Sunday, November 10, 2013

Running Away and Coming Back to Blogging...

One of my friends told a story about running away from home when she was a little girl... all the way to the front yard where she set up her sleeping bag, her pillow, her stuffed animals and some snacks. That was simply as far away as she was willing to go!

Bunny Source and Everything Else Source
The story has been a bit like that with me and blogging recently. My heart was here, but the rest of me was all tangled up in the business called School. After that... well, I just didn't know how to come back.

And then I found this adorable rabbit clip art, and I remembered Emmy's story, and I decided that it was better to jump in and get going again. Maybe I should have found some parachuting clip art instead...

It's really not all that great of an analogy anyway, because I wasn't really "running away" from blogging. It's more like school was stealing or kidnapping my time. But that clip art collection would have been much scarier. And I'm actually rather scared of scary things. So I'm sticking with the rabbit.

This year has been... ummmm... complicated. I can think of lots of other adjectives, but "complicated" seems to sum up a range of feelings. And, just like I said during the summer, I am STILL blaming Common Core--because some of the "complicatedness" falls on their shoulders (whoever "they" may really be!). Reconciling "rigor" with "reality" is not always easy.

I'm not giving up on either of those, but a peek into a part of our day may give you an idea of the paradox.

At this point, we are about five chapters behind in math. But only if you look at the "old" textbook. In the "new version" of math, the scenario is probably much worse. However, since we don't have any new materials and we have had very little training in how to implement Common Core math, I decided that the pacing guide would have to wait. You know why? Because most of my students do not have a solid understanding of fractions. In my little brain, I believe that fractions should be taught before decimals. (It's that wholes-and-parts thing, you know?) So we are doing things out of order, out of the pacing guide, and at this point, out of the curriculum.

What led me to this decision? Some very interesting assessment data.  Here are two examples... (I tried to re-create them on the computer to protect the innocent...)

Draw and color 1/6 of the circle...


Which is greater 1/3 or 3/4. Explain your answer, using a picture to support your reasoning...

One third is biger than three fourths cause its in the picher.

It's obvious that we have a lot of work ahead of us. But these kids are in a difficult situation. Some have had up to seven substitutes in the past two years. And some have just gotten lost along the way. It's not their fault. And I don't have all (or many) of the answers. But time is precious. And now that I know where we truly stand, we are moving forward. 

And I'm not really blaming Common Core--or giving up on it either. I'm just slowing down and focusing on kids AND standards--not just on standards.

I do have eight kids (out of 32) who have LOTS of skills. It is an added challenge to keep them interested and moving forward, but it is fun and I just consider it an odd version of a "combination grade." There are also some kids in our classroom with different struggles and challenges. This group is coming together in being patient and supporting each other when necessary. Further, my students have shown an enormous interest in our friends in the room across the sidewalk... all of whom have disabilities such as autism. My heart is warmed daily as they find creative ways to interact during recess or to be helpful when the teacher needs assistance or to be quick-footed when one of the students has temporarily left the area.

Sigh.  For all of the challenges that face us, those successes are far more important in the bigger picture!

So, that's where I've been. I don't know why that first step back was such a big one. (Maybe it's because I have such big feet?!)
Tennis shoes from HERE
I do adore being a part of the BlogLand community and I am thankful to be able to learn from such a dynamic group of teachers (and a wonderful counselor-friend too!). 

So... I will try to do a better job of blogging, and visiting blogs, and leaving a comment here and there. And I hope that you know that my heart was always here--even when my keyboard wasn't.


  1. Welcome back Kim! You have been missed....your blog is listed under Blogs I Love on my blog. It is so hard to catch up when you are completely sure what to do when. You might want to touch base with the 7th grade math team to see what are the biggest concepts the students must have to be successful next year. asking also which concepts will be covered again. f course fractions and decimals and others. Then work backwards from the end of the year ( and any state testing!) to see how you can fit it all in. At Home Independent Practice...other lay known as homework...will give them some more hands on practice and help to keep up the pace. We even started a Math Homework Club twice a week for extra instruction for those that needed it. Just tossing out some ideas that worked at our school when under a similar circumstance. You have what it takes!

  2. Your words always connect with me ... at just the right time! I love the shoes with hearts in them ... I love your analogies ... and I love stopping by your purple blog filled with joy and love and checking in. We missed your words, of course, but you are loved and adored by so many who knew that your love and words were simply somewhere else. Thanks for letting us know where so we don't have to worry!


  3. My dear twin, I have missed you! However, I totally understand. School should be the main thing and blogging should be on the side. I feel your pain; my year has been...errr complicated too:). When I got our new pacing guide for phasing in CCSS (this week, deep sigh), I wanted to cry. I just spent 2 RTI sessions teaching 10 6th graders to skip count (2, 4, 6....). The holes in their learning can be deep and wide. I am looking at this year as a magical time warp - this is the year I go slow and do the right thing without the pressure of the a "big test." And then hopefully, I will win the lottery and can retire:). So wonderful lady, do your thing in the classroom, and come by to share and visit whenever you can. We miss you, but we get it:).

    1. ...without the pressure of a "big test." Sometimes, I hate my iPad.

  4. I can feel your pain. I know it sucks but it's comforting to see that so many others are feeling so overwhelmed by the CCSS. I'm glad your back and enjoy your blog! Even though I've been moved (again) from 6th grade to 4th grade this year.

  5. Oh Kim, you are definitely not alone in this at all!! I could have written almost the same exact thing in regards to blogging, new standards, everything. It gives me comfort to know we're both going through similar things, on opposite coasts :)

    I hope things get a little easier for you...I know you are doing incredible work daily so it is very tiring. Talk soon, my friend!

  6. Welcome back Kim!! Your blog post sounds exactly how the teachers at my school you aren't alone! Which I know doesn't make you feel any better.....

    I know the last thing you could possibly want is more resources or more "stuff to do" on common core.....but my husband is a sixth grade math teacher and he has had a lot of success with Learnzillion lessons,virtual nerd and the state of Georgia website.

    Virtual Nerd:

    I hope this helps somewhat (maybe?!?). Anyway keep your head up....your kids are lucky to have you!

    Mind Sparks

  7. Welcome back! Missed reading your blog!

    I think teachers all around the US share your same concerns!

  8. Kim,

    Welcome back! I loved reading your thoughts about the Common Core. Although I don't live in the math world, I can create the panic that sometimes comes with trying to implement something or change something fast to meet a mandated standard. It's definitely hard to keep up with blogging during the school year, but I'm glad you're back, and I can't wait to hear more as the year goes on.


  9. I love when you said this:

    "For all of the challenges that face us, those successes are far more important in the bigger picture!"

    You are right. More and more, especially now that my own child has entered into elementary school, I am seeing that the way that the students treat each other and the things they learn from those experiences far outweigh anything that we can teach them. You are doing a fabulous job, Common Core or not, and those successes are what makes you a phenomenal teacher. Eventually, they will get fractions, but you have taught them even more about what it means to be a human.

    Teaching in Room 6


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