Monday Musings: How Many Opportunities Should You Give Students to Complete Missing Assignments?

s2In a perfect world, the teacher would assign work and all students would turn in work every time an assignment is given.  In the real world, this scenario is highly unlikely.  If this is your scenario, please let us all know how you obtained this.

I was recently talking to a fellow educator who was frustrated about students not completing assignments.  You typically have two camps:  camp one let students make-up missing assignments and camp two let students earn zeros and will not allow students to make up late work.  I’m in camp one because I allow my students to make up work, but I’m more flexible than many teachers.

Last week, midterm grades were due for my high school students on Friday by midnight.  I allowed my students to turn in or redo any assignment until the end of the school day on Thursday.  One of my teacher friends said, “Shawnta, that’s crazy.  You’ll be up all night.”  Actually, I went to bed at 9 p.m.  I know what you are thinking…”No one turned in any work.”  No, that’s not what happened.

From day one, I told my students they could redo any assignment for a higher grade or turn in any missing work at any time until one or two days before grades are due.  My students are in the habit of redoing assignments.  I told them they should never be satisfied until they have done the best they can do.  Also, I relentlessly remind them to turn in missing work during class and I don’t allow students to use poor behavior to leave class to avoid work.  I’m notorious for intercepting students on the way to in school suspension to come to my class and complete work first.

In short, I say give students as many opportunities as possible to complete missing work.  If they aren’t doing their work, you don’t have data to determine if your students are learning.  It is easy to give zeros.  It is easy to say you are making students responsible by not allowing them to turn in missing work late.  It is harder to keep nagging students and keep persisting they do the work.  When you create the culture of students redoing assignments for a higher grade and the culture that avoiding work will not be tolerated, you won’t have to worry about a flood of last minute assignments before grades are due because students will work throughout the grading period.  The best part is students will learn because when students repeatedly receive zeros and can’t make-up work, they feel like hope is lost and give up and students giving up benefits no one.

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Monday Musings: October Reflections – My Month in Review at Indy/Ed

blog-contributorI have decided that my first Monday Musings of each month will include links and my reflections about all of my Indy/Ed posts from the previous month.

I began writing for Indy/Ed, an education blog that is part of the Citizen Education network, January 2017.  This network includes blogs in L.A., D.C., NOLA and Memphis.  I am humbled to be part of a network of educators and/or parents who are advocates for the least of these in the world of education.

Kimbal Musk Speaks at TURN Festival 10/2/2017

 “I am a proud urban educator, but I am also a proud urban gardener.  This school, which has an urban farm, was a culmination of my two loves.  During the tour, we learned about the TURN (Transforming URban Neighborhoods) Festival and I knew one day I would return to attend.”

I’m glad I had the opportunity to return to my childhood neighborhood and attend TURN Festival.  Of course, the highlight was hearing Kimbal Musk speak (yes Elon Musk’s brother), but my hope is to see more minorities involved in growing their own food and advocating for this work.

World Teachers’ Day 2017 10/5/2017

We cannot focus on recruiting more teachers if we don’t address why current teachers are fleeing the profession.  Yes, money matters and teachers need a livable wage, but money is not the only reason teachers are leaving, lack of freedom and lack of empowerment are.”

The lack of freedom in the teaching profession handicaps teachers.  I was elated when I read “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers” was the theme for World Teachers’ Day 2017.  We have much work to do to make educators in all schools feel empowered.

Mental Health Matters Not Just for Students, but for Their Teachers Too 10/10/2017

The one comment I heard the most that drove me crazy was, “The Lord never gives you more than you can bear.”  I thought, “But why does it feel unbearable?” It was the type of unbearable where I had to negotiate with myself to go to school each day.”

Initially when people meet me, they assume I’m shy.  I’m not and I’m transparent about my life when the opportunity presents itself.  The one place where many people didn’t know about my struggle with infertility was within my educator circle.  World Mental Health day was a perfect opportunity to share my story.  Many people, especially teachers, reached out to me after reading this post and shared how they have struggled with balancing mental wellness and the stress that comes with teaching.  Another publication plans to republish this piece later this year.  I hope school districts not only take the mental health of students more seriously, but also the mental health of the adults teaching those students.

It Will Take More Than Money to Diversify the Teaching Profession  10/15/2017

“You have to do more than throw money at minority high school students to get them to choose teaching as a career.  The reality is many professions are trying increase the number of minority employees and many of those professions do a better job of convincing high school students to go into their field instead of teaching.”

I received some push back on this piece.  The push back was all these recruitment strategies are pointless because schools cannot retain teachers.  What’s the point of recruiting if they are going to leave?  I agree the teacher shortage is multifaceted and we have to work on multiple issues simultaneously.

Will Craig Middle School Reopen in 2019?  10/18/2017

“We also have to be realistic about what’s going on in IPS – closing down John Marshall…Will the families want to come here?  There’s lots of movement.  We know we’ve got to do something; doing nothing is not an option.” 

I’m a proud Cougar and I attended Craig Middle School back in the 90s.  I was excited to learn my former middle school would possibly reopen.  The meeting about the possibility of reopening Craig Middle School was held in the former middle school which now houses the district’s administration and alternative high school.  I hadn’t been inside Craig in decades.  I had my boys with me and I told them, “Mommy and Daddy went to this school” and they just laughed.  I’m not sure why that was funny.  I hope Craig will be able to welcome more Cougars in the future.

Mississippi:  A Book Makes People ‘Uncomfortable’ But What About Your Flag?  10/19/2017

I find it interesting in a state where the Confederate emblem is part of its state flag that being ‘uncomfortable’ was the reason this novel was banned.  How many Mississippi citizens are uncomfortable when they see the state’s flag flying in the air?”

I’m glad to write an update about this story.  The school district reversed its decision, (probably due to backlash) and will allow students to read To Kill a Mockingbird as long as they have a signed permission slip.

A Principal’s Words Has Power  10/21/2017

“The worse part of attending a different school each year was losing friends. My best friend in kindergarten was a red-head girl and in first grade, it was a boy named John.  When I entered second grade, I decided I would not make any more friends because I didn’t see the point.  What if we moved again?  It would be another friendship lost.  By end of second grade, I’d succeeded. I ended the school year without friends.”

In October, I had the opportunity to write two blog posts about Lawrence Township, the district where I attended school from 2nd-12th grade.  This one was my favorite.  Mrs. Dyer, my elementary principal, helped changed my perspective and for that, I will be forever grateful.

When Teachers Fear Parents the Child Loses  10/24/2017

“I’m a parent and I get it.  You feel the teacher has wronged your child and you are angry.  I’ve been there, but I also know I have to think about how my actions will affect my relationship with my child’s teacher and how my actions might change the relationship between the teacher and my child.”

No one pursues education with the hope of getting into a physical altercation with parents.  Unfortunately, there has been an increase in violence against teachers reported on the news and numerous stories of educators not feeling safe.  Children are considered the most important part of a parent’s life and this makes emotions run high, but violence should never be the answer.

Washington Township Parents, School Hours & Boundaries Input Needed 10/28/2017

MSDWT parents, take the survey to have your voice heard.  School boundaries will change when the 2019-20 school year begins and the start and end times could also be adjusted.”

As a MSDWT resident and parent, I’m indifferent about what time school starts.  I just don’t want to have this conversation every couple of years.

Should Schools Celebrate Halloween? 10/30/2017

Halloween is one of the biggest commercial holidays which means inevitability schools will have to decide how to address it.  Should students be allowed to dress up at school or should Halloween be banned?”

My sons’ school allowed students to dress up as a character from a book if they paid a $1.00 (it went to a charitable cause that I can’t recall at the moment).  One of my sons didn’t care that I sent him to school without a costume, my other son was devastated.  We didn’t go to the YMCA this year or to the catholic church near our home for trunk or treat.  I told my boys we would go to my mom’s church.  Later, I learned that my son, who had a complete meltdown about not dressing up, was sad because as he later shared, “I thought we were just going to hear that man talk for a long time.”  I failed to explain that my mom’s church was having a trunk and treat and other activities on Halloween.  I think the most frustrating part was being told by numerous school employees, “I heard you guys don’t celebrate Halloween.”  I would have preferred the school to carry on with business as usual especially since a book character dress up day can take place any time of the year.

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Monday Musings: Teachers Take Time to Take Care of Your Relationships

Newsflash:  There’s more to life than teaching!

A lot of time, planning and sacrifice goes into being an effective educator, but you should not sacrifice your relationships.  Although I am an English/Language Arts academic coach as well as a teacher, you would think my title said life coach or counselor.  From teachers I coach, current and former colleagues, and teachers I know in other school districts, I am hearing time and time again how their relationships outside of school are falling apart or are strained.  These are relationships between themselves and their parents, significant other, siblings, children or friends.  The reason for these strained and fractured relationships seem to be rooted in burning the midnight oil for school and leaving little time for anything or anyone else.

I assert, just as you take time to lesson plan, you need to take time and work on maintaining healthy relationships outside of school.  Committing too much time to work leads to burnout and burnout leads to Monday Malady and Friday Flu.  You know those teachers who dread the weekend ending and are typically sick on Monday or are sick of the school week and decide to start the weekend early on Friday.  When your main focus is work, it will be hard to maintain healthy relationships.

My husband and I learned this the hard way when we both were three years into our career.  We didn’t have kids at the time, but we were more like roommates than husband and wife.  We would go to work early and come home late, sometimes spending 10-12 hours at work.  We were eating separately and barely talked to each other.  We weren’t happy with work because all we did was work and we weren’t happy with our relationship because we weren’t spending time together.  The spark we had was diminishing into a barely lit ember.  We felt we were meant to be together.  My husband and I attended the same elementary, middle and high school.  Although we rode different school buses, we lived in the same neighborhood.  We didn’t meet until we had one class, Agricultural Economics, that overlapped between his technology major and my education major at Purdue.  How could we let our jobs ruin our relationship, when it seemed that we were destined to be in each other’s orbit?

My husband and I had to figure out how to maintain our relationship with each other, our family, and our friends and also be effective professionals especially now that we have children.  My husband is currently an Database Administrator for the state of Indiana and leads the Oracle Database team.  Being in a relationship with any administrator requires strategic planning.  We do our best to schedule two dates night a month.  Since it is also important for us to connect with other couples who are our friends, one date night is just for us and the other during the month is with another couple.  This gives us time to focus on each other, have a social life and have a much needed break from our profession.  We have rules such as not checking  notifications or replying to email to make sure we are engaged with each other and living in the moment.

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Jermaine and Shawnta Barnes at Newfields

When you are a busy professional, you have make time to schedule time with other.  On my schedule each month, time is allotted to schedule time with family and friends and plan activities. Sometimes you have to take advantage of unexpected opportunity.  Last Thursday, my husband’s boss told him he had to take off a day for all of his hard work.  As patrons of Newfields (formally the Indianapolis Museum of Art), we know that Thursday is the day when Newfields is open past 5 p.m.  There were only a few more days to visit the the Beer Garden that’s on the grounds before it closes for the season.  After I came home from work, we decided to go there.  Yes, we had work we could have been doing, but when it comes to our professions many of us can always find work to do.  Since it was Thursday afternoon, we had the place to ourselves.  Afterwards, we went to our boys’ school to watch them battle during their Battlefield Chivalry club.  Our boys were so excited to see us at their club.  We were glad to we had the chance to support an activity they have been doing since last school year.

We shouldn’t lose the people who are the most important to us because of our jobs.  We will be more effective at our jobs if we have more in our lives than just work.

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Monday Musings: Unplugging from Technology

distracted

Common Sense Media has released a series of PSAs featuring Will Ferrell as a distracted dad for their #DeviceFreeDinner campaign.  It’s a shame we have come to a point where we need a series of PSAs to remind us to connect in person especially with our families.  Unfortunately, many parents, including myself, need to do better.

In one PSA, the daughter is sharing about her day and the dad is so distracted by his phone he replies, “Good for you son.”  That one stung.  I have also been in more than one situation where one of my sons is sharing information and I just nod or say, “okay” because I’m checking email or browsing social media.  I didn’t even know what my child said.  Even though I am physically present, I am mentally somewhere else.

It’s not only dinner where we need to do better; we also need to need to be both physically and mentally present in other areas of our children’s life.  We can’t help with homework, watch our child play a sport, or attend a school event without checking our cell phone.  Other devices also become a barrier.  We are glued to our tablets and television instead of being tuned in to our children.

What’s worse is we are modeling this behavior for our children.  They will follow right behind us and spend more time talking with ‘friends’ online than engaging with people in person.  Technology has helped us immensely but we shouldn’t be so connected to our devices that we become disconnected from our children.

HealthyChildren.org powered by the American Academy of Pediatrics has a resource on their site to help families create a family media plan.  I know I need to do better and I challenge other parents to do the same.

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I am black enough

black fist

“So you’re really not taking your boys downtown to the Circle City Classic?”

“No. Not this year.”

“You should at least take them to the parade.”

“We are either going to a museum for free museum day or to the Indianapolis Chinese Festival.”

(laughs) “Ya’ll black.  How you are you going to deprive them like that?”

I know I am not alone and these conversations aren’t new for me, but nonetheless they are annoying and sends the wrong message.   Apparently there are certain criteria to determine if you are black enough and if you don’t measure up, some well meaning black person feels it is his or her obligation to notify you of this ‘fact.’  To make matters worse they might even confiscate your card.

My earliest memory of having my black card confiscated was at a family celebration.  I don’t remember what we were celebrating, but I know I stuffed my face with way too much food.  I was minding my own business, sitting at a table and debating whether or not I should finish the dessert I was nibbling.  The DJ had just started playing the electric slide.  After everyone was called to dance, a family member went around to convince nonparticipants to get on the dance floor.  When the person got to me, I declined the invitation and said, “I don’t even know how to do that dance.” The family member placed out his hand out and waited.  The confusion on my faced showed and my relative said, “Well, I’m taking your black card. You ain’t black if you can’t do the electric slide.”  Over the years, my black card has been taken for other offenses such as not knowing how to play spades and never eating ramen noodles, to name a few.

Instead of trying fit black people into a box, I assert black people need to throw out the blackness measuring stick and accept the wide diversity that exists in our race and culture.  At times, my husband and I are referred to as blerds (black nerds) because of our interests in sci-fi, fantasy, documentaries, other cultures and the fact that we simply enjoy learning.  Although I don’t watch Power, what ever housewife show is on now, refrain from eating ribs and still haven’t learned the electric slide or how to play spades, it does not mean I am less than or not black enough.  It makes me a unique piece of the fabric of our culture.

Eliminating this asinine measuring stick starts with our own families. Push back when your families members are making these off the wall statements and push back when they are confiscating imaginary cards.  I have seen the struggles my black, biracial and multiracial family members have gone through because other families members or friends have suggested they don’t measure up.  It’s not just white children who are taking their own lives; black children suicide rates are on the rise too.  These comments, although they may be in fun, might be tearing down a black person that needs to be lifted up.

What did we end up doing?  We attended the Indianapolis Chinese Festival.  My boys have been really interested in China for the last two years since learning about it in school and since two or our aunts and one uncle went to China last October and stayed for three weeks.  Yes our black relatives went to China for three weeks. Is that also an offense?

My husband and I know exposing our children to other cultures doesn’t negate or lessen how they feel about themselves as black boys; it helps them understand people who don’t look like them.  We are not worried about them not loving who they are because they have good role models – they have parents who love themselves despite not being considered black enough.

Just in case you question if expanding their horizons is diminishing who they are as black boys, I’m just going to leave this picture one of my sons colored at school right here.   This is just one of many that comes home colored in his own image.  Too bad I didn’t take a picture of that black leprechaun he made.

statue

 

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Question MarksIf you love science fiction like I do, you might have watched Stranger Things on Netflix. The song, “Should I stay or should I go?” is heard from the radio in several episodes.  That question plagued me over the summer and it is a question I will need to consider before this school year ends.

On Wednesday, February 8th, I was filled with excitement.  I heard from The Kitchen Community, my school, Wendell Phillips School #63 was selected to receive a learning garden.  When I completed the application for my school, I wondered if it was good enough for us to be selected.  That Wednesday, I learned it was.  I’m a gardener and I blog about my family’s garden journey at my website Gardener Shicole.  I was glad to be able to share part of my life outside of school with students at my school.  The next day, February 9th, I was told by my principal that my literacy coach position was being eliminated and I was being displaced.  Clearly, I would not have put so much effort into bringing a learning garden to my school only to leave at the end of the school year, but I have learned in life, the plans you make many times are not the plans that become reality.

Throughout the summer, I interviewed within my district (Indianapolis Public Schools) and outside of the district.  I was exhausted from answering questions and I had to make a chart to ensure I didn’t wear the same outfit twice for the call back interviews.  I was walking a fine line.  Being displaced means you are guaranteed a job, but if you don’t find one, you could be placed anywhere in the district and I did not want that to become my fate. If you could see my resume, you would know I have only worked in schools on the west or northwest side of Indianapolis because of the distance to my home.  I hate to drive.  I didn’t take driver’s education until my senior year and that’s because my parents forced me to sign up.  The fear of being placed in a school on the far east side, drove me to stay motivated so I would interview well.

I was offered a job at every school I interviewed at except for one.  The burden of making the right choice weighed on me heavily.  Just as a person can interview well, but end up being a poor fit, a school can present itself as a good option, but end up not being what it seems.  In the end, I decided to accept a 9th/10th grade English/Language Arts Multi-Classroom Leader (MCL) position at Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet School.  Normally, when I tell people my title they reply, “So what exactly do you do?”  As a MCL, I teach students and coach teachers.

Crispus Attucks holds a special place in my family.  My grandmother and her brothers attended this school when schools were segregated.  Although, they all attended, my grandmother was the only one who graduated.  My great uncles either left school to join the military or to work.  If you ever walk the hall of Attucks, you will see pictures of each graduating class hanging on the walls.  I sort of feel like my grandmother is watching over me while I’m here.

Attucks 36

On June 30th, I officially received my administrator’s license; this gives me more options for the future.  I already have inquiries about my plans for next school year, but I’m not one to chase a title.  If I take an administrator position, it has to be the right fit.  My dad said, “Shawnta, you would be a fool not to consider all of your options, but make sure you do the best job you can this year to ensure you have options for your future.”  This school year, I chose to return to the Indianapolis Public Schools district and I am striving to be the best high school educator and academic coach I can be.  I don’t know what the future will hold, but I know God will take care of it.

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Bipartisan Senate Concern about Devos’ Education Budget Cut Proposal

devos

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos raised bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill earlier this month during her defense of the proposed budget cuts to the U.S. Department of Education.  In a fact sheet released by the U.S. Department of Education, “the budget eliminates or reduces more than 30 programs and decreases the funding of the U.S. DOE by $9 billion.”  At the subcommittee hearing, Sen. Roy Blunt (R) told DeVos, “I think it’s likely that the kinds of cuts that are proposed in this budget will not occur, so we need to fully understand your priorities and why they are your priorities.”

DeVos’s main priority is choice even if students could possibly be discriminated against based on race, religion, and/or sexual orientation.  The fact sheet also highlights, “$1.4 billion toward new public and private school choice opportunities.”  Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) asked DeVos, “Are you saying that if you have private schools — private schools generally set their own admissions policy — that they will not be allowed to discriminate against LGBT students?”  DeVos replied, “Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law.”  Merkley’s rephrasing of his question garnered the same reply from DeVos.  She refused to state that funding would be withheld if a private school refused admission or discriminated against students based on race, religion, and/or sexual orientation.  Choice with the possibility of discrimination is not a good choice for families and leaves them with limited or no other options.

In “America First:  A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” President Trump stated, “Many other Government agencies and departments will also experience cuts.  These cuts are sensible and rational.  Every agency and department will be driven to achieve greater efficiency and to eliminate wasteful spending in carrying out their honorable service to the American people.”  Apparently, teacher training and after-school programs is wasteful spending because both are on the chopping block.

For now, it seems DeVos will have an uphill battle getting her plan through in its current state.  If people on both side of the aisle can see the problems, why can’t DeVos?

 

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We need to do better; Children are watching

Unless you are disconnected from social media, radio and the news, you know about the controversy surrounding the photo of Kathy Griffin holding a severed head in the likeness of President Trump.  Many people have been quick to point out images of a noose around a body in the image of President Obama in an attempt to lessen what Kathy Griffin has done.  The bottom line is, regardless of political affiliation, this is unacceptable behavior.  These adults are sending this message, “If I don’t like someone or I disagree with him or her, it is okay to tell the person to die and wish the person dead.”hate text

Children follow our example whether it is good or bad.  Unfortunately, children are telling other children online to die or kill themselves.  Some, overwhelmed by these hurtful words, have taken their own lives.

We need to show children that it is okay to disagree or even not like someone, but still respect them as a human being.  Children need to know the tongue can speak life or death.  Disagreements and conflicts are part of life, but the other part is responding in the right manner.  Children should see us engaging in conflict by supporting our side with facts without name calling or levying threats.  If you cannot change a person’s mind, work towards other solutions.

We must do better whether we are famous or not.  If we continue down this path where we wish people dead or provide images depicting the death of a person, we will raise a society of children who will also engage in this behavior and possibly take words into action.

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Fostering a Love of Reading in Your Child

1395222_10102986331364938_2019782027_nThis year marks the 20th year of the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day.  This event is celebrated in many schools across America on March 2nd on Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  Some schools like my sons’ school celebrated Read Across America during the whole week surrounding Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  Our boys even had the opportunity to eat green eggs and ham.  Students at the school where I serve as a literacy coach had the opportunity to participate in Dr. Seuss themed activities and listen to Dr. Seuss books read aloud by teachers and older students.

For a child to develop a love of reading, parents, educators, and the community must show the importance of reading throughout the year.  It cannot be a one day event; reading must become part of the child’s lifestyle.

Starting Early

book-as-baby

My twin sons like many multiples were born early.  Although, my husband and I were worried about their overall health, we knew we wanted to begin fostering the love of reading early.  Once they came home from the hospital, we read books to them as much as we could and we purchased books for them to view.

599271_10101631020917938_1758025048_nWe took books everywhere; I would throw them in my bag so I could have them available whether it was for a long car ride, church service or a trip to the store.  It is easy to give your child your cell phone or another piece of technology to occupy his or her time, but a book is another option and you don’t have to worry about battery drainage.

Involving Family & Friends

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Nana reading.

To include our families in our reading mission, we put on our sons’ birthday invitation a request for African American children’s books instead of toys.  To add an additional challenge, we requested our family and friends to purchase different books for each of our sons.

Before our sons were born, we decided even though they are identical twins, we wanted them to be treated as other siblings who are singletons so they could be known as individuals.   Typically you would not buy other siblings the exact same gift and this is why we made the request for people not to buy two of the same book.

Although diverse representation in books and media is increasing, our family members and friends shared it was hard to find books with African American characters.  We were proud of their efforts and we received no duplicate books.

 

Modeling

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My dad reading the newspaper.

The saying, “Actions speak louder than words” rings true especially when it comes to children.  It is important to us that our children see us and other adults reading.  Whether it is my mother or my mother-in-law reading the bible, my dad reading National Geographic or the newspaper, my husband reading comics or me reading young adult novels, they are constantly around adults who take time out of their schedule to read.

 

When children are exposed to books and adults who enjoy reading they want to read also.  Learning to read is a process, but this process can be more enjoyable when they love books.

Providing Opportunities

190637_10102047758657168_1695783576_nI always tell my students (and I can see some of them rolling their eyes right now), “You can’t get better at reading without reading.”  As our boys grew, we tried to provide many opportunities for them to read or for them to be exposed to literacy activities.

When they were very young, they would read the pictures and tell a story about what they believed was happening.  Another activity they liked was asking each other to find something in a book.

In preschool, they began reading decodable and predictable text by themselves.  They also had opportunities to bring in books and read them to their class.  Now, they are reading books at their reading level with help from us as needed.

We also wanted them to know how reading could help them complete a task.  When we went to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, Mississippi, we showed them how to use a map.  We let them use the map to direct part of the visit. science-museum

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-6-21-16-pmNow when we go to the grocery store, I have them take turns checking off items on the grocery list.  Which led to an interesting moment one time.

Jeremiah:  Mom, I found a silent e word.  Silent e jumps over the consonant and makes the vowel say its name.

Mom:  That’s right.

Jeremiah:  So mom, what is wine?  Did you get it yet?  I need to know so I can check it off the list.

Although, I did receive a few looks.  I’m proud that he was able to read many words on our grocery list independently.

Storytelling

Good writers are avid readers.  Not only do our boys love to read, they also like to create their own stories, even before they could write words.  Before they learned how to write and spell words, they would draw the story and we would write the words they dictated to us underneath the pictures.

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James’ story

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Jeremiah’s story

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Quality Time

The best part of fostering a love of reading is the quality time we all get to spend together.  Reading stories and discussing what happened in them has been a great way to learn our children’s perspective.  We also have learned what they are interested in and what they would like to learn.

They love the library and they love reading and we love watching them grow and learn.

library

Our boys holding their new library card.  They were able to upgrade from their My First Library card since they are now six.

 

 

 

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Indiana’s New Superintendent of Public Instruction

 

idoeEarlier this month, Jennifer McCormick was sworn in as Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.  She defeated Glenda Ritz in the November election.  Some educators I have spoken to expressed surprised and/or disappointment that McCormick won.  I was not surprised and I expected her to win.  Indiana, along with a small percentage of other states, still allows straight ticket voting.  If you have driven around Indianapolis during the last few years, you may have seen, “Pence Must Go!” signs, but our soon to be Vice President had support in many other places in our state.  Since Indiana is known as a Republican stronghold, with Pence on the ballot for Vice President, I fully expected straight ticket voting and people who wanted change to result in many Republican races being won in Indiana including the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

I too rejoiced, with educators around the state when Ritz defeated Tony Bennett, and I would have been content if she was elected again.  Since McCormick’s platform was similar to Ritz’s platform, I am encouraged she will work hard for our students and support educators.

One point McCormick mentioned during her campaign was her administrative experience and her promise to improve communication with schools and state agencies.  This struck a chord with some educators. Last school year, during Ritz’s tenure Title I funds were frozen due to miscalculations by the Indiana Department of Education.  This affected my school; we had to cancel a few family events because we could not spend federal funds allocated to those events.  Although Ritz stated the miscalculations happened under the previous administration, the communication about those errors and the process to rectify those miscalculations was during her tenure.

It is up to stakeholders in our educational landscape to hold our elected officials accountable.  I appreciate the hard work of Former Superintendent Ritz and hope Superintendent McCormick carries on Ritz’s work and keeps educators and students at the forefront of her decisions.

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