Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Data Review--Evaluation or Judgement?

This week in our staff meeting we had a chance to see the charts that showed the results of our Explore and Plan tests. This year our 7th through 10th graders took one of these tests. Each students was tested in English, Reading, Math and Science. Before I go on, I have to remind everyone that we are a PreK through 12th grade school. We are also school wide Title I school with approximately 43% ELL (English Language Learners)

We were sitting together. Data charts are displayed on the Smartboard. Slide by slide we are given information about our school and how we compare to the other schools our management company runs. Many teachers are puzzled. One speaks up and says that it is really difficult to figure out what to focus on as the results of NWEA testing show almost the exact opposite of these results that we are seeing today.

Does a too great emphasis on one particular test take away good teaching? Are we being focused on certain results as we know that our evaluation depends on those results?

Someone speaks up and says: "Do we need to change our strategies or the whole curriculum?"
Another one comments, "We should just use Explore and Plan type of questions as bellwork. Students need more practice."

Then my interest peaks as we are now looking at slides that compare ELL students to non-ELL students. Needless to say, ELL students score lower than non-ELL students. Did this really surprise anyone?

This is the response that we heard at the meeting: "What are we going to do to teach our ELLs the content faster? Nobody will listen to the excuse that they are not proficient in English."

If you have ever taught ELLs you know that every ELL learns with different speed. I have had students who after a few months are acting, sounding and producing work like many of their native counterparts. But I have also had students who after many years still struggle with the very basics of English language. What kind of burden we are placing on these students when we expect them to produce miracle results in just one to two years?

The meeting was over. We heard a reminder that we will be analyzing data more carefully in our next PD in May. I am wondering what will change? What more will we be asked to do? Wonder if we will hear any good news or get any words of encouragement?  There was a definite warning in the air--improve or......

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Celebration Time! Yeah!

I was driving this morning to a board meeting that was held an hour and half away.  Great music on radio. Beautiful sunshine outside. Smooth driving. Time to think and enjoy the morning.

A few hours later when I am driving back, I am filled with happiness and excitement. Our board meeting was encouraging, motivating, inspiring and thought provoking. Can't wait till it's conference time in October! This will be a great conference!

So today I am celebrating fellow educators who give up their Saturday morning to attend a board meeting! I am celebrating educators who care deeply about the ELLs in our state. I am celebrating ideas. I am celebrating research that many members do on their own, and the hours that they devote to make sure our annual conference is successful! This is group work as its best!

I am feeling energized! Perhaps this means that spring is finally here!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Does She Like Me?

I absolutely love when teachers pop-in in my class after work! I hear many secrets, juicy details, life stories, dilemmas and, of course, dating stories. This story started last week when a younger teacher popped in to voice his wonderings about an upcoming date.

"Do you know how to salsa dance?"
"Just little."
"I have a date with this girl that I met."
"Do you know how to salsa dance?"
"No, but I guess I will learn at the class."
"I'm sure you will, and I'm sure it will be fun."

"How many dates should I have before I know if it will get romantic?"

Seriously? He is asking me that question? At this point I am wondering if he thinks that I go on dates regularly. Seriously? Perhaps he has suffered--or is suffering--some short term memory loss, as I have never told him anything about me dating or my dates. Or, is he just thinking that because I am older that I have this vast box of dating knowledge that I can open up when needed?

"So, I need to think about if I can move this great friendship into something a bit more romantic. I mean, we haven't even kissed yet, and it has been three dates already."
"I'm sure you will figure it out."
"I mean we have a great time. And she is beautiful!"
"I'm sure you will figure that out."

Was I really offering him any new intelligence? I'm not even sure I had time to open my box of dating knowledge.

Fast forward to yesterday.

"How was your salsa class?"
"It was great! We had a great time."
"Did you learn to salsa?"
"Well, enough to move my feet a little bit. I think I really like this girl."
"Wow, good for you." (What should I have said???)
"Afterward at the bar I told her that I like her."
"You did?"
"I did, but now I am not sure what to do. Maybe I need to step up my game."
"New challenge for you?" (Was that an appropriate response?)
"Sort of. I mean, she is making me work. She is definitely not boring. I mean, I need to figure out if she likes me and how I can move this "__ship" into more romantic. We haven't even kissed yet." (Did I need to know this?)
"I'm sure you can figure out what to do." (Seriously!? What am I supposed to say? Offer ideas? Or just a listening ear?)
"Yeah, I guess I have to. Okay, gym is waiting, see you tomorrow!"

Obviously, I wasn't able to offer any earth shattering advice on dating. I think him coming to chat was just meant to be a brainstorming session where he was thinking aloud. I hope he was--or will be--able to figure out what he needs to do next. As for me, his drop-in gave me a fun break and an idea for a slice. Did it give me ideas about dating? Well, I did think that going to a salsa class would be fun (just not with him:)

When did you last salsa dance?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Celebrating Spring and Easter

Thank you Ruth for creating a place for us to celebrate life and life events!

Sun is shining. Sky is blue. I can see green buds in my lilac tree. I only needed my winter coat only on three days this past week. I had to shovel snow only on one morning! I can hear birds singing. My neighbors are out. I have heard more hellos this past week. I sat outside in a cafe while drinking coffee and chatting with a friend. Today, I am celebrating spring!

Yesterday, on Good Friday, my coworker and I had decided to go to the gym. All kinds of things kept popping up during the day. Before we even realized, it was evening. Tiredness was overcoming the desire to exercise. Go to bed early and get up early to go to the gym this morning was the decision. I got up early. Had my protein shake. Drove to the gym in a beautiful sunshine! I am celebrating morning accomplishments! I feel energized! Perhaps these early morning workouts will become a habit during this spring and summer.

Changes are happening at work. Many people are wondering what the end results will be. Uncertainty is all around us. Students are also getting anxious for summer. Tempers are flaring. It is wonderful to know that I can pray and ask others to pray. I am celebration faith network that sustains me when I need the support of others.

Yesterday was a beautiful day! In English, yesterday is called "Good Friday." In Finnish we call it "Long Friday."  In Chinese, it is called "Suffering Day." All week I kept thinking about the translations and their meanings. So today, I am celebrating Jesus who suffered so much on that day long time ago. He suffered so that I could embrace His grace and mercy. The day must have felt very long for him. But because of his suffering, I am able to celebrate a good day. I am celebrating freedom that comes through His mercy and Grace.

What are you celebrating today?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Celebrating Connections

Join Ruth, and many others, to share celebrations from your week. Then read a few celebrations and share your joy with others by commenting. We meet on Ruth's blog on Saturdays.

This week has been my sprig break. As I wasn't going anywhere, I wanted to make sure that this week felt different. I want to go back to school on Monday and say that my break was a good one! So, what am I celebrating today?

As I am writing this I am watching the morning news which shows pictures of the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. Therefore, I celebrate the beauty of spring.

This week has been a celebration of connections. Throughout March I wrote every day for Slice of Life challenge. I maintained my virtual connections very well. My local connections, however, suffered because I was so busy with writing and testing. Add to that the winter that we have had, and my local connections have not received the attention that I wanted them to get. If I did not already know and understand how important it is to cultivate these connections, I listened to a sermon on maintaining your faith network. So this week I did not even write my regular Tuesday blog. I met friends and new friends face to face.

On Sunday I went to lunch with a group of people from church. Once a month we do these "Let's Do Lunch" groups to encourage making connections with people at church. I held up my sign and invited some people individually to join us. We had a small but powerful group. I celebrated new connections and building that faith network.

On Tuesday I celebrated new connections by inviting a new single mom and her children for dinner. What a delightful time I had. Katie and her children were so special! I got hugs and cuddles as a reward! What more could I ask?

On Wednesday it was time to meet with old friends and reconnect in person. I love talking with Penny! There is always something to laugh about, stories about her grandchildren, and little ship talk as well. Dinner with Emily was great! We tried a new place in town. Great woodfire pizza and beet salad. But it really was the conversation that I treasure. I celebrated maintaining my faith network with these two amazing women. I even got to crown my evening by spending time with my small group ladies that I missed in March!

On Thursday, it was meeting with more friends. Lunch with faith is always fun. This time we tried a new Middle Eastern restaurant. We got her wheelchair in with no problem (not always easy in a small restaurant), food was great, and I got new reading material from her that is proving inspiring! Again, I celebrated maintaining my faith network! The evening ended with my regular volunteer hours at the library bookstore. Fun, fun, fun! Who wouldn't want to celebrate books and reading during spring break.

There are a few more celebrations coming this week, but it is time to enjoy the sunshine! What are you celebrating this week?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

First April Celebration

Come join us to celebrate your week with Ruth Ayres. You will be uplifted by reading the celebrations of others. Could there be a better way to start your weekend?

It is the first day of my spring break! I was planning to sleep late and enjoy the fact that I had nothing planned for early this morning. But perhaps it was the idea that I did not have to do anything this morning that woke me up early. So, I celebrate waking up rested and ready for a new day!

This past week I found out that one of my friends has breast cancer. Needless to say, I was very sad. I don't live near her, and can't be there for her on a day-to day basis. I wrote about the phone call on Tuesday. I was amazed once again of the caring and supporting responses that I received via comments. I celebrate the support and prayers of this virtual community!

In the midst of sad news, I also had the opportunity to get together with friends. On Tuesday, it was a fun dinner with an old colleague that a few of met in a nearby restaurant. We told stories, laughed, shared about our plans for the future. I went home tired, but uplifted! On Friday night, I had dinner with two friends. We share the passion for reading, teaching, and good stories--real or imagined. This time we celebrated Linda's birthday. We all decided that we can't wait until Kathy's birthday in December; we must get together much sooner again. I celebrate friends, good food and the joy of spending time with friends!

Now I am off to get my second cup of coffee in order to celebrate my spring break!

What are you celebrating today?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Unexpected Phone Call

Monday evening. Dinner eaten. Dishes, well, I was thinking about doing them. I am sitting down on my favorite chair. I decided to watch a few minutes of the last episode of How I met Your Mother. 
Phone rings.
"Hei, T täällä." (Hi, it's T.)
So the conversation started.
Something was off. T. does not usually call at night so late. Her voice sounded more subdued than usually. I listened again. Yes, definitely something  was not right. Husband? Or had he actually come to his senses?
Something was off.
Finally she said it.
"They found something. It's cancer. Breast cancer."
I was not prepared to hear these words.
Is anyone ever prepared to hear them?
She lives 400 miles away from me. Her family is an ocean away.
"Who is going to take you to the hospital? Your hubby?"
"No, not sure, maybe a friend."
I am ready to scream at the above mentioned hubby at this point.
No point, she says. He just does not care.
I am so sad. How do you find the right words? On the phone when you can't see the other person?
How do you comfort someone who has known for years that this might become a reality one day?
How do you give hope? What words do you use?
We prayed. I can't be with her, so I have to trust that God will be there with her.
I don't know what to do, so I have to trust that God knows what He is doing. I can't bring healing, so I pray for healing. I ask for a miracle.
Not for me, but for T.