Friday, August 9, 2013

Five for Friday - August 9th, 2013

My week in pictures:

1. Last week, I was given several boxes of school supplies from a friend who works at McGraw-Hill. They are downsizing offices and did some major cleaning. I recruited 4 of my teacher friends to help me sort through the several boxes of school and office supplies. I don't think we'll ever run out of paper clips or file folders ever again!

We also dropped off several boxes of supplies to City Academy, located in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. The Tenderloin has the highest crime rate of any district in San Francisco. City Academy's mission is to "transform the Tenderloin Community by breaking the cycle early of poverty, violence and addiction through educating and empowering children to overcome those obstacles." I posted here about How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. It addresses the issue of poverty and how it takes its toll on children. Although I teach at a very affluent school, I know there are several schools in the city that need extra support and encouragement from the community. 

2. I made a trip to IKEA and found some great rugs for my classroom!

3. My classroom theme is Dr. Suess again this year. I'm currently in the process of painting some truffula trees from The Lorax. My polka dotted IKEA rugs were wrapped around the cardboard tubes below, which will eventually be the base of the trees. Never doubt a teacher's ability to be resourceful! 

4. In keeping with my Dr. Suess theme, I decided to make my own birthday chart again this year: "Horton Heard It's Your Birthday!" I've been obsessed with Kevin & Amanda's smiley monster font for bulletin boards and posters. 

5. Totally unrelated to teaching, but I am obsessed with making trifles. (Just ask the teachers at my school!) Usually I just throw some ingredients together and hope for the best combination of flavors, but when I found this s'mores trifle recipe on this blog I knew I had to try it out. It actually tasted like a s'more straight from the campfire. Broiling the marshmallows  for a few minutes gave the top layer a toasted look and taste. 

I'm a huge fan of my Pampered Chef trifle dish. I think you can make even iceberg lettuce look good if you just throw it inside a glass trifle dish. 

I'm off to the teacher's store this afternoon to pick up a few more supplies for my classroom. We have a "Meet and Greet" night next week and then school begins the week after that! I'm anxious and excited for a new school year to start. 


Monday, August 5, 2013

My Summer Reading List!

What's a teacher to do on summer vacation? READ of course! My summer reading list is below: 
  • I had a 4.5 hour train ride to Berlin and couldn't stand the thought of making the trip without a good book. I went to The American Book Store in Warsaw and was surprised shocked to find The Financial Lives of Poets written by Jess Walter, the author of Beautiful Ruins. I read through the book in just a few short hours! 
  • How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. The short synopsis on the back of the book reads, "Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control." It's reminding me a lot about The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner. (Hey you teachers - how's that for a text-to-text connection?!) Because of the focus on standardized testing in today's society, students in too many classrooms are not being equipped with the skills that are necessary to succeed in the 21st century. One of my favorite passages (I've **starred** and underlined it!) is as follows, "This push on tests," he told me when I visited his office one fall day, "is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human." YES! YES! YES! Can we shout this from the mountain tops? I'm blessed to teach at a school where testing is not our priority, but rather educating the whole child - socially, emotionally and academically. And you know what? My students do just fine outstanding on our ONE standardized test in the spring. I know many teachers are faced with standardized testing and practice tests all year long. How are students ever supposed to develop a love for learning when (nearly every week) they are forced to answer multiple choice questions on a test that is culturally and socio-econocially biased? These tests are not fair assessments of the progress a child has made over the course of an academic year. What we as educators need to focus on is "grit, curiosity and the hidden power of character" as we step foot in our classrooms every day. 

Have you read How Children Succeed? Maybe all I need is another day of sunshine, blue skies, Peet's coffee and a bench by the San Francisco Bay to finish the book. I'm not quite half way through and I'm loving it! 

What was on your summer reading list? I'm always looking for great educational research books. Tell me your favorites!