Five For Friday!

I am so excited to be linking up again with Doodle Bugs Teaching for their weekly Five For Friday linky!
My week started off with some fun news from another awesome teacher-blogger!  

I was featured by Bri at Knowledge Mobile for her Tuesday Teacher Feature.  I am a big fan of her blog and ideas, so it was a huge honor to find myself featured!  Feels nice to get a little love from someone you admire!  

This really set the tone for a great week!  I was even more excited when I remembered that Wednesday I was set to take the first personal day of my teaching career to go on a field trip with my kindergarten daughter!  

Taking a day off for a teacher is unlike any other profession.  Planning for a sub is a huge job, plus many teachers (including myself) feel incredibly guilty for being away from their after 11 years of teaching I finally took a personal day. 

It was a great time at the local Children's Theater!  The only downside...just a few short minutes after arriving back at my daughter's school she became sick.  Now my 1 personal day that I felt horrible for taking turned into 1 personal day followed by 1 sick day to take care of her.  Crazy times, but I won't complain about a little extra snuggle time with my baby!

The third part of my week that I am sharing now is a new product that I am super excited about.  While spending some extra time with my girls over Spring Break we spent a lot of time on rainy days playing board games.  One of their favorites is the "Headbands" games.  This gave me the idea of creating a "Headbands" style game for my students.  

I am excited for the results!  My students have always had trouble with inferential questions.  They do a great job with literal questions where the answer is directly stated in the story, but when they are asked to draw from the story and their own ideas to come up with an inference there seems to be a break down.  With this game students will work in partners (or it can be played in a small group or center) to practice.  Students will take turns putting a picture card on his/her head.  Their partner will then read the story/clue card that they will be able to use to infer what is on their head.  For extra practice and fun students can write their own story or clues to help their partners infer what is on their head.  Student response sheets and answer key are included to allow for student independence.  Great practice at a great price...just $2.00! Get your copy by clicking here.

Amidst all of this fun I had to give a good amount of time to something that was a little more tedious.  Next week my students will begin the end of year PARCC tests.  This meant that final plans for testing accommodations, test times, etc had to be made.  It is a huge job trying to figure out how all of our students on IEPs and 504 plans will be tested in the small testing window given, but I guess we are as ready as we are going to be!

My final fun project for Five for Friday is something I look forward to every year!  April is Autism Awareness Month and I enjoyed helping plan and take part in many special projects to celebrate at my school.  To start each student in our K-6 building (800 in total) contributed a small, decorated puzzle piece to create a huge puzzle mural to celebrate all of our unique qualities that join together to create one, awesome school family.  

The best celebration of the month, however, is our ending celebration "Bubbles For Autism."  All students and staff meet together on our playground and everyone is given bubbles.  After a heartfelt speech from a 6th grader we counted down and the air filled with bubbles.  Students and teachers alike could not help but smile at this beautiful, simple gesture.  All of our differences melted away as we enjoyed the freedom and beauty of this event.  It is a picture and a feeling that I will carry with me for the rest of my days!

It Really Is The Little Things

Surfing the internet right now you are sure to find many articles and rants about the many problems with the school system today.  From testing woes to teacher evaluation systems and the common core there seem to be many reasons why teachers are leaving the profession on a daily basis.  I feel these same pains and I understand your frustrations, but I am so glad that I had a reminder today from a student on why I love my job and would never leave.

I teach in an urban public school where 99% of our students receive free lunch and breakfast every day.  Many of our students are sent home with food bags in the evening as well because, for so many, school is the only place where they are fed.  We hold coat drives in the winter and see Children's Services in our school office on a daily basis.  Drugs, homelessness, poverty, abuse, neglect are all a part of daily life for many of our students.  At my school we are not just teachers to these students...we are counselors, their only means of medical attention, friends, a safe haven and, in the words of several of our students their "school moms."  We wear many hats and the stories that we could tell are enough to depress and cause outrage in even the toughest of individuals (my husband has asked that I stop talking about school at home because he finds it too depressing).  Through all of the grief and hard work, however, I have found more inspiration than I could have ever imagined.

Two years ago I was lucky enough to teach the toughest class I had ever had.  The "highest" students in this class were on grade level, but the vast majority of these students were performing at least 2 grade levels behind expectations.  Most had been suspended, expelled or frequently found themselves in the office.  I made a vow to myself that year that I was going to make it the best year I could.  I would greet each student with a smile and make a genuine effort into getting to know each student's needs and interests.  Much of the beginning of the year was spent on building trust.  Once that trust was built, however, amazing things happened.

In this class there was one particular student who had been kicked out of school more than he was in the classroom in years prior to when I had him.  At home, everyone he had known and loved in life had been taken away from him or abused him in some way.  He took care of himself as no one was ever home to care for him.  In the words of one of my favorite sayings at school he showed that he needed love in the most unlovable ways.  I made it my mission to reach this child.  That school year he read his first chapter book, earned his first "A" and felt like a success.  Fast forward 2 years and he is now a 5th grader.  I continue to work with him and serve as a mentor to him.  His family is in an even rougher patch than normal this year and he has been forced to move.  On his last day at our school he brought me a note explaining all that I mean to him and thanking me for all I have done for him.

Beyond my excitement in the fact that he took the time to write a well written 2 page letter, I was even more excited to have a student put into words the true importance of this profession.  A teacher's importance isn't measured in test scores, evaluation ratings or report card grades...a teacher's impact can only be measured when one truly examines the impact they make on the whole child.

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