Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Five Little Pumpkins

Here's a slightly different version from my usual Raffi favorite:



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Mrs. Nelson's class offers some wonderful ideas and activities for a pumpkin unit...

The Activity Idea Place offers many, many, MANY ideas for October/Halloween activities for preschoolers and kindergarten students...

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Off to decorate!

Monday, September 29, 2008

October/Halloween Resources for Kindergarten

How has it taken me this long to discover The Teacher's Corner? Better late than never:

~Check our their October Events calendar

~Here's a construction paper jack-o-lantern/pumpkin art project that doesn't require scissors...

~A suggestion on how to use old magazines with photos of people for a body part activity ...

~Spiders and the number eight...

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The last week and a half in October, I'll ask parents to please donate two small, two medium, and two large pumpkins for our math estimation and measurement activities. We'll measure the circumference, the height, width, and weight of each pumpkin, and compare data. We'll even estimate the number of seeds we believe are in the various sizes of pumpkins. Students will probably have pumpkins at HOME that they'll be enjoying long before then however, so I also like to assign some "pumpkin homework" prior to our in-class activity.

Dear Parents,

To help your child with this activity, you will need the following materials:

  1. a long piece of heavy string or yarn (dental floss works well too if you don't have yarn!)

  2. tape

  3. scissors

  4. a pumpkin (any size)


Share and follow these steps with your Super Star:

  1. Put your pumpkin in front of you on the floor or on the table.

  2. Find a starting point in the middle of the pumpkin (at its widest point) and tape your string to that point.

  3. Put your string all the way around the pumpkin from side to side (not top to bottom) making a horizontal line. When you get back to the starting point, cut the string.

  4. Remove the string from the pumpkin. Tape it to a piece of paper and write your name. Bring it back to school tomorrow. We will compare the strings during our math time.


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The Kindergarten and Preschool Activities Blog has some links to great October resources...

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As a special treat, I like to make pumpkin shaped sugar cookies for my students that they can then frost and decorate (a fun and tasty fine-motor activity). The Idea Queen shares the same idea and additional kid-friendly recipes for October.

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Better Homes and Gardens is sharing a costume gallery full of ideas that are great for not only Halloween costumes, but as outfits for dramatic play or play performances! Here's a link to their 100 Days of Holidays too!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bits and Blurbs While the Family Snoozes

The season of change has taken up residence in my home. Not autumn, not back-to-school time, and not Uncle-Sam-is-moving-us-again, but rather the season of No-matter-how-long-I-wait-and-hold-on-to-these-clothes-I-will-probably-never-fit-into-them-again. Trying to soften the blow, Dear Daughter reminded me that living in Oz for the next few years won't offer too many opportunities for me to wear my wool/blanket style skirts, gorgeous hand knit sweaters, or heavier-lined career dresses that worked so well in Alaska.

I ended up making Goodwill's day yesterday and feel better that my clothes will no longer just take up room in multiple closets at home when they could be put to better use by those who need them. I've held on to my clothing treasures since finding out I was pregnant with the Toddler. Four years is a long time to live in denial over hip-spread, you know?

But I kept the sweaters. Just in case Mother Nature is friends with Murphy's Law (I've heard she is).

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...and the HAIR. Texas was so hot and dry last year that a little hair mousse and a straightening iron kept the wavy/curly stuff neat and frizz-free. Here in HumidityLand, my hair has few options other than a french braid or being pulled up by a banana clip. If I were to cut it much shorter for some heat relief, I'd walk around looking like a poofy shrubbery most of the time (okay, a much larger poofy shrubbery than at present). To chemically straighten, or not to chemically straighten...THAT is the question. NI!



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I tried a "simple" sewing (and FREE) pattern yesterday in an attempt to make a stuffed Halloween Kitty. I love the creator's kitties that are featured in the current Mary Englebreight's Home Companion magazine. Mine, not so much. Apparently I'm better with a glue gun than a sewing machine.



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Dear Daughter wants to decorate the house for Halloween later today, rather than waiting until next weekend. I'll finish up the Halloween banner, maybe make some smaller ones for the kids' rooms, and review one of my posts from last year for inspiration. Thank goodness for blog-documenting!

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My aide has loaned me her copy of The Kite Runner. You KNOW you're in a good place when you work with colleagues who share book recommendations with one another! One of my parents also brought me a book about teaching in Alaska (it's on my desk at work, and I can't remember the title off the top of my head)- double SCORE!

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Friday, September 26, 2008

I May Have Gone Overboard on the Lamination...

...but at least most of it was done using my own personal table top laminator!

My students drew self portraits:



I cut out white background paper and some smaller polka-dotted paper:



Used some glue:



... and took a moment to enjoy those sweet smiling faces!







My aide added "fiesta" fringe:



...and then we strung up the portraits in a boy/girl pattern on blue ribbon. After hanging the banner up and photographing it from multiple angles, I muttered not-so-kindergarten-teacherish-words under my breath when I realized I couldn't get the GLARE out of the frame! **SIGH**

I'll attempt another here's-the-finished-product photo for you next week.

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We visited a farm today! We learned lots and lots about animals and plants, a bit about Kansas history, and a whole LOT about BEES. Can't go on a field trip without the proper accessories, now can we?

Thank goodness for construction paper, yellow plaid scrapbook paper, black Sharpie markers, glue, a tabletop laminator, silver tone pin backs, and hot glue guns!







BUZZ!

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Cute Halloween Cakes and Decor

Check out this video- then bake a sheet cake and decorate!


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1. black wreath detail, 2. cute, but can they compost it?, 3. Spiders, 4. Halloween 2007 with Jeremiah Christopher, 5. Halloween goodies..., 6. halloween is coming y'all!, 7. black and white halloween, 8. Seasonal Home Decor

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Autumn/October Decor Inspiration



Wouldn't you know it...once I get all of my autumn decor up, it's time for Halloween! Check out the following links if you're in need of some pumpkin-ey inspiration:

~The Cottage Gals have had me wishing that I lived in Virginia for months now. They've also had my husband feeling ever so grateful that we DON'T. Check out their shop full of autumn treasures...

~Katie, The Constant Gatherer has shared posts and photos from Kansas City locations that I'll be visiting once payday hits...

~A Fanciful Twist is hosting a Halloween Party (check out the gorgeous photos!)...

~Shabby Rose Cottage shares a lighter autumn palette at Everyday Shabby Chic...

~Don't forget Shannon's autumn goodies (I have the jack-o-lantern and several dolls!):



...and of course her jewelry (check out the acorn earrings!!!!!)



~Andrea at Everyday Beauty shares an easy how-to for making glittered gourds...

~Hostess With the Mostess shares candy corn inspired decor...

~...and The Pioneer Woman Cooks shares quite the TREAT, a recipe for pasta carbonara!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Changing Out the Classroom Decor/Fine Motor Development

Goodbye stars, crayons and rainbows...

HELLO leaf spirals, apples, and autumn trees! With the help of our buddy class, my students have transformed their Super Star classroom into a Super Autumn environment!

I traced my students' hands on brown paper for tree trunks, cut them out, glued them to light blue construction paper, and had the Stars use their fingertips to "dot" autumn colored paint onto the paper to create leaves. After the paint was dry, they counted and glued die cut paper apples (an apple shape punch would work great too if you don't have mini die cuts):









For colorful leaves, I cut transparency sheets in half, and cut autumn colored tissue paper into squares. The Stars then used glue sticks to cover one side of the transparency sheet with glue, and layered the tissue paper on top, overlapping edges. Once dry, my aide took the transparency sheets down to the workroom and cut out leaf shapes with different die cut blocks:





I cut dark brown spirals from 8 1/2 X 11 construction paper, and with the help of our Fifth Grade Buddies, my Super Stars cut out various leaves from red, orange, yellow, and brown construction paper. Our buddies made sure the kindergartners used correct scissor position and that they turned the paper when cutting instead of the scissors...no more cut clothing!



Our buddies then helped the Stars glue the cut leaves onto the spiral (their help was appreciated since we didn't want to end up with spirals that were glued closed!):



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This week I'll also be changing out some of the artwork I hung at the beginning of the school year for more autumn-ey looking displays.

Check back in to see what I'm using the Stars' drawings of themselves (first photo, upper left corner) for this week!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday's Must Reads



~Nancy at Teacher in a Strange Land advocates FOR recess, though others want to increase academic time for students by reducing or taking it away (you know how I feel, recess isn't a reward, it's a REQUIREMENT!)

~Blogwalker shares a link to Childnet International resources available in the U.K., promoting knowledge over fear when teaching students how to use the web responsibly. From their intro:
"Digital citizenship isn’t just about recognising and dealing with online hazards. It’s about building safe spaces and communities, understanding how to manage personal information, and about being internet savvy - using your online presence to grow and shape your world in a safe, creative way, and inspiring others to do the same.”

I've worked for some school districts who would benefit from shifting the fear paradigm from which they operate to a more constructive and productive one in regard to online resources and their use.

~Jim Horn at Schools Matter reminds us all, no matter our voting affiliation, that the most significant educational reform that can take place is ENDING POVERTY.

~My students just finished taking this district's required assessments (beginning of the year, but they'll take it again at the end of the year to "document their growth and progress"). I was glad to read Jennifer's post at Inside Pre-K discussing a more holistic approach to authentic/accurate assessment for our youngest students. I keep anecdotal records, work samples, and assess both informally and formally, and I ask my students themselves what they feel they've learned, have more interest in, or find confusing. How students "perform" with me year 'round is a much more reliable indicator on whether or not they're ready for the first grade than is their performance twice a year clicking and dragging words, photos, or the cursor on a computer screen.

~Finally, parents of wiggly, fidgety students (who are perhaps experiencing difficulties in school) may find Open Education's blog post "Improving Academic Achievement - Executive Function Could Hold the Secret" VERY informative and helpful. Frankly, so would many teachers! Executive function is defined as a “set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors.” Executive function is necessary for GOAL-DIRECTED BEHAVIOR.
MindDisorders.com further notes: Executive functions “include the ability to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behavior as needed, and to plan future behavior when faced with novel tasks and situations.” Therefore, “executive functions allow us to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations” while providing us the specific “ability to form concepts and think abstractly.”

Children must develop the skill to resist distraction before they can stay on task and focused.

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Here's the next book on my reading list...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reconciling My Creative Schedule

It's been several weeks now since I've had time to do something crafty at home. Being back to work teaching, spending play time with the toddler, preparing dinner, doing laundry and various other chores, not to mention doing the half-hour-clean-the-whole-house scramble for an unexpected houseguest has, of course, taken large chunks of time away from the crafting-friendly schedule I had last year in Texas.

I miss crocheting for longer than twenty minutes.



I'd like to make some autumn/Halloween banners SOON so that I can have our holiday decor up on October 1 (I don't tend to put Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter accents up until it's actually the month of that particular holiday).



I want to get blankies in the mail to Bev, who is soon to be a grandma for the first time.

I NEED to finish sewing Dear Daughter's curtains for her closet (we took the doors off) as the cat is having way too much fun playing with the strings hanging down from the unfinished frayed edge.

I'd like to get back to learning about photography (and taking more photos at home), since the light in this house is VERY different from the light we had in our last residence.

...and of course, I have a Halloween cross stitch piece that was started last YEAR I'd love to have finished and framed.



Not that I haven't been enjoying family time of course! Playtime at the park is always fun, and Dear Daughter's volleyball sets and serves are wonderful to see! Clean laundry and homemade meals are essentials, and of course, no one wants our friendly neighborhood Kansas spiders to take over the house...

But I miss *my* time. Sigh.

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These posts didn't help my crafting itch:

~Sweet Pea at It's a Whimsical Life has been making ghost, bat,and pumpkin head softies for her shop...

~Pam at Stuffed in the Head has made (and sold) wonderfully primitive autumn creatures...

~Kelly at There Is No Place Like Home shares an autumn card tutorial...

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Is there something you've been missing since school has started?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ahoy There Matey, It's Talk Like a Pirate Day!



~Here are links to coloring pages featuring a pirate ship and a child dressed as a pirate for Halloween...

~Here's a page of great pirate ideas for a thematic unit...

~Need a recipe for hard tack? Read the extra info too (it's GROSS!)

~Recipe.hut shares kid friendly pirate party food ideas...

...and who could forget Kevin Kline as the Pirate King (you're welcome Mom!):



...though I always enjoyed the VERY cheeseball "Pirate Movie:"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What Would You Invent?

My kindergartners would enjoy this one:



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~CasaSugar shares a stackable multi-fridge (might be a good idea for my eldest son as he enters the world of roommates and shared spaces!)

~Laura at Paint in My Hair shares a crate cover tutorial (fabric covers for those plastic milk crates that also tend to be used by poor starving college students!)

~Laura Rebecca's Kitchen shares a recipe for Cinnamon Apple Cake

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Together" is a Word That Holds Tomorrow in its Hands

I *loved* watching Big Blue Marble every Sunday when I was a child:


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The lyrics:

The Earth's a Big Blue Marble when you see it from out there...
Closer, getting closer, perspectives start to change things look a little strange, as we get closer.
Closer, growing closer, no need to be afraid our troubles start to fade, as we get closer.
Together is a word we must learn to understand, if we ever want to get to know each other better.
Together is a word that holds tomorrow in its hand, tomorrow's just another day to get together, and...
Get closer, closer, closer, closer...

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...does anyone know where I can find an audio recording of just the instrumental music so my kindergartners can sing the song?

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Mums

It's beginning to look a lot like autumn around here:







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Kimberly at Petroville just posted that I was random pick number eight that won $25 in Build-a-Bear bucks! Yay! Kaylin, a former student, along with her sister and family introduced me and my kids to Build-a-Bear before we left Texas- now I get to go have some fun! Thank you for the great giveaway Kimberly!

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I hope you all had a WONDERFUL Monday!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Autumn Cleaning Bug

Not only am I a "spring cleaner," but I'm a holiday cleaner, a we're moving cleaner, an oh-what-the-heck-this-room-needs-freshening-up cleaner, and an autumn cleaner. With all of the rain we've had this past week in Oz (along with several days of slightly cooler weather), some of the leaves are starting to fade on the trees. Mums in vibrant orange, yellow and deep burgundy have arrived in stores and nurseries too, and some of my favorite magazines have hit the racks, full of photos, tips, and recipes for enjoying autumn's glory.



Yesterday I went for a drive, found my favorite teacher supply store, stocked up on "kid drawn leaves" (not really kid drawn, but cute nonetheless), Mary Englebreit pumpkin border and die cut pumpkins, hunted through two Goodwill stores searching for the perfect mirror to refinish (I'm trying to teach myself how to refinish wood and want to learn on something not-so-dear to my heart before I start eyeing our furniture) to no avail, and found some new orange craft ribbon for autumn banners. When I got home, the autumn cleaning bug bit.

When we first arrived in July, we had to endure some minor fiascoes that put off our usual unpacking routine. Delays included sealing the garage, having the walls repainted, the gutters cleaned and repaired, our rental property inspected to document all omissions/misrepresentations made by our agent, the air conditioner repaired, all with our furniture sitting in the middle of each room keeping boxes and boxes of our belongings company. Unpacking and getting settled usually takes us three days. This time, it took longer than three weeks, with the making-our-house-a-home part additionally delayed by the fact that school was starting.

The big pieces of furniture have been situated for over a month now, and almost all of the boxes have been unpacked with their contents sorted. Though a few new necessary bathroom repairs have popped up, almost everything has found its new home. But something has felt not quite right in each room. Last night as I was vacuuming what could best be called our den (though it's more my blog/crafting/reading hidey hole that our toddler loves to chuck toys through as he runs laps from the living room to the kitchen), the autumn cleaning bug told me "move the furniture. Move it a LOT." Two hours later, my loveseat and ottoman, desk, and bookcase were relocated, the computer and its accessories plugged in to a new outlet, and the mantle over the fireplace was toned down a bit with the removal of some photos. Less is more apparently!

Today with my family's indulgence, I'll see what other areas could be improved upon (the downstairs den could certainly use some fine tuning before Dear Daughter invites friends over for sleepovers) and after dusting, vacuuming, and moving furniture, I think I'll also put up some autumn decor. Leaves, pip berry garlands, possibly some twinkle lights...



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Before I clean, I'm baking a pull apart breakfast loaf for Dear Husband's birthday breakfast. Here are some other recipes I'm looking forward to trying this fall:

~ Michelle at Scribbit shares a cream cheese brownie pie...

~ Digging through the recipe box at Hostess With the Mostess, I found a recipe for caramel nut popcorn...

~ Posy Gets Cosy shares an easy corn chowder...

~... and The Pioneer Woman Cooks creamy carrot soup!

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When do *you* get bitten to clean, rearrange, and decorate?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ask a Kindergarten Teacher, Teach 8th Graders College Level Physics, Listen to the Voice of Life

This is Clifford Stoll- some of you have taught a Clifford Stoll-type student before. Those of you who haven't, here's an eighteen-minute peek so you can prepare:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Freedom...to Blog...to Read Blogs...to Avoid Blogs

Blogging for almost two years now, I’ve read with great interest those posts by favorite authors (bloggers, whichever you prefer) that pop up from time to time regarding anonymity, confidentiality, off-limit topics, etc. I’ve found it interesting that bloggers of all makes and models, be they crafters, artists, teachers, poets, home decor gurus or chefs, have had to deal with clarifying their blogs' focus and intentions, and in some cases, have either had to publicly defend their blogs' value and validity at the risk of losing their employment or customer base, or stop blogging all together because bosses didn't like what was being put out there.



Several of my favorite educational bloggers write anonymously. Some blog sites include disclaimers such as “this blog reflects my own personal opinions and not necessarily those of my colleagues or employer,” while other authors avoid identifying their schools, school districts, state or locale in any way, shape or form. Some friends and blogging colleagues with whom I write identify themselves and their locales on their blog sites, and have received varying feedback from their employers when their blogs have been shared, or in some cases, “discovered." Encountering a few no-holds-barred blogs authored by anonymous teachers with bones to pick and gripes to share, I felt a strong inclination that my own blog should be written honestly and without cheap shots.




When I decided to start blogging, I did so only at my MySpace page. Only friends or those who were willing to dig through millions and millions of MySpacers could find the blog, and frankly, I wasn't sure anyone would find it of interest once they did. Friends, family, colleagues, even former students are linked to my page, so should you visit it, you'll find it's a pretty accurate reflection of who I am. The page expresses my tastes, my humor, and my interests, much like my blog. My friends and family reflect a wonderful diversity that I enjoy, but I understand that visitors might not feel as comfortable with what they encounter when they leave my page to explore others. As always, it’s your choice to keep reading, or hit the back button. Leave the page, empty your cache or history, or shut down your computer. I have the right to write, you have the right to read, or to not read. Freedom is cool that way.


My writing evolves as do my interests. My writing "voice" continues to develop and change. I’m not only a teacher, but a wife, mother, daughter, friend, baker, and crafter, who enjoys sharing discoveries, recipes, teacher tips, family funnies, and the occasional rant with my readers. Since moving to Blogger (Kindergarten’s 3 R’s) I've gained more experience, fiddling with templates, subject matter, my blogroll, avatar, and all of the other bells and whistles that accompany publishing online. I choose to use my real name on my blog, but also choose to not “out” my family, friends, or colleagues by using their last names, location, school, or naming their employer(s), or mine. I am sensitive to the issues of confidentiality, safety, and mutual respect. I have chosen to share my thoughts with whomever might want to read them, and understand that just because I want to share doesn't mean everyone else will feel so inclined. I'm sassy, I'm silly, and I'm sarcastic. I appeal to some readers, not to all. Thankfully it's not my job to make everyone happy.




My present employers have told me they do not have a problem with me maintaining the online presence that I have at Blogger, EduBlogs, or MySpace. The content I’ve shared isn’t cruel or illegal, nor have I exposed my students’ or their families’ identities. As a teacher I’m happy to give credit where credit is due, so I link back to blogs I share, and identify colleagues (former and current) by first name only. They are appreciated, they are creative, they are inspiring, and for those far from my present location, they are missed. Many of them keep tabs on me and my family’s adventures by subscribing to my blog or checking directly at the site. Some colleagues have been inspired to create their own blogs, while many others enjoy their "lurking" practices. Several readers love the videos, while others find them a waste of space, preferring photos of my home decor or classroom center arrangement from which they can draw inspiration. To each his/her own.


Being a teacher who has been on the move for the past five years, my blogs reflect my emotions and impressions that are tied to each relocation, family upheaval, new school district, each state, and yes, each staff. I post the good, the funny, the stressful, and even the not-so-hot. I voice my enthusiasm, my questions, my concerns, and my frustrations. I advocate for my students, their families, and for my colleagues. My criticism and rants almost always strike a nerve with those who agree with my point of view as well as with those who don’t. When I read comments or emails about particular posts, I know many of us share common issues and concerns, though we don't always agree with each others' philosophies or opinions. I welcome dialogue and open communication- it’s how I learn, clarify, and understand. While readers regularly offer support and agreement, often it's due to the fact that my rants match many of their own beliefs. Those who disagree with me move on and find other bloggers with more appeal. Readers may feel that I’ve aired dirty laundry about my school environment, though I’m guessing they find no objection with the praise and appreciation that I’ve also shared.



New kindergarten teachers who are seeking out their place in their new schools, parents of soon-to-be kindergartners or teachers in Title I schools have thanked me or subscribed to my blog because they feel it offers an honest voice, hope, helpful links and some tricks of the trade worth sharing. It helps to hear that similar misconceptions about kindergarten and public education are being dealt with by someone other than ourselves, that the joys of teaching outweigh the stresses, and that we are not alone, though we may occasionally feel isolated in our new environments. Teaching is not all glory and roses, it's also not all torment and drama.


There are some really terrific teachers out there, and a lot of great teachers that also happen to be human and have tough days. Mistakes are made, even by yours truly. No one is perfect. Whether we like it or not, there are also some bruised or bad apples in the barrel, narrow minded educators who are more defensive than supportive, more belligerent than collegial, and administrators, school boards, and politicians who for some reason have lost sight of the fact that students are more important than numbers, and that diversity will always prevent one-size-fits-all programs from ever helping each and every child. Many parents will be involved, some parents will occasionally need more hand-holding than their children do, and sometimes parents won't ever set foot in your classroom.



I've done this job long enough to recognize the truths of it. I've traveled enough to have some tales to tell, and have been both blessed and burdened by those who inhabit with me the playing field that is Public Education. I have a lot yet to learn, and more students to reach and teach. I anticipate having more thoughts to share, examine, and rethink with my colleagues both past and present, and I look forward to continuing to connect with educators, administrators, parents, and those interested in early childhood education via the web.

This blog is not a witch hunt, nor is it written with the intention to harm my students, their families, my colleagues, or our administrators. Breathe. Relax. Come ask me for clarification if necessary as we're all still getting to know one another. Otherwise, feel free to NOT read this blog. Check out the links to some other "teacher bloggers" on the right hand sidebar (they are awesome!), sit back and enjoy a recipe or two, or avoid my blog completely. It's all good.

Cookie anyone?