Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Emmys!

Chets Creek held its 13th Annual End of the Year Celebration with a luncheon and awards at the perfect location, the Friday Musicale to tie into our year long theme, "Orchestrating a Symphony of Student Success." The afternoon began with a delicious luncheon in the historical hall, famous for its musical recitals and a popular location for weddings and receptions. As the faculty began the sweets, Principal Susan Phillips began to read about 20 different letters that come unsolicited from parents about our faculty. Some were funny and many had us reaching for tissues as parents described how teachers had literally changed their lives.

Next the SAC and PTA were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the school. Our own former PTA President, Melissa Kicklighter, will become next year's county PTA President! The CCE Teacher of the Year, Math Council Teacher of the Year finalist, CCE Employee of the Year and new National Board teachers were also recognized. The "Budding Musicians" (first year teachers) were recognized with a pen and the parting word to "autograph your work with excellence."

As the principal presented each of the next awards she compared them to a part of the orchestra introducing the section with that type music. The Outstanding Bloggers were compared to the Woodwinds as the music of Kenny G played because they gave "sound to all our voices." The Brass Section represented relationships. As the brassy Night in Tunisia played, 7 members of the faculty were honored for always being at every school event, from baby showers to night time school events, even when their grade level wasn't involved. Two others were recognized for being so very thoughtful and grateful - examples that are models to us all. Another was honored for the way she embraced the relationship of a difficult child and another who has gone out of her way to make a difference in the life of a family. Of everything we represent, these awards, about relationships, are some of the most cherished.

With the drums beating in the background the Percussion section represented our Leadership Team which this year is our Curriculum Council, "the greatest talents of our time." The RtI team was honored as the string section playing it's peaceful music in the background. This group is one of the hardest working in the building. With the electric guitar squealing its sound, 3rd grade teachers who had their students perform 100% or better on the FCAT were called up to be honored.

The final honors are the most special as the Teams of the Year are announced. This year Great Balls of Fire introduced that dynamic Media Team that had the faculty instantly jumping to their feet with a standing ovation, only to be repeated again as the melodic I Got the Music in Me introduced our Para Team. I don't think there was a faculty member in the house that didn't recognize these teams as giving so much to the well being of the entire school. We are what we are because of them. Farewells were then said to three teachers leaving next year.
 As the awards were completed, they led into an hilarious slide show of the faculty! The slides with their edgy speech bubbles had us rolling in the aisles as we poked fun at all of our own quirkiness! For the grand finale the new theme was announced with a little video. This video will be shown every day next year to open up the day on our internal television show. Enjoy, "Cultivating a Community of Excellence."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Work Over Time, 2010

This is the time of year that Kindergarten teachers post work that shows individual students work over the year. Kailey's work below is typical of what we expect in kindergarten. Children begin the year with simple pictures to illustrate their stories and can often write their name and copy a date. By the mid-term they are beginning to sound out words and to use the few sight words that they know with their more detailed pictures. They often start a new page of work each day but by the end of the year their fluency has exploded and they are working on the same piece for several days. Pieces are anywhere from a few pages to many pages and often include detailed pictures. Words are sounded out and many sight words and vocabulary words are used. It's an amazing process to watch unfold!

At the beginning of the kindergarten year, Kailey wrote the piece above. It's the story of a birthday party. While she drew a simple picture and had no letters except her name, she could orally tell the story.

By January Kailey was blooming as a writer. She was drawing more detailed pictures that foreshadowed the writing ahead. In the piece above she wrote a personal narrative in her one page about seeing a classmate at the water park, and how they played on the slide. Kailey showed control over the sight words to, we, play at, the. She also used appropriate spacing between her words making the work readable.

Her final piece in March shows Kailey's understanding of the writing process. In this response to literature that she completed during our author study of Eric Carle, Kailey retells the story The Grouchy Ladybug. This is the first page of a six page retelling that includes a one page chart of the animals and the times they each spoke with the ladybug. Her writing fluency is remarkable at this time of year. Kailey sounded out each word and gave a detailed account of the animals as they were visited by the ladybug. Kailey's work is typical standard work at the end of the kindergarten year.

Kailey, we can't wait to see what next year holds!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The End is Near...

Although the last week of school is not my favorite time of year, it is certainly a favorite for the kids! There are so many fun things to do. On Monday Kindergartners were treated to a field day with nine outdoor centers - everything from throwing huge noodle arrows and 50 yard dashes to icee pops and dancing in the pavilion! It was an hour and a half of hot fun and the children loved every minute of it! We had help from one of the Mayport Naval units so the PE teachers were free to go around with their over sized water guns and cool everyone off!

It was a grilled hot dog lunch in the room and then in some classes, families enjoyed a talent show! Children showed their talents - everything from rock star singers and dancers to joke tellers! What a talented group! I hope parents took lots of videos so they will be able to show them at high school graduation! In many classes Room Mothers were honored with gifts for their service to the children. We simply couldn't do it without them!

The day ended with the last nine weeks Kindergarten Awards in each classroom. Each kindergarten room was full of parents. My favorite type Awards Ceremony is when the teacher pulls up each child individually, one at a time alphabetically, and presents all of the child's awards at once. It gives the parents time to really snap a good picture and they love hearing about and seeing their child in the spotlight. The kids really like it too! My favorite end of the year award is when the teacher assigns each child another child and they make an award for that child. You get things like "Best Table Washer" or "Best Jump Roper" or other non-academic awards that really make each child feel special. The parents really love this part too. It has become a highlight over the years because the awards made by the children are so full of truth. Most classes end with a slide show of the year with emotional music that ALWAYS brings me to tears - me and most of the parents! Many teachers also put the slide show on a CD as a parting gift for the families - what a gift!

All in all, it is a wild and wonderful day this last week that celebrates the high points of Kindergarten and makes many new memories of the year. I know I'm usually exhausted at the end of the day, but the kids are right back on Tuesday morning ready for more! Stay tuned for the rest of the end of the year fun!

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's all about me!

I am getting ready to make a change - a big change. For the past 10 years I have split my day - spending half being a Special Education inclusion teacher and half a day as a Literacy Coach. When Dr. Terri Stahlman first designed this job to lure me to Chets Creek, I thought I was the luckiest teacher in the world - and I was! To be able to have a foot in the classroom and at the same time to have a foot in the professional development field was just too perfect. Over the years, I have sometimes felt like I was actually doing two full time jobs and that I was being pulled too thin in too many directions, but for the most part I have absolutely LOVED every minute of both jobs. I will always love my time in the classroom because I believe it is what I was called to do, but the chance to influence teachers and even to help direct the course of a school has been an unexpected thrill. I am also really proud of the teachers who over the years have chosen to walk this learning journey with me.

Ten years later, many things have intersected to change the direction of what I think I should be doing. The teachers who ten years ago were new and, oh so young, have now matured and are strong teachers in their own right, many who have unbelievable leadership ability. While I have tried to find opportunities for each of them to lead, many of them have now come to that place where they are ready to spread their wings - some of them are ready for much more than the few opportunities that I can arrange. Today Chets Creek attracts teachers who are risk takers, who are willing to think outside of the box and who are deep thinkers of our work. So many of these teachers are ready to lead in a substantial way and I sometimes feel like I am the stumbling block. With me standing in the doorway, it must be hard for them to ever imagine - to ever see beyond - to see that they will have their chance. It is time for me to step aside - you know that whole idea of training someone to be better than yourself - and let them use their skills in leading, training, and coaching. I'll always be there, of course, to support from the sidelines, but it is time for them to shine. They have been trained for a time such as this...

And so...I will not be in an official coaching role next year. Instead I have decided to return to my roots, to the classroom that has been the most satisfying part of my career. Next year I will be trying a new twist on an old idea -something different - something that I have never actually done before. I will be co-teaching in an inclusion classroom where I will also provide the Special Education services. The advantage will be the opportunity to stay with the same students for the entire day. Being a half time Special Education teacher always leaves me with the feeling that I need to do more. On most days, I leave feeling guilty that I have not done enough. However, I haven't been a full-time homeroom teacher for many, many years, and have never played the role of the homeroom teacher and the Special Education teacher at the same time... but there is something that just feels right about this.

Of course, I walk this new road with some fear and trepidation. I think it might be easier to simply sit on my reputation and regally wait for retirement! I think this truly is the road less traveled (and I figure there are probably plenty of reasons for that!) I will lose much of the flexibility that I have come to enjoy such as not having to find a substitute or write sub plans. While I totally enjoyed the control I had with having a class of my own, I didn't really miss much about being a homeroom teacher, except the control I had, when I became an inclusion teacher 13 years ago - such as having to keep a receipt book (they finally took mine away because they said I just didn't take it seriously enough!), and taking up money for everything from lunch, school pictures, tee-shirts to every fund-raiser in the world. I doubt I'll be very good at taking attendance on the computer by 10:00 each morning (I often get distracted with teaching!) and I was never able to get all the forms at the beginning of the year to the right people. Having watched other teachers struggle with the computerized grade book this year, I doubt that's something I will entirely celebrate and enjoy. I'm not much for making books out of pumpkins, designing wreaths, packing Spring baskets for the silent auction and all of the other homeroom-type expectations (although I've always loved the traditions as long as I didn't have to do them!), and I'm pretty boring in a skit! It's the thought of co-teaching with someone that I really like and who has a heart for children, especially those that struggle, that more than makes up for any anxieties that I may have about the homeroom role.

All in all, I think it will be a really good move for me. It's time. I guess I will have to prove once again that I can really teach or maybe I'm just proving that to myself! I do think I will feel more satisfied at the end of each day- knowing I have given all that I have and knowing that I'm making a difference. Having one of the lead roles in the classroom instead of a supporting role is much more responsibility but also much more satifying. I really think I will welcome each new day with a smile. I think I will laugh a whole lot more. And I think I will dance. The clout may be gone, but the heart will be pumping away and I guess that's what I've decided is really what I want it to be all about.

Hold on to your socks - Here comes Goldilocks!

What's going on in Chets Creek Kindergartens these last weeks of school? Teachers have been preparing for many end of the year special events. Today the school began the hot Friday morning with a meaningful flag retirement. In Kindergarten teacher Haley Alvarado's class, they welcomed fathers for a "Donuts for Dads" breakfast in celebration of Father's Day. The children pinned special handmade ties on their dads and then read them the paper they had filled out. I think the dads might have enjoyed that their kindergartner thinks they weigh 32 pounds and are 56 years old! Mrs. Alvarado read a book to the kids and their dads about the 10 best things about dads and then each child came to the front and presented a special certificate to their Dad for something special. It was heartwarming to see so many Dads at school.

Soon it was time in Mrs. Alvarado's class to present their "play." This year they did a humorous musical about "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." The children had practiced their songs and speaking parts for weeks and were just so proud of themselves as they sang their little hearts out! Enjoy these snippets from Mrs. Alvarado's morning.