Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The holiday season is upon us! This truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Students are gearing up for Winter parties, Hour of Code, an assembly, and a 2 week break. Many kids are busying themselves with preparation for the return of the big guy in the red suit.

Elves have popped up in homes and classrooms around town to monitor behavior and provide daily entertainment.

The end of 2015 is quickly approaching... calendars are completely full with end of year activities, appointments, and celebrations.

Stress levels are high but attitudes remain chipper.

December in an elementary school is a pretty amazing place to be!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

eExpo 2015

Parent Workshops

Below are a list of available parenting workshops available through PISD. What a great resource for parents! Pass it on... 

11/6 8:00am Memorial ES *Sibling Rivalry
11/10 12:00pm Bethany ES How to Handle the In’s & Out’s of Girl Drama
11/12 7:45am Mathews ES I Can Handle It: Facing Up to Bullies
11/13 8:00am Sigler ES *Stay Cool in the Heat of the Moment – Managing Anger
11/17 8:00am Hickey ES *Doing the Homework/Extra-Curricular/Family Time Boogie
11/17 7:15pm Otto MS *What are our Children doing in the Digital Age
11/18 7:45am Weatherford ES *Creating Harmonious Nurturing Families

11/19 6:00pm Rasor ES Who’s in Control? Reducing Power Struggles

One Time Workshops ES = Elementary School MS = Middle School

Lollipop Moments

Christie Elementary is gearing up for our second annual Engineering Expo (eEXPO). Yesterday at our staff meeting we shared a TED Talk about leadership with our staff. The story shared in this video about the "lollipop moment" really stuck with me. 

How many people in your life have created lollipop moments for you?

How many of you have actually told that person?

Think about how amazing our eEXPO would be this year if teachers and students really started to believe in their leadership abilities. 

So I ask you....

Monday, October 26, 2015

Schedule Change

Dear Christie Families, 
We want to thank you for your flexibility as we moved to a blocked specials schedule for the first part of the school year. The instructional planning time gained by teachers during the blocked schedule was used to plan ahead and review the larger picture of the school year. As the first nine weeks has come to an end, we are excited to share that beginning November 1st, we will be returning to the traditional schedule where specials takes place each day. 
As always, thank you for your continued support!

Christie Elementary 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tech Integration... WIN

This week I had a proud moment with technology and curriculum integration. I serve on a tech team where we assist teachers with the implementation of technology in their lessons. One of the problems I see is that when teachers implement technology they often do it for "fun" or as a lesson hook... this can be great at times... but often times teachers do not understand how to authentically use technology to enhance core learning.

A new teacher came to me this week with a problem... her ELL students need more pictorial guides. They need to be front loaded with pictorial references and then have the ability to go back throughout the unit to refer to the pictures as a review.

She said she often uses Youtube videos as an introduction and stops along the way to discuss and ask questions. She asked if there was a way to give her students access to the videos with pictorial support that they can view at any time through the unit. She wanted them to be reminded about the discussions they had the first time it was used to front load information. She also wanted to avoid having inappropriate youtube ads pop up as her students went back for review.

We discussed her class needs and I showed her a video creation tool that sounded like it would fulfill her need, Zaption. She came after school for a quick 5 minute tutorial on how to create a video with Zaption.

She left my room excited and filled with ideas on how to use the tool to enhance her students resources.

Two days later, I got an email from the teacher that was full of !exclamation! marks... she was so excited because she was able to create a video to front-load material for her students. They used the stopping points as a whole class discussion. Then, the video was shared with students. Students were able to go back and reference the video as needed for scaffolding. The students thought it was "so cool" and it served an academic purpose.

This teacher found an area of need in her classroom and found and authentic way to use a fun tech tool to assist her students in the learning of core curriculum.

Now THAT my friends is a technology implementation WIN!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Welcome Autumn!

Today is the official end of summer as we fall into a new season, AUTUMN! As each season changes into another I find myself as excited as I was as a child. Each season is my "favorite" upon arrival. We are lucky to line in a place where we usually have each season and can feel and see the changes around us.

Looking forward to fall....

Crisp leaves, 
Cool breeze, 
Crunching sound under your feet.

Leaf piles, 
kids jumping
a chill in the air

pumpkin patch
cider warming
pumpkins transforming
jack-o-lanterns glowing 

a hay ride
filled with laughter
scarecrows placed on haybales
pumpkin patch

kids in costume
trick or treat

colored leaves
bare trees

Autumn has arrived!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Too Busy...

When did we get too busy to care?

It seems like no matter what month we are in, no matter which season it is, no matter how many or how few items are currently on the to do list ...we all remain in a constant state of busy.

We hardly have "time" to stop and socialize. We often get so wrapped up in checking things off the to do list and going from one meeting to the next that we often don't stop to check on each other. Some of these people I have worked with for years and I couldn't tell you what they face at the moment. If conversations derail from the current meeting or agenda we are often then forced to apologize for veering off topic and steer back on course. A substitute in our building last week asked why none of the teachers were eating in the teacher's lounge. I responded... "We are too busy."

Too busy.
Too busy to eat?
Too busy to socialize?
Too busy to allow ourselves to connect with those around us?
When did we get too busy?
How did we get too busy?

I have learned that the best and most productive meetings are in an environment where people feel comfortable. Sometimes a teacher has a headache and needs to not take the lead that day. Sometimes there is a sick kid at home and the teacher's mind is elsewhere.

We do not expect our students to learn and grow in our classrooms without nourishing their souls and making personal connections. We strive to create a culture of care with our kids. The same should be true of teachers. We are all people working on the same team toward the same goal.

Take a minute to ask how someone is doing and really listen to the answer.
You never know when someone may need to unload.

Next time you feel like you are too busy to make a personal connection ask yourself WHY?

After all, we are in the business of making personal connections.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

What's Happens in September?

September is when settlement happens.

*Students become acclimated with their teachers and peers.
*Teachers settle into a routine as they tackle their new block schedule.
*Teachers cultivate a community as learn about each of  the members of their new tribe.
*The Christie community begins to shift their thinking about planning and how it should look.
*Thoughts of summer dissipate as fall starts to creep upon us.
*Routines are established.
*Expectations are set.
*Relationships are built and solidified.
*Classes dive into learning as students and teachers are pushed out of their comfort zones.
*There is noise and things that once looked brand new start to show signs of wear.

In all of this season of great change we must not forget the most important part of our job is to touch the heart and mind of a child. We must teach our students that building positive relationships and cultivating friendships is of equal importance to math and reading concepts. Working in groups and becoming a positive member of society should be a key focus throughout the year.

In September we are building communities, positive productive citizens, and instilling a love of learning. If these things aren't happening, then really what's the point? Students must feel valued before they will grasp and retain educational content.

So raise your water bottle (or coffee mug) and let's cheers to a September of settlement!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Don't Judge On Construction

As you walk through the halls at Christie Elementary you will immediately notice streaks on the floors, bare bulletin boards, a courtyard that is "under construction," dirt pits on the playground, an impassible front drive, & many other indicators that we are not ready for school to start on Monday. In fact, finding a place to park among the construction vehicles and debris presents its own set of challenges.

When you look past the mess and start to observe the things happening around our school you see hard work, dedication, teamwork, and collaboration. Teams of teachers sitting together discussing how to plan, what to plan, and what will be best for their students. You see binders open to grave level TEKS, computers projecting weekly plans, TEs scattered, and educators fully engaged. Construction workers come in and out of the room sanding, painting, talking... and the teachers keep right on planning.

The TO DO lists of our teachers seems to grow longer every year... but you don't see anyone looking at their lists today.

We are a tech savvy school... but the phones have been put away.

We are all here for one greater purpose. We all have the same end goal, to grow our kids.We know what we have to do, and no matter what the building looks like... we will do it.

Our teachers were just told that they are not allowed to come to school this weekend because of last minute construction preparing for kids to arrive on Monday. One would think that they would be relieved to get the weekend off before the start of a busy year, but they are not. These teachers want everything to be perfect for the students entering their rooms. They wish for their classrooms to reflect the excitement and love they feel for their incoming students.

As I walk through the halls at Christie Elementary I feel pride. I can't wait to see what amazing things happen during the 2015-2016 school year.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The End OR A New Beginning?

Around August 1st each year I start developing symptoms.. it's the same thing every year for the past 11 years....

*exhaustion by day and insomnia by night
*lethargy and the desire to "do nothing"
*procrastination (but if I'm being honest this is a 24/7...365 symptom of just being me.)

I feel as if I were momentarily taken over by Grumpy the dwarf and I have to fight hard to not have an attitude with those around me...the ones I love most.

It hits me like a ton of bricks. It's when I stop sleeping that I then realize, summer is over.

No more waking up and slowly sipping my coffee while I watch my daughter explore the world.
No more traveling around to see family. No more lakes and beaches.
No more days spent at the pool.
No more spontaneity of plans, back to structure and routine.
No more staying up late.
No more free time.
No more being a stay at home mom.

But then I think about my job...
...the kids
...the teachers
...the admin
...about what I actually do

What is the real source of my stress? What am I worried about really?

I have built up this fantasy in my head about the summer break. A dark cloud lurks over August.

I will always cherish my summer vacations but with school starting comes a new beginning.
A chance to make a difference
A chance to reconnect with colleagues

Here is what I know for sure, when school begins...

I will laugh.
I will reconnect with friends that by the end of the year are more like family.
I will collaborate.
I will teach and they will learn.
I will watch as light bulbs of understanding flicker on a million times.
I will be part of something big.
I will have ideas that are unimaginable in August.
I We will dream and implement.
We will celebrate successes and work through failures.
We will grow together.

I must force myself to stop and reevaluate my body's response to the end of summer.... what am I so worried about?

After 11 years I know one thing for sure, I love my job. I love the kids.
Summer is over but will come again.

Now it's time to get my butt in gear and rev up for an amazing adventure.

BRING ON the 2015-2016 school year!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Engineering Expo

We are gearing up for the Engineering Expo on May 21st! The students are busy making their way through the engineering design process. Below are the details of this exciting event! We invite you to join us as our Christie Cubs present their engineering projects.. it's sure to be riveting!

The students have all been given a TEK connected problem to solve. They are working through the design process below and are fully engaged in the task of creating and improving their prototypes. 

Check out this second grade class as they work through the challenge to create a toy that will move on its own. https://vine.co/v/eKrK3xX6AOB

We hope you will join us for this exciting event!

Thursday, April 30, 2015


Today is National Honesty Day. On announcements we asked students and teachers to debate the question...
Is if ever OK not to be honest?

I found it insightful to hear what students k-5 think about honesty as a virtue compared to teachers. Below are some highlights from both sides of the debate. I have color coded adult and student answers because I see a pattern... kids answers are in RED, adults in BLUE.... notice anything?

It is NEVER OK not to be honest:
*2nd Grader: 1 lie can make all of your truths questionable.

*Kinder kid:  It is NOT OK to not tell the truth because your parents will always find out anyway and you will get in trouble. 

*5th Grader: No, even a little lie could keep going and turn big. 

* 1st Grader: It is not OK to lie because no one will ever believe you again. 

*Kinder teacher: A lie is like a snowball, it starts off small and then grows and gets so big it falls apart and then the truth is discovered. 

*5th Grader: It is not OK to not be honest, you always have to say the truth. 

*Kinder kid: Friends should always tell each other the truth. 

*5th Grader: If you keep lying no one will believe you or trust you again. You will be miserable just talking to your pillow pet. 

...7 students, 1 teacher

It IS OK not to be honest, sometimes:
*Sped Teacher: Honesty always needs to be paired with tact!

*GT teacher: Just have to know whether the person you're talking to can handle the truth/go from there.

Literacy Instructional coach: Knowledge is knowing what to say, wisdom is knowing whether or not to say it. Honesty is not always the best policy. 

* 3rd Grader: It's OK not to be honest only when you're throwing a surprise party for someone and you have to lie to keep it a secret. 

* Math Instructional coach: Is it helpful or hurtful? Does it build people up or tear them down?

*Literacy Instructional Coach: Must we consider little white lies of protection for others?

...1 student, 5 teachers

Obviously there were a lot more responses from this morning's chat but look at the pattern...
adults mostly agree that omission of honesty IS OK at times.
Kids mostly agree that honesty is ALWAYS required.

My take away question is this: When does the innocence of a child seeing this virtue as black/white... right/wrong to become situational?

Is this a you live, you learn type of thing?
I say there is something to be gained here about the innocence of a child.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

One of those days... drip

Some days are just "those days" you know the kind where little things continually happen and you begin to wonder, huh?

Today is one of those days.... drip

I woke up barely balanced on the edge of my bed to find my toddler stretched out on my pillow. drip.

While driving her to daycare, I received a disheartening phone call that made it difficult to focus on enjoying one of my favorite times of the day, the morning ride to school. You know there is a problem when a sweet voice from the back says, "Mama, please get off the phone." drip.

I arrived at work late and walked quickly toward the door only to notice my coffee cup had a hole on the bottom and had slowly been creating a coffee pool in my cup holder. drip.

On the way in I realized I had forgotten my badge. drip.

Morning announcements. I use a jeans pass to "patch" the hole in the cup. You can guess how well that worked. drip.

A teacher stopped me in the hall to discuss the schedule for the next two weeks. My schedule is so full I have no idea how to respond. drip. drip.

Returning to my room, I decide to tape the cup. Pleased with becoming a drip stopper, I begin to respond to emails. Lifting my coffee cup to my lips. drip.

The new calendar that I just finished updating sitting below my cup. drip.

That's it, my coffee goes sailing into the trash. drip. 

Realization that I threw my coffee away before I was fully awake sets in. drip.

Now I am left coffee-less. I debate reaching in an getting my cup back out of the trashcan, drip.

I stop for a second allowing my exhaustion to set in and find myself feeling... blessed.

You see, without the occasional drip in life, we wouldn't fully appreciate the little things. You can focus on the drips, but you will be missing out on so many wonderful little things.

Let's try this again....

I woke up this morning cuddled up with my daughter who had been frightened by the storms. Morning cuddles, blessed.

Before my phone rang, I had 15 minutes of quality conversation with my child, blessed.

After drop off I called my wife who immediately answered and helped me talk through some feelings...blessed. 

When I realized I had forgotten my badge there were 2 people walking in behind me that had their badges, blessed.

Morning announcements made me laugh, blessed.

My calendar could be reprinted, but I kind of like this one with a drip... it reminds me that I am blessed.

My coffee is in the trash, but we have a coke machine that is fully stocked and accepts credit cards, blessed.

Truth be told, my coffee was a bit flat today anyways.

Anyone else having a drip kind of day? Take time to recognize all of the blessings shining through the drips.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Are you a STAAR?

The season of STAAR is upon us. (DUN DUN DUUUN!)

Over the past few weeks we have begun to see Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube blow up with videos of teachers and principals encouraging their students to "Pass the STAAR."

Haven't seen it? Ok, open a new tab. Go to Youtube and search the word "STAAR." Now, scroll down. ...But don't get too lost in the videos, be sure to come back and finish reading.
               ...Welcome back!

Long ago I learned that it's always best to start by saying something positive so here it is...
The wonderful thing about these videos is that they show principals and teachers out of their normal "professional" role. Students that watch these videos are sure to laugh along with their educators. They see that we too can act like goofballs. Showing students your silly side is something I am 100% on board with.

Now to my concern.

These videos are made to encourage students to PASS the STAAR test. The message that is being sent to both teachers and students is that PASSing is the most important thing. Think about it as a student... the principal takes time out to make a silly video for the school to tell you that you must PASS this long and difficult test.

I don't know about you but if I were a student watching these videos I am sure that I would feel an unbelievable amount of pressure. Even as a teacher, to see the principal putting that much effort into delivering this message to the students, the pressure on the teacher increases as well. We all know what happens when a teacher feels pressure for her students to perform well... the teacher unintentionally places that pressure on the students.

Let's reflect for a minute... Will singing and dancing to tell kids that they must PASS an upcoming test really make a difference in their test scores? 

Kids naturally want to PASS the test. Kids want to succeed. They strive to make their teachers and parents proud. Some of my hardest working students of all time are ones that were struggling learners who could never in a million years pass that test. The message sent by these videos tells struggling hard working kiddos that their success is measured by a test score instead of their effort. The kids that pass easily are left feeling like they accomplished something incredible... when in actuality maybe the test didn't challenge them much at all.

Ask yourself... What could be the effect of sending messages like this to students year after year?

When did passing a test become more important than effort? What if we avoided ever telling students they had to PASS and instead told them that the test is a snap shot of what they know on one day. It's a chance to show off their skills and use their learned strategies when things get tricky. 

WHAT IF the song we made before the STAAR test didn't tell kids to PASS at all... but instead told them to focus on the things that are really important?

It's not about the test. It's about fostering a society of learners that are able to solve problems and ask questions. It's about the effort one puts forth when faced with a challenge. It's about applying learning. Most of all, it's about fostering the self worth of a child.

We don't need to pressure kids to PASS, they put enough pressure on themselves. We need to make sure that they know they are important. They matter. The outcome of the test does not define their success. We must help to build students up and celebrate successes of those that pass while being very careful to not diminish the effort put forth by students that fail.

At the end of the day, the self worth of a child matters way more than the score on a test.

Go on, make those silly videos... encourage students to do their best... but please don't send the message that student must pass. Adjust the lyrics a bit and you will have an incredibly motivational song about the things that really do matter.

It's NOT "All About The Test"....it's all about the effort. It's about preserving the esteem of our students.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

February FLIES... an update on learning

February's full of fun and flying by! (say that 5 times fast) 


Tomorrow we will host #CubRAD and will be highlighting the sweet story Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch. We had a little too much fun creating the book trailer for this event!

We will be reading the story and participating in a twitter chat using #CubRAD at 8, 9, & 10:00 tomorrow. Classes will be able to make connections, comment, and ask questions. We will then broadcast live at the end of the Friendship Parties to present the Tweeter award to the winning class.

Presenting awards and using Twitter is so much fun for the students. The main goal in preparing RAD for our students is to get them to think and talk about text across classes and grade levels. The teachers have been given Comprehension Questions to guide their class discussions. I have also provided some Technology Integration ideas for the teachers that want to find ways to integrate technology and literature.

In 3rd grade...

Students concluded their reading of the classic story Charlotte’s Web. They each chose a central character to complete a character analysis. They created FAKEBOOK pages for each character. They gave character descriptions, described relationships between characters, and posted status updates from the character’s perspective in each chapter of the story.
The students wanted to make a book trailer to get other Christie students interested in reading Charlotte’s Web. First, they createed a basic outline of the things they wanted to show in the trailer. They went to work inputting the outline into iMovie. The conversations about the plot line and debate about which events needed to be included gave me a clear picture of their understanding of the text. There were times we went back to re-read a section to fully understand cause and effect relationships. The students are eager to begin shooting the video clips for their trailer next week!

In 2nd grade...

Visualization Quick Draw

Students have been working on visualizing a story with no ending. They responded with a quick draw of the events leading up to a cliff hanger. The students then wrote their own satisfying endings. We summed up the experience by creating ChatterPix selfies and recording their endings. The kids LOVED using the ipads to respond to text and were eager to share their creations with their parents.

Students have been busy using multiple comprehension strategies to respond to text and make connections. They have recently been given opportunities to self-select comprehension responses by competing in a game of tic-tac-toe. 
Comprehension Tic-Tac-Toe

We have also focused on fluency, specifically on reading with expression, using reader's theater and classic stories like The Three Pigs. 

5th Grade…

One of my reluctant readers came in yesterday and asked if she could read the daily passage aloud. This was a huge moment of celebration and we praise her willingness to try and the effort she put forth. The other students were smiling as big as I was as she slowly read each word. What she was reading didn't matter at that moment; the fact is ...she was choosing to read!

Two of my 5th grade groups researched chocolate and discussed supply and demand. We explored vocabulary and read about chocolate in Europe in the 17th century. The students discovered that pure cocoa and the chocolate they are used to consuming do not taste the same! …I personally enjoyed this moment the most.
Cacao vs Milk Chocolate

Then, they chose a book they had previously read in class. They each chose a character from the book and I had them act out a scene revolving around chocolate. The biggest challenge was to remain in character. At first they thought this to be an easy and laughable task, but soon got serious about how each character would play a role in the scene.


I am forever a learner and have enjoyed spending my lunch breaks exploring some of the gadgets in our Learning Commons. We even created a GoSphero Maze for teachers and students to utilize. Judging by the looks of this video, I think I need to practice quite a bit before I will make the leader board!

February has already felt like it is flying by... 
it's going FAST and is full of  FUN! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Honest Thoughts... A letter to the Classroom Teacher

On many occasions this year teachers have requested a meeting to discuss an aspect of teaching that they feel they need to improve. Every time it's the same story...

Teacher approaches with nervous look on her face and half mumbles, while looking at the floor, that they want to discuss strategies for (insert area for growth).  Then, unsure teacher stumbles to find an excuse or reason they feel they need help. Some have even added an apology with their request. Something along the lines of... "I know I should already have this down, I am sorry for taking your time." To those teachers that have come asking for guidance, this letter is for you. 

A Coach's Letter to Classroom Teachers

Classroom Teachers, 

You work through the day with hardly enough time to use the restroom. You take care of the social and emotional needs of each student while also working tirelessly to fill young brains with knowledge. You work your tail off and hope that each student absorbs as much under your care as possible. Sometimes you have success. Sometimes you have failure. There are some areas of teaching that come naturally and other aspects that remain a struggle. As a teacher, you tend to hyper focus on that area for growth. Here is what you need to know... everyone has an area for growth. Everyone has something they could improve.  The ones that ask for help are the ones that end up making an impact. Hold your head high. Smile and be proud.

We go into teaching to make a difference. Think about how much more of an impact we could make by helping a teacher (you) improve instruction or management. Instead of helping one small group of students requiring intervention, we are now talking about multiple groups of students being met with high quality instruction daily... thus preventing widening gaps and beginning to fill holes. Hopefully, eliminating the need for intervention in the upper grades all together. 

When I enter your room, I am not focused on the one student that is off task or the fact that you misspelled a word on the board. What I see when I walk in your room is so much more. I see a teacher that truly cares. I am in awe of what you do in your classrooms daily. It takes guts and courage to ask for help.  There is no judgement on my part. Putting pride aside for the betterment of your students is admirable. 

The secret that I know and you don't.... it's always the good teachers that come asking for help. The ones that want the best for their students. Hats off to you, brave and amazing teachers. ...And, YES I would LOVE to help!

With respect and admiration, 
Your Literacy Coach

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wobble into the New Year

Our Wobble chairs from Donorschoose have arrived! I am not sure if the kids or teachers were more excited to try them out. Thanks to a donation by State Farm, my students were granted the gift of wiggling while they work.

The teachers enjoyed the experience of trying out the new chairs as much as the students. I think they may need a lesson in sitting properly. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy New Year

Welcome back! As we begin a new year, I wanted to take some time to reflect on all of the amazing positive changes and gains made over 2014. If you think about how far we have come from August until now, it really is remarkable.

We ended the year with a BANG at our Polar Express spirit assemblies. The students and teachers both showed off their dancing talents and we played a lot of fun games.

Upon arriving back at school this year, I received an email from Donors Choose saying my project was fully funded. I should expect to receive a shipment of wobble chairs sometime in January! This should really be a wonderful tool for my kiddos.

When I dropped my daughter off at daycare on Monday morning, I was saddened for our wonderful break together to end. It made me thankful to all of the parents of our Christie Cubs for sending their children here daily for us to enjoy. We see our students more during the week than their parents... we need to remember that we are not just teaching math and reading! We are caregivers and we MUST provide an environment where these kids feel safe, secure, loved, and free to stretch beyond their current capabilities.

Parents, thank you for trusting us with your children.
Teachers, thank you for creating classroom environments where ALL student needs are met daily.

I will leave you with this: