Saturday, April 16, 2011

My To-Do List

Hopefully read in the following order:

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

 My fellow teachers and principal!  Would you believe this picture was taken in April?  Because it was!
 My sweet, sleepy puppies sleeping on each other.
 Libby was EXHAUSTED after playing with Justin's mom all day long.
 Izzy being curious.  She's alway so curious.
 These are in my front yard.  I am obsessed with them!  Spring is such a great season.
My husband.  The cyclist husband.  The dirty cyclist husband.  The muddy dirty cyclist husband.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Oh the Places You'll Go

I'm not writing about Dr. Seuss, and I'm not too sure why that title popped into my mind, but I think there are some connections, albeit loose, to what I'm writing about today.  (I think that sentence may be extremely convoluted- sorry!)

With going back to graduate school, I've been thinking a lot about my future.  Sounds daunting doesn't it?  And the reality is, it's incredibly daunting.  I'm so very excited about the possibilities that will come with having my master's degree, but I'm trying to figure out what I'll be doing while in graduate school.  My husband is currently pursuing his Ph.D., and in case you haven't noticed, students don't make much money (read: barely any if any at all).  Thankfully he has an assistantship and a side job at a bike shop, but we still rely on my paycheck.  Now, I'm not rolling in the big bucks, but I do make enough to pay our rent and bills, so it's pretty important to us.  Since I won't be teaching next year finances have become a concern, and I have really started to think about what I am going to do.

I'm hoping that I get an assistantship as well, but I have another idea that I'm considering pursuing in addition to an assistantship or part-time job.  I've been thinking about trying to write my own reading curriculum.  I love reading- it's my favorite subject to teach and to learn- and I love planning.  So why not combine the two right??

Here are my concerns:
- writer's block.  I mean, come on, so far I can't even maintain a blog for more than a few months.  It's going to take a lot of creativity to do something like this.

- marketing.  If I'm able to create this curriculum or reading units, how do I get people to buy it?!  I don't want to put in hours of work for something that will go no where.  Who do I market and gear it towards?  Do I focus on private schools, public schools, or homeschool?

- money: How do I financially create curriculum?  How much will it cost to create the units, and then how do I know what I will recoup?  How much do I charge?

- strategy: Who do I gear these reading units towards?  Should I just focus on elementary?  Should I do middle school and high school too?  Should I incorporate state standards, and if so which state- Indiana or Texas?  Or should I just do national standards?

And there are so many other things to consider.  I'd love to know your thoughts.  I really do think it'd be fun to pursue this, but I don't want to do it if I can't do it well.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Education Reform

Lately here in Indiana, and really all over the United States, education has been on the forefront of many people's minds.  And I for one must say... FINALLY.  Education has been on the back burner in America for far too long, and we are now reaping the consequences of that lack of attention.

As you probably know, I am currently in my fourth year of teaching.  I grew up in a family of teachers.  My mom has taught for a billion years (not really) and my dad was a teacher, an administrator, and now he works for the Association of Christian Schools International.  I taught for two years in a Title One public elementary school in Texas.  I now teach in a private Christian school in Indiana.  I am not a product of public schools with the exception of my higher education.  I attended private Christian schools from preschool all the way through high school.  My brilliant husband is a product of public schools.  He attended public schools from preschool all the way through college.  All of this to say, I have many perspectives that I am looking at these issues from, and hopefully this leads to a more informed, open minded view point.

I understand why education reform is such a hot topic.  The stakes are huge.  The future is literally in the balances, and I'm not using hyperbole.  Our kids are the future leaders.  The future presidents, army generals, surgeons, doctors, nurses, etc. are all in school right now.  They are learning the basics and foundations that will lead them to their career paths.  We must be sure that they are learning and learning well.

Here in Indiana much of the controversy is centered around school choice.  I am for school choice.  I am not as adamant about it as some, and I don't think it is a long-term solution, but for right now, given the state of so many of our public schools, I think parents and students deserve to choose where they go to school.

What I believe that we have to start thinking about is WHY are private and charter schools finding so much more success than many of our public schools.  Here are the reasons I have come up with having taught in both:

1.  Standardized testing: In Texas, the TAKS test was what we did.  Not just what we took to see where the kids were at; it was what we did.  From day one (literally) I was teaching my kids how to take and pass the TAKS test.  I'll be the first to say- that is NOT a good education.  The kids aren't learning to think, they are learning to pass a state mandated test that, in my opinion, is completely unfair.  My students here in Indiana also take a standardized test called the Stanford Achievement Test.  While I don't love the SAT test, it is a low pressure, more fair assessment of where our students are at.  And here's the kicker- the test is low pressure.  I don't teach towards this test.  I teach my students to think, and therefore they do better on this test.

2.  Parental involvement:  In Texas, my parents cared a lot about their kids.  They really did.  Unfortunately, many of my parents didn't know how to care.  They sent their kids to school and expected us to do everything in relation to their kids education.  No homework help, no reading at home, no repetition of important skills (think math facts).  This makes a HUGE difference.  And again, I'm not trying to make all of those parents look bad.  So many of my students in Texas came from single parent homes, and that single parent had to work their behind off in order to provide.  He/She was doing as much as possible to provide for their child, and that meant that some things didn't get as much attention.  My parents in Indiana are a lot more involved, and therefore my students are getting so much more out of their education.

3.  State/Government involvement:  Here in Indiana, we teachers get a huge say in our curriculum and what we are teaching.  This is a fine balance.  We still need direction and oversight from our administration, because we must ensure that we are teaching what kids need to know.  But here in Indiana, as I get to know my class, I can change and manipulate my curriculum to suit their interests and learning styles.  In Texas, I had to teach to the test.  That doesn't change with each class.

4.  Class size:  In Texas, I had at least 25 students in each class.  In Indiana, I have 11.  Enough said.

Now I know that the government officials and law makers will say that a great teacher can overcome these differences.  As a great teacher, that is just not true.  Teachers can't overcome everything, and we can't blame teachers for the deficiencies in education.

Here's the truth:  Our system is broken.  Until we can figure out how to fix the system, nothing is going to change.  We have to change the system.  We have to figure out how kids are learning these days, and then teach in those ways.  That's the only way we will win the future.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It's been Awhile...

So I kinda stopped blogging there for a bit.  I'm not so sure why- perhaps just lack of creative inspiration, but I'm back again.  I thought I'd just post a little update on life as I know it.

The biggest news right now is that I am going back to school!  I got accepted into Indiana University, where I will be pursuing a Masters of Science in Learning and Developmental Sciences.  I am super pumped about this change because I know that for awhile now God has been moving me away from the classroom and into a master's program.

I've been reading a lot lately.  I just finished Water for Elephants and loved it.  It's unlike anything I've ever read, and I appreciate that.  So many "modern" books sound so similar, but this was its very own.  Sara Gruen is phenomenal.  I'm now on to The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, and I expect it to be as funny and silly as its title.  I've also started to read Good Housekeeping, which is not what I ever thought I would read, but I actually really like it.

I've been thinking a lot about the education reform battle going on right now, so perhaps I will post about that soon.  I've also been thinking about a new side job that I might do, but I'll post about that later too.

I also want to start taking more pictures, which I say all of the time, but I really do mean it this time!  (I think.)  Especially now that spring is FINALLY here and everything is blooming.  Bloomington is so beautiful in the spring.  I need to capture the moments of spring.

That's all that's up with me.  Hopefully I'll be posting again soon, and I'll be posting pictures too.