Beliefs to ACTION Blog Hop: What Drives Me!

Beliefs to Action: A reflection on core education beliefs about relationship, parents, collaboration, failure, and technology.
Do you ever have one of those days? You know, the day in which you meet someone and you know you are made better because of it? The interaction or discussion leaves you changed and made better as a woman, teacher, or human being? Yea.  I know someone like that.  Her name is Whitney Alexanderson! She blogs over at With Love From Texas.  Y'all, seriously...she is not just ANOTHER teacher blogger.  She is the REAL deal.  I happen to be blessed to work with her day in and day out in fourth grade.  She is the cheerleader for our fourth grade team, and the students are changed by their time in her classroom! She inspires me big time! I hope you will follow her, she has A LOT to share!
When Whitney explained this opportunity for reflection to me, I was excited to participate and use it as a great way to dig deep on what I truly believe and energize myself before another fun and busy-filled year begins.  When crafting my beliefs I unpacked thoughts upon my experiences in education.  I call myself a hybird.  I have been a 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teacher as well as an elementary assistant principal for six years! So the hybrid in me sees many situation from the admin and teacher perspective.  Here is what I came up with as my SEVEN Education Core Beliefs.
Many of me core beliefs stand on their own, but there are a few I would like to share more about! 

No significant learning happens without a significant relationship! 
Relationships are KEY! I'm going to be brutally honest here, if you are in education and you don't care about building a relationship with students or parents, you are in the wrong place.  Kiddos flourish in places they feel safe and valued.  

Parents give us the best they have, and he/she walks through our door EVERY morning.
Don't miss this one, friends! It is easy to become frustrated by the little things in our teacher world each and every day.  Remember that these kiddos are the blessings from the LORD to a family.  Who knows the background on each child and family? Odds are, you probably don't! The family could have struggled with infertility for years and then THIS miracle happened! THIS precious miracle walks through your door every day! Open your eyes and hearts to the untold stories behind the kiddos in your class or school! 

TOGETHER, we are better!
It's not about the ONE, it's about the MANY.  Two heads are better than one.  There is no "I" in TEAM. Need I say more?

Failure is the best teacher.
This one is hard, especially for parents! Understanding that when we fail, we ARE learning! It's all part of the process! 

Last, but certainly not least is a quote from  George Couros, get over to his blog RIGHT THIS MINUTE! Great stuff!! Technology will not replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational! 

Thank you so much to Whitney for this awesome experience! It is now time for me to send you on your way to the next blog in this fabulous blog hop! another sweet friend of mine: 

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Parents AREN'T Reading Your Weekly E-mails {FIVE Tips To Get Them Engaged!}

I don't know about you, but one of the most frustrating things as a teacher can be continually answering questions about information that you have already sent out to parents.  Many times, we may even have communicated that information multiple times and through multiple mediums.  My team and I experienced this frustration last year and so we decided to do some self-reflection! I'm hoping that what we discovered will help you and your team as you are putting together your weekly emails or newsletters! 
Last February, I can across a post by Jennifer Gonzales, from Cult of Pedagogy. In her guest post on Corkboard Connections titled  Why No One Reads Your Classroom Newsletter, she laid out some great basic concepts that keep parents from reading our communication thoroughly! I encourage you to check out this post! 
I teach 4th grade, and while we don't have classroom newsletter, my team does send home weekly parent communication e-mails. After reading the blog post, we took some her ideas about the newsletters, discussed what was working for us and what wasn't, and revamped our e-mails! Here is what we have learned!
As teachers, there is never enough time in the day.  We work so hard. For most of us working harder is not an option...because we already DO! So, we need to work smarter!  If you collaborate with a team in building your weekly communication to parents, build it together in a google doc! Why waste time writing the items to remember in a notebook only having to retype it later on? Why write all your important info on sticky notes to remind you what to type later? Share a google doc with your team and as you have time, add to it.  Don't recreate or rewrite something that can be done only once! Work smarter!
Consistency is key here! The subject line of your weekly e-mail should be the same each week.  Let's face it, we are all creatures of habit.  We want to know what we are getting and how to expect it. Our parents are no different.  My parents knew that each Friday they would get a Fourth Grade Updates e-mail.  Send the e-mail on the same day each week.  We sent our weekly e-mails on Friday before we left for the weekend, that way parents knew what was up and coming for the following week.  Also, we found that if we sent more than one mass e-mail per week, parents were picking and choosing what parts of each e-mail to read.  Save your content and send it out in one finely tuned e-mail per week.
Keep the main point the MAIN POINT!  The main purpose for our mass e-mail communication last year was focused on academics.  We wanted to give parents a "peek at our week." This is the part of our e-mail that stood out the most. Notice I said PEEK...not everything! Those that want more info could click on our website links at the bottom of the e-mail.  Sure we included other school happenings and dates in our weekly communication, but we wanted parents to know the WHAT that was going on inside the classroom walls! Many other school events and dates are communicated through school folders, school call-outs, etc.  You can still include other information in your weekly email, but keep the focus on whatever content you have deemed most important.
Does your email or newsletter have too much clutter? Do you have too many graphics or are you restating the same information over and over? Although our emails didn't appear cluttered, we had A LOT of words. Even the bullet points didn't help that large clump of reading. YIKES.  Jennifer from The Cult of Pedagogy says, "If you want them to read your newsletter, write in columns."  She also discusses the importance of white space.  We took this to heart for our emails, too! Take a look! 

All of the tidbits above help to clarify the point that it's ALL about the AESTHETICS! If you take the time to plan out your weekly emails instead of throwing your thoughts and information together quickly, it will pay off! Ask yourself, would I want to read my own e-mail? Work towards a clear, concise, and consistent message to parents! 

What have you found that works well in your communication with parents? I'd love to know some of your tips and tricks!!


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Math and Reading STAAR Vocabulary

Whew! Here in Texas, and specifically in fourth grade, we are now two days down and two to go....STAAR, what a BEAST! I swear these days of active monitoring have me so tired! I know I was  the kiddos were so excited to be done with our two days of writing.

With our new math TEKS, having strong academic vocabulary is a must in being able to apply all that the students know. With only a couple of weeks before the math and reading STAAR, we have to keep moving and grooving and reviewing what we know. In order to keep the terms fresh with my kiddos, and because our new math TEKS are so VAST, I created a Quizlet folder for our 4th grade math vocabulary!

What?!! You don't know what Quizlet is, did I hear you right??! I am SO glad you stopped by! Quizlet is an online vocabulary hub! You can search for vocabulary lists already made by other teachers, or create your own Quizlet link for your own academic vocabulary! Here's a quick video of what Quizlet can do for your students!

Here is my math vocabulary folder! Hope you and your students find this useful!

 I teamed up with Whitney (yes, we are double the trouble...) over at From Texas With Love to also bring you 4th Grade STAAR Reading Vocabulary as well! Thanks, Whitney!!

What do you use in the last couple of weeks before your state test to review your students? I'd love to hear!!

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Love People

Let us never forget that building relationships and fostering community with others is our first and primary focus as educators. Kiddos scurry out of our classroom doors each and every day to sometimes trade a homework assignment for a myriad of challenges at home.  Your co-worker braved a half-smile all day as her marriage is crumbling around her.  The parent-teacher conference you had was filled with angry and spiteful words spewed towards you over a simple writing assignment.  We do not know what people carry.  We do not know what people hide.  Sometimes we see skeletons we may not understand ourselves.  Loving others when we have never been in their shoes is sometimes hard. DO IT ANYWAY.

When I look around my elementary campus, I am blown away by what my PEOPLE do for others.  I am inspired by the relationships my peeps seek out to strengthen.  I am challenged by the lives lived out around me and by the words, hugs, and sincere kindness by those all around! I love seeing educators being daily difference makers in the lives of  children and adults alike.

 Keep holding the torch of light and life for the littles in your room every day, friends! Continue to be you! Dare to be the "living, breathing, screaming invitation to BELIEVE in better things" for those around you. Let your smile light up the hallway; let your laugh be contagious.  Do it on the days you feel like it. But, more importantly, do it on the days you don't.

Love people. 

Above quote from Jamie Tworkowski


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Quality Work Alert: INSPECT what you EXPECT

You know that feeling.  You have spent hours or even days preparing a set of lesson plans you feel are so engaging for your kiddos! Heck, you even have pulled students into your planning to get their input on how you can make the lesson/assignment the best it can be! At the end of the day you decide to look through students' work.  It is at this moment you question if your students were even present for the lesson in your classroom? Were they in the same room, the same planet? You begin to question yourself on what language you must have been speaking:-)

 Have you been there? Oh, geez...I know I have.  I am here to make a bold statement today:  It is WORTH it.  What you have prepared, the lesson you collaborated on with your team, the lesson that another student helped you to develop IS WORTH IT.  Sometimes it is easier to brush off unacceptable work or think that there really isn't time to go back and have students redo their work or assignment. There is always time.  You may have to reallocate time, but I promise you IT IS worth it.  Whether students were to create and illustrate number lines in Educreations on their iPad, or work out five area and perimeter problems in their workbook...unacceptable work is just that, unacceptable.  Maybe your fourth graders wrote a whole "paragraph" without correct capitalization/punctuation, maybe a reading response journal was done too quickly and slopped down...don't be afraid to blow the whistle on unacceptable work! You know your students best, and it is easy at this point in the year to know when individual students are not giving it their ALL!

If you are assigning students respectful tasks/activities for learning, then you should INSPECT what you EXPECT! If students know that you expect their best work no matter what the assignment, they will rise to your expectations. Don't be afraid of having students redo work!

Here is a freebie to use with student work that needs another look! Feel free to run this on colored paper so it stands out! Staple it to the work that needs more work!  Two versions are available in this FREEBIE (with and without parent signature.)

Keep working on the work!


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