Friday, September 19, 2014

Enough is enough!

Hey everyone!  Not sure if you have been watching the news lately, but there are some pretty amazing things happening that have to do with teaching... more specifically testing!  Sadly, the word "testing" is something we hear all too often in the world of education.  There always seems to be some new test, some better way to assess student growth, some new technology that will provide us with more accurate data... blah blah blah blah!  Don't get me wrong, I do believe there needs to be some form of accountabilty in education and some accurate way to monitor growth and academic progress.  The piece that's missing is "CONSISTENT".  This will be my seventh year of teaching and I feel as though there has been some new/different way of "testing" introduced every other year!  How can we accurately track growth if the tool we're using to measure with is constantly changing?  When I first started (back in the day haha) DIBELS was the primary form of assessment used in elementary schools in this county.  Then there was the FAIR test which all of us jokingly referred to as the "UNFAIR" test which supposedly indicated a given child's "probability of reading success".  Now our county administers the AIMSweb assessment.  Each of these tests were given three times a year and needed to be administered in a one-on-one setting.  Not to mention that on top of these state mandated assessments, we had our county mandated assessments (FCAs), weekly assessments, unit assessments, benchmark tests and ongoing progress monitoring.  In short, the time needed to test seems to be greater than the amount of time we have to teach! 

Well, my frugal friends, someone finally took a stand.  Someone finally spoke up.  Enough is enough!  It happened in Gainesville.  A kindergarten teacher at Lawton Chiles Elementary made headlines for refusing to give her little ones the computer based FAIR assessment.  You can read about it  HERE !  The teacher's name is Susan Bowles and ironically she was my mentor teacher while I was attending UF.  I knew then that she was an amazing teacher, and this just proves it!  She had the courage to stand up and say what we've all been thinking... enough is enough!  At the risk of loosing her job, she took a stand!  Because she worded it way better than I ever could have, this was the exact letter she shared on a social media site:
   
To the parents of the boys and girls in my class,

I wrote you a letter over the weekend to let you know that I am refusing to administer the FAIR test to your precious little ones. I had hoped to send you an email or letter, but it would not be professional of me or allowed by the district for a letter to go out letting you know that I am doing something that is a breach of contract and therefore...
against the law. I want you to know that for the 26 years I have been a classroom teacher, I have been a good employee, and have always complied with my superiors. I also want you to know that this is not in any way being done because our principal or superintendent are mandating these tests. This is a government issue. So this decision does not involve anyone I work for. It is an act of civil disobedience.

I am hoping for government change in policy regarding testing.
Here is the letter I comprised:

September 7, 2014

Dear Parents,

I need to inform you of a professional decision I have made which may impact your child this year. I have decided to refuse to administer the FAIR test to my students. As you might be aware, there is a lot of testing that goes on these days. Some information of which you may not be aware is how much instructional time is lost because of all the testing. You also might not have knowledge of how many assessments are required.

These are the assessments given in Kindergarten:
• Beginning of the year assessments given by classroom teachers to determine their knowledge of letters, sounds, phonemic awareness, sight words, number recognition and number sense. These are tests that all good Kindergarten teachers give. It is useful information for us to use in planning for instruction and in pulling small groups for instruction. Usually at this time of year at Chiles, we would have children in their reading groups. This year we have assessments mandated by the state which are so time consuming, it will be weeks before we can instruct.
• Baseline reading test from the Reading Street series (the county adopted reading program for elementary schools).
• FLKRS assessment – In the past this has been a checklist for determining how effective VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten education program) is. This year we were told to take anecdotal records by observing 45 performance indicators across five developmental areas. This is to be completed within the first 30 days of school. The demographics portion of this assessment is available online for teachers. The WSS (Work Sampling System) part where we enter data on the 45 performance indicators is not yet available. Monday will be the 15th day of school. Presumably they will have it up and running before day 30.
• FAIR testing – We have given the FAIR assessment in the past but this year it was revamped. It does provide useful information, but nothing significantly superior to what a typical Kindergarten teacher would observe in her students. This year, it is more time consuming and more difficult. Kindergartners are required to take it on the computer using a mouse. (While testing a child last week, she double-clicked which skipped a screen. This little girl double-clicked three times and triple-clicked once. There is no way for the teacher to go back. Neither is there a way for the school administrator to go back and make a correction.) While we were told it takes about 35 minutes to administer, we are finding that in actuality, it is taking between 35-60 minutes per child. This assessment is given one on one. It is recommended that both teacher and child wear headphones during this test. There is no provision from the state for money for additional staff to help with the other children in the classroom while this testing is going on. If you estimate that it takes approximately 45 minutes per child to give this test and we have 18 students, the time it takes to give this test is 13 ½ instructional hours. If you look at the schedule, a rough estimate would be that it requires about one full week of instructional time to test all of the children. Our Kindergarten teachers have been brainstorming ways to test and still instruct. The best option we have come up with is for teachers to pair up, with one teacher instructing two classes while the other teacher tests one-on-one. So now we are looking at approximately two weeks of true instructional time lost, because we cannot teach our curriculum, pulling small groups and targeting each child’s educational needs. FAIR testing is done three times a year.

*THIS IS THE TESTING I AM REFUSING TO DO. I KNOW I MAY BE IN BREACH OF MY CONTRACT BY NOT ADMINISTERING THIS TEST. I CANNOT IN GOOD CONSCIENCE SUBMIT TO ADMINISTERING THIS TEST THREE TIMES A YEAR, LOSING SIX WEEKS OF INSTRUCTION. THERE IS A GOOD POSSIBILITY I WILL BE FIRED.

• Discovery Education tests. These are given four times a year.
• Chapter assessments in math, which give us information regarding how well the children have mastered the material.
• Math benchmark tests – There are three of these.
• Reading unit tests
• Beginning this year, end of course tests are required of all students K-12. These subjects will be tested on in Kindergarten: reading, math, social studies, science, music, art and physical education.

I think you can see this is not only a lot to ask of five year olds, it is also taking away hours and hours of instructional time. I am not opposed to assessments, and am for accountability in schools. But enough is enough. I keep asking, when will the insanity stop? When will someone speak up? God has put it on my heart that I am to take a stand. This means I may be giving up my beloved profession. I may lose the chance to delight in seeing the excitement and joy that comes from meaningful learning. I will no longer be able to say, when speaking of salary, “I’m rich in hugs”.

I especially want to apologize to each and every one of you, for the disruption this may cause your dear children if I am replaced by a teacher willing to submit to giving these tests. Even though I have only been their teacher for a short time, they have captured my heart. When asked about my job, I have always told people I have the best job in the world. Words cannot express the depth of sadness I feel in possibly giving it up.

Thank you for reading such a lengthy letter.

In gratitude,

Susan
 
All I have to say after reading that is Amen!!!  Speaking from my own experience, I can recall many times I sat with my collegues during collaboration meetings or after school and we all complained about the testing, the amount of testing, and the frequency of testing.  But complaining to each other, although at the time was a good way to release some stress, did absolutely nothing.  Our complaints weren't heard by anyone but each other!  I am so proud and envious that someone (someone I actually know haha) spoke loud enough to make a difference!  Mrs. Bowles gained the immediate attention of the local news and then word quickly spread and she was featured in a column in the Tampa Bay Times . Then on to Fox News where her voice could be heard by the masses. 

Through it all Susan made it known that this is not an issue with the principals or even the superintendent... this is bigger... it is a government issue.  She has gained an abundant amount of support from fellow teachers and school administration as well as parents.  She encourages us to write to state legislators and voice our own experience with testing.  Hopefully in the end of all of this the voices of teachers and parents will speak louder than the voices of test vendors! 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Weekend fun!

Hey there!  We hope all of our frugal followers are enjoying their weekend!  It's overcast here in Florida but it hasn't started raining... YET!  Hopefully we don't have a repeat of last weekend when the clouds decided to burst open right as the Florida Gator game was about to start... which after a several hour delay ultimately led to the game being canceled!  BOOOOO!  We were all sporting our orange and blue with delicious appetizers and drinks in hand, eagerly anticipating the first game of the season but ended up around the coffee table playing board games! Of course, we still enjoyed our amazing apps and bevs!  Here's a little glimpse of our food spread... dee-lish-us!  We made a layered taco dip, bacon wrapped jalepeno poppers, mozzarella caprese, buffalo chicken dip, and a fruit platter (you know, to keep it healthy haha)!  Best part of football season is the food!!! 

 
The boys are actually in Gainesville this weekend to watch the Gators beat Eastern Michigan live at The Swamp (the Gator's stadium).  Tyler's still to little for his first tailgating experience so him and I will be watching from the couch in our living room.  He's all smiles in his Gator onesie!  Kick off is at 4:00 and we'll be playing our own game of where's waldo looking for daddy in the crowd! 
 

In other news... yesterday marked the end of Melissa's third week of school.  I'm thankful to still be at home enjoying every second with my little one who officially turned 1 month old yesterday as well!  I can't believe he's already one month old... where has the time gone!  Melissa got him these adorable monthly stickers so I can have my own mini photo sesh at home!  Love them!  I'm excited to get back into the swing of things at school but not so much looking forward to leaving him!  I seriously have watched so much TV this summer, it's a little ridic!  I think I've watched every episode of Criminal Minds... twice! haha I also started a new Netflix series called The Killing!  If you like suspenseful, crime solving, mystery type shows, you'll love it!  I'm almost all the way through Orange is the New Black as well!  I wasn't kidding when I said that I've watched way too much TV this summer! haha  But in my defense, it has been an extremely rainy and incredibly hot summer, not to mention I was preggo for half of it and being a mommy the other half!  Many of our pool days got rained out and I wasn't big on the idea of sportin' the baby bump at the beach so this has been a low key kind of summer for me! That is, until this little guy made his debut!   
 


 
Its been so hectic with the start of a brand new school year and a newborn at home that Melissa and I haven't gotten to chat as much as usual and I know she's really missing me!  haha And of course, I'm missing her too!  We finally got to meet up for dinner and drinks and some much needed girl talk with some of our favs!  It's was so nice to get out and catch up with these lovely ladies and just relax after a long stressful week!  We talked school, life, love, babies and just had a grand ol' time!  So thankful for amazing friends!
 
 
I'll be heading back to school at the end of this month and will need a jumpstart to get back into my morning routine... COFFEE!  Old habits never die! haha Speaking of coffee... I spotted this little advertisement floating around on Facebook the other day.  I'm not sure if every Dunkin' Donuts is honoring this special but I'm definitely going to check it out next time I roll through the drive thru! It was sooo incredible hard to kick my coffee habit back when I found out I was pregnant, but I've been doing okay without it!  Life DOES go on without coffee... who knew!  I am looking forward to my first ice coffee on my first day back... a definite must have!  ANDDDD... pumpkin's back!!! Woohoo!


Well people, it's just about 4 o'clock!  Do you know what that means?  You guessed it!  It's football time!  I'm off to watch the Gators!  Enjoy your weekend everybody!!!


 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

First Week Freebie

Hi friends! It's been a L------O-----N-----G preplanning week! School officially starts tomorrow! As a little welcome back we are throwing a sale on all of our bundles for the McGraw-Hill Wonders series and all of Unit 1 is also on sale! We have updated all of our Unit 1 packets and are currently updating unit 2 packets so if you have already purchased any of the packets we encourage you to re-download!

Enjoy Unit 1 Week 1 Freebie and have a fantastic year!

                                                       Click cover page to download.



















This is only a small preview of our unit 1 FREE packet! We hope you will find this useful in your classroom!

Baby Tyler Update: Brittany and baby are doing great! Brittany came to "Meet the Teacher" on Friday to say hello to her new bunch! Her hubby, Matt came by to pick her up after the event with baby Tyler! He so handsome! He's less than two weeks old and already smiling! More updates to come!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tomorrow... it's only a day away!

That lovely song, "Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow... it's only a day a-way!" has been replaying in my head since my alarm clock went off this morning. That's right, ALARM. I haven't set an alarm clock all summer... and it felt oh-so-good! But today is the day before I return to work. So set an alarm, I must. And it didn't feel good at all. This is probably the most difficult transition I've gone through going from summer to a new school year because I'm doing it alone. You should know that the "tomorrow" song did not have it's usual fluffy, optimistic feel but more of a sad melody and  the words "ONLY A DAY AWAY" were not my favorite. In fact, the song took on an entirely new tune.

Why? What has changed? Normally, I love this time of year?

Maybe it's because this summer has been my absolute favorite and I don't want to see it end?

Maybe it's because I haven't finished everything I hoped to finish this summer (but I never really do anyway).

Maybe it's because I'll be missing my partner-in-crimeteaching?

It's probably all of the above?!?!

I am that crazy person who actually looks forward to the start of the school year. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE summer break and I feel it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY! But, I also love the excitement that comes from a fresh start! I typically begin setting up my room and preparing for the school year in late July and this summer was no different. The excitement wasn't gone when I entered my classroom in desperate need of decorating (and exterminating... gross), but it was far from the usual thrill I have when I think of all the possibilities this year holds.

TIME.

I usually like to be on the go ALL-THE-TIME, but this summer I have been really enjoying the down time. I have loved the time I have with my family, friends and new husband and I don't want to give that up just yet! I watched a little too much time watching netflix and reading blog posts. I have spent a lot of time scrapbooking the photos from wedding and taking little trips down memory lane each time I glue another picture on the page. TIME has been good to me and I'm so thankful for this summer of reflection and relaxation.

Summer Projects.

House hunting was supposed to be done by the end of summer and it's far from finished (wish I could say the same about our lease). I was suppose to create packets for McGraw-Hill Wonders for 2nd and Kinder and I haven't even finished first grade. (Talk about Procrastinating). I wanted to lose weight and start exercising. It's safe to say that project never made it high enough on my "To-Do" list to even get started. That's one summer project I always seem to fall short on! OOPS!

CHANGE.

In just this past school year, school transfers, marriage and babies have come into the mix for both of us frugal girls! THESE are the highlights of our year but we also recognize they are major changes.

Life-changing changes. These changes are good. Really really good.

But it's also an adjustment... and it's time to start adjusting!

Our school only has two first grades this year and I am LUCKY enough to teach with my best friend and ROCK STAR teacher. You all know her as my frugal favorite, Brittany. This year she will be starting school in late September (tentatively) because she just had her first child.

I am overcome with happiness for my dear friend and her husband as they begin this beautiful new chapter of their lives together. They are going to be incredible parents and baby Tyler is a very lucky little boy who is already loved so much.

Guilty.

I feel guilty.  I have some selfish feelings about beginning this school year without Britt. While she is busy being a new mom, I'm starting off the school year on my own. It's a strange feeling that I'm not thrilled about.  I am not alone. I work with plenty of fantastic teachers and supportive friends. Besides, I can do this. I can start pre-planning tomorrow and begin lesson planning for the first week of school without my teammate. I just don't want to. Collaborating with Brittany is FUN! We have a great dynamic between the two of us that makes us a great teaching team. Heck, I think we're better than great! It's one of the things I love most about my job! I love love love teaching and I know that it's going to be another great year in the classroom. I'm just having a hard time getting that enthusiasm on my own this year. Maybe it'll come at meet the teacher, maybe it will be on the first day, or the second or the fourteenth. Who knows? But honestly... I don't feel it yet and tomorrow will be here before we know it.

For today I'm going to focus on enjoying my last official day of summer break! I'm going to watch too much television, and maybe do some back to school shopping. I'm going to walk my dog a little longer than usual and eat lunch s-l-o-w because I can't do these things as often when the school year begins. I'm going to spend time with my new husband and visit Brittany and her sweet, perfect little boy and I'm not going to dwell on tomorrow. After all, it's a whole day away!

Until tomorrow...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Evicted!

He's HERE!!! Britt's beautiful-beautiful-beautiful baby boy is finally here!


Tyler Matthew Maio was born on April 5, 2014 at 5:38 p.m. He is a happy and healthy baby weighing in at a solid 9 pounds! More to come about this perfect little guy very soon!

                         Here's a picture of our overjoyed mom finally holding her first born in her arms.
                                   
obsessed.

Matt and Brittany are both over the moon excited and their hearts are over overflowing with love for their precious son.

Congrats to the new parents and may this next chapter be their very best one!

Now I need to go meet my "nephew" (because best friends are family, right?) He's already three days old and I can't wait another second! Have a fantastic day everyone!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Overdue!

Hey there frugal followers!  We hope you are all enjoying your summer... well, what's left of it anyway!  Crazy how time flies!  We can't believe our teachers go back on the 12th... that's 10 days away!  YIKES!  I will be starting my maternity leave at the beginning of this school year so my summer will be prolonged a little bit... but it's not like having a newborn in the house is in ANY way a "vacation"!  I have to admit (and I'm sure I'm the only one who feels this way) but this has been one of the longest summers of MY LIFE!  Usually my summers fly by, but this one seems to be creeeeping!  We are still anxiously waiting on little Tyler Matthew to make his debut.  His official due date was July 31st... and here I sit on August 2nd with no baby in my arms!  I feel like I've been doing nothing but sitting and waiting on his arrival!  I had really convinced myself that he would come early... I was thinking the middle of July.  But July came and went, and now we're in August!   I feel like I wake up everyday thinking "today could be the day" only to find out that we're still playing the waiting game!  I've tried spicy food, walking... you name it, I've tried it!  On a positive note, the doctor said he is head down and ready to go, we are just waiting on something to happen!  I tell you what though, there is nothing more uncomfortable than the last month of pregnancy!  TRUE STORY!  I'm too uncomfortable to even go shopping... shocking, I know!  I have managed to get out of the house a little bit and was able to spend several relaxing days by the pool with my good friend Kelly, but other than that it's been pretty uneventful around here.  I guess I should embrace the quiet and calmness because all that is about to change! 

On a more school related note, Melissa and I stopped by our classrooms last week to drop off a few things we had picked up over the summer.  I had all intentions of making it a quick trip BUT before I knew it, my husband was calling me wondering where I was!  We had made dinner plans with his mom and grandma and dinner time was fast approaching.  My "quick trip" had lasted almost 8 hours!  I don't know about you, but I can ALWAYS find something to do in my classroom! haha  Here are a few pictures of what we walked in to!  The custodians actually did a great job cleaning our rooms this time!  Last year, we were greeted by tons of creepy crawlies (ewww!) but this year they were sparkling clean!  I know that part of living in Florida is dealing with the bugs, but they are still my LEAST favorite thing in the whole world! 




 
After a bit of reorganizing and talking (mostly talking) Melissa and I took a break to have lunch...
 
 
Don't judge!  Gummy bears, sour patch kids and Munchies make for a delicious lunch!  I know you're jealous!  We ran across the street to the gas station for something to drink and of course, the pregnant lady had to grab all of her favs haha  After binging on junk food and catching up on summer happenings, we got back to work in our rooms!  Although our classrooms are side by side, they don't connect... meaning, we can't talk to each other while we're working (which sometimes is a good thing so we actually get stuff done haha)  We've joked about asking our maintenance man to install a secret window or door that will connect both our rooms but I know that will never happen.  So although they are a work in progress, I'd say our rooms are off to a good start! 

The very next day, we had people come and install carpet in the nursery so Matt and I could finally put his room together!  Here's a quick pic of the "before".  We had already painted the room a light gray color but we decided that carpet would be better than the hardwood floors that were in there.  And by "we"... I mean "me". Matt couldn't care less about the floor, ha, but thankfully he agreed with me anyway! 
 

 
 
After the carpet was installed we could get busy placing and organizing all the furniture and d├ęcor.  It's not quite finished, but here is a glimpse of how it's coming along.  I still have a few things to hang and put up but it is definitely ready to welcome our little man! 
 


 
 
When Tyler finally decides to enter this world we'll be ready!  The anticipation is driving me crazy!  I have heard from so many people that your first child will usually come late, but I must admit I've never been that good at waiting! haha Especially, not for something this exciting!  Fingers crossed he decides to make his debut soon!!!  If not, we go to our next appointment on Tuesday and we'll discuss being induced!  We hope you are all making the most of your summer as it quickly comes to an end!  Hopefully I'll have some exciting baby news to share with you next time frugal followers!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The blog vacay is over!


Hey there! Remember us???



We are so very sorry for neglecting our little old blog for so very long. You see we were busy celebrating REALLY BIG life events! Just a few...


Melissa's Bridal Showers...
Mom, Melissa, Grandma, Sister
Bridal Shower Hostess, Jane (bridesmaid)













Brittany's Baby Showers...
School Shower
Brittany's baby shower for Baby Tyler hosted by friends! 


Melissa's Bachelorette Bash...



Melissa and Roberto's Wedding...

Rehearsal Dinner 
Matt and Brittany 
Groom, Bride and Groomsman, Brian

Wedding Day...
Getting ready for the big day!! Sneaking in a
little love for baby, Tyler! 




Had to do a silly pinterest inspired picture!
First Dance



Honeymoon in Hawaii...


We can't wait to celebrate the birth of Brittany and Matt's baby, Tyler! She is only two and half weeks away from her due date and we are in the final countdown! Stay tuned for more posts about all of the fun things we've been up to! We can't wait to share all the details with you!

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