Saturday, January 14, 2017

I DON'T love Lucy...(Calkins)

 Who doesn't LOVE Lucy, you might ask??? Me. Lucy Calkins, that is.

(Everyone LOVES the real Lucy!)

Lucy Calkins and Reader's/Writer's workshop has become something of a phenomenon. When I became an elementary teacher 6 years ago, after a decade as a middle school social studies teacher) I had never taught ELA before. I had no idea what to do. I was provided with a set of Lucy Calkins books.

You might be wondering what I have against Lucy Calkins, someone I assume is a wonderful person. I actually think reader's and writer's workshop is an amazing structure for teaching ELA. My problem with Lucy is that I believe there are numerous ways to teach any subject, and telling teachers to follow any specific program sells teachers and students short. I remember sitting in my classroom trying to figure out how the heck I was going to teach the most adorable fifth graders reading and writing. Every time I picked up a Lucy Calkins book...I wanted to throw up a little. I am not cut out to follow long narratives, or follow any kind of script. Becoming an elementary teacher opened my eyes to the limited autonomy that exists in our classrooms...particularly our elementary classrooms. There were no student materials to go with it. There were just lots of scripts and big ideas. I could see that there were missing pieces. And a lot of them.
There are a million great ideas in these books. But in order to be an effective teacher, you have to be able to adjust for your students and their needs. I remember being told that my mini-lessons shouldn't be longer than 5-10 minutes. And after that 10-minute lesson...everyone should be independent while I work in small groups. HUH? Nobody tells you that the second you tell 30 ten-year-olds to apply this new knowledge to their own "just right books" and work independently....they will have eight million questions.  Let me clarify something here...I have never had a classroom full of advanced level readers and writers. I have never had a classroom full of students that have all of their basic needs being met. I have never had a classroom where kids always have access to great books for independent reading. I have, however, had multiple classrooms full of kids with varying needs. The workshop structure is great for differentiating instruction...if you do it right and allow yourself to stray from the scripts whenever necessary. For me...that's all the time. But I hate scripts. I am a teacher. Not an actor.

I remember wanting to cry all the time. I was so frustrated with the lack of student materials and the lengthy narratives I was expected to make sense of each day in order to deliver my 10-minute-lesson and then magically have 30 independent readers while I work in small groups.

So how did I make it work??? I chucked LUCY and did what I knew to be right for my kids. I studied my standards. I learned every single one. I searched for great books for my kids. Developed my own materials. Wrote my own formative and summative assessments. Created a student-tracking system so that students could track their own progress. I taught. And I taught my heart out.

I thank Lucy for her contributions to reading and writing. But I'll do my own thing...thank you very much.

I went on the teach ELA for five more years. I became obsessed with creating kid/teacher friendly materials that could be used at various levels and were aligned to the Common Core standards. This year I was transferred out of elementary and am back in the world of middle school. But I MISS teaching ELA so much. I continue to create and develop materials that will help teachers to teach and support kids in their learning.

This is what I do to help teachers and kids to learn to read and write now. I'm Doc. And this is my shop. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Teacher Memes = SO FUNNY

Teacher memes rock. They always make everything better.

Teacher memes might just be the best inspiration for blog topics! This...This is just funny! It's seriously true. 

This one just made me laugh out loud. I don't know any teachers that don't feel a little bit like this (A LOT LIKE THIS) most days. We get up every day to go do a job that we set out to love. And we come home feeling like THIS! It feels a little bit like the Twilight Zone to me. When I first started teaching, in the mid-90's, I was given so much autonomy. I loved it so much. I taught in the inner-city, and was a girl from the suburbs. I didn't have much to work with, but I made it work every day. I ALWAYS went home exhausted, but it was the best kind of exhausted I can think of. Fast forward almost 20 years and it isn't really the "good kind" of exhausted anymore. My world of teaching was taken over by initiatives long, long ago. 

Are there other teachers out there that KNOW they could produce even BETTER test scores if everyone would just let them teach? I feel like begging sometimes. Please, stop this madness of crazy teacher evaluations and mandated professional development that may or not be valuable. Stop this frenzy of RTI-SIP-MTSS-PLC's-IST's-PBIS-Assessments-Interventions. Let me teach. 

Teachers seriously shouldn't feel like that every day. They're TEACHERS.  

Me? A Blogger??? I think not.

I am NOT a blogger! I am NOT A BLOGGER!!! Wait...I guess I am. Starting now.

Blogging has always seemed like something OTHER people do. People with cute stories and a need to share their thoughts with anyone and everyone that might want to hear them. It occurred to me this morning...I have LOTS of cute stories. I have some funny ones too. And some HOLY CRAP I CANNOT BELIEVE SCHOOL IS LIKE THAT stories. I also have quite a few things to say about the state of our educational system, and all of the people making decisions about teaching and kids that don't know a damn thing about teaching OR kids. 

Welcome to my first blog post. 

I am a teacher. 

I am a champion for kids. 

I am a nerd. 

I am incredibly obsessed with making sure we change the path we are on in the world of education and educate all kids. Equitably. I remember a quote I used to have hanging on my wall. It said, "Children are always the only future we have...teach them well." That really sums up my entire life. I am the child of educators. My sisters are teachers. My best friends are teachers. My heroes were teachers. I am 44-years-old and am still in touch with my 4th/5th grade teacher. And he is still one of my heroes. But teaching has changed. School has changed dramatically. Politics has infused itself in the educational process to a degree of absolute ridiculousness. 

I am not like most teachers I know. I love data. I align curriculum in my free time and I write formative assessments for fun. I have Excel spreadsheets with more data about kids than almost anyone I know. I love that stuff. I love using it to help my own teaching. I also love using my skills to help teachers that don't want to be curriculum/data/assessment nerds like me. They shouldn't have to be. NONE of this is what makes a teacher great. NONE OF IT. 

I am a teacher. I am a teacher that also happens to be a curriculum/instruction/assessment NERD. Because I am such a nerd, I am clear that the "hoops" educators are jumping through were designed very specifically to take the focus OFF of kids and teaching. The assessments developed likely line a politician's pocket. The punitive evaluation systems being forced on our schools are pitting teachers against each other. (Boy oh I have some stories for you!) I work in a district where we know ALL of the road blocks set up for us by the state and federal governments. And we choose to add as many extra hurdles as we possibly can. I work in a place where the fewer qualifications you have for a job in leadership, the more likely you are to get that job. When people who have never taught a class before are the very people telling you how to make your scores better (and we know this is all about test scores), and the evaluators have never taught a class are determining the effectiveness of teachers you have a big ol' problem. 

I haven't quite decided exactly what my blog is going to be about. But I know one thing for sure...I am gonna tell it like it is! Welcome to "Talk Nerdy to Me!"