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Heart Melt Moment

Earlier this week one of my student’s parents sent me an email excited that her child was finally in a class with a teacher that has a Scholastic account. We emailed back and forth about the importance of books and the importance of finding a book that students are interested in. She mentioned the possibility of her and her husband getting some books for the students and wanted to know how many students I have. I work in a school that is departmentalized so I have 3 ELA classes. That’s a total of 62 students. I cringed at the thought of sharing that info. I thought that a large number of students would damper their desire. She also asked if there was a book that I wanted. One of my favorite books is The One and Only Ivan. I purchased 6 copies of it for my classroom library and unfortunately, all 6 copies went “missing” by December of last year. I was hurt that my books were “disappearing”, but I just resolved to replace them whenever I could afford to. A day or so later I received another email. The parent informed me that she had purchased 10 copies of The One and Only Ivan for me and had also purchased a book for all 62 of my students! I was overwhelmed with gratitude. 

You may be wondering why am I so thrilled about this, but this is a huge deal to me. Getting children to fall in love with books is my goal, and this parent has stepped up in a major way. What I love most about this experience is that she gets it. She understands that we have to get books that are interesting in our students' hands, and then there may be some hope for getting students to enjoy reading! Today my heart is full, and I feel like my dreams for kids aren’t too far fetched. I also feel like my work is not in vain. In her first email, she mentioned how much her child loves my class, and how she and her husband just felt compelled to do something for my class. In a grossly underappreciated profession, their kind gesture means a lot. 

I can’t wait for that red and white box to be delivered to my classroom! What I love even more about this experience is the fact that the family wants to remain anonymous! I thought that was just beautiful, genuine, and completely selfless.

To all of my teacher friends out there keep doing what you do each day for your students, you never know how it is impacting them and their families. And who knows, maybe a parent will donate a book or 72!



Grow your PLN!!!

This tip has kept me going on the toughest of days in this profession. On days when I really couldn't express my frustrations to anyone, my PLN helped me  return to a more grounded place.

 Having a PLN is beneficial for so many reasons. For me, the support system is a major reason for having and growing a PLN, but the benefits extend far beyond support. PLNs are a great way to gain resources to use in your classroom. Resources come in the form of actual activities, ideas, and actual people who are more than willing to lend a helping hand in whatever way they can. I have learned so much from my PLN, I couldn't imagine my teacher life without them. 
My PLN helps me in working towards one of my teacher goals which is to be a world class educator! I want to be the absolute best! I want to bring perspectives to my students that require me to extend beyond the cultures represented in this country. My PLN helps with this. There are several teachers in my PLN who teach in different countries around the world. I love having them in my teacher tribe, because it gives me the opportunity to take a look into education in other countries. What are these countries doing differently? What can I learn from them? The amazing thing about a PLN is that it removes the limits from collaboration among the teachers in your building. If the only teachers you collaborate with are the ones at your school, you are missing out! 

If you're looking to expand your teacher tribe, I hope this tip will encourage you to take the plunge. In my opinion the quickest way to do this is through social media! Yes, social media! In my third year of teaching I took the plunge into online Professional Development (I'll blog about that later), and from there my PLN was established. I'd suggest creating a professional twitter account that will allow you to establish your PLN. Here are a few of the hashtags I follow: #bfc530 #tlap #kidsdesrveit #4thchat #engagechat and #satchat 

If you have questions about taking the plunge or want to know the logistics of setting up a twitter account feel free to email me at thelegitteacher@gmail.com
I'd love to help you get started. 
If you're already on twitter I'd love to add you to my tribe. Share your twitter handle and I'll be sure to follow. My handle is, you guessed it..... @thelegitteacher ! I hope this tip helps!

A Mother's Lap and a Picture Book

 "Auntie Gloria's girls wake up to the smell of book pages." This is a comment my younger cousin
Tony made when we were just kids. This statement has stuck with me over the years. I recently attended a Professional Development Training on Explicit Reading Instruction. All participants were asked to share their reading development experience. Prior to this training, I had never really given  this topic a lot of thought. After reflecting I realized that my school teachers were not at all responsible for my development as a reader. My ability to read, and my love for books was established early on in my life. My mother read to me, and instilled a love of learning, and reading in me, way before I entered the public education system. My continued reflection led me to the realization that my  mother 's parents were also avid readers. I loved visiting my grandparents' house. They had all kinds of books, cook books, books on medicine, books on diet and exercise, self help books, spiritual books, and more. In addition, having a grandfather who was a preacher also meant being surrounded with Bibles of several different versions, and commentaries. Speaking of the Bible, my church played a huge role in my development as well. My childhood church was family oriented. All of the adults felt obligated to the success of all of the children. They saw the importance of developing scholars in addition to developing young people with high moral standards.

Baring all of this in mind I realized that my village developed my reading skills. My cousin, Tony's, statement is proof that our family valued reading so much so that others could see it. I think that the majority of today's families have relinquished their power, and handed the responsibility of education over to an educational system that leaves a lot to be desired. The best teachers with the best strategies, dull in comparison to the influential power of a mother/family. Schools are spending millions of dollars on curriculums, textbooks, computer programs, and professional development trainings hoping to find the answer to the educational epidemic that has swept our country. The answer is a mother's lap and a good picture book. Yes it is that simple. Mothers, mama figures, families you have the power to develop readers that have an insatiable desire to learn. Use your power! I am beyond grateful for my mother, she fostered a love for learning and books.  She made sure to surround me with other adults who would aid her in her mission to make me a reader! It worked! Families take time to read books, and make reading a big deal in your home. Buy books to grow your child's personal home library, take frequent visits to the library and to the bookstore. If your child see's that you love reading, they will love it too!

I Almost Quit Teaching!

Warning: This is a long  post, but I hope you'll read all of it.

Last week, was the toughest week of my teaching career, I almost quit! Anyone who knows me, knows I'm tough, quitting is not my thing, so for me to even contemplate giving up, is serious.

I'll get right to it, last week our school had an awards ceremony, to celebrate student achievement. I'm a firm believer that children should be celebrated for their hard work, however this ceremony was like nothing I'd witnessed before. Days prior to the ceremony, teachers were to submit the names of students who were to be honored. My grade level submitted 12 names. The afternoon before the ceremony, some parents were upset that their child would not be getting an award. They argued that in former years, a different set of criteria was used to determine who would be awarded, and had this criteria been used currently, their child would be on the list to receive an award. After parents made phone calls to leadership at different levels, including calls to the local school board members, the decision was made to honor the past criteria. I, along with two other staff members stayed at our school until about 7 pm to recalculate all 76 students' GPAs, add names to the awards list, type certificates, print certificates, and sign them. Lowering the standard made me cringe, staying at work until 7 pm made me exhausted, but what I realized about the additional  students who would be awarded, made me sick to my stomach. 
I teach 4th Grade Reading for the entire grade level, and as I calculated GPAs, I became devastated, students who are reading at a 3rd, 2nd, and 1st grade level would be receiving awards. How could this be? Well, one reason is that the standard was lowered, the other reason I'll share in a later post. At any rate, we sent the wrong message to our students. We gave high fives and certificates to low performing students. What does that say to our kids? We confused them, we took away the value of a strong work ethic, and completely squandered the concept of hard work. Instead we promoted "just trying", and we celebrated mediocrity. 
Of the 34 4th graders who received awards, only 13 of them are reading on grade level. Some of those students scored at the lowest achievement level on the state test, yet we gave them a pat on the back and said keep it up! In my book, this is an injustice!
In addition, Perfect Attendance Awards were given. I could have fell out, right in the middle of the ceremony. Every teacher knows the students with the worst behaviors never miss a day. Students who display disrespect, and defiance walked proudly across the stage as we cheered them on. Again, what message did we send those students? We literally said, you can behave poorly, and still get a pat on the back all because you showed up. This is an outrage, we are setting our kids up for failure. 
I spoke with my administrator to let her know I just could not teach in a school like this. If certain stakeholders have the clout to dictate the standard I must teach by, then I'm doomed. I would not be able to sleep at night if I carried on in this way. I simply can't do that to children, they deserve better. 
By the end of the ceremony I was sick and already drafting my resignation letter. Due to an incredible support system, when the following Monday rolled around I had made the decision to remain for the sake of my 76 students. While I do not see a future for myself in this particular school district unless major changes are made, I will finish this year for my students.

 One of my favorite authors and educators, Ron Clark, brilliantly sums up my thoughts on this topic. I'll end this long post with an excerpt from his book, "The End of Molasses Classes". Chapter 2 is titled, Not Every Child Deserves a Cookie, in this chapter he says this, "Last year one of our new fifth graders was really struggling. He entered RCA below grade level in every subject and he was failing several courses. When I met with his mom she defended her son by saying, "Well, he made all A's at his other school." When I told her that was shocking, she explained that he had done so well because he had a really great teacher. Urgh! 
There is a misconception in our country that teachers whose students make good grades are providing them with a good education. Parents, administrators, and the general community shouldn't assume good grades equal high academic mastery. In fact, in many cases those teachers could be giving good grades to avoid conflict with the parents and administration. It's easier to fly under the radar and give high grades that to give a student what he or she truly deserves and face the scrutiny of the administration and the wrath of an angry parent. 
I have attended numerous award ceremonies where practically every child in the class received an honor roll certificate. Parents always cheer, take pictures, and look so proud. I just sit there and think, Ignorance is bliss. Are these kids really being challenged, or are they only achieving mediocre standards set forth by a mediocre teacher in an educational system that is struggling to challenge even our average students? Yet, all of the parents look so proud and content.
We must hold every child accountable for high standards and do all we can to push the child to that level. If we continue to dumb down education and to give students A's and B's because they "tried," we are doing them a disservice and failing to prepare them to be successful in the real world. 
We all need to teach our young people that not everyone deserves a pat on the back just because we are attempting to make everyone feel good.  Giving praise that isn't earned only sets up our students for more failure in the long run."

If there are any teachers who encounter this same frustration, I beg you to keep your standards high. Any stakeholder that argues against high standards, makes a strong statement about what they want for our children. I'm maintaining high standards, and that makes a statement as well. It simply means I want the absolute best for our children!

Here's a huge thank you for reading this lengthy post! 

How to be a legit teacher: Teacher tip # 5

Today's teacher tip is brought to you by Jason! Jason describes himself as funny, and smart. He loves playing games and Reading is his favorite subject. Jason is also one of the recipients of this year's Young Authors Award. He's a real scholar! 

Jason's teacher tip is this: "Never give up!"

This is the perfect teacher tip for this time of year. This wonderful profession brings its own set of challenges with it. Teaching can be tough! It certainly isn't the profession for the weak! It takes a strong person with great patience to teach and mold young minds. Whenever I have those moments where I'm just exhausted and ready to throw in the towel. I remember why I chose this profession in the first place. I think of all my students, and how they are counting on me, and I remind myself of Jason's tip to never give up!

 Now check out this all around LEGIT kid, he snowboards, plays baseball, and writes amazing essays!

 Thanks for the tip Jason!

How to be a legit teacher: teacher tip # 4

Today's teacher tip is brought to you by Jayden! Jayden describes himself as active, intelligent, and creative.  He loves sports and enjoys playing football and basketball. He is quite the All-Star Athlete.

Jayden's tip for teachers is this: "Treat students with respect."

 Jayden is on to something with this excellent piece of advice. As teachers we must remember that our students are human, and have hearts. They have a keen sense of authenticity, and can tell when they are not respected by others. I know every teacher out there pushes for students to show respect to you, and to each other, but let's not forget that our students deserve our respect too! Now I know there may be some who feel that respect is "earned and not given", but I respectfully disagree. I admonish you to take Jayden's advice and make sure that you treat each of your students with the highest level of respect possible.
Aretha sang it best, R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  
(click the link to enjoy her tune)


Now check out this LEGIT athlete and scholar!

Thanks for the tip Jayden!

Five for Friday!

Okay, so I'm tardy for the party, but I'm still excited about the week I had!

My sister sent me this picture of my nephews at the library!!! I'm so in love with this picture. I hope this becomes one of their favorite places.

These are our Mother's Day Note Cards. I love the way they turned out. I hope all the moms enjoy their sweet notes! By the way if you're reading this and you're a mom, Happy  Mother's Day! 
It was Teacher Appreciation Week, and boy did my students spoil me. Here are some of my gifts.

I am so blessed to have such sweet students and parents!
One of my favorite parts of this week, was showering other teachers with a little bit of love. Each student got to choose one teacher, other than me, to show appreciation to. They wrote little notes, that I typed for them, and delivered their notes with an apple. This will definitely be an annual event!!

I am beyond excited about my new Cricut Gold Edition, I named her Goldie!!! I may or may  not be an addict. Here is my very first Cricut creation. If you like this shirt hop over to my little shop and order one, or place an order for a customized shirt. Please click Clad in Love to shop!

Don't I look cute in my "less bitter more glitter" shirt!!!

Well that's all for now, and hopefully I'll be on time to the party next week! I hope your Friday was as fabulous as mine, and if it wasn't, look on the bright side, it could have been Monday!!! Thanks for checking out my blog! Check out Doodle Bugs Teaching for other great Five for Friday blog posts!