#teacherswrite experience=INSPIRATION

 

If you teach writing in K-12img_5103-1 you must experience #teacherswrite. Look for more information on Kate Messner’s Blog. This is a summer program (free) where teachers can experience minilessons, quick writes, and feedback, from REAL authors, to inspire teachers to write. Don’t you think you’d be a better teacher if you were a better writer? Makes sense right?!

I’ve always been afraid of writing. During my school experience, I was more confident with Math and Science. I felt okay about the rest. After becoming an avid reader in my adult years and seeing the positive impact on my teaching, I thought, “Why not become an avid writer?” This is what lead me to #teacherswrite. I fell upon it because I’m active on Twitter. (BTW, the best teacher professional development out there. If you are not on Twitter for education, you MUST be!)

Now I am writing every day. I am inspired. I plan to write at least half an hour every day from here on out. I will share my plan and my writing with my students. I am eager to teach writing. YAY!!

So, now for the hard part. I am posting below some writing I am currently working on. I know I have a LOT to learn and more I can improve on. But, I will not get there without practice, without failure. I need to be brave and share. Just like I will expect my students to do. If their teacher is taking a leap of faith, my students might just be willing to as well. I hope. Here it is. Feel free to comment.

   *                  *                 *

Three months later, I sit in the doctor’s office waiting for my name to be called. It is a nicely decorated with black and white photos of the city, but I stick out like a sore thumb. The waiting room is full of old people. Some with oxygen machines, walkers, canes. I believe I am the only one here below the age of 60 besides my mom. It is a rheumatology office, which apparently affects mostly the elderly. I guess Dr. Sail hopes this new doctor can figure out what is going on with me.

 

One old guy walks to the door when his name is called. He has one of those walkers you hold onto to help you balance. Every movement he makes looks painful. I cannot help but think, “Could I end up like him?”

“Liz.” calls the nurse.

My mom and I follow her like baby ducks into the examination room. The nurse checks my vitals and asks, “How have you been since your last appointment with your pediatrician, Dr. Sail? He sent us all your records and felt Dr. Pillman might be able to help you.”

“Have you watched any zombie movies lately?” I retort.

“No, why?” the nurse replies, looking at me like I am crazy.

“Well, you know how a zombie looks and acts in movies? That is how I feel inside. Dead.”

“O-kay,” and the nurse rolls her eyes.

“Except for the wanting to eat people of course!” I assure the nurse.

“Glad to see you still have your sense of humor Liz.” The nurse whispered as she shook her head. I could almost read her mind, thinking I am a crazy, mentally messed-up teenager. “Dr. Pillman will be in with you shortly.”

Waiting for the doctor is like waiting for the ketchup to come out of a brand new bottle at a restaurant. All I want is for the doctor to fix this and Mom is just sitting there reading a magazine. “Mom!” I shout.  His name is Dr. PILLman. Come on! Can’t he just give me a pill to make it all go away? Isn’t that what doctors do? I just want to move on with my life and get back to volleyball and friends and middle school.”

“Honey, some things are not so easy to fix. Don’t you think you might be over-reacting a bit? You should feel thankful this is not something deadly like cancer.” My Mom always looks at the bright side of things, puke!

“Thankful!” I shout. “I can’t do ANYTHING I use to. I am losing all my friends and YOU think I should be thank-”

Knock, knock. In walks a man who looks nothing like a doctor. “I am Dr. Pillman. Is everything okay?” My mom and I both look at him with no response.

“Well then, you must be Liz’s mom, Beth, and you must be Liz.”  

Thanks for noticing the obvious Dr. Pillman, who looks nothing like a doctor, more like a surfer.  He has long black hair pulled back into a tight pony tail. Instead of wearing a white doctor coat, he is wearing jeans and a blue polo shirt. Maybe I should be nice to him. He might be able to fix this. I hope, crossing my fingers.

“Hi,” I slightly wave to Dr. Pillman. He turns to my mother and introduces himself, sitting on his round black doctor chair with his clipboard in hand.

Dr. Pillman asks, “How have you been feeling lately Liz?”

I blurt out, almost shouting, “I feel like I am a 12-year-old in a 70-year-old body. I can barely make it up and down the stairs without my legs screaming in pain. My arms and legs burn. All. The. Time. My ribs ache when I sit down. I cannot write for more than a minute without my wrists screaming in pain. I am constantly nauseous. My stomach queasy, especially in the morning. Nothing helps the pain. It is crazy! It hits me so fast. One minute I can feel fine and I think to myself, ‘Maybe this is it. Maybe I will start to feel normal again.’ A couple of hours later it is like someone just flipped a switch. And I go from feeling normal to crashing on the couch. I think that about covers it.” I take a deep breath because all of that came out of my mouth super quick!

“Well Liz, I have looked over your charts and blood tests. I am here today to give you a diagnosis.” Dr. Pillman looks me directly in the eye. I feel my heart beating fast. Whatever it is, just tell me. Fix this.

“Okay,” is the only thing I manage to squeeze out of my mouth.

Dr. Pillman continues, “I believe you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, CFS for short. We are not sure what causes CFS, but we know it does not damage your body. That is the good news. CFS is characterized by intense fatigue and pain. It can get worse with physical activity or mental concentration.”

“So, that is why I cannot play volleyball anymore and have trouble concentrating in school?” I ask Dr. Pillman.

“Yes, Liz. Currently, there is not a test telling us you have CFS. I was only able to diagnose you because you have been experiencing the symptoms of CFS for more than three months.

My mom interjects, “So, what do we do now? Is there a medication Liz can take to get rid of the symptoms? Is there a cure?”

“I am afraid there is not much we can do. No medication is approved for CFS in children. There is no cure,” answered Dr. Pillman, pushing his glasses up on his nose. “Liz will have to learn how to manage her symptoms by limiting physical activity and taking a lot of breaks. Essentially, she will need to re-learn her ‘new’ self. Most kids grow out of it by the time they are an adult. But it could take years.”

“What!” I abruptly stand up and firmly, slowly demand through my clenched teeth, “No. I need to get back to volleyball. It’s my whole life. You are a doctor. You are MUST fix this!”

“I am sorry Liz, there is nothing we can do.”

I slowly sit back down in my seat, thoughts swirl in my head. Mom and Dr. Pillman continue to talk but all I can do is think back to volleyball. No volleyball? Does this mean every time I feel better and try to be normal, I will feel awful later? How can I be a volleyball player when I cannot even practice. This isn’t fair. He said, “Grow out of it when I’m an adult.” What about my life now? My life is ruined! I feel the tears forming. No. I cannot cry. No.

My thoughts are interrupted by Mom, “Liz honey. Dr. Pillman asked you a question.”

I look up at Dr. Pillman. He repeats, “There is a local support group for children with CFS. Would you like me to give you the information?”

“Whatever,” I snap at Dr. Pillman. He hands me a brochure with kids on the front. Some are in wheelchairs.

Dr. Pillman looks at me and says, “Don’t worry Liz. Once you learn how to manage your symptoms and physical activity, you will crash less often and feel much better. I’ll see you in three months for a check-up.” And then he just walks out the door.

That’s it! I turn around to look at my mom and she’s crying. As I try to hold back the tears, I hug my mom tight and we both cry for what seems like an eternity.

 

* * *

 

The next morning I wake up in utter defeat. Inside I am still Liz, but my body betrayed me. Let me down like a mean, mean joke. “Ha, ha Liz,” my body taunts me, “You thought you were going to be an awesome volleyball player, a normal kid. Not anymore! Normal is something you will never know again.”

Why should I even get out of bed? I can’t do anything. I can’t go to the mall, too much walking. I can’t join my friends at volleyball practice, too much running. I can’t go swimming. I can’t snow ski. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t! “Agggggg!” I scream, slamming my fists into my pillow. “My. Life. Is. Ruined.”

Rage builds up inside me, ready to explode. Scrunching my brow, I look around my bedroom. My heart is beating fast. My hands are clammy. I stare at my wall with the collage of volleyball photos. All I see are memories of what I use to be. A wave of anger takes over. Throwing the comforter off my useless body, I rush over to the photos.  My anger rips off photo after photo. My rage tears them into little pieces. I can barely catch my breath. I scream. I weep. I collapse on the floor.

“Liz! What on earth is going on?” Mom shouts as she opens my bedroom door. “Oh.” I hear her say softly. Without saying another word, Mom lays next to me, holds me tight. We lay there and cry.

In between sobs I plead, “Mom, what am I going to do?”

“We’ll figure it out, honey. We will,” Mom responds tenderly.

#TeachersWrite Experience

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I am loving my experience with #TeachersWrite so far. After my first week, I actually have a piece of writing. Yay! I know if I want to be a better writing teacher, I need to write. The #TeachersWrite blog is just I need for guidance to overcome the fear I’ve always had about writing. If you are interested in checking it out, click here. It links to author Kate Messner and her blog. (By the way, if you have not read THE SEVENTH WISH, by Kate Messner, you must.)

Now, for the brave, getting over the fear, part of this process. My work in progress is below. Feel free to comment and share what works for you, what does not, and any suggestions for improvement.

 

He just does not understand! I do not want a dog, I need a dog. When I am terrified after waking up from a nightmare, a dog will be there to comfort me. When grief takes over my body like a disease, a dog will love me.

“Dad, I will pay the adoption fee, pick up the poop, feed him. I swear I will!”

“Rrr,” Dad grunted, shutting the office door behind him.

Defeat washed over me like a wave. I’m drowning. I slowly trudge up the stairs and plop down on my bed.

“Rrr,” I grunt.

My New Writing Journey

 

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#teacherswrite 2016 Monday June 27th

I am not a writer. I have never been. I try to say things on paper, but when I read it, the message is not there. No formal training on writing, but I am expected to teach my intermediate students the art of writing. This is why I am here. I want to learn. I desire to learn. I am scared. I worry someone will read what I have to say and think, “Who do they think they are?? Really, you are a teacher?” The fear is there like a wall. Do I climb over it? Do I let others see me in my vulnerable state? Or do I just keep doing what I have always done?
One thing I do know, once I became a reader, I was a better, much better, reading teacher. My passion rubbed off in the classroom. I had a book recommendation for every type of student/taste. If only I can accomplish this with writing. If I become a writer, will I be a better, much better, writing teacher? I hope so.

Now…what do I write about???

#druffelites Top Ten Books

Our Top Ten Most Loved Book List

1. THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielsen

The False Prince was our last read aloud for the school year. Students were invested in this book. They hated if we only had ten minutes to read on a tight-scheduled day. Many class discussion arose without probing or prodding. If you want a class at the edge of their seats, or a child who cannot put the book down, this one is for you.

From Amazon.com: In this first book in a remarkable trilogy, an orphan is forced into a twisted game with deadly stakes.

Choose to lie…or choose to die.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

2. AMULET Series by Kazu Kibuishi

Talk about well-loved. I have to buy a whole new set of this series for fall. Girls and boys devoured this series and could not wait for book 7 when it came out this spring. We had wait-list after wait-list of readers read for the next book in the series.

From Amazon.com: After tragedy strikes their family, Emily and Navin move with their mother into the old home of their great-grandfather. On their very first night in the strange house, Emily and Navin’s mom is kidnapped by a tentacled creature. Determined to rescue her, Emily and Navin are led into a world of robots, talking animals, flying ships, new allies . . . and enemies. There, Emily learns that she is a Stonekeeper and essential to the survival of this world, and that her incredible story is only just beginning.

3. THE HONEST TRUTH by Dan Gemeinhart

This is the second year I have include this book as a read aloud. We were even lucky enough to have Dan Gemeinhart visit our school this spring. Students fell in love with the main character Mark and his Dog Beau as they traveled to Mt. Rainier. Taking place in Washington State was the perfect setting since our social studies unit for the year was Washington State History and Government. Students made storyboards of their favorite scene and presented them to author Dan Gemeinhart during his visit. This heart-wrenching tale of perseverance and love engage readers from cover to cover.

From Amazon.com: It’s never too late for the adventure of a lifetime.

In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He’s got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day.

But in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from.

So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan. A plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier. Even if it’s the last thing he ever does.

THE HONEST TRUTH is a rare and extraordinary novel about big questions, small moments, and one incredible journey.

4. SHILOH by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Our first read aloud of the year drew in the new fourth graders. Students quickly discovered how invested a reader can get into a book. They cared about Shiloh and despised Judd. This is a wonderful read aloud.

From Amazon.com: Marty will do anything to save his new friend Shiloh in this Newbery Medal–winning novel from Phillis Reynolds Naylor.

When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it’s love at first sight—and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to Judd Travers, who drinks too much and has a gun—and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty’s secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd’s anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his?

5. THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

My words will never do this book justice. This is the most powerful book I have read. The main character, Ada, endures more than most of us could imagine. My students fell in love with Ada and HATED Mam, Ada’s mom.We were ecstatic to hear this well-deserved book won a Newbery Honor. After we completed this class read aloud, we had the pleasure to Skype with the author, Kimberly Brubaker Bradely. We found out the sequel will leave off right where this story ended. We cannot wait!

From Amazon.com: An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.
 
Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
 
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
 
This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

6. RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE by Kate DiCamillo

We pre-ordered this book for our Fourth Grade Book Club. Students had three weeks to read the book, then we met after school to discuss. Many finished the book within one week because they could not put it down. Out of the three rancheros (best friends), Beverly was the most favorite. We were not disappointed with Kate DiCamillo’s newest book!

From Amazon.com: Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

7. SOME KIND OF COURAGE by Dan Gemeinhart

The first student to read this book in my class followed along with the award-winning audio book. He would shout, tear-up, and whisper to himself throughout the book. This is a kid who finally fell in love with a book thanks to Dan Gemeinhart. This was also our first Fourth Grade Book Club book and the group loved it. It is action-packed and full of love. It takes place in the 1800s in Washington State. Another must read!

From Amazon.com: Joseph Johnson has lost just about everyone he’s ever loved. He lost his pa in an accident. He lost his ma and his little sister to sickness. And now, he’s lost his pony-fast, fierce, beautiful Sarah, taken away by a man who had no right to take her.

Joseph can sure enough get her back, though. The odds are stacked against him, but he isn’t about to give up. He will face down deadly animals, dangerous men, and the fury of nature itself on his quest to be reunited with the only family he has left.

Because Joseph Johnson may have lost just about everything. But he hasn’t lost hope. And he hasn’t lost the fire in his belly that says he’s getting his Sarah back-no matter what.

The critically acclaimed author of The Honest Truth returns with a poignant, hopeful, and action-packed story about hearts that won’t be tamed… and spirits that refuse to be broken.

8. WONDER by R.J. Palacio

This was another Fourth Grade Book Club book the students loved. It made them think about what it would like to be Auggie and how they treat people who may look different.

From Amazon.com: The book that inspired the Choose Kind movement.

“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” 

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author ofSticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

9. DEEP, DARK, AND DANGEROUS by Mary Downing Hahn

The craze with this book started when a student read this book along with the audio book on our class iPad. He could not stop talking about how creepy this book was and how much he loved it. Students waited for their turn with the book. A great ghost story for any classroom library.

From Amazon.com: Just before summer begins, 13-year-old Ali finds an odd photograph in the attic. She knows the two children in it are her mother, Claire, and her aunt Dulcie. But who’s the third person, the one who’s been torn out of the picture?

Ali figures she’ll find out while she’s vacationing in Maine with Dulcie and her four-year-old daughter, Emma, in the house where Ali’s mother’s family used to spend summers. All hopes for relaxation are quashed shortly after their arrival, though, when the girls meet Sissy, a kid who’s mean and spiteful and a bad influence on Emma.

Strangest of all, Sissy keeps talking about a girl named Teresa who drowned under mysterious circumstances back when Claire and Dulcie were kids, and whose body was never found. At first Ali thinks Sissy’s just trying to scare her with a ghost story, but soon she discovers the real reason why Sissy is so angry. . . . Mary Downing Hahn is at her chilling best in this new supernatural tale that’s certain to send shivers down her readers’ spines.

10. THE BOOK SCAVENGER by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Boy did my students fall in love with this book and ciphers. It was a great book to read aloud this year. It kept the students guessing right up until the end. What a fun book!

From Amazon.com: For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it’s the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). Upon her arrival, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and is now in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold himself, and might contain the only copy of his mysterious new game.

Racing against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of Griswold’s new game―before those who attacked Griswold come after them too.

Five Ways to Bring the Joy Back

As I read educator blogs, Twitter feeds, and professional books this summer, I cannot help but think about how stressful our job as an educator can be. We care so much about our students and being the best teacher we can be, sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves first. Yes, I said first.

How do we take care of ourselves and still be an excellent educator? I have a few ideas on this topic I’d like to share.

First of all, enjoy your summer. Even if you are not going on an official vacation, do something for yourself you normally cannot to during the school year. For example, I went on a private wine tasting event where we were able to compare wines straight out of the barrel. We are also traveling to Lake Chelan this week to relax with my family and my new nephew. Take advantage of this precious time we have during the summer!

 

Barrel Tasting!
 
During the school year, here are a few thing you can do to keep the joy in your teacher life, and the stress out.

  • Do something with your class that you are passionate about and enjoy. I happen to love technology and teaching my students how to use new tools. I introduce them to blogging, storyboards, google drive. I get so excited when students discover how powerful these tools can be, how motivating they can be, and the students can see this excitement in me too. Together we are truly enjoying the experience.
  • Change it up. Students and teachers can get bogged down by the same routines. We naturally need something fresh, different, to help not only students be engaged, but teachers too.
  • Have fun! At least once a week, plan a fun activity with your class. It could be a simple team-building activity or game. Make sure it is something you will enjoy.
  • Read aloud books you enjoy. I happen to love children and young adult novels. I read up a ton during the summer and choose my read alouds for the school year that I am passionate about and know I will love reading again.

How do you keep the stress at bay? Please add to the list of ways we can take care of ourselves so we can be better teachers for our students.

I Wish

The last leg of our journey together as a class. Nine more days to go. Wishful thinking enters my mind as I prepare to send you all to middle school.

What I wish for you…

  • Love
  • Laughter
  • Hugs
  • New adventures
  • Old friends
  • New friends
  • Confidence
  • Perserverence
  • Struggle
  • “Aha” moments
  • Family
  • Passion

All of the above can be found in life AND books. Keep moving forward. Celebrate mistakes and learn from them. Remember, I will always be your biggest fan.

Your Teacher,

Mrs. Druffel

Through the Eyes of a Student

 

Photo Credit: Sky Druffel

As I spend the first official day of Spring Break planning for the rest of the year, I reflect on the survey my students kindly filled out about our classroom and my teaching. I noticed a lot of trends and commonalities, but also many differences. 

Many wrote they love when I use humor and suggested I use it more. My goal is to plan at least one humor related item a day. Some of my ideas include jokes, stories, silly movements, and role-playing.

Students also wrote they needed more practice with math concepts. I plan on using a workshop model this spring to provide more practice time and small group instruction.

Using the single point rubric to provide feedback instead of giving a grade on formative assessments was a huge success with students this winter. Students wrote they want to keep doing this and feel it helps them succeed.

Finally, I noticed many individual differences which reminded me of the unique needs of each student. A strategy that works for one may not work for another. I am reminded of the importance of differentiation to meet as many needs of each student as possible. 

In my process of reflection, I asked my daughter today to tell me her favorite part of school (she is a first grader). Library was her response. I asked her to tell me why. She talked about books, the teacher read alouds and bringing rocks to her librarian. Rocks? Her librarian has a different theme each year, this year’s theme is rocks. She allows them to being in rocks they have found. I asked if she is funny. My daughter responded no, but said she is nice.

Nice. My daughter’s last statement brought me back to the most important word in education, relationships. If a child can see that you truly care (there is no faking it) amazing things can and will happen. We have the privilege to work with children everyday. Our relationship with each one of them makes the most impact. Notice them, listen to them, celebrate with them, love them.

How I use the Single Point Rubric to Provide Feedback

I have been using the single point rubric template I found on the cultofpedagogy website by Jennifer Gonzalez.  My students find the tool useful because I am able to give them written feedback based on the criteria instead of giving them a grade. I then meet with students in small groups and we go over the feedback and reteach if necessary. Students then use the feedback to make changes to meet the criteria. They appreciate that the rubric is not the end product (grade), instead, it is the tool to help them progress towards the goal/criteria. Students get the opportunity to continue their learning journey. Below are links to two of my rubrics for Fifth Grade and an example of how I use this tool. Let me know what you think.

Link to multiplication and division of fractions document: Single-Point-Rubric CCSS Mult and Divide Fractions Fifth Grade

Link to the document below: Single-Point-Rubric-Writing an opinion Fifth Grade

March 205
Student sample of opinion writing. This student has struggled with writing in the past.
March 206
Single Point Rubric used to provide the students with feedback

When You Feel Like Giving Up

I know, this title is a little dramatic, but it was how I felt during my third year of teaching. I wanted to give up. I felt alone.

It was an exciting year, I had two wonderful years of teaching experience under my belt. Our brand new school building was opening. I just got married, and we just bought a house. The outlook could of not have been better. Little did I know, it was going to be the worst, and best teaching year of my career.

  

You know when you get the “perfect storm” of students. The group that all the regular strategies just do not work for. Well, this was THE group, times ten. Many times I felt like giving up. Maybe this isn’t the career for me. I would go home and lay on the couch and fall asleep at 5pm. I was exhausted. I still do not know how I made it through. 

And yet, at the end of the school year, this was the class that was the hardest to let go. Students cried and parents spoke highly of my ability to bring out the best of a not-so-perfect situation. 

I reflect back on that year often, especially when the going gets tough. I feel like I gained five years of teaching experience in that one year. I am no longer the same teacher, or person, after that experience, but in a positive way.

I gained confidence in knowing if I could survive a year like that, I could survive any year, EVER. It also helped me increase my toolbelt of classroom management strategies and helped me realize I need to be my own advocate. I need to be an advocate for my students as well.

Thankfully, I was completing my masters in education at the time and the group helped me problem-solve and listened when I needed it. I also had an amazing husband who listened and helped me reflect.

Looking back, I’d never take away that experience. It helped shape who I am as a teacher today. I am a better teacher for my current students because of it. 

I’m writing this to be the voice for all educators. We all have experiences in our life, career related or not, that make you feel like you hit rock bottom, and that it will never end. Yet, these moments can be the most powerful moments to learn from.

I challenge you to think about the one thing that is currently driving you nuts, causing you the most stress. Instead of beating yourself up and seeing yourself as a failure, think about when it is all said and done, you will be a stronger person because of it, even if you currently do not have the answer.

Even more important than that, know you are NOT alone. We’ve all been there and will be there again!

Ask and Analyze



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I’m currently reading Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess along with a few of my teaching colleagues. We are reading the chapter Ask and Analyze this week.

The chapter describes creativity. Dave stresses this is NOT a natural talent some people have and some so do not. Instead, it is intentionally nurtured through asking the right questions. How do we ask ourselves the right questions to nurture our own creativity in teaching?

As I read the chapter, I thought back to the morning I was running (many years ago!) on the treadmill and the idea of our classroom restaurant was born. The question I asked myself was, “How can I invited parents into our classroom to thank them for supporting their child in their educational journey during the year? What can the students do to show their gratitude?” I presented the idea to my 1st/2nd grade class and, from there, we created our restaurant. It was such a big hit that the following year all first grade classes in our school participated. If you want to read more about our restaurant, read my post How We Transformed Our Classroom into a Restaurant. 

Reflecting on this experience, I wonder how often I ask myself the right questions to support creativity. Do I ask myself how I can best present the lesson to get the most “bang for my buck?” Do I allow myself time for this in my planning? Do I intentionally plan the joy in learning? 

The answer is sometimes I do, but most of the time I do not. I get busy, overwhelmed, and forget this important piece. It is not about not having enough time, it is about prioritizing and making the time. Anything worth doing deserves the time. Our students deserve to be the priority. They deserve to experience the joy of learning more often than not. 

Thank you Dave Burgess, I needed this chapter.