BulgingButtons

Not bad for a fat girl


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What a Week, or Welcome to Fourth Grade

We did it! We got through the first week of fourth grade without any major glitches. Nobody cried, nobody got lost, nobody threw up, nobody lost their lunch-box. Okay, so they did manage to lose the three new laundry baskets that hold the lunch-boxes, but I’m sure those will turn up. Good thing I labeled them!

My kids are terrific, and I’m learning so many new things in terms of using technology with them. They know so much! My brain is swimming, and I bet theirs are too, but for different reasons.

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So far we’ve gotten five chapters into a novel, created and shared personal timelines, learned a bit about historical Meso-American cultures, played two truths and a lie, written the rough draft of a poem, worked on our penmanship, calculated place-value to the millions, gotten to know our new Chromebooks a bit, learned each others’ names, played four corners, and squeezed all the toothpaste out of a tube and tried to put it back in. And that’s just part of what we’ve accomplished.

I love my summer breaks, but the start of the school year is a really exciting time, and I’m glad we’re back in session. Happy school year, everyone.

 


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Summer Job One is Done

Today was the last day of our writing camp. Each summer for the past several years I’ve been an instructor at a writing camp affiliated with our local university and the National Writing Project. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also work.

This time around we had ten kids in our section (there are three sites and several sections). Our group ranged from kids entering third grade to kids entering eighth grade. People always wonder how that works, but writing is a marvelous thing… we each approach it from where we are. A third grader and an eighth grader and an adult can all respond to writing challenges, albeit on different levels. Actually, we had an eighth grader whose writing is extremely mature and complex, so you can’t necessarily decide that age limits people.

Today we invited parents in to our end of the session showcase, and each young writer took the microphone and shared a piece they had written, revised, edited, and practiced. The kids were poised, confident, and proud of their writing. I was proud of them, too. Several parents commented that their kids loved the program and that it was helpful to them as writers. I couldn’t ask for higher praise than that.

Now I’m preparing for my next summer job tomorrow, proctoring a high-stakes professional exam. This one is only for a day, but what a LONG day it will be. Then next week I’m off to the east coast for a week-long professional conference on teaching – wait for it – writing. What a busy month June is. And that doesn’t include last week’s visit to Texas or the trip to my niece’s high school graduation at the end of the month. I need a vacation from my vacation!

People who say teachers have the summer off probably don’t know any real teachers. Just saying. Enjoy any time off you may have, I know I will.

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It all sounds so simple.


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More Testing

Here we go again. Yet another round of standardized testing. We’re almost done with them. One today (reading), one next week (math) and then, NO MORE! At least not for this year.

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Teacher on Test Day

So what does this mean for my kiddos? Well, truthfully, not a whole lot. At least not for most of them. It does mean that they’re tired of testing. It also means that some of them are losing their enthusiasm (if they ever had any) for taking these tests. This overkill translates into kids who just don’t want to do it, and therefore aren’t prepared to invest the mental energy that doing their best entails.

And really, why should they?

Yes, everyone should always do their best. Or maybe they should usually do their best. Don’t they have to have something, some mental energy, left over for the pursuits of life that truly interest them? Why burn myself out on this test when I’d rather finish it and go back to the awesome book I’ve been reading? I’ll just answer these last few questions quickly… I’m sure I’m doing well, after all I took my time on the first half of the test…

When we do something too often it loses its power. Imagine having a birthday party once a month. It would lose some of its luster. Well, it’s the same with testing. Standardized testing used to be a BIG DEAL. Unfortunately for us, it’s become an even bigger deal for adults (whose job performance ratings are often associated with these outcomes), and more or less no big deal for kids, who have done so many of these it’s hard to keep count.

Yes, kids, I want you to do your best.

Yes, kids, this one counts.

No, don’t worry, you’re still going on to the next grade level.

No, it’s not going on your report card.

But it COUNTS. Really.

Please just do your best, but know that I love you and I understand if you just don’t have it in you today. I know you’ve learned a lot this year, whether this test shows it or not.