Tag Archives: Teacher

Reflections of a PTA President

Rainbow

Image Credit – http://office.microsoft.com

As this year comes to an end, so does my PTA presidency. It is definitely bittersweet. It seems the perfect time to look back at the experience and carefully examine the ups and downs of the position.

As a new president, I came to the job optimistic and energized, ready to get to work. I walked in with certain beliefs of how things should be done, and the time commitment I had made. Little did I know that you can never fully be prepared for what is coming around the corner.

I have never been as proud of my school as I am today. Our efforts have been incredible in so many ways. We were recognized as a National Blue Ribbon school. We donated almost $10,000 to our adopted school, Hegarty Elementary, which was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. At the same time, we were able to provide financial support to our staff family that suffered in the storm. We had amazing programs including Caldecott winning author visits for our students. We had wonderful events for our families like Fall Festival and Picnic around the World. We were present in school board budget meetings and fought for important expenditures in our school. We were also involved in an effort to have our Board of Education write a resolution against high stakes testing. We educated parents on new academic programs in the district. It’s truly been a remarkable time to be PTA leadership.

The relationships formed will definitely be one of the most positive parts of my experience. I was able to really get to know my principal (@cantiague_lead) and contribute to the magic that happens every day at Cantiague. His leadership and passion inspired me to give a little more, push myself to learn and share. The teachers I worked with reinforced everything I believed about the staff. They are so dedicated and true experts in what they do. Their dedication to our children made it impossible not to give 100% in making Cantiague the best place it can be.

The families of Cantiague are the real treasure. The generosity, spirit, and commitment to providing the best environment for learning and growing is what makes our school what it is. Cantiague is a very special corner of the world where children come first….always.

I will always be grateful to the PTA presidents who came before me and the ones who will follow. To borrow a cliché, it is a true labor of love. The amount of work is unimaginable, but the payout is the same. It is my greatest hope that our incoming presidents will experience the same joy and sense of accomplishment I have gained. If you put your whole self in it, you will learn so much. Not just about the school, district, or education, but about yourself. The job isn’t for everyone, but for those up for the challenge it is so worth it.

I look forward to my new position of Past President come June 11. I know the relationships I have made will only get stronger and better. I also know that our incoming presidents will do a wonderful job and make this PTA their own. I can’t wait to see the new direction we go.


Common Core Assessments & Teacher Evaluation Testing – Enough Already!

sadcomp

For the past few weeks, I have spent many hours in meetings with administrators, teachers, and parents discussing the changes that have been integrated into our schools since the adoption of the common core standards. We’ve talked about the “rigors” of the core. We’ve talked about the new focus on language in all subjects. We’ve talked about the new programs that the district has purchased to address the core. One thing we haven’t discussed very much – the assessments and the schedule.

It wasn’t until the other night, that I came across a tweet that linked to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) website. What I read shocked me. The pdf discussed the testing schedule for the 2014/15 school year. To my surprise and disgust, it said that there will actually be TWO PARCC tests scheduled for our children. Beginning in 3rd grade, our children will take TWO high-stakes tests per year –

A performance-based assessment (PBA) component, administered after approximately 75% of the school year, and an end of year assessment (EOY) component, administered after approximately 90% of the school year.1

When did this happen?  Add in test prep, when are these kids learning? When are teachers not prepping, benchmarking, and testing? When is enough enough?

Please don’t take this as an affront against my school or district. I have so much respect and admiration for the professionals teaching and running our school system. They work their hardest to provide the best education for our children every day. Because of the delicate nature of this subject, I asked not my children’s teachers but teacher friends (elementary school) about how public education has changed since the integration of common core standards and APPR (the NY State teacher evaluation system) assessments. The answer was unanimous – Dreadfully.

More than one friend reported teachers crying after school hours, once the children had gone home. They cry for the children and they cry for themselves. These professionals entered the field with a love of children and education. They were given opportunities for creativity, relationship building, and even some fun. Now their time is spent addressing common core mandated assessing and APPR  mandated assessments as well. Their districts are scurrying for the best common core aligned programs. Professional development can’t keep up with the changes. Throw in the economic climate; funds are tight for materials, professional development, and other resources. APPR also requires assessments throughout the year. The assessments are meant to measure the efficiency and skill level of the teacher on the backs of our children. And the worst part I learned – the children are feeling it. They noted visible stress-related behaviors like students crying, having bathroom accidents, and children vocalizing feeling sick.

To paraphrase an analogy from an article written about high stakes testing in Texas:

You can keep weighing the cow, but it’s not going to gain weight until you feed it.

The timing of this post seems perfect. Yesterday two amazing things took place:

1 – The Texas House of Representatives voted 145-2 to reduce high-stakes testing. The legislation reduces end-of-course exams from 15 to 5 needed for graduation from high school. The win is largely attributed to parent activism.

{http://www.statesman.com/news/news/heated-debate-in-texas-house-over-testing-graduati/nW4qF/}

2- I was fortunate to watch a live Google Hangout discussion from Finland, discussing the success of the Finnish Educational System and what America can learn from their practices.  Finland, as well as South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore top the list of best global educations based on international test scores. One amazing difference between Finnish and American education is the absence of high stakes tests and test-based teacher evaluations.

For more information on Finland’s educational system  {https://www.facebook.com/PennFinn13?fref=ts}

http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCC%20Assessment%20Administration%20Guidance_FINAL_0.pdf 1


Connected Parents and the Power of Twitter

Twitter Meta Moo! too far?

(Photo credit: Josh Russell)

Once I decided to give Twitter a chance, it took me months to figure out how it might be of use to me as a parent. To start I sat through a Twitter 101 night at our school. I went because I wanted to learn how to use a tool that I knew my children will be using sooner or later, whether I liked it or not. I will warn you that a 1 hour crash course is not enough time to learn a new language. It is a start though. Twitter, just as a new language, is best learned when you are immersed in it.

The first few months went by and I enjoyed seeing snippets of the school day as the principal and a few teachers tweeted…but was this it? Was it just about following celebrities and watching what happened at school? After a few months, I joined in on the weekly #PTchat. Although the title stands for “Parent-Teacher chat”, it was mostly educators (not to say they weren’t also parents – but they were speaking mostly from the educator’s perspective). As great as the topics were, just sharing out from a parents lens wasn’t going to keep me interested in using this tool…I had to get something from it.

The more people I followed, the more I participated, the more I realized that everything that is shared could also be used by parents to help their children continue the learning outside of school, educate ourselves to be better advocates for our children, and provide insight on how to improve all of our home and school partnerships. Twitter has given me tools and ideas on how to help my children get more from their studies. Ideas that I possibly could have gotten from reading dozens of books, but realistically don’t have time for. One of my biggest takeaways so far (remind you I’m only a year in) is my recent discovery of the literacy powerhouses we have access to (this sentence can be translated to whatever your interest is). It is through Twitter that I found several phenomenal books on reading comprehension; given the opportunity to observe another school’s reading workshops; and connected with and learned from literacy experts from all over the world on how to help my children improve their reading skills and then bring those ideas to the attention of our school for all students to benefit.

So where can parents start? Who can they follow? Below are two places I found people who I have drawn from. These are just a few – I encourage you to share those who have inspired you.

If your school and/or teachers, principal and fellow parents are on Twitter – follow them. The glimpse into the school day provides you with great conversation starters outside of “how was school?” and it is nice to see what other classrooms are doing. For me it was @knappelementary, @joe_mazza, @miss_a_abel and @lspencerslp. (This list has grown since then – but too many to list)

Check out chats. The first one I joined in was #PTchat. Not only can you share and get some great info/ideas from these – but you also can find other people to follow that share similar interests. This is my number one source to finding great minds and inspirations. It also provides you with the opportunity to interact with people you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance. Some of the people I have pulled the most info and ideas from are: @lisaodavis (my partner in this blogging adventure and a role model for advocating for our children); @lornacost, @drpricemitchell, @smconstantino, @drmerylain and @larryferlazzo (connecting parents and schools); @sirotiak02, @coachyetter and @johnfritzky (teachers who share the ways they inspire kids to want to learn and how they include the families in the learning); @pennykittle, @kylenebeers, @sharonletslearn (literacy superstars); and @freeingyourmind, @micheleborba and @annie_fox (pros in the mental well-being of our children).

Twitter didn’t make me a connected parent or an advocate for my children’s education – but has made me a more effective one.


SheilaSpeaking

A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education -- and the odd other thing...

Ingvi Hrannar

Icelandic educator, iPad 1:1 classroom, speaker & entrepreneur.

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013

Sharing our inquiries - March 23-30

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