Saturday, September 20, 2014

It's Not Goodbye!

It's been a few months since I've posted last.  And I think it's about time I tell you why.  I have really been struggling with a few things  First, as you know my husband had lost his job last year...right before baby #2 was to be born.  We made it through (and he has another job now) but the debt we accrued during his unemployment was way more than we could afford with his new pay.  So we decided to sell our house and use whatever we gained to pay off the debt and start anew.  The other thing I have been going through is just purely emotional.  I don't know if it's post pardum or just genuine depression but I have been pretty down this summer.

So in order to "get my life back" I decided to focus on what is most important in kids and my health.  I don't have any family nearby that can help me with my children so it's me who takes them to soccer practice, to the doctor appointments, to playdates, etc.  It's me who makes sure homework is done, exercise is had and food is in their belly.  To do this and be a full-time working woman is seriously hard!  How the other bloggers out there do this effortlessly is purely amazing to me.  I also have been feeling in the last few months that it is MY example that is the most important.  I need to make sure I am teaching them how to grow up into a good man, one that any woman would want for a husband!  And I need to focus on teaching them the principles of our religion, which is important to me.

To rule out depression I am going to work on losing weight and being a better example for my kids. When my first child became mobile I had the same feelings so I wondered if this is possibly a late onset of post pardum.  Those of you who are mothers, you understand this.  When your child becomes mobile...any sense of your freedom is gone for the next couple of years while you chase your child ensuring he's safe!  I do give #2 a bit more freedom than I did with #1 but still don't want any harm to come to him.  So it's a constant vigilance and a constant inability to complete any one task that makes me feel "lost" (for lack of a better word).

So for these 2 reasons...becoming healthier (in mind and body) and focusing on raising my boys... I have decided to take a little break from the blog.  I won't be gone forever because I love sharing,  creating and this whole online community! It keeps me excited about teaching and that is something I LOVE!   Good luck to all of you in teaching and to those of you working on your national boards!  I hope we all get good news in November!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

NBC Sunday #7: And Finally, The…Exam.

Aaahhh!  It's the dreaded exam!  I was so anxious about this part of the process and it turned out to be...alright.  I didn't pass social studies because the question focused on 3rd grade. I've never taught that so I was literally making crap up…and hoping it sounded good!  I also didn't pass play and was flabbergasted!  BUT learned why after talking to an NBCT teacher about it.

So here's how I prepared. I paid for and joined the online support group  It was the BEST decision I made to prepare for the exam.  They had weekly chat sessions of people preparing each other for the exam.  I learned how to word my answers quickly and succinctly.

And it worked. 

I only floundered on the standards I had never studied (3rd grade) and on play…something we here in CA don't get to do much of…so I was out of practice (which honestly, was disappointing to me!)

What I intend to do to help YOU prepare for this is to pose questions like what you might see on the exam.  Each week I'll focus on 1 of the 6 areas and present a few scenarios.  You can comment with your response or just practice with it at home on your own.  In the online support group people posted their responses and got ideas from each other.  It was extremely helpful!

Lastly, here's a tip.  Once you leave the exam building, write down what you remember about each entry.  That way when you get your scores you can have a better idea of why you scored the way you did.  You can't share those questions with anyone but at least, for you, you'll have a greater understanding of what happened.  When I received my scores and saw the play score…I scoffed.  Then I went back and read what my question was and remembered my response then promptly planted my face in my palm. *ugh* {note to self-actually study play!} 

Have fun studying this week and I'll see you next week with sample questions for the exam!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

NBC #6: Entry 1: Examining Children's Literacy Development

So this is the entry I chose to retake.  I had prepared a post about it previously and was putting the finishing touches on it WHEN I got my score.  YEAH.  That post got nixed!  The 2 entries that I didn't do well on actually weren't that bad.  Being down only 3 points is easy to make up (or so I'm told!).

I went to a CTA (California Teachers Association) support meeting in early December to meet with a NBCT teacher who could look over my writing and help me figure out where it went wrong.  What she found made COMPLETE sense.  And confirmed my beliefs that my procrastination on entry 1 is what did me in. (How many times had I been told, last year, not to procrastinate by the facilitator?)   The NBCT teacher said many times in my writing she knew what I was getting at but that I didn't state it explicitly and therefore, the assessor probably felt the same way.  THAT, my friends, is the result of me working under pressure because I procrastinated and had an extra life stressor (my husband's job loss) join the writing camp out.

At this meeting I also proved to be an example (for good or bad?) to those attempting to certify for the first time.  I proofed some of their work…entry 4's of course, because I rocked that.  (I didn't feel comfortable proofing the other entries, nor did they ask!).

This time around I'll be much more prepared and much more focused.  It'll be a lot easier to write academically and explicitly.  Bonus: it's only 1 entry!  However, I will not turn it in without getting advice so if you are an NBCT and want to read for me, I'd LOVE it!

Ok, so on to the prep work for this entry:

In this entry I will be taking a sample of 3 pieces from over an 8 week period with 2 students.

LAST YEAR, I kept the work from EVERY student for the whole year and had an incredible amount of writing to go through.  I selected an 8 week period from September-October…too far away to remember exactly what I did to help each kid move forward in writing…so I tried to "recall" and use my knowledge of the writing process.

THIS YEAR I am going to be much more focused.  My plan is to select 2 students from each of my 3 levels - advanced, benchmark and below benchmark.  So I will follow 6 students total.  My lowest writing group has only 2 kids in it so these 2 should {hopefully} benefit from the extra attention.

My advanced group is working on using digraphs and blends.  So my goal is to teach them how to utilize that in their writing along with adding more sentences.

My benchmark group is beginning word families and my below benchmark students are still learning their alphabet {bless!}.

For the benchmark group obviously they need to start work on word family lists and learn how to access that.  In fact, maybe that's a tool I can add to my writer's workshop tools product on TpT!   These kids need a bit more confidence in writing sentences.  I noticed that the higher benchmark kids get it and more often than not write sentences that one can follow.  But the lower end of the benchmark group are still very inconsistent.  I am thinking to focus on kids in the lower benchmark group to help them be more consistent by doing small group work as taught in Writers Workshop.

For my below benchmark children the focus will be on phonics…learning the letter names and their sounds.  I'm contemplating using some Montessori methods as it is multi-sensory. When these kids write it is just a jumble of letters.  I'm thinking of pulling them during writing time to do extra phonics practice while writing a sentence together.  What would you do?

I am going to get started this upcoming week.  I still have one more week off of school so I might as well get a head start and be TOTALLY ready.  My 8 week period begins January 13 and ends March 7.  We will be focusing on opinion writing during that time.

If you have any suggestions or ideas for me to work on, after reading this, I'm all ears! I'm happy to read your work as well.  I've always loved being a help to other people trying to move forward in their careers & lives.

In the beginning of my career I would spend many evenings with a co-worker helping her through her masters degree by proofing her work.  Not only did we get to spend time together but it helped her move forward (and up the pay scale). Working together and supporting one another is the best way to be successful!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

So Thankful

Happy thanksgiving! Today across our country most people will be gathering together with loved ones and friends and taking the time to remember all that they are thankful for. It's been on your Facebook feed as friends and family post daily what they are thankful for. Well today I'm going to add to that and tell you all what I'm thankful for!

What I am most thankful for are my children and husband. They changed my course forever and I don't have any regrets. My highs are so much higher than before they came along and my lows are nowhere near what they used to be. They make life so much more meaningful!
This is my boys today. My oldest fell off his bike and made this pouty face for the camera.

In the teaching world I am grateful for a few things: 

First I'm grateful for the blogging world! I LOVE connecting with other teachers, learning new things, finding out how & what is being taught in different classrooms around our country and our world! I add as much to that as I can by having my own blog, albeit small.

Second I am grateful for a supportive principal. This man goes above and beyond the call of duty for us. He tries his best to get us what we need and encourages us to be creative and try new things if it works for the kids.
(That's him on the left. He is so good at getting donations for our school!)

Third I am grateful for donorschoose! I feel so supported through the generosity of others. It's like they want the best for my students, just as I do. 

Last but certainly not least, I am thankful for you, my followers. My blog and products may be building slowly but without you I wouldn't feel encouraged to keep moving forward. And I especially appreciate the supportive words from those of you who commented on my last post! {hugs!} I'm planning something special soon for all of you!

Now back to every day life:

I am grateful for friends across the world who are there through thick and thin. Who accept you (me) regardless of quirks and shortcomings.

And as crazy as this may sound I am grateful my husband doesn't work at his job anymore. He had been working 12-18 hour days for 2 years and I was a single mom during that time. This time (although extremely stressful financially) has given my husband the opportunity to connect with the son he'd see in passing and bond with our newest son. He never got that with our first and it's nice to see him finally building a relationship with his children. It's made us both realize that the sacrifice for a job just wasn't worth it. 

I am thankful for modern conveniences/technologies that help me stay connected to people throughout the world. Blogs, video chat, email, Facebook, airplanes, trains, etc. all of it helps me stay connected to those I love!

I hope you all had a very happy thanksgiving and wish you much rest as we will all need the extra energy for the month ahead!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Scores are In

So the scores came in a few hours earlier than expected….and….I didn't pass.  I missed it by 3 points. I hardly slept a wink last night just thinking about my writing and what could have gone wrong.  I knew my writing entry was weak for a few reasons.  First reason, I didn't pick anyone during the school year to focus on.  I just saved all the student writing and looked through it ALL (in May) to see if I could find good candidates to write about.  This meant I would have to remember what I did specifically to direct their writing forward. NOT an easy task.  And the second reason…I had begun my fury of writing over Memorial Day weekend and my husband lost his job on that Monday holiday.  I was 7 months pregnant at the time and I was now the only income. Needless to say, it was HARD to stay focused while writing. If I hadn't procrastinated I more than likely would have done better on this entry.  But because of procrastination I had to finish it under a stressful situation.  Third reason is I am just crap at writing! Sometimes I look at my blog and think, "boy I ramble!" But I write what's going through my head and I try to filter as much as I can before I hit publish. And final reason was i didn't have enough faith and confidence in myself. I went through the process with some extremely talented teachers who to be perfectly honest intimidate me with how amazing they are as teachers and as regular every day people. I often felt like maybe I won't pass this thing so it's quite likely I set myself up for failure. 

But whatever the reason may be I made the decision to be open and honest about it. I have never come across how anyone felt when they didn't make it the first year so here it is. Let me walk you through my results and the roller coaster of emotions that I am feeling.

I did very well on 2 of the 3 entries I spent the most time on.  I got a level 4 score on my documentation entry (#4) and a level 3 score on my social studies entry (#2).  Both entry 1 and 3 I earned a level 2 score (not passing). In the exam I passed all parts except for 2. Those aren't weighted as heavily so for me to pass next year I will only need to pick one entry to redo. I only need 3 more points to pass so I know focusing on one can help me.

So my emotions. Well I can get pretty anxious and when I saw my results and came to understand that I had not passed my heart sank. My husband is still without a job and my district pays for national board certification. We are given an automatic 7.5% pay increase. For me that translated to nearly $5,000. Something we REALLY need right now. I've been doing my best to create new TpT products (while working and being mom and trying to get healthy so I can be around for them longer) just to hopefully make a little extra cash but I can't churn it out fast enough! My list of "to create" is a mile long but finding the time to do it is just hard. I get about 2-4 hours a week.

So of course I cried not only for not getting the pay increase for my family  but for feeling like a failure. I am my own worst critic and feel like I've let myself down big time. I know myself however and while I cry today I'll pick myself up tomorrow, brush off the dust and get back to work. "Ain't nobody got time for that!" Lol I just need the time to mourn  "what could've been" today.

Tomorrow I begin the process of looking for grants/scholarships for retake candidates. We can't afford it so I pray to find it. I'm also trying to think of other ways to get the funding...maybe see if my school site council would invest in me? Ha! Maybe wishful thinking but it's worth a try, right?!

Writing this has been very therapeutic and I'm sure I've rambled! Those of you who have started following me for the NBC help well now I'm your cohort! I will finish no matter what. Good luck to you all and most of all trust and believe that you can do this!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

NBC Sunday #5 - Entry 2:Integrating Social Science with the Arts

Well hello once again!  The holidays sure do put a damper on trying to get blog posts out.  Halloween is over and there is a little down time before the other 2 holidays start up!  I'm going to attempt to get ahead and pre-plan the other NBC posts so I don't fall into the same trap.  But let's be honest...that would require me to not procrastinate!  And I'm just so good at it.  

Ok, so here we are talking about entry 2.  This is the entry where you focus on social science and integrate the arts.  Honestly as teachers I feel we are always integrating, are we not?  And in kindergarten the arts are almost always woven in, so I felt this was an easy entry.  (Now wouldn't that be ironic if this entry is what makes me NOT pass the boards?!)  

Here are the California standards I used:

Social Studies K.4.2 
Distinguish between land and water on a map and globe and locate general areas referenced in historical legends and stories.

Social Studies K.6.2 Know the triumphs in American legends and historical accounts through the stories of such people as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, etc.

Theatre 1
Retell or dramatize stories, myths, tables, and fairy tales from various cultures and times.

Theatre 2
Use costumes or props in role playing.

Art 2.2
Demonstrate beginning skill in the use of tools and processes, such as the use of scissors, glue, and paper in creating a 3D construction.

So I chose my 15 minute video on Christopher Columbus. We spent an entire week learning about him and why he is important.  It was a great way for us to integrate map skills.  I integrated costumes by having the children make their own hats and telescopes.  

These are screen shots of where I got the instructions from.  (I had pics of the students but can't seem to find them.)  The hats are from Dr. Jean's website and the telescopes come from DLTK.

THEN we role played.  We pretended to be explorers like Christopher Columbus.  The children "explored" the classroom looking for fake gold in addition to a very short play I created for them to participate in.

I videotaped EVERY SINGLE LESSON in this lesson plan.  It ran for 5 days and I made sure each period was taped.  Why?  Because I wanted to ensure I had enough video captured to be picky about.  No, not a single one was perfect but at least I had a choice!

We read books about Christopher Columbus each day.  We compared the books.  

We learned a poem about him.   
Here is a link to this free mini-poster in my TpT store.

We studied maps on the smartboard and on a globe and we created props (hats & telescopes) to dramatize exploration.  AND we wrote. 

Here is a link to this freebie in my TpT store.

This was one of my supporting documents.  It was a list the children created at the end of the week (I just fancied it up!) 

Lastly, what I learned mostly from the videotaping process is that I talk too much.  I noticed that I answered for the children sometimes.  It was eye opening.  Going through the process whether or not I pass has made me a better teacher.  

I hope that this blog post has inspired you to focus your direction on entry 2.  And if you're already working on it I encourage you to remember this simple phrase:

What is the impact on student learning?

If you can answer that question in your writing you will be well on your way to creating a document that's worthy of a passing score!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

NBC Sunday #4 - Entry 3: Integrating Science and Math & a Freebie!

Hello all!  I'm going to start today's post by quoting directly from NBPTS on Entry 3.

"In this entry, you submit a 15-minute video recording of and instructional materials for an integrative learning sequence designed  to deepen children's understanding of mathematics and science topics through unifying concepts and processes in science and to develop children's skills in using mathematical and scientific ways of observing, thinking, reasoning, and communicating.  You provide a written commentary analyzing the video recording and instructional materials, including your use of technology to support children's learning."

What I didn't know until I started investigating this process is that if you want to "get your feet wet" and try it out, you can do so with this entry.  They call it "Take One!"  Basically you are ONLY doing this entry.  None of the others would need to be completed and what you pay would be much less.  For some people this works. You get a good idea of how the process works and with much less stress and much less work to focus on.

For me I decided to rip the band-aid off and just do it all in one year.  I figured I might as well give the whole thing a shot and if I don't pass a particular area I can just retake that portion the following year. 


I did not pass this entry.  So what I wrote below may not be useful to you!  I learned that I may have focused too much on math in my writing when this was clearly more science with math support.  I may have also spent too much time/used too much space in my writing on literacy related activities.

~For my entry 3 ~
I used the following CA kindergarten standards: 

Science 1b: Water can be a liquid or solid and can be made to change back and forth
Math K.MD.1: Describe measurable attributes of objects by weight
Math K.MD.2: compare 2 objects with weight in common for more or less

We spent a full week exploring water and ice.  Here are some pics that I included in my entry:
 This is 2 snapshots of documentation from my Smartboard.  The top half was the student predictions of what would happen to the water when we placed it in the freezer.  The check marks were after we checked the water the following day.  Those with checkmarks predicted correctly.  The pitcher is words we came up with to describe ice.

This pic is of the journal we kept for rate of evaporation.  (Want a copy of this? Go here!)
We kept track of the cup of water that was left out.  We also put one in a ziploc bag.  Obviously the one in the ziploc didn't evaporate so it helped the kids to see that air is what caused the water line to go down in the cup we tracked.

Here are some of the activities we did during the week:
  1. Introduction - What is Ice?
  2. Sensing Ice (using the senses to describe ice)
  3. Weight and space of water and ice - which one takes up more space?  which one weighs more?
The Video
I taped every lesson I did and then selected the one I felt would work the best.  It ended up being the very first introduction to water and ice.

What you NEED to know is they aren't looking for perfection.  Let what really happens in your school day show in the video.  If the intercom interrupts while you are teaching the lesson that is something that really happens so don't stress over it and feel like you will have to retape it.  If you were to see my video entry for #2 you would CRY!  Not only do I have intercom interruptions but my neighboring teacher (whom I have a connecting door with) came in to ask a question PLUS my special ed visitors had missed the previous day and were EXTREMELY noisy in the back of the room working on what they needed to catch up on to do the activity with us and I got a phone call.  It was CRAZY!

I'll wrap this up by giving you a few key questions to ponder when you are putting together your lesson plan and executing it:
  1. What do you know about your students?
  2. What is the goal of the lesson?
  3. How will you evaluate their learning?
Then reflect:
  1. What could you have done to teach it better?
  2. How effective were the strategies used and your resources?
  3. What is the next step?
Lastly, if you missed the freebie up above I've got it right here once again.  It's my Water Observation Journal.  Just click HERE and you will be taken to the google doc to download it. Have a great week!