My Bucket Runneth Over

indexMrs. Klenke read “How Full is Your Bucket” today. If her intention was to inspire and motivate her learners to go forth and emulate, it worked. Emerson was so full of joy this afternoon telling me how we have GOT to start “filling people’s buckets.” What do we fill them with, I asked her. “Oh we have to fill them with love and kindness and encouragement. Some kids need to feel those things,” was her beautifully perfect reply. All this because of a teacher and a moment and a book.

Yall know I’m a sucker for a great teacher. At the end of the day, what I’m most concerned with, is NOT curriculum or state tests. I am most concerned with the life lessons my children learn. I am most concerned with the lasting effects my children are left with because of the love given to them from a teacher. I write this so that one day, we will remember, after we have forgotten.

Now, that Mrs. Klenke…. She’s a missionary!

 

Where is Your Mission Field?

Dustin and I are so blessed to have found an amazing church home here in Katy. One thing I appreciate about our pastor is that he is a true shepherd of his flock. He encourages his congregation to find their gifts, and then here’s where he differs from most… He actually fosters those gifts and passions. Matt Powell knew early on that my passion is to engage children through literature. I believe the first thing he said to me was, “So, is it safe to say you miss teaching?” He has asked me twice now to share my thoughts on his blog. I am grateful for his leadership and encouragement.

We meet in a school each Sunday. This past Sunday, he began worship calling for prayer and asking us to take a moment to pray for the teachers, administrators, and students that move through that building each day. One thing he prayed brought me to tears. He asked God to allow those teachers to see their job as a missionary. Teachers who are believers are missionaries… called to spread the love of God to the children sitting in front of them daily. I always considered myself in my mission field while I was teaching, but it never occurred to me to pray that other teachers would feel this way too. My prayers concerning teachers will be forever altered because of the prayers of my pastor.

Feeling blessed today. Sharing my thoughts via Matt’s blog today.

http://suburbiauncovered.com/leveraging-literature/

 

Reading, Writing, and Grammar: They’re ALL Important

For those of you who think Common Core isn’t affecting students, here you go. I have actually heard highly respected educators say that because the new standardized test isn’t focusing on grammar, then we as teachers don’t need to focus on it as much. It’s that “just do enough to get by” perspective. But, here is a different perspective. This woman took a stand. A big stand. And thank goodness there are teachers out there like her. Below are her words. She says so much throughout her blog that I’ve said before. I believe she and I would be fast friends if we were to meet.

I teach students how to write and how to write well. Grammar is the foundation of my instruction; I love teaching the logic and beauty of the written word. Not only do we analyze sentences for writing instruction, but we discuss authors’ grammatical choices to infuse deeper meaning into their writing. For example, in Oscar Wilde’s  The Picture of Dorian Gray, the sentence “He was brilliant, fantastic, irresponsible” breaks the item-in-a-series grammar rule. Without a conjunction, the three adjectives have equal weight. The man can be all three at once, which adds to the subject’s intrigue. Grammar instruction at this level teaches students that grammar rules can be broken, purposefully, adding depth to their writing.

It truly amazes me that I work with many English teachers who cannot see the connection between grammar knowledge and writing well; therefore, they refuse to teach grammar. If one stops with the parts of speech, the art of communication can never be explored. However, delving into the essence of thought–the two-part structure of subject and predicate–now that creates expert communicators. Yet, students have graduated from high school without knowing what those two things are. Their English teachers have done them a disservice. Who else but an English teacher can teach the beauty and importance of grammar?

I think we’ve all seen the consequence of that kind of thinking: T-shirts being manufactured with “Your the best!” printed on them; journalists confusing it’s and its; news anchors saying that the losers of a contest will receive “a nice constellation prize.” Our country has become functionally illiterate at increasingly higher levels.

To read more:

http://educationreformation32in32.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/to-be-or-not-to-be-a-teacher-the-architecture-of-the-classroom/

 

Mass Produced?

“They said she was timid and shy but had the courage of a lion. They were full of phrases like radical humility and quiet fortitude. What does it mean to be quiet and have fortitude? How could you be shy and courageous? [Rosa] Parks herself seemed aware of this paradox, calling her autobiography Quiet Strength – a title that challenges us to question our assumptions. Why shouldn’t quiet be strong? And what else can quiet do that we don’t give it credit for?”

“Take the partnership of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.: a formidable orator refusing to give up his seat on a segregated bus wouldn’t have had the same effect as a modest woman who’d clearly prefer to keep silent but for the exigencies of the situation. And Parks didn’t have the stuff to thrill a crowd if she’d tried to stand up and announce that she had a dream. But with King’s help, she didn’t have to.” – from  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Take it from a true introvert: finding your voice among all the publicly outspoken, wise, intelligent reformers out there today is intimidating. I do not claim to know it all. In fact, there are so many lines that are blurred for me amidst all of the differing points of view out there today. But I offer my opinions and thoughts as a modest sword to those who do want to take up this battle more loudly. If you are the outspoken voice who finds yourself on the actual steps of this fight,  I am the Rosa Parks to your Martin Luther King Jr.

I offer no profound insight that hasn’t been splashed on every social media outlet available. I only contribute what I have experienced as a mom and educator. A mom for seven years and an educator for twelve.

I believe one of the biggest battles we have on our hands today in regards to education reform is high stakes testing. It’s an issue I find myself wrestling with, simply because things are rarely black and white. The gray areas always confuse me. The devil’s advocate in me propels me to research BOTH sides of this fight. I have read and read and read from both advocates of standardized testing and proponents of the opt out movement. The advocates of high stakes testing would have us believe that we are doing an injustice by opting our children out. That these tests are invaluable to diagnosing the learned from the unlearned. But from my experience as a teacher, more harm than good comes from them. These numbers placed on districts, schools, principals, teachers, and students rarely (if ever) are used to help the child. And isn’t that why we do what we do? If the tests are a measure of student learning, then why are teachers going in their classrooms and shutting the door to do some secret test prep so that the scores favor her in the end? If the tests are a measure of student learning, then why are there students who excelled in the classroom all year but scored low on the standardized test? If the tests are a measure of student learning, then why are we not using the data the next school year to strengthen their individual academic weaknesses?

If you look for synonyms of standardized, you’ll see words such as make uniform, regulate, institutionalize, mass produce. Isn’t that scary? If we are truly meant to be differentiating instruction, how can one uniform standardized test measure successful knowledge? It’s a flawed system to say the least. There has to be a better way. I don’t want my children, or yours for that matter, “mass produced.” I don’t want our teachers feeling the pressured need to teach to a test because such high stakes are at hand. I don’t want our children missing out on the beauty of learning because it’s not a tested item or skill.

I’ll continue to read. I’ll continue to research. There has to be a better way. And by the way, if I hear the word “rigor” one more time…

 

 

Our Children Are Not for Sale!

And this is the book that the newly hired CCSS book approval committee says has too much violence. I say if you are going to hire people to approve another adult’s choice of books, at least hire people who read.

http://stirringthemind.wordpress.com/tag/wonder/

Let’s teach WWII without showing scenes of war. Let’s tell our students to stand up to bullies without showing them the proper ways. Let’s tell our teachers we don’t trust their judgement in the classroom. Let’s go to Google for our book reviews rather than addressing our concerns with the people who have read the books and taught the lessons. Let’s let them have the book Holes, by Louis Sachar, about a boy who enters a juvenile detention and is met with much violence, but dismantle their author study on Lois Lowry because it shows scenes of war. Let’s not worry about the themes of love, forgiveness, honor, bravery, and redemption that come from those stories. Let’s take away all passion, autonomy, and creativity from teachers so that they are left feeling angry and defeated. Let’s run out our best teachers. This is what top down political agendas will do to the future of public school education and it is such a shame.

Teachers don’t choose books to see how controversial they can be. Teachers choose the stories that give way to rich meaningful discussion within their classrooms, that will foster a love of learning, that will turn a reluctant reader into a lover of literature.

I’m still angry. And I pray that parents, educators, administrators, superintendents,  and students will join in the fight against the political games being played. Our CHILDREN are not for sale Mr. Gates!

 

CCSS Now Affecting Those I Love

This blog post today is specifically for the Madison County Public School District in Madison, Mississippi. As I sit at my computer this morning ready to fight for something worthwhile, I am shaking with disappointment. SO….

To Whom It May Concern:

I am no longer an employee of yours, but your state, town, schools, faculty, administrators, and students are very much still apart of my daily thoughts. Heart and soul is what I poured into your district for five wonderful years. I began my teaching career in Los Angeles, California, then moved to teaching in Tampa, Florida, and then ended in Madison, Mississippi. I read to my students every year whether I taught language arts, ancient civilizations, Mississippi history, social studies, or yearbook. And every year, it was the same book… which eventually became the same series. I had administrators in every school trust and encourage my passion for The Giver and the series surrounding it. The lessons, truly remarkable life lessons, that stemmed from those readings never let me down. I’m not going to push a book that I don’t feel is worthy of creating something magical for children. What this series accomplishes is nothing short of heart wrenching… in a good way. We even had our math teacher, Mel Lanke, so encouraged by this series that she took time to read it to her students in math. Any book that fosters such a love of learning can’t be dismissed.

Unfortunately, I hear that you are not approving this series for next year at Madison Crossing. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why in the world you would take away from teachers and students something that has proven itself to be instrumental in affecting the lives of students. Maybe you should walk the halls and interview or just peek in on the kids and teachers reading it and discussing it. Maybe you should reconsider for Common Core’s sake even. Aren’t we supposed to be engaging our students through complexity of text? Aren’t we supposed to be rigorously raising the bar on academic expectations? This series, along with Lois Lowry’s memoir and her Number the Stars was a year long author study that not only provided such great in depth conversations about the beauty in our lives, but it also allowed for such intellectual discussion on literary devices, recurring themes from an author, and really immersing one’s self into the world of an author.

I strongly encourage you to read the following blog posts that I wrote last year. I wrote my way through the year, journaling every wonderful moment with my students because of these books. I encourage you to not just read the posts, but the comments from students as well. We had teachers and principals from all over the district and state visiting our classrooms because of what we were doing with these books. Dare I say, you are wrong. You are wrong to take this away. I’d like to know if the committee that chose to disapprove this series has even read the series.

I’m not a fighter. But I do take huge stands in the world of education. I am passionate about teaching children through literature. I am passionate about instilling a love of reading in students who are reluctant. I am passionate about using emotion and inspiration to engage a child in my classroom. That is what this series does.  I am confident that the ones making this decision are unaware of so many things. How could they possibly know what these books have accomplished? What are they basing their decisions on? Hopefully not Google or some site that says that they are controversial. Because if that is the case, the decision makers are replacing trust in educators with ignorance. I do not apologize for this fight I find myself battling. This is exactly why people are fighting Common Core. Because, simply put, we don’t need non teaching adults to tell teaching adults what is and isn’t acceptable for the classroom. Top down politics are in play here and that is so disheartening. To assume the role of rule maker and lesson planner and book chooser without ever having read the book or taught it is, for lack of a better term, insane.

I’ve heard your reasons and with all due respect, they are misguided. As teachers, we can teach lessons about standing up to bullies or fighting for a belief. As teachers we can teach lessons about past wars and tragedies. But how do we do that effectively without the examples of war and bullying? Without examples of despair, how can we give hope?

Below are the links to my posts. Don’t walk away from this decision until you have read them. If you do, you are doing a disservice to the wonderful teachers on the fifth grade team at Madison Crossing. More importantly, though, you are doing a disservice to the amazing young minds just waiting to bloom and blossom.

Sincerely,

Amy DuBose

http://stirringthemind.wordpress.com/tag/wonder/

http://stirringthemind.wordpress.com/tag/author-study/

http://stirringthemind.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/a-year-of-reading/

http://stirringthemind.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/its-all-coming-together/

http://stirringthemind.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/questions/

CCSS, High Stakes Testing, and the Fine Print

I’d like to preface my thoughts by saying how proud I would be to be a New Yorker this week. http://changethestakes.wordpress.com/

I am not opposed to standards. I am not opposed to assessment either. The problem lies, as always, in the fine print. When we initially began implementing Common Core State Standards, I said over and over that we were already doing everything the standards called for. In our classes, we were covering every standard we were being told to start implementing. I know this because in my classroom, I charted for myself and for my students a list of both sets of standards. I am a visual learner and wanted to see what was being covered throughout our year.With every Common Core standard I taught, I’d mark through it with a sharpie… then move right beside it and mark out the Mississippi State benchmark that aligned with it. By the end of the year, there wasn’t anything on one chart that wasn’t on the other It wasn’t because we were so far ahead of the game. It was because the main frameworks really weren’t that different. Both sets of standards, Mississippi’s benchmarks as well as Common Core, were giving the same skills to teach a fifth grader. Common Core proponents were selling it to us with the statement that this wasn’t a script of how and what to teach but simply a road map of where we need to be going. How we got there was left entirely up to us as teachers and schools. Again, no different than before. We were planning curriculum maps on our teams that were completely independent of any other school in the district. And, the other schools were doing the same. There were some great sounding words that came along with CCSS. Words like complexity of text, rigor, more in depth, adding more literature are words that very few people are going to argue aren’t worthwhile for our children. But weren’t we already searching for the best and most complex text our students could achieve success with? Weren’t we already holding our students accountable to high and rigorous academic standards? I think so. Was it happening in every school, in every classroom across the state? Of course not. But that will be the case with any school year… Common Core or not. So why do we need Common Core? My opinion lies in number 6 below.

But the fine print of Common Core is what people are upset about. There’s an uprising among parents and educators (although few educators are speaking out) simply for just a few reasons. We feel we have been manipulated, misguided, misled, and bribed.  Here are my questions:

  1. If educators, principals, and school districts are, after such a plethora of new information on the topic has emerged, still fully invested in going forward with Common Core State Standards, why not speak out about why? Why tell teachers to not give their opinions? Its a fact that teachers have been told to not speak out. It’s a fact that teachers have been told their social media outlets will be monitored. It’s a fact that entire groups of teachers have been told that they can look elsewhere for a job if they don’t subscribe to Common Core State Standards. Public silencing is extremely concerning to those who are looking for answers.
  2. Educational reform isn’t new. But the amount of uprising is. Never, in my years as a student or an educator, have I seen such turmoil and controversy surrounding a new implementation. Why is that?
  3. In regards to high stakes testing, who are we really evaluating? I promise you, its not the kids. I would hope that teachers and principals who have parents opting out their children would take notice in a big way. These parents aren’t against the school or the teacher. In fact, they couldn’t be more of an advocate. By choosing to opt their child out of high stakes tests, they are stating that their school, principal, and teacher can’t be judged by a number. They are advocating for true learning as opposed to learning for a test. These parents get it! They are brave! I am in awe of their educational courage.
  4. Do we really teach kids? Or are we teaching a test? When instruction is driven by what we know is tested, there are things that get shoved under the rug. And trust me when I say, the things that get shoved under the rug are the things we WANT our teachers teaching.
  5. Why is home-school and private school enrollment on the rise?
  6. Why is it not clearly evident that this is all about money? Bottom line.

Below are the Mississippi State frameworks for the year 2010 and the 2013 Common Core national standards. Most of you will not be interested in scrolling through the many many pages to see how they compare and contrast. But if you are, well here they are.

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDIQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.columbuscityschools.org%2Fplc%2FPLDs%2520Stems%2520and%2520Frameworks.pdf&ei=_EA8U9_DF6WYyAGjoYDgBw&usg=AFQjCNElNcTj4yMyF4A90YaNr1JFSXd1qQ&bvm=bv.63934634,d.aWc&cad=rja

http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/curriculum-and-instruction/english-language-arts