and they built their lives up together.  I, of course, am grateful when they had me.  Five and a half years later, they had the baby, and ensured that she would be the last.  There were sixteen years between the oldest of us and the youngest.

Five kids.  Three teenagers with a 5 year old and a newborn.

Just picture that for a minute.  I mean we are all pretty cute but you can only be so cute when you’re a teenager and an older toddler and a newborn.

It was around that time that my dad started traveling more with work.  They made it work and he was an incredible dad.  But my mom was home a lot with us.

Despite the fact that she had a baby at home, my mom never missed an awards ceremony.  She was my taxi when I started doing activities outside of school.

When my brother and I would get home (different times since we’re 7.5 years apart), we would sit and have conversations about our days.  She taught me to be in the practice of doing my homework immediately when I got home.  I would sit and talk to her while I did my homework and she cooked dinner.

Those moments are still some of the most important ones of my life.

When I started playing soccer and came home in the dark after practice, my dinner plate was always made and in the microwave or in the oven, waiting for me.  She never missed a game, even though there were days that it felt like 100 degrees.

At the end of summer when my siblings and I would screw up our sleep schedule, she would force us into bed the last week at a reasonable time just to make sure that we would be able to get up in time by the first day.

Every night before a big test, first day of the school year, or any recital, she and my dad would tuck me in.

In middle school, when my friends lived in “BF Egypt” as she called it, she still went and picked them up for the movies and such.

When I started high school and I never was home because of extracurriculars and my part time job (which felt like full time then), it never failed that dinner was waiting for me.  She would come talk to me as I got my dinner and homework out, and then leave me to work for the next few hours.

When my dad traveled, there would be nights (almost always a Thursday) where she would take my sister and I to Barnes and Noble.  We would be allowed to pick two books to read and we would eat dinner at Starbucks.

I remember this particular summer, my mom picked up the supposed reading list for an average ninth grader.  My mom made me read Animal Farm and The Lord of the Flies and discuss it with her.

School was incredibly important to her and the day that I graduated high school, I don’t think I ever saw her happier.  I could tell that her heart was swelling with pride.

The morning I left for college was rainy because a tropical storm was hitting my hometown.  She couldn’t come with my dad and I, so I had the pleasure of saying goodbye to her at home.  I say pleasure sarcastically, because if you’ve ever moved away from your mom, you know it’s one of the hardest moments of your life.  She knew I was doing the right thing going to my dream school even though it was 5 hours away, but it hurt her more than it could ever hurt me.  I cried for two hours straight after saying goodbye.

When I would come home and just not want to leave, she would gently remind me of my dreams.

The day I graduated college, she rejoiced with me as I walked across that stage.

Every major moment I’ve ever had, I’ve shared with my mom.  I share it all with her because so much of who I am comes from her.  I’m a spitting image of my dad and I have a LOT of his personality traits, but every thing that makes me a woman comes from her.

My mom is something that I can only wish to be later on.  She is self-educated, honest to a fault, fiercely loyal of her children, and resilient.  She is a warrior and you only have to spend a few minutes with her to know that.  She not so silently guides her children in the right direction, no matter how much we fight her.

Most of you don’t know my mom, and that’s okay.  I just wanted to put my memories of her here.  Honoring her with words.

This year she becomes a first time grandmother to a baby girl.  Actually in a few weeks.  My niece is the luckiest little girl in the world and she doesn’t know it yet.  But she will.  She will see and with any luck, that warrior spirit will be in her too.  The world needs more warrior women like my mom.

Mama, I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, but especially my mama!

multimedia: “rigged game”

There are no words to how true this is

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In this 2013 video, a high school student by the name of Dylan Garity exposes current education culture in a slam poetry piece made for SlamMN, a Minneapolis,Minnesota based slam poetry competition. With this poem he made it to the national poetry slam in Boston,MA. Dylan expresses his contempt about education being a rigged system, where only the ones handed a rule book in their own tongue are expected to succeed, teachers have their hands tied behind their backs, and school board leaders tell children it is THEIR fault if they cannot find a way out of the education rut this country is in.

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Students Making Their Statements

Amazing!!

Liz Layton - Author

With an overly tested K-12 student population and testing season in full swing, many students across the United States are turning their perceptions about these testing requirements into amazing videos. Many federal and state education programs are leaving students to feel as though their creativity, intuition, perseverance, and dedication are not important assets within their education skill set.

Student Views

Students in a media class at Washington Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico produced their own video to show how they truly feel about state testing scores.

Getting Past the Low Scores

Adults that were once considered below average by their state mandated tests scores are speaking out against the limitations and lasting negative affects of these tests. Kumary Sathy created a video about his personal story of overcoming a 40% state standard rating.

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Standardized Testing

Let’s get real for a minute.  Let’s talk the dreaded words: STANDARDIZED TESTING.

Cue ominous music.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or neither, you need to realize that we as an American society are in grave danger.  We have become completely obsessed with standardized testing and the results that come from them.  Our education system is drowning with standards and producing positive results.

Need proof?

What about those teachers who just were sentenced to JAIL because they were holding cheating tests parties??

Look at Common Core.  Just look.  Don’t understand it?  Neither do the teachers.  Seriously.  I get hives just trying to read it.  And I’m a TEACHER.

Students of all ages are beyond over it.  Need proof of that too?

Every single junior at a high school in Seattle refused and boycotted their standardized tests.  Every single one.  What does that say about the test they are supposed to take?

Let me give you an example.

A student with a 3.9 GPA that has been in advanced classes since middle school.  She’s in tenth grade and in Pre-AP Language Arts.  She goes to take her state standardized test and receives 4 points above a failing score.  She has historically done terrible on tests because she gets massive anxiety and can’t function.  She is then told that she may need to be put in intensive reading next year because of her score.  At the same time as AP Language Arts.  Is there something wrong with that to you?

That girl went on to graduate with honors and receive a scholarship to attend Florida State University.  That student is me.  At the same time that I was reading Anna Karenina for fun, I was almost put in intensive reading.  Not because I couldn’t read; but because I couldn’t test.

There is a HUGE difference.

I had a problem with standardized tests then, but now, it has taken on a whole new meaning.  It has taken on a whole new form of evil.  There is nothing good coming out of something that is causing anxiety, physical symptoms, and tears from students.  What is it accomplishing?

The tests are not only ridiculously hard, but they make no sense.  As the video above says, there are times when the question itself doesn’t make sense.  I have a friend who teaches second grade.  On a practice test (in Florida), it asked what word best describes the feeling of when a subway is going under your feet?  Ummm…how is that Floridian who barely knows what closed toes shoes are supposed to answer that?  Ask that question in New York; absolutely.  Florida though?  Really?  That’s like asking a kid who lives in Oklahoma City what the ocean smells like.

There is nothing more heart wrenching than watching your students give up on their standardized test before they even walk in.  Their mentality is, “I’ve failed before.  Why will I pass this time?”

They spend hours a day testing.  Hours.

People, we need to take a stand.  We need to shout NO MORE.

Teachers, we know our students.  The business people that make these tests DON’T.

They don’t know that Susie’s mom died a month ago and she’s still traumatized.  They don’t know that Anthony can’t take an exam next to Paul because they play.  They don’t know that putting a girl who has been sexually assaulted by a man in a classroom with a male teacher is NOT going to result in good test scores, even though she has a high school reading level.

They can’t possibly know our students.  They don’t know how much time and effort it takes to gain their trust.  They don’t see when they come into our classrooms and lives, dejected, rejected, their self-esteem about as tall as Tom Thumb.  They don’t see it.  Why are they the ones deciding about our testing?

Why have we let this become our lives?

I want America to be the best.  I’m a very competitive person.  I want to see my students succeed.  But frankly, I don’t think that testing is going to get us there.  I think that it’s time to let the teachers be teachers.  We are not monitors for testing.  We are not human proctors.  We are teachers.  We have been made specifically for this.

Let’s look at the facts about standardized testing.

I’m not making this up people.  I am legitimately concerned about education and the future.  It is time to stand up and say something.

However, teachers are fearing for their jobs.

Teachers are not given job security until after test scores have been released.  But when you do this, you give a teacher a standard that may not be able to be met.  When pay is given to a teacher based on how a student tests, you are judging a teacher’s worth by one test and one day.  Is that one test the actual character of the teacher? (http://www.nea.org/home/36780.htm)

Think about yourself for a moment.  Picture you in a class with your siblings and/or friends.  Are you all exactly the same?  If you say yes, you are a liar.  What are your strengths?  What’s your learning style?  Can you memorize dates?  Are you a visual learner?  Do you need to do things before you grasp the concept?

These are the questions that I have to take into account when I teach my students.  No two of my students are the same.  Standardized testing makes teachers need to teach to the test and it makes the student suffer.  We as teachers will always lose at least one student if we are only teaching to the test.  You are taking away our creativity.

Not to be stereotypical or anything but I don’t know many school teachers who don’t love being creative.  We get giddy when we get new colorful pencils.  Glitter makes me act like a toddler.  New erasers that have SHAPES?  Oh my gosh, let me breathe.  We get excited about organizing and being creative with our students.  We love when we have one of those days where the students were engaged in the lesson and having so much fun.

You make me teach to that stupid test, I no longer can have fun.  My students are being stuffed with knowledge that they aren’t really learning.  Then they get nervous as the test gets nearer because the teacher is getting nervous.  It’s an endless cycle that gets worse every year.

The cost of living is not decreasing.  It’s increasing.  Then you make teachers compete with each other more so we can get more money and keep our jobs?  C’mon guys.

I’m not saying don’t hold us accountable.  We need to be held accountable.  It makes us make sure we are teaching what we are supposed to be teaching.  But there has to be a happy medium.

I am tired of watching my students come to me after testing and tell me it was too hard or didn’t ask anything they actually knew.  I’m a teacher and I’m tired of this.

Want to read more about the pros and cons of standardized testing?  http://worklife.columbia.edu/files_worklife/public/Pros_and_Cons_of_Standardized_Testing_1.pdf

A Reminder

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Friday morning started off like every morning.  There was nothing special about it except that it was Friday.  I got to work and was told that a teacher would be out, and at my school, we don’t have substitute teachers.  So we split the students amongst our own classrooms and pray for the best.  My mood deflated slightly because these days can be challenging to say the least.

The day started off really smooth.  I was shocked.  Third period had the potential to be daunting as I had some of the most challenging students in my class.

This period ended up being one of those moments.  One of those out of body experiences where you see everything and just smile.

I was working on some paperwork, Pandora was playing, and then it hit me.  It was quiet.  Quiet is never a good thing when you didn’t ask for it.  I looked up from my computer.

All fourteen students were working.  Silently.  All were engaged in their history textbooks.  I had a couple working on projects for World History.  Two were reading their books, and who can be upset at a student for reading?  My classroom was on task and clean.  They had kept everything organized.

I almost cried.

We had a rough week last week.  Problems were plentiful and it was draining.

But as I sat and looked around my class, I was reminded on why I chose teaching in the first place.  Why this is and always has been my passion, my love.

One student looked up and smiled at me, then went back to her work.  It made my heart soar.

Nothing could have knocked me off that cloud because in that moment, I was having a rare moment for a teacher.  We don’t get to have those moments where students want to learn.  Students were occasionally asking me to come help them with a question and they were eager for the answer.

When tomorrow comes and more than likely, I won’t have those moments again, I know I can cling to that one hour.  That one hour proves how influential teaching is and how much I love this job.

Teaching is messy, hard, tiring, draining, and completely wonderful.