Tag Archives: California

The Last Weekend of My Twenties

I like the drama of that statement, as though everything will somehow change on Thursday.

I get that age is a state of mind, but thirty just sounds so adult.

Like it’s time to stop dreaming and start doing.

I know, it’s always time for that.

Ironically, I picked a pretty grown-up way to celebrate.

A house, close friends, dogs, and the ocean.

No dirty thirty or roaring twenties to go out with a bang.

However, it was perfectly me.

Quiet, peace, laughter and the sea.

Here’s to a new decade.

Thirty.

Weekend Weekend Weekend Weekend

Ready to buy this place... Anyone want to invest?

Want to invest in this place with us? Maybe dreaming is not always such a bad thing…

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Thankfulness Thursday: Good-bye STAR test

Standardized testing is a necessary evil, at least for now. Yes, I think it puts too much pressure on children and teachers. Yes, I think it shifts priorities. However, it is a way to compare schools and prove it is possible to close the achievement gap between low and high income communities.

In two years, it will change completely, and while I have expressed my doubts about requiring schools to give computer-based tests, I’m hopeful the adoption of the National Standards will be a change for the better. Word on the street, teaching will slow down, be more conceptual, an improvement. My fingers are crossed.

Today my students finished their last STAR test in our two years together. It was a joyous event. After STAR testing, the climate at school shifts. Yes, we still learn, but now all the core standards have been taught for the year and I can weave everything together into units on history and art and…

I don’t know if it is the knowledge that I now have five weeks to let inquiry drive instruction or all the yoga or what, but I felt incredibly calm and unaffected by post-test meltdowns and a chaotic room full of students working on large trifold posters for their culminating elementary school project. Construction paper was everywhere. The threat of glitter explosions loomed in the air. Dozens of kids wanted my help simultaneously. “Mrs. M!” “Mrs. M!” “Just one second.”

Still, I was at peace, with a smile on my face. If only I could find this space every day. I suppose the offer of fruit snacks and Capri Suns to put the room back in order didn’t hurt either.

Today we started a GLAD strategy where students express their thoughts and questions about visuals for a unit. We put ours on a map of the United States and a picture of the U.S. Presidents. Beneath is our U.S. History timeline which will soon be filled with cards from their mini-report on the presidents.

Today we started a GLAD strategy where students express their thoughts and questions about visuals for a unit. We put ours on a map of the United States and a poster of the U.S. Presidents. My favorite question: “Why has there been only one African American president?” Next students will create definitions for president, country, and state, then make informational cards about each president to stick on our timeline. May is my favorite month to teach.

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Twenty Words: Life.

Life.

Life is a tenuous set of strings,

With scissors lurking.

The questions is–

Will you tie them back together?

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Weekend Escape: An Adventure in the Making

It’s funny. I wanted to force myself to stay off the computer this week as a break from my book, but I can’t help it. I want to write, so here I am, blogging.

This weekend, however, I’m headed to a place without technology, a hot springs retreat with my mom about twenty miles outside of Wine Country. While I welcome the break, I am also a little nervous. This trip is undoubtedly outside my comfort zone. See, I have a lot of hippie qualities, but I have a lot of mainstream ones too. Growing up with a hippie mom, I was a late adapter. I resisted up until a year or two ago and it has definitely not been a full transition.

What will be outside my comfort zone, you ask? Public nudity, mainly. I’m sure I’ll deal with it, but I have to admit some of the Yelp reviews made me cringe. The hot springs are the only part of the resort where clothing is optional, but somehow poolside naked yoga and couples enjoying each other is not really my spectator sport of choice. Not to mention the weird grunting men. Thanks Yelp for giving me so much to look forward to…

My mom has assured me these scenarios are not common. Admittedly, I was swayed by a free massage, my own room, multiple yoga options per day, and quiet time hiking. The dorm room scenario was almost a deal breaker. More than anything else though, I am looking forward to a nice long weekend in the company of my mom without the distractions of normal life. No tv, no cell phone, no computer…

I am also looking forward to the drive. I will pass through Wine Country and Calistoga, (where I got married), on my own. I have never done this drive alone. The year we got married we drove to Calistoga almost monthly. It is one of my favorite drives in California. Returning on my own feels somehow introspective and meaningful. Maybe I will even stop for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. I have never eaten at a restaurant alone. I do not even know what it would feel like.

Needless to say, this weekend will be an adventure. Despite my apprehension, I’m excited. Yoga, wine country, hot springs, my mom. Worst case scenario I add another hilarious review to Yelp. Best case, I’m one of the staunch defenders of how wonderful it is to get away from it all. Either way, I will see a different slice of life than usual.

Are you good at pushing yourself outside your comfort zone? I’m working on it.

We began our little trip by driving through wine country to Calistoga, one of my favorite drives in all of California.

Excited for one of my favorite drives, even if I’ll be on my own. January is oddly a gorgeous time to visit, little yellow flowers everywhere.

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My Humble Thoughts on Education (Did I mention I’m a teacher?)

As I drove to work this morning, NPR played a piece about standardized testing in California. Try as I might, I can’t find the link to the story, so I’ll give you a similar link from the Mercury News. Basically, California plans to phase out standardized testing and use a computer-based test that attempts to measure critical thinking instead. This is all part of the adoption of the National Common Core Standards.

Students will enter their responses into the computer, typing in what they think instead of selecting from a list of choices. On the surface, this may sound better than multiple choice. However, low income kids often do not have access to computers at home, while their wealthier counterparts often have personal devices at their disposal. The same goes at school. Some schools in California have a laptop for every kid, then there are schools like mine, with one computer lab shared by grades K-12.

As an added layer, English learners (ELs) communicate differently than their English-only peers, making their responses hard to compare. Even if the tests adjust for ELs, many families of ELs are afraid to identify as non-English speaking at home, making it impossible for schools to legally designate countless students who would benefit from the modifications.

As much as standardized testing may get under my skin, it is a way to measure students in all socioeconomic groups with less favor given to more privileged populations. Sure, there are still disparities in accessing the content on the test, as an EL fifth grader reading at a first grade level may not be able to accurately demonstrate his ability to think through problems he cannot 100% read, but at least he does not also have to hunt and peck his way through the test on a keyboard. Instead, he can pick an option that verbalizes what he may not be able to write on his own.

My two cents. If we want to fix education, open-ended testing on computers is not the answer. I hope I am proven wrong, (especially if the state actually goes through with it and I have to give these tests to my students). However, my initial impression is that a shift of this nature gives unfair advantage to students with wealthier backgrounds. True assessment of understanding requires different modes of input/output for different students. Traditional standardized tests may not fit the bill, but the solution seems worse.

I worry that our desperation for education reform is creating outcomes that do not reflect the realities of teaching students with different learning needs. I’ll leave you with a link to a Huffington Post article that illustrates some of the other attempts at education reform underway. I’d comment but that would be a whole different 500+ word entry, (and this teacher is a little on the tired side already).

Instead, I’ll just say that my school is part of a huge trial evaluation program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the next five years to increase teacher effectiveness. I was also trained through a residency program funded by these same grants. As weird as it is to think about, I am one of those data points that will shape the debate on reform. So far my little dot is more effective than expected, but also a little wary of the implications.

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Vacation Withdrawals

I’m such a baby.  I’m finishing up my second week of work since summer vacation ended and all I can think about is how I can make my weekend feel like vacation again.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m making the absolute best of being back at work and I’m even enjoying parts of it, but I’m still coming home and googling weekend getaways, plotting how I can swing another trip over fall break, daydreaming about escaping today’s 104 degree heat to nosh on free-range fried chicken in Yountville or paddle board on the calm waters of North Lake Tahoe.

I guess that’s one good thing I can say about Sacramento, it’s less than a two hour drive from some pretty incredible places in California.  If you’re a NorCal reader, I would love to hear your favorite weekend getaways.  With the 101 degree weekend forecast, I could really use some inspiration to get myself back out of town.

Now, if only getting to Hawaii was as easy…

I’ve decided life should look like this more often.

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