Friday, June 20, 2014

Let's Agree NOT to have an Opinion!!!

I had the distinct honor to hear the gentleman in the picture above.  He was the keynote speaker at the Niswonger Symposium on June 18, 2014 in Greeneville, Tennessee.  It was such a wonderful, uplifting, motivating, life-changing presentation.  It was an I-want-to-get-back-in-my-classroom-right-now kind of moment when he finished.  He is amazing. 

You can check out his full story without any of my embellishments at the following site:

Mr. Charbonneau is from a small town in Washington state called Zillah.  I was very tempted to ask how far this was from Forks and if he had ever met Edward and Bella, but he was such a ROCK STAR in the building, I didn’t have the guts.  I DID, however, get to sit beside him during a break-out session -  thus the selfie. 

Sidenote:  He decided to attend the sessions.  The National Teacher of the year decides to go hear other teachers in good old Tennessee talk about their best classroom practices.  He chose to come to one…………….

She acted cool about it.  She was truly an I-got-it-all-together kind of gal..clearly.
Guess what happened……..
You as a teacher know!!!!!!!!!...........
What always happens when you are being monitored, evaluated, video-taped, or stalked by a ROCK STAR or administration???????

        You guessed it - technology failure!!!!!!  However, I am proud to say she pulled out of it like a pro.  Her presentation was WONDERFUL!!!!!  We were all soooooooo engaged.  We loved her use of Frozen and, then we were all supportive of her essay written entirely about the perfect qualities of Pal’s Frenchie Fries.  Needless to say, Mr. Charbonneau was just a little lost at this point, until he remembered somebody from Niswonger had brought him a really great tea that day, and he thought it might have been from Pal’s.  Way to go, Niswonger!!!!

Back to the whole reason for this blog………….how I was motivated.  He had to………just HAD TO…………..HAD TO mention Common Core and all or its controversial glory.  Here’s the meat of what he said.  When a person asks him as a teacher how he felt about Common Core, he asked them which part?

·      If you are asking about the standards, he has one answer.
·      If you are asking about the curriculum based on those standards, he has another answer.
·      If you are asking about the testing that is being done based on common core curriculum and standards, he has another answer.
·      If you are asking about the data gathered from those tests and what is being done about and with that data, he has another answer.

Now here’s the beautiful moment.  Here is his suggestion.  Here’s where he had the crowd really FEELING it. 

How about if we as teachers all agree not to have a comment about common core that we feel the need to fling out at the grocery store.

How about if we as teachers do the following…………………………

Teach our Kids

That’s it.  Simple as that.  You had to be there to feel it.  BUT THINK ABOUT IT.  There is nothing we can do today, or this week, or this month, or this year about Common Core, teacher evaluations, formative testing, etc.  We can’t change it.  We can’t fix it.  We can’t hide from it.  So why not do the one thing we should be doing……..what we should LOVE doing……..what we were hired to do…………..

Teach our Kids

He challenged us as teachers to go out into the public, to go into Food City and Dollar General, to go into the negative world of TEACHERS ARE OFF ALL SUMMER WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO GRIPE ABOUT world and maybe do something amazing………….praise our job.  praise our work.  praise our students.  praise our school.  praise our coworkers.  praise our school system. 

As Mr. Charbonneau pointed out, if we ALL did that just in one night - nationwide!!!!!!!!.......can you imagine how the face of education would change.

So here’s my plan.   I’m going to work. HARD!!!!  I'm going to change things for the better.  I’m going to do my job better than I did last year which was better than the year before and the year before………I’m going to LOVE those kids.  I’m going to realize I can’t change the minds of anybody in Nashville or Washington.  I’m going to accept whatever they hand to me.  I’m simply going to.. 

Teach our Kids

Sunday, June 8, 2014


My PSRP is off to a fantastic start!!!!!  (PSPR - Personal Summer Reading Program)  

First, let’s talk about little ole’ Ms. Lisa Patton.  She can write Southern so well you can smell the biscuits browning in the oven and the sweet in her tea!!!!  Her protagonist is named Leelee Satterfield and together with her BFFs, she will keep you laughing and crying and cheering and hissing and loving………all at the same time.  These books are wonderful - but please read them in the correct order unlike moi!!!!!!

# 1:  Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’Easter

# 2:  Yankee Doodle Dixie

# 3:  Southern as a Second Language

The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore.  I don’t know what to say……..She can take the same 26 letters that we all use to form words and do something so moving and amazing and wonderful with them.  This book is also set in the South……..I’m always drawn to these books!!!  It is the story of a young girl who works in a sewing factory and is faced with a harsh, cruel life.  Get this book.  You can’t put it down!!!

My grandmother and my mother-in-law suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  It is truly heartbreaking.  My grandmother was a totally different person……a stranger to me……at the end of her life.  She wrote me letters that I actually burned because I didn’t know that person.   The writer was not my sweet granny who loved me with all her heart.  They were written by someone whose mind was turning inside out, whose life was turning upside down, and she had no way to stop it.   Most people have family or know someone who has to deal with this terrible, depriving, evil condition.  The book, Still Alice, by Lisa Genova is about a 49 year old Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early onset dementia.  What a beautiful yet horrific look inside her thoughts, her plans, her desires, and her destruction.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014


I have a new word to hate.  It truly has a negative connotation ……I hate it..I loathe it…….I get a sick feeling when I hear it no matter what the context………It is a dreadful word particularly if you are a teacher in the great state of Tennessee……..the word is……….


/hɔˈrɛnəs, hɒ-/ Show Spelled [haw-ren-duh, ho-] Show IPA
shockingly dreadful; horrible: a horrendous crime.

1650–60;  < Latin
horrendus  dreadful, to be feared (gerund of horrēre  to bristle, shudder), equivalent to horr-  (akin to hirsute) + -endus  gerund suffix

Related forms
hor·ren·dous·ly, adverb

appalling, frightful, hideous.

Thanks to this article……

we as teachers are dropping our heads, tearing up, wondering what in the world we did wrong, thinking and planning and strategizing how we can change for the better next year..

so OUR scores won’t be  HORRENDOUS

Here are my thoughts…….

1.  I never went into education thinking……Oh, I will be working for the government..they will take care of’s all good……they got my back, Jack……  NOPE.  I became an educator because of my love of kids and my love of books.  Period.  End of story.    

2.  I don’t know that the scores are “horrendous” because I can’t see the test, study the test, analyze the test, compare the test, question the test, or talk about the test.  Guess I will just have to take your word for it………scores are horrendous.

3.  How about we agree as educators to do something radical…………

Instead of using these words:

        “How were YOUR scores?”

        “Were HIS scores good?”

        “Wow, HER scores went up!”

        “MY scores were better than last year”

        “MY scores went down!”

Let’s change the lingo to this..

“How did your students perform?”
“How did his students do?”
“Wow, her students did great!”
“This year’s students did better than last year’s!”
“This year’s students’ scores went down.”

I want to give credit where credit is due……..I didn’t take that test..the students did…….I didn’t make that score……the students did…….

I know some people are saying.”My gosh, it is just a pronoun change!!”  I realize that……but let me tell you feelings are hurt, my morale is down, my mind is whirling, my heart is heavy, and I need SOMETHING!!!!!!

So, here’s my plan.  

·       I’m going to change my pronoun usage…….they are not MY scores.

·       I’m going to still put in more than 40  hours a week despite what the haters say about teachers on Topix

·       I’m still going to work through the summer despite what the haters say about teachers on Topix

·       I’m still going to tote home trunkloads of work every day and all summer…….trying to become better at teaching..trying to reach those kids despite all the controversies, changes, and negativity.

·       I’m not going to hate the word “horrendous” anymore.  I did my best.

Here’s a picture of my desk at home.  This is everything I brought home to work on this summer.  I’m not horrendous and my students’ scores are not either.  We did our best.    

Take a Walk on the Wild Side.........Wild Rice Recipe!!!!

To begin with, it’s got a little bite to it.  When I make it, it has a bigger bite to it.  I mean come on……. ½ cup of diced jalapenos is kids’ stuff, so I end up with 2 cups……. at least.
      Next, it is creamy and smooth………sour cream..mozzarella cheese……rice………it is just smooshy in your mouth.  Pure delicious!! 
I   highly   recommend it as a side dish, and it is actually better the next day.

1 box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain Wild Rice - cook as directed
1 ½ cups sour cream
1 can mild green chilies
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup mozzarella cheese
½ cups diced jalapenos (candy-butt method)
1 cup diced jalapenos (you’re -getting -there method)
2 cups diced jalapenos (atta- girl method)

Cook rice as directed.  Mix all ingredients and add rice.  Mix well.  Microwave for 5 minutes and serve.  Yum level 10.