Toby Likes to Play

Toby likes to play.

I gave him my favorite bear.

We can’t afford that much,

but I’d gladly give him my lunch.

 

Toby is brown with spots.

I pet him every day.

He really likes my touch,

He likes me very much.

 

Toby barks sometimes.

He is really loud

and for a month, he really stunk

because he found that skunk.

 

Toby got in trouble.

He peed in my shoe.

Mom was pretty mad

And Toby felt really bad.

 

Toby’s my best friend,

Even when he’s bad.

My Toby loves me so much,

He’d give me all of his lunch.

Advertisements

Lonely Like Me

I found him near the bushes.  

He was as small as a cat can be.  

He seemed to be all alone.  

He seemed a lot like me.  

 

I took him in my arms.  

He seemed to give me a smile.  

His whiskers were soft and

I wanted to take him home.  

 

My mama said I could have him,

but Dad made that face.  

Mama said to ignore him,

that it would all be okay.  

 

I decided to name him Whiskers,

because his were really big.  

I went to give him milk,

but Mama said no.  

 

“Cow’s milk is bad for kitties,”

my dear mother said to me.  

“We don’t want to make him sick.”

My mama is so smart.  

 

He keeps me company

when the yelling starts,

and we hide together

and we pray that it will end.

 

I don’t have many friends,

but the ones I have are great!  

The very best one, though,

Is my little, furry friend.  

 

Whiskers is a kitten.  

He is a lot like me.  

I hope to make him happy-

as happy as he made me!  

Pet Haikus

Lilah is Purring

Lilah is purring.  

I pet her soft and white fur.  

We are so happy.  

 

Mitzy is Swimming

Mitzy zips around.

I like to watch her swimming.  

She is the best fish.  

 

Rudolph is my dog.

Rudolph is my dog.

Mom says we can keep him.  

I will love him so.  

 

Jim is a Lizard

Jim is a lizard.

He’s a bearded dragon.

He is quite gentle.  

 

Cindy is No Exception

Parakeets are loud.

Cindy is no exception.

She wants attention.

Why You Aren’t a Failure Because You Quit Teaching

Helping people learn is a passion of mine whose flame has never gone out. However, as you may have noticed, I am no longer a teacher. I don’t work in a school anymore, but my love of learning is still strong and my desire to educate people- children and adults alike- is still a big part of who I am.

For years after I served as a teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, I was laden with guilt and the fear that I had somehow failed. That I was somehow lesser than teachers who stuck it out for twenty years or more. That I didn’t manage to make any sort of impact on the children that I taught.

The fact of the matter is this: I didn’t fail. I did the best I could in a difficult situation and I may not have served as long as other teachers, but I made an impact in the lives of the children I worked with. It’s hard to believe that some days, even now.

Many of us go into teaching optimistic, believing that even though it’s going to be really hard, somehow it’s going to be easier because we know that it’s supposed to be hard. Okay, so the logic may not be very sound, but I know that I was confident. I was certain that I had what it took to be a teacher for the rest of my life and I just knew that no matter what was thrown at me, I would be just fine, because I was prepared.

Fresh out of college, I was naive. Many teachers come out of college thinking that they’re going to change the system. They think they’re going to make a real, noticeable impact on the lives of the children they work with. And when they don’t change the system or make a real, noticeable impact, they are discouraged.

Consider for a moment why you became a teacher. I wanted to do it for a couple of reasons- and some of them weren’t the best reasons:

  • I wanted to help kids, especially from low-income families, because I was raised in a low-income family and public education gave me a chance to have a happy, successful career. I didn’t want to work in a factory like my father, grandfather, uncles, and cousins. I wanted to give other kids like me a chance to learn and make a bright future for themselves.
  • I loved learning and I honestly wanted to spend the rest of my life in school, because it was more or less all I had ever known.
  • I was good in school and my teachers often commented on how good of a teacher I would be. I wanted to do something that I had a natural flair for, which would give me a steady income but wouldn’t be hours of grueling work in the fields or a factory.
  • I was raised to believe that there were only certain jobs that were “acceptable” and secure enough to sustain me financially. My choices, according to my father, were being a doctor or working as some sort of secretary or administrative assistant. I rebelled, but only a little, because I chose teaching instead.

Obviously a lot of these motivating reasons weren’t really healthy ways of thinking. I based my value on how I could make myself “useful” and helpful to others. I based my value on the kind of work I did being something that my father could understand and be proud of. I was afraid to take risks and do something that I hadn’t been told over and over again that I would be great at it. In short, I was afraid to do what I’m doing now: being self employed as a writer and blogger.

I loved teaching, even if my original reasons to pursue it weren’t the best. Simply distilling information and concepts to children and watching them gobble it up and learn and grow as people was wonderful. Supporting kids who had rough home lives, breaking down content into more manageable chunks for children who were struggling with the content, and encouraging them to work hard and follow their dreams were some of my favorite things about teaching.

But I didn’t last. 

I am honestly still a little ashamed of how little time it took for me to crash and burn. I’m still healing from my experience and my guilt and it’s going to take time before that process is complete so I can look back at that period in my life without guilt.

The first quarter of the school year went pretty great. I was teaching and I was doing well. The kids were showing growth in the content areas I taught and I was getting positive remarks and reviews from the administration. But I was running myself into the ground the whole time and eventually that grinding wore me down. I became depressed, stressed, and overwhelmed. I couldn’t keep up because I couldn’t rest at night. I couldn’t come up with ways to reach the kids that were struggling the most while also creating challenging content for the kids who were performing especially well. I wanted to help the kids whose misbehavior was a call for help, but I didn’t know what to do or how I could do anything to help or even if there was anything I could do to help them. And all of that kept me awake at night. That gave me nightmares about working and I couldn’t rest. I struggled to keep up with lesson and unit planning and grading papers and my social life suffered (read: I had no social life whatsoever).

Obviously, teaching was not the right profession for me. Whether your experience as a teacher was similar to mine or not, you still weren’t a failure. Here are the reasons why:

You Did Your Best.

Did you use your education and skills to the best of your ability to teach the kids in your care? Did you try to stick it out the whole school year? Did you help even one kid learn something about any topic at all? It could even have been some sort of social skill that your student learned from you. That means you tried your best and the job just wasn’t a good fit for you, whatever the reason may have been that you left it behind.

Teaching is HARD.

Harder even than what your college professors told you. When you are a teacher, there is so much that is expected from you. You must be teacher, parent, nurse, counselor, disciplinarian, planner, mediator, tutor, curriculum designer, cheerleader, and librarian all at the same time. While you perform all of these roles, you also have to balance responsibilities passed down to you from a government that doesn’t know the first thing about teaching with the responsibilities inherent in your job. It’s a hard juggling act to perform and choosing to walk away doesn’t mean that you were bad or incompetent as a teacher. It just means that this job wasn’t the right fit for you and that’s okay.

It wasn’t a good fit for you.

You have talents and skills that you have honed and that you are just better at. Teaching may not have tapped into the skills you excel at or perhaps your interests lie elsewhere. Maybe this career wasn’t what you were destined to do for the rest of your life. Maybe you would be better off working as a teacher assistant or as a curriculum specialist or a tutor working with small groups. Either way, you didn’t enjoy this job or it wasn’t something that you could continue to do because it was bad for your mental health and that doesn’t mean that you were a failure or that you’re defective or broken. It just means this wasn’t the right job for you and your life. The world is full of endless possibilities for you and life is ready for you to take it by the horns.

You went into teaching for the wrong reasons.

Perhaps, like me, you went into teaching because it was a secure career. The world always needs teachers, after all. Maybe you went into teaching because you wanted to “save” all the children from misery and that’s just impractical. You can’t save everyone and your impact is much more limited than all of those professional development workshops might lead you to believe. You may have gone into teaching out of a need to be approved of and to prove to yourself that you have value.

None of these reasons for going into teaching are inherently bad, but some of them are unhealthy. But none of those reasons mean you’re a failure or that you aren’t an intelligent person.

Hopefully, this post has helped you come to terms with your departure from your career as a classroom teacher. It’s been a long, bumpy road since I left teaching, but my passion for learning and for teaching others has never died. If education and teaching others is something you’re passionate about and you know you’re good at it, then look into other careers related to education.

House Rules

House Rules
By Alice Frutis

No barking loudly in the house

and no jumping through the roof.

No biting hands or tables;

no peeing in the fruit.

No chewing on the dresser.

No biting people’s legs.

No scaring all our kitties,

and no gnawing on my bed.

No jumping over the house.

No leaping through the windows.

No chewing on my rackets,

And no drinking my tamarindo!  

Always greet me when I walk in.

Always lick me when I’m sad.  

Always guard my friends and family,

and always love me.

Free Lesson Plans for Teachers!

Writing lesson plans took up a sizable amount of my time.  I was discouraged in college to use pre-written lessons that were published online or in a book.  It was derided, but frankly, I would have benefited from using lesson plans that other teachers have written.  Of course, regardless of whether you have written the plan yourself or found it online, you must differentiate your instruction for your class and when you find resources online, it would behoove you to take it and make it your own.  Make tweaks and changes so that it fits your classroom, your teaching style, and your class’s learning styles.

Teachers Pay Teachers is a great site where you can pay your colleagues around the country to use their lesson plans, units, assessments, and so on.  I definitely recommend using the site for your lesson planning needs, because not only does it save you time, it supports other teachers with unique ideas!  However, as teachers, we are always spending our money on school supplies and materials for lessons.

Starting this week, I will be releasing a lesson plan once a month which will be 100% free for you to use and modify to suit your classroom needs.  As I live and have taught in North Carolina, I will be using the North Carolina Essential Standards for Science, Social Studies, Health, and Technology.  I’m certain anyone not living in North Carolina can take the framework of my lesson plans and change the standards to match your state’s standards. I will also be using the Common Core State Standards and the Partnership for 21st Century Learning Framework.

Before We Begin…

As we are expected to teach children many, many things throughout the school year, I have found that it is best to try to get the most bang out of your buck when you are teaching all subjects.  I work to find ways to integrate literacy and mathematics standards into science, social studies, and other subject lessons.

Plant Structure

Grade: Third

Subject: Science

Standards:

Science: 3.L.2.1: Remember the function of the following structures as it relates to the survival of plants in their environments:

  • Roots- absorb nutrients
  • Stems- provide support
  • Leaves- synthesize food
  • Flowers- attract pollinators and produce seeds for reproduction

Common Core ELA: R.I. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).

21st Century Student Outcomes:

Communication and Collaboration: Communicate Clearly: Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written, and non-verbal communication skills.

Information, Communications and Technology Literacy: Apply technology effectively: Use technology as a tool to research information.

SMART Objectives:

Science: I will be able to define root, stem, leaf, and flower.  I will be able to describe what they do and explain it in my own words.

ELA: After reading about the structure of plants and looking at diagrams,  I will be able to create my own diagram showing the parts of a plant and write a paragraph explaining the structure of a plant and how each part functions in relation to the others.

21st Century Skills: I will be able to write about the structure of plants and explain each part of a plant.  I will be able to use technology to research and study plants.

Materials:

  • Smart Board, Projector, Television, or any other means of displaying large images that everyone can see clearly
  • At least five different photos of a plant (digital):
    • Showing the entire plant
    • Showing the root
    • Showing the leaves
    • Showing the stem
    • Showing the flowers
  • One physical photo of a plant
  • Chart Paper and stand
  • Markers: Green, red, brown
  • Blank index cards
  • Tape
  • 4-5 Informational Texts on plants, focusing on their structure (passages from a site such as “ReadWorks” are also okay)  These texts should be varied by reading level as much as possible to meet the needs of your class.
  • Subscription to Discovery Education with a plant lesson built for your class to use OR a custom search engine through Google that you build and fill with sites for your kids to do activities and read and watch videos about plants.
  • 2-4 Computers, Chromebooks, or tablets for the technology station
  • Science notebooks for each student

Hook (2 minutes): Using a smart board, projector, or television, display images of different kinds of plants and their different parts.

Say: Have you ever wondered about how plants grow and what each part of a plant does?  Does anyone know what the flower part of a plant does?  (To engage the class, ask one or two students to describe what the flower does.)  What about the stem?  The root?  Today in our stations, we are going to learn about four important parts of a plant: the root, stem, leaf, and flower.

Each student will go to one of four stations, as assigned by you before the lesson begins.  They will switch stations every 15 minutes.  Here are the workstations:

Station 1: Mini-Lesson with the Teacher (15 Minutes): In this station, your group will be learning directly from you about the parts of plants.

  • Show the group an image of a whole plant and tape it to the upper left or right corner of a piece of chart paper.  Ask your group to open their notebooks and title the page “Parts of a plant.”
  • Ask them to draw what you draw as you draw a diagram of a tree.
p1010010.jpg

I’m not an art teacher.  Sorry that my drawing isn’t that great.

  • Ask the group to create their own diagram for a different kind of plant — one that they choose.  They will do this in their notebooks.
  • Before switching groups, use the index cards to cover up the definitions and labels of the parts of the plant.
pc290020.jpg

Completed Diagram with the parts labeled and defined.

Station 2: Reading Station (15 Minutes)

In this station, you will provide a small basket of books and passages on plants.  They should be informational texts which have diagrams, vocabulary words, illustrations, and asides.  The group will be expected to quietly read with a partner from one of the texts and write down key points about plants in their science journals, such as “Photosynthesis is how plants make their own food” and “The stem of the plant allows water and nutrients to flow up into the rest of the plant to feed it.”

Station 3: Technology Station (15 minutes)

You will need either a subscription to Discovery Education (hopefully your school will have one for you to use!) or a little extra prep time before class to do some research.  If you have a Discovery Education or similar educational site subscription, you can create lessons from materials they have with questions and activities.

If you don’t have a subscription to one of the above sites, you can use Google to create a search engine with only sites that you pick out for your class to use!  Neat, huh? Here is an example that I made for a fourth-grade research project about notable historical figures, such as Andrew Jackson, Susan B. Anthony, Blackbeard the Pirate, etc. Do note that if you are creating a custom search engine for your class, you will need to point out to them that the links and results between the lines are sponsored links that they shouldn’t click on.  Google has sponsored links that show up, even on custom search engines.

custom search engine results

This is what my custom search engine looks like when I’ve typed in the keyword “Susan B. Anthony.”  Note the sponsored sites at the top.

Station 4: Writing Station (15 minutes)

Using a step by step diagram you give them, this group will write a paragraph describing the order in which parts of a plant grow.

Assessment: Completed on an index card or half sheet of paper and turned in for you to grade later.

  1. Why is it important for plants to have flowers?
    • Example answer: Plants need flowers so bees will come pollinate them and help them make seeds.
  2. Can a plant grow on a chunk of concrete?  Why or why not?
    • Example answer: No, because concrete doesn’t have nutrients or water in it.  The soil is where plants get water and nutrients to live through their roots.
  3. What do plants need to survive?  How do they get these things?
    • Example answer: Plants need water, sunlight, and soil to live.  Plants get water through their roots in the soil and use their leaves to turn sunlight into food.

 

Modifications/Differentiation

  • Have a at least one reading material in every student’s independent reading level.
  • Make sure to pair up students that have middle-to-high academic performance with students who have low-to-middle academic performance so that they can help each other access the reading material in books, handouts, and on the computer.
  • If possible, arrange for special technology to be provided for students with physical disabilities, such as
    • Sturdier iPad cases
    • Grips to help them hold the iPad
    • Access to an iPad or small computer that the student can use to keep a digital science notebook, fit with voice-to-text capabilities
  • For students with intellectual disabilities, provide some of the following supports:
    • Engaging content on their level
    • A buddy who helps them take notes
    • Helping that student’s group use color coding for their notes.
  • For students with mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression:
    • If they are anxious in social settings, make sure you assign at least one person that that student feels safe around.
    • Small groups will help anxious students be more willing to take chances and participate in the mini-lesson.
  • For students who are academically gifted:
    • Provide more challenging reading material
    • Give them a mentoring role in their group to support students who are struggling.
    • Ask them to compare and contrast plants and animals as part of the final assessment for the day.

Additional Activities

Should you want to spend a little more time on this topic and delve deeper with your class, you could turn this into a rudimentary research project.

Project Description

Using what you have learned regarding the structure of plants, each of you will study a plant with a small group and at the end of the week, you will teach the class about the plant.

Details you should be ready to teach your classmates:

  • What kind of plant it is
  • Where you can find it
  • How big is it
  • What the stem is called
  • Does this plant give off a fruit?  If so, how
  • Why is this plant important to the ecosystem?

You should also be ready to show the class images of your plant in a Powerpoint presentation.

Required Materials: 

  • Technology (computer, laptop, iPad, tablet, etc.) to create the Powerpoint or Google slides presentation.
  • Books on the different plants that you want them to research

List of Possible Plants to Research:

Note: You will assign each group a plant to research.  

  • Lily
  • Oak Tree
  • Dogwood
  • Bamboo
  • Blackberry Bush
  • Tomato plant
  • Potato plant

Grading Rubric

Completeness 

10 points- The Powerpoint is complete and covers all the required information.  It includes images showing the plant.

5 points- The Powerpoint is incomplete and covers some of the required information. It may have images of the plant.

0 Points- The Powerpoint is incomplete and covers very little or none of the required details.

Accuracy

10 points- The information that the group presented was correct.

5 points- The information that the group presented was mostly correct.

0 points- The information was incorrect.

Teamwork

Each student will rate the other members of their group on their participation in the activity.

+1 – (Name) participated most of the time and helped us make a good presentation.

+0 – (Name) participated some of the time, but not much.  They kind of helped us make a good presentation.

-1 – (Name) did not participate most of or all of the time.  They did not help make our presentation a success.

Each student will receive points based on the sum of the student’s ratings from their peers.

Positive ratings will receive 10 points.

Ratings that balance out at 0 will receive 5 points.

Ratings that are negative will receive 0 points.

The total possible points for the assignment would be 30.  

 

If you have any suggestions for improvement or you would like to share experiences you’ve had with this lesson plan, please feel free to share in the comments!  You are also welcome to share lessons that you’ve used to cover the same science standard (or it’s non-NC counterpart).

A List of Real Ways You Can Reduce Strain on Teachers

Original article posted on Medium.com

As a former teacher, there are a lot of things that I needed from parents and guardians that I didn’t always get.  This is a list of things that you as a parent or guardian can do to help your child’s teacher help your child to succeed.  Reducing the strain on teachers is a surefire way to make sure that your child receives the highest quality education possible.  When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, doesn’t your work suffer?  The same goes for teachers!

Here’s the list:

  • Advocate for your child, but don’t be a helicopter parent.
    • As the saying goes, everything can be good in moderation, but you can have too much of a good thing.
  • Back up the teacher when they are right.
    • The teacher isn’t always right, but when they are, they need you to be level-headed and support their decisions.  Your child looks to you first and your teacher second.  If you degrade your child’s teacher or complain about their decisions as unfair when they aren’t wrong to do whatever they’ve done, you’re teaching your child that their teacher doesn’t know what they’re talking about.  This can lead to all sorts of behavioral problems and if your child doesn’t have confidence in their teacher, then their investment in their education is diminished.
  • Encourage your child.
    • Your child needs your support and validation to develop confidence and invest in themselves.  If you put your child down or refuse to support their creative or educational endeavors, then your child will be discouraged and might just give up on learning altogether.
  • Volunteer at your child’s school.
    • Teachers have their hands full every single day.  They are responsible for anywhere from twenty to sixty kids over the course of a day (depending on if your school employs a specialization model where children switch classes every couple of hours) and that’s a lot of assignments and assessments to grade.  It’s also a lot of filing, a lot of cleaning, and a lot of organizing.
    • Your teacher will be incredibly grateful to you if you volunteer to help out, even if it’s just re-shelving books or reorganizing the science supply closet.  They will appreciate your help with grading simple assignments and will give you an answer key to speed up the process.
  • Buy School Supplies.
    • Teachers typically buy their own supplies for their classroom.  Some school systems have programs that provide some supplies for teachers, but oftentimes, this assistance just isn’t enough!
    • Pencils, I found, disappeared enough that I’m sure there’s a wormhole into which lost pencils fall.  They probably make up half of the junk world in Thor 3: Ragnarok.
  • Get involved in your government.
    • You don’t have to run for president to do this.  In fact, you’re more likely to be able to cause real change if you run for a local position relating to education, such as the board of education for your community.
  • Remind your child that your teacher is human.
    • Yes, we all know that our teachers are human, but sometimes we forget that our teachers make mistakes, too.  If they have made a mistake, and they apologize for it, forgive them and bear in mind that they didn’t mean your child harm when it happened.  If they have made a mistake, and they don’t apologize for it, bring it to their attention in a calm and rational way, and they will work to rectify it if they are reasonable!  If your child’s teacher doesn’t own up to the mistake or try to fix it, then go above them if you must, because your child deserves the best and deserves for your teacher to be fair with them.
    • Explain these things to your child so that they understand that mistakes that happen aren’t meant to hurt them or punish them.  Mistakes are just mistakes and their teacher is likely working hard to prevent themselves from repeating them!

Read my original article here on Medium.com.

 

 

Standardized Testing Blues

Also known as “Standardized Testing Makes Life Difficult for Literally Everyone Blues.”

Allow yourself a moment of fancy: You’ve worked and worked and taught your children to the best of your ability and you’ve differentiated for each one’s needs individually and you’ve held regular parent-teacher conferences and now it is Time.

Well, it used to be like that.  Teachers would be given free rein to create curricula as they went along following the standards set up by their state before the widespread implementation of the Common Core Standards.  They would be free to assess students based on projects and assessments that they created or pulled from textbooks and other resources.  Each resource used was tailored and hand-picked to meet the needs of their students.  And at the end of the year was the terrible, no good, very bad Standardized Test.

Believe it or not, it was easier back then, when it was a little simpler and teachers had more control in their own classrooms.  Nowadays, however, there are standardized tests being administered at the beginning of the year before the kids have learned anything, standardized tests are given in the middle of the year before the kids have finished learning everything for their grade level, and the end of the year test is supposed to measure what the student has learned across the entire year.

Any teacher will tell you that assessments are paramount to student and teacher success.  Assessment results tell the teacher how their students are progressing and what subject areas need to be gone over again in more detail.  Pre-assessments are important to allow teachers to get a baseline for where their students are performing at the beginning of the year or the unit.  Mid-term assessments allow the teacher to assess what their students still don’t know and what they have mastered.  The last assessment, naturally, is meant to show how much the child has learned.

I am a believer in standardized testing.

Don’t throw rotten tomatoes at me yet.  The principles of standardized testing are sound, research-based, and essential to ensuring equal educational opportunities for all children.

Standardization of a test means that it’s the same for everyone across the board.

Everyone gets the same test with the same questions and the same correct answers.  When we have our standardized testing, those assessments have been reviewed and are supposed to be valid (it measures what it’s supposed to measure, i.e. the Common Core standards for Literacy) and reliable (it is consistently valid and provides consistent results).

(more…)

Welcome

Hello and welcome to “Words Are Powerful!”

This is my official author and freelance writer blog.  I am especially interested in education and children’s literature, but I also perform tasks such as writing advertisements and product descriptions relating to children’s products.  I am currently working on modern fantasy and realistic fiction stories which would be appropriate for young adult audiences.

As my site title reflects, I believe that words are powerful.  We can change our world with them.  Everything that I write is meant to have purpose and meaning to impact the reader, the student, and the escapist.  In reality, we are all always learning as we walk through our lives.

Welcome to my world of words.  I hope you find something that interests you here!

If you would like what you see here and would like to support me, please consider becoming my patron.