Second Grade Cafe

Monday, July 20, 2015

Back-to-School Jitters

Do you get nervous as you anticipate the new school year? I do! This will be my nineteenth year of teaching, but I still become anxious this time of year. I thought that teaching the same grade for the past three years and teaching at the same school for the past nine years would help, but here come the jitters! I even had my first back-to-school dream last night. You know the one; the dream where you are not prepared and the students won't listen to you! Wouldn't students be surprised if they knew that teachers have back-to-school fears, too!

The best way I know to combat this yearly problem is to be as prepared as possible. I like to become acquainted with the students on my roster before school starts. Our administration usually doesn't release our rosters until a few days before school starts, but I like to study the students face and name so that I recognize them at our back-to-school bash. I also find that having my classroom cleaned and organized helps calm my jitters. And of course, I OVER plan for the first few days of school. That's my biggest fear, not having enough planned and prepared for each day.

What about you? Do you have the back-to-school jitters yet? What tips can you share that would help other teachers, like myself?
This is my attempt to clean and organize my classroom. I still have a lot to do in this department.

I also made a few changes to our AR tree. It still looks like an ice cream cone, but it will have to do.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What I Learned from National Board Certification

National Board Certified Teachers 2014
Through the years, my teaching style has changed to match whatever direction my
administration suggested. But after fifteen years of teaching, I decided to take charge of my own professional development by beginning my pursuit toward National Board Certification. I immediately realized that there was A LOT that I did not know about teaching. For years, I thought I had to have all the answers, and each day I would present lessons that typically followed the I do, we do, you do model. In this model, I would "teach" a new concept. Next, the students and I would practice it together. At last, students would demonstrate their understanding of the concept on their own. This is also known as the Gradual Release Model. This model seemed to work especially well as I taught my primary students the procedures of addition, subtraction, telling time, finding key words in word problems, etc. I felt successful with this teaching style until I analyzed the National Board Professional Teaching Standards and their description of accomplished teaching. I've listed below several summarized descriptions of accomplished teachers in mathematics according to NBPTS.

Accomplished Early Childhood Generalists...
1.) Know the ways in which young children think about mathematics and know mathematics in ways that allow them to support the learning of every child. Teachers know the structures and interconnections of mathematical topics. 
2.) They are skilled in modeling processes and practices that provide young children with the means of developing and using mathematical ideas, and they routinely structure opportunities for children to engage in practices such as representing and explaining their mathematical thinking.
3.) Teachers encourage young children to talk about mathematical ideas, processes, and reasoning.
4.)Teachers also know that invention, inefficiency, and error are a part of the process of developing and using strategies, fluency, skill in developing and using strategies, adjusting ideas to work in particular contexts, and perseverance are all hallmarks of mathematical competence. 
5.) They value each of these attributes of competence, understand their interdependence and use knowledge of children's thinking to plan and implement instruction.

While my teaching strategy provided sufficient modeling of the procedures, it did not encourage children to discuss mathematical ideas, processes, and reasoning. Nor did I routinely provide opportunities for children to represent and explain their thinking. I was teaching mathematical procedures, rather than facilitating critical thinking.

During my first attempt at National Board Certification, I tried to demonstrate that there was evidence of accomplished teaching with the I do, we do, you do method. National Board is all about evidence and impact of student learning. While my students were learning the procedures in mathematics, I was unable to provide evidence that they understood mathematical concepts. Therefore, I did not achieve National Board Certification on my first attempt. This motivated me to become an accomplished teacher, not just for myself, but also for my students.I eventually achieved National Board Certification, and I've finally learned that facilitating critical thinking should occur in every area, not just mathematics. And, because of the National Board Certification process, I continue to learn everyday.

A student gave me a collection of poetry about teaching. Here's a photo of him in math class. He's collaborating with a peer as they talk about mathematical ideas, processes, and reasoning.
I've included an excerpt from the book that I feel defines an accomplished teacher. The book is titled:
...and that is why we teach, A Celebration of Teachers by Patti Graham

Teachers are Facilitators
Teachers trust and know that as they compel questions to flow,
As they encourage higher levels of thinking,
And as they cultivate collaboration among the students,
Learning is the natural outcome.

Are you an accomplished teacher? If not, you can become one! Do it for yourself; do it for your students!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


In my last post, I shared how I tend to get distracted with my summer to-do list because I'm browsing blogs, social media, and podcasts. Even though I get distracted from my to-do list, I always learn something new! I hope to use this blog as way to share with other teachers what I learn. I'm sure there will be times that I share something that you already know a lot about, but it will be new to me. And that's okay, maybe you can add what you know in a comment.

So, here's something new to me: Dogfooding. Yes, I typed that correctly, even though my spell check disagrees. Are you familiar with this term? I had never heard of it until I listened to a podcast by Jennifer Gonzalez on The Cult of Pedagogy. Dogfooding is a term companies use to show confidence in their product by actually using their own product. Jennifer describes how teachers can use dogfooding before we present a lesson to our class by actually performing the task ourselves. This would help us to see any changes that need to be made before we present it to our students. I don't know about you, but I really dislike when students, or even worse, parents find mistakes in my lesson or task that I require my students to perform. Dogfooding would eliminate that. Below is the link to the podcast. Check it out!

Dogfooding: How Often Do You Do Your Own Assignments?


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer To-Do Lists

Do you have a summer to-do list? Every summer I plan to develop detailed lessons for every subject. I imagine a file folder with not only the activities and resources, but also a description of what to do on each day. After eighteen years of teaching, this hasn't happened as of yet! I find myself reading blogs, listening to podcasts, and scrolling through Twitter and Pinterest instead. Now that I'm half-way through summer break, I think I will trash my to-do list, curl up with a good book, and enjoy summer! Here's what I'm reading: