Sunday, August 25, 2013

I Hope

I hope my kids know, every day, just how much I love them.

I hope my kids realize how unique and special they are.

I hope my kids find something they love and want to know more about.

I hope my kids realize that reading is something we do for fun and to learn, not something we do to fill in bubble on a test.

I hope my kids have fun. And laugh. And feel safe. And feel like they are part of a family.

I hope my kids realize that we're not always going to be happy with each other, but that doesn't give us the right to be mean or belittle each other. I hope maybe some adults learn that, too.

I hope their parents realize what gift they've been given and how thankful I am that they share their kids with me.

I hope I remember that it's okay when things aren't perfect. Everything I do is a chance to learn and get better.

I hope I remember to take care of myself -- I can't be the best possible wife, friend and teacher if I'm not the best possible me.

I hope number 16 is one to remember for all of the right reasons. And I hope your year is, too.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Icky Incentive Update

A few weeks ago I wrote about a surprise I had received in regards to an incentive program that I was possibly going to be participating in. I appreciated all of the discussion and support I received, both here in comments and via email, and everything you shared helped me be prepared for the discussion our team held on August 14.

Some days I feel like life at school is one big fight. Ever since we pitched our proposal in the spring of 2011 it seems like we are constantly in a battle, a battle of trying to change versus keeping things the same as they've always been. Every now and then I just get tired of fighting, and even though we feel strongly about something we have to decide how big we want this battle to be. When it became apparent that I was going to be participating in this program no matter how I felt I decided to refocus on making the program something that didn't bother me quite so much.

I have to give a huge shout out to our math coach - she mediated a challenging discussion and helped us come up with a plan that worked for everybody. A key piece of that plan is the fact that it can be individualized by class and even by student if we want to go that far. Anyway, here's how things ended up:

  • Every 4th grade student will participate in the sundae incentive, but their progress will be personal - no display of who has passed which level.
  • There will be a pretest at the beginning of the year. Students who already know their multiplication facts will move directly on to division so they are earning a reward for new learnings. (No talk about what happens for kids who already know all of their facts.)
  • Teachers may individualize the tests to best meet the students' needs. (BIG shout out to my teammate on this one!!) We are going to find our students' levels (whether they are on addition, subtraction, multiplication or division) and support them as they grow through ten fact levels over the course of the year. At least in our classes there is no specific timeline to follow.
  • Students will not receive the sundae unless they demonstrate mastery of all 10 levels. Teachers may recognize mastery of individual levels as they see appropriate, and teachers may also recognize mastery beyond the original 10 levels.
  • There will be chances to earn the reward throughout the year instead of just 1 party at the end of November.
So, I don't like that I'm doing the incentive program. 

I do like that we will be able to individualize it to meet each student's learning level and that there is the opportunity for year-long growth not just a once & done program. I'm planning on having the kids help set their goals and coming up with a plan to meet those goals. 

And I'm hoping that next year I'll simply be able to just say no to a program like this.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Night Before Kickoff

That's what we call our opening inservice days - our kickoff. Honestly, it's a big improvement over what they used to be. In the past, under a former superintendent, test scores were flashed up on a screen. Schools were compared and criticized, and it was a horrible, horrible way to start the school year. I know some people think our new style of opening the school year is hokey, but I love it. It proves that my superintendent values people and connections more than numbers. Sure, numbers are important, but people are far more valuable.

My room is pretty much ready, although when parents and kids come in the walls may be barer than they expect. A lot of what I hang on my walls I create with the kids during the first few weeks of school. We learn our Daily 5 reading and writing routines, we learn about blogging and commenting, and we learn what it means to be part of a team. What I do have hanging up we'll talk about as we talk about being a team - being honest, caring for each other, and taking responsibility for our actions. Hopefully as parents read what's up they'll understand what's truly important to me. Much more about kids and much less about grammar rules and such.

So while I'm not quite as excited as I will be on Sunday, no butterflies in the stomach yet, I'm still pretty excited to get back to school and meet my kids. I plan on working hard and making this one of the best years ever!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Camp Can Do - My Happy Place

One week every summer since 2004 (minus 2 years off to play nurse for my hubby and to deal with life) I have been a camp counselor at Camp Can Do which takes place at Gretna Glen outside of Mt. Gretna, PA.

Camp Can Do is a pediatric oncology camp. This means that all of our campers, who range from age 8 up through age 17, are either currently in treatment for various types of cancer or they are within 5 years of treatment. When I think about happy places, camp is one of the best. Being part of camp is like being part of a bubble where everybody loves and cares for each other. Camp is so not about the cancer - it's all about the kids just being kids. We swim, fish, hike, do arts and crafts, have campfires, eat S'mores, and scream about the daddy long leggers in the showers. We go boating and fishing, we push and support each other during Adventure Challenges, we learn new things (like how to play the guitar or dance), and cheer each other on as we try things we've never tried before. There are picnics, a dance, and a talent show. Honestly, picture a typical camp in your head, and that's really what we are. You'd think that our campers would be angry, would expect special treatment, and would say, "Why me????" after all they've been through, but that couldn't be further from the truth. These kids fill up my bucket every year with their amazing zest for life, their desire to give back, and their love and support for each other. I never truly appreciated life until these kids taught me how. And to see the kindness and support they have for each other; well, it's something you need to experience because words won't do it justice.

This year was the 31st year kids had the chance to go to camp, and hundreds of kids have benefitted from the love and support of their family at, but Camp Can Do has some challenges ahead of us if we hope to add even more kids to our family. Earlier this year the American Cancer Society (ACS), a major funder of pediatric oncology camps all of the country, made the decision to cease funding these camps:

In addition to the lack of funds directed towards childhood cancer, ACS recently cut programs that specifically were aimed at benefiting children with cancer. The stated purpose of dropping these programs, as alleged by ACS, is to ensure that a cure for cancer is found sooner. The cut in these programs will effect children with cancer and college students who had cancer. Yet another example of how ACS simply utilizes children to attain significant wealth and then ultimately forgets all about the smallest warriors. This should come as a surprise considering the amount of money that ACS has on hand.

What this means for Camp Can Do, a patient camp, and Camp Can Do II, a four day camp for siblings, is that if we want to continue providing this opportunity for our kids we now have to raise the money ourselves. While the directors, assistant directors, counselors, and medical staff (one doctor and five nurses) are all volunteers, it still costs about $700 per camper to attend patient camp for the week.

If I ever win the lottery Camp Can Do will be set for life, but until then we could use some help. Please check out our website or like our Facebook page to see how things are going and to participate in some of the many fundraisers that will be happening throughout the year. Camp truly is one of the happiest weeks of my year, and I appreciate everybody's support to keep it running for many years to come!