Category Archives: education

Never Count out Creativity

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My son has autism.

My son has ADHD.

My son has epilepsy.

My son’s IQ is too low to be considered having a learning disability.

True story. Too low to have a learning disability. If my son, did not have the other health impairment a public school system would not qualify him for special education because he does not have enough strengths to receive services.

Let that sink in. “Not enough strengths”. As a teacher this breaks my heart. My students that get this information are basically being told find a good trade or marry a rich spouse because according to the SPED system you are too low to receive our help. We cannot help you.

Low IQ is 70-79- my son has a 54. But if you ever met him then you would know something is different but 54 does not describe him- autism and distractedness make a difference on these tests. Combine that with lack of motivation and in his world “these tests suck”. STAAR is a joke for him-he cannot logically reason or read those words (mind you in a home with two parents with a masters degrees)…he is below grade level with an other health impairment. The test does not fit him.

The state should differentiate their testing. Supports are not enough for some kids.

But God.

God knew what this kid would need. God knew what our education and finances could offer that he was not born into. God knew what faith, hope, love, early intervention and stubbornness could provide. God chose us to adopt him…a hard calling, but an important one.

You see my child thinks outside the box. He sees things not for what they are, but what they can become. He sees a rinse cup and creates false teeth (it works). He sees a happy meal can be turned into a computer. He sees foil can create 101 different toys. He will make the world better….mark my words….by creating something so simple, but no one saw it.

Someday public education will rethink their testing and accountability but until then…

Never count out creativity.

Teacher Struggle

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I want to start by saying that this year for me is WAY better than last year, so I am thankful. Last year juggling virtual teaching and student absences while trying to maintain a gradebook was intense. I will always be grateful for my mental health this year, however teachers across the country are abandoning education at a massive rate. I struggled to put into words why…but then a teacher I follow on Twitter said it perfectly…

The teaching game has changed, but the mindsets of those making the decisions and laws have not. They want to “catch up” kids to make them what they use to be and these kids are not what they use to be. Families have changed, education has changed and now laws need to change. The stress being put on teachers to test and perform is breaking our spirits as more hours of tutoring, documentation and building up their SEL is exhausting. I made this TikTok last year I think of one of my favorite Christian songs called Truth Be Known. It sums us up well…looking good, but feeling weak.

https://vm.tiktok.com/TTPdkM82sU/

God is my source of hope and strength so I know my foundation is firm. I have endured this business for 20 years so I know I can endure this valley, but those that do not know any different are walking out at an alarming rate. I get it. I hate it, but I get it.

On another note, wow how Lupus has changed my hair. No clue when my hair began to fall out and thin, but seeing my hair in this Tik Tok is shocking…long, full of volume…this is it today

Not without hope, but definitely not what it was. Crazy how a medicated auto immune disease can do that. My devo today said God has a purpose for my broken body and I am putting all my faith, hope and love that it is true.

The Trauma I Never Knew I Had…

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Covid has wreaked havoc on education. Sub shortages, teachers leaving the profession, kids with anxiety and on medication…now even the leaders are retiring. So the big question is “Why?”

The short answer is apathy. In order to keep schools afloat and not ruin an academic future, schools required as little as possible. We took one grade per week, made most assignments optional, gave a choice to show up in person…we made learning easy and students got comfortable. However, what we were doing was hardly education. We were surviving.

When schools reopened, we again made many things optional and the virtual experience became a joke. Students got a year of very minimal learning as most teachers were forced to do a hybrid learning model. So now even though school was back in session, the learning struggled as teachers were overwhelmed balancing both. Later, Texas tested all of our kids while saying it did not count…was a baseline for the future. Wrong!

HB4545 is attempting to bridge the gaps of the horrific scores that “did not count” while frustrating teachers and making them feel defeated. Students have seen how minimal effort can bring a grade and failing is still nearly impossible so why put in more than the minimal? Then we got the sub issue.

Certain districts pay more than others so subs are really community members that love their community.

Watching the Amazing Race episode 3 when they shut down due to Covid, reminded me I have trauma. Trauma from life shutting down and my job closing. Trauma from sending kids home with one hug and a good bye. Trauma from virtual teaching. Trauma from homeschooling as a teacher. Trauma from learning new things and putting them to use quickly. Trauma from wanting to teach but realizing we are just giving a grade…most kids did as little as possible.

The teacher trauma is real!

Now we have schools with anxious students and teachers and leaders in very stressful situations. Balancing everyone’s mental health and not wanting anyone to break.

So here we are…brave educators digging in deep to ride this out. Kids are fragile so we all must walk carefully. No other job impacts children like teaching and I am here to stay…but things are challenging as you have to choose between scores and sanity.

It is what is, but the more support the better! Parents show you care. Teachers check on each other. Leaders show grace and compassion and serve your staff. Students come to school to learn. We can conquer this together. God is with us and suffering produces perseverance. The answers are complicated, but hope and love are strong and I believe in our business and system.

Staff Development from Abbott Elementary

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I love a good teacher comedy! Something about sharing a teacher experience is refreshing. No matter where or what you teach…we are connected.

Our community is strong.

So when Abbott Elementary on ABC came on, I got excited because I love a good laugh especially when it involves my job. However as I started watching, it was more than laughter-I felt tears then heartache and surprisingly I learned something.

So here is my professional development from the first 3 episodes:

Episode one- The Pilot- Learn from others. Teaching is a humbling job and the best thing you can do is model your skills while learning from others. Love how the new teacher came in hot with energy, buy was humble to seek the wisdom of the veterans.

Episode 2- Avoid teacher burnout! The kids need all kinds of teachers and teachers need each other as well. Experience is priceless in this business so avoid the burnout by doing what you can do and letting go of the rest. Lesson 2- “say what you need to say and move on” Teaching has tough conversations, but do not be afraid to have them! Parents, admin, fellow teachers…speak up, but then move on. This takes practice!!

Episode 3-Drawings are love! It is so true that teachers get jealous when students love certain teachers more than others. I cannot count all the times I have grimaced when a student makes something for her, but not me. When a kid draws a picture or writes a note…that is love! Nothing warms your heart more especially when it is unexpected or from a “big kid”! Lesson 2-throw it away! Teachers hoard! We love to turn what is not into something that could be….it is the art of teaching. But trash is trash and sometimes we just need to throw it away! Moving rooms can be a blessing if you can be brave enough to throw it away! After 20 years, the crap I have is amazing…I need to be like Elsa and let it go!

Looking forward to episode 4 and what else I can learn from teacher comedy! Of course it is exaggerated and over the top…disinterested principal, grumpy janitor, fire hazard lights…but then again depending where you work maybe not. Either way support an educator…we need you right now!

The Creative Kid

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I am a teacher and I worry often about the education of my son. He struggles academically with reading and math. He has documented disabilities and sensory issues. He has ADHD…but this kid is SO creative!

He is a kid that sees things not as what they are, but what they could be. He was created by God and gifted to us through adoption. I was made to parent him, but his academic struggles stress me out since creativity is not tested.

I wish they tested being awesome because he would score off the charts! I wish school would focus on the creative mind…the mind you cannot teach-it is just there and it is valuable and priceless and will change the world. Until then, I will be his biggest fan and prepare him for a education that is narrow focused, but he is more than that.

So.much.more.

Not Rocking this Mom Thing

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I feel good at this mom thing about 85% of the time. I get him to school daily, we bathe daily, he eats every day, I get him his medicine and yearly appts. Overall, he is living large. But then school projects pop up or parent homework as I call it and this girl falls a part. Sure other parents think “Poor kid” as he carries his lunchables to school daily, or this mom shows up to parties late or forgets to sign the folder again. But school projects make them shout “Is she even trying!?” Exhibit A: 100th day of school shirt. The poor boy practically refused to wear it. It fell over him like cardboard and ruined one of his favorite shirts.

Exhibit B: That sad robot VDay box that was basically me saying “I am wrapping this box in foil, you figure out the rest.” Thankful this kid does not feel the need to compete because this mama is not helping his chances.

Is this the hill you want to die on?

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I have worked for some good principals, but the one I had 5 years ago was undoubtedly the best. She always put her trust in the teachers that she hired and always saw us as humans first and employees second. When tough conversations were present, she would always say “Is this the hill you want to die on?” Most times, I sheepishly said no then I would turn and just stay silent knowing it was not worth the fight.

But now, I have a situation where I have discovered that I will indeed choose to die on this hill.

The issue is small for most teachers in the education world, but it means everything to this reading teacher. The issue: how we prepare students for reading tests.

Our reading education has come down to test passages and standardized tests and my feelings always have and will be that building lifelong readers comes first. I have done my job if students leave my class loving or tolerating books more than when they walked in. I regularly incorporate reading time in my lesson plans and only read children books so we have something to talk about. My hero is Donalyn Miller and her thoughts give me passion.

But doing this kind of reading means test scores take time to grow. In the beginning, the scores are low because we are not taking test prep passages all day and getting good at tests. We.are.reading! Shocked I have to defend the act of reading to teach reading, but I have literally planned with teachers that have a lesson plan of legit reading passages all.day.long. Well, good for you that your scores are good, but sucks your kids now hate reading.

So spring forth to this week where I have a lengthy conversation with a colleague encouraging me to test prep, do a lengthy list of reading strategies geared for only making them more tired while reading and to read the questions first before reading the passage so we can improve test scores. Forget comprehension or reading for meaning…what was I thinking? We are about passing tests. I sat in shock and explained that some of your strategies will exhaust my advanced readers as they do their magic without all that extra work (aka they read a lot) and my struggling readers may never finish the test. Then while they are thinking about the questions they just read, they are missing the main idea and inferences required to answer the questions and evaluate the author’s craft. But I only have a Masters in Reading, A Master Reading Teacher certificate, 18 years in education with all 18 years getting 80% or above passing STAAR in areas of Texas with high poverty rates so what do I know? (For real, despite my multiple years of reading success-last year over 90% grew from the year before…I am still getting this talk.)

So I sit here and ask myself change my plan to fit their (admin) needs and completely destroy myself as an educator and lover of literacy…maybe the scores will go up or maybe not…or stand firm in my belief that tests will come and go but lifelong readers will not.

You can find me dead on this hill.

The Truth about ADHD

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This is the face of ADHD. As a teacher, I have often seen it as a setback. It keeps the student from working and keeps the student from sitting, but overall not a huge deal in the world of health problems. Then I became the parent of a child with ADHD. To be fair he is more ADD then anything else, but the new trend is to say it is all ADHD and that is fair since distracted decisions can be hyper ones too.

The truth is my son is the most amazing kid! He sees things outside the box for what they could be and not what they are right now. He is full of life, joy, curiosity and wonder. To be honest, entering school has beat a lot of that out of him as testing and being on grade level has overtaken his beautiful mind. He is a challenge to teach and parent, but no other kid will change you like he will…he just makes you see life differently.

As a parent, I can now see why it is considered a disability under Other Health Impairment and is under the umbrella of special education. His ADHD keeps him from learning, being organized, making transitions, keeping friendships, taking tests (and we know school has become one giant test), and socially keeps him acting at a grade level below his which really influences his behavior. As a parent, it is scary to think about him driving and working and even keeping a family…it really does make life as we know it hard, but he hardly notices it. As his parents, we have to teach him to manage it, overcome it and make adjustments to the way his brain works.

As his mom, we have to call in his prescription month by month as it is not refillable and we have to see the doctor quarterly to update progress. Getting medicines is not as easy as some may believe and is very expensive for all those teachers like myself that just said “medicate”. You have to be diligent in getting medical attention and be willing to pay for it. We tried everything before medication including CBD oils since we know all the risks and did not want to lose the personality of our son…but in the end we knew he needed them to function and to learn. It was best for him and we would never say no to medicating his epilepsy, so why say no to medicating this.

I write all this to say if you are like my brother and say ADHD does not exist…you are wrong-this is real. It is more than being a boy or just a kid if you truly have it…it may be over diagnosed…but it is real. If you are a teacher and say that discipline at home can fix it, wrong again. Discipline sometimes beats the kid down as my son was always in trouble. We said all too often, “try harder”, “pay attention”, “listen”…truth is he couldn’t and was trying harder than most. If you are a parent saying that medication seems wrong, maybe try other things first, but at the end of the day if it affects learning and day to day living then ask yourself “Would I not give him cough medicine if he was coughing?” I truly believe this is an illness of the brain and needs and the child needs extra help to do what others can do on their own.

Obviously, a true diagnosis takes lots of time, discernment and doctor approval, but I write this to speak up for the kids that need you to know the truth. The image above is my son 100%. I see now how much he endures to do very common things and how we need to support, encourage, but also teach him to manage his symptoms. I want to be sure I am not always beating him down with my misunderstanding. I also want to be sure I treat my students with this disability with respect as well. I need to create the classroom environment where these kids can thrive! The truth is we can all do better to understand this and support those that have it or the families navigating these murky waters.

5 Things I Learned from Lupus

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I feel like I am a success story with Lupus. One big reason is that the good Lord gave me mild symptoms and for that I am grateful, but another big reason is I have learned to live with it and know my place with this autoimmune disease. So here are the top five things I have learned after being in tune with my autoimmune:

1. What you eat matters!

This took me a while to accept but it is true. Certain foods (mostly processed) will send me into achy overdrive. It does not mean that I cannot or do not eat those delicious cheese fries, Cheetos or fried anything…but it does mean I know I will pay the price and honestly it is not always worth it.

2.Have less fear if the liquid is clear.

I had read somewhere that the darker the liquid, the more things added to it. No clue if it is true, but I have found the clear liquids do not send my body fighting as much as the dark. Coke, beer, sweet tea (why, God, why?) get me achy and fatigued, but if I stay with Vodka, Sprite or of course water then I can usually keep the party going.

3. Say yes to the mattress!

Who would say no to a good nap?? I immediately get sick when I live a lifestyle of less than 8 hours of sleep. Now life is busy so this is not always possible, but our bodies are made to need rest and we need to choose to listen.

4.Say NO to stress!!

As a teacher, stress is inevitable. A quote I read says “Teachers make more minute by minute decisions than a surgeon.” I believe this…so stress will happen, but I can choose to avoid stress whenever possible and I do. One way is I stopped watching reality shows or any show that is fighting just to fight…trust me this was hard…but Real Housewives or Mobwives just had to go. FB drama had to go too…I refuse to click on the video with the fight or add comments to the political posts going nowhere. In my marriage, when things get heated…I go to the word and prayer instead. Life in general is lived more peacefully when you know God is in control and has a purpose for you. Now, I am not quite at the place where yoga is more calming than painful, but I am sure I will get there.

5. FINALLY..Exercise helps.

This is tricky because overdoing it wears me out. Also, when I have already worked all day the last thing I have energy to do is go to the gym, but it helps. I will admit that. Probably helps with the stress and mind part of things, too. But I used to refuse to work out and now I make time for it. In the beginning, it is exhausting, but as you build stamina it gets better. 

Now I am sure you are all reading and thinking duh! Even people without Lupus know eat right, get exercise, and rest will help the body…but here is the question: do you do it? Likely, a little but not all the way. I have learned I have to do it or I have no energy, run a fever and experience joint pain. No fun, right? So everything is a choice but my choice is made loud and clear with my body. I have learned to (finally) listen to my Lupus for a happier life!

Power of a Teacher

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I never knew the value of a teacher until I put my son in a classroom. Up until this moment, there was no one human (beside his parents) influencing his life…now there is one person we call his teacher; it changed everything.

It started with her rules becoming our rules around the house. Like one day I said booty and he quickly chimed in “Ms. Monica says we do not say booty!” It later turned to the way she does things like pass out snacks or wash hands. I quickly learned Mrs. Monica is a powerful person and to get on the same page as her or be told I am doing it wrong.

Later it turned into more than that…more meaningful. When she picked up his early signs for seizures were starting again so we could call the doctor. When she could tell he was acting off and might have an ear infection. When we were worried about his development and she could honestly say what was normal or delayed or influenced by others. Her experience and input became very important and valued.

Finally, as he was in her class for over a year, she became like a second mom. I trusted her to call me if the symptoms got worse so I could come pick him up. She also would tell me good ideas for next birthday gifts based on things he enjoyed. Made me aware of good times and bad times with other kids since I would hear about it later anyway. Helped with the transition when he began to be over aggressive and allowed us time to correct it before labeling him the bad kid. When he fell she doctored it up and knew he loved band aids or helped me out when I forgot a blanket. She understood the vomiting was not sickness but a side effect of his meds so let him stay at school or the coughing was allergies and not a cold. She especially was a saint when he had diarrhea due to his meds and allergies and heroically changed him or kept him near the potty. Clearly going above and beyond, but did it anyway.

As a teacher myself, she understood that days off are hard so she helped out when she could or at least gave me time to get a lesson plan made and return. She gave patience, grace and mercy knowing that the teacher life gets complicated because you cannot just call in sick without creating a plan. I never expected this of her, but was grateful when she offered.

With all this talk about teacher this and that…it all changes when it is your kid and you really see their power and influence on your child. You want the best and I was fortunate to have that in Mrs. Monica. Today is his last day of Pre K. He will no longer go to this daycare as he starts Kinder with me in the fall. I am thankful he has had a great 2 years, but sad that it is over. It means he is growing up and moving on and the moving on means change which is hard for this mama. I will no longer have her as a partner in raising my child (and for those haters…teachers see the child awake more than the parent most days so yes they partner to raise them…the teacher should not do it all, though). 

So today I thank and salute the teacher that does way more than teach. I thank you for loving and praying and filling in the gaps that this working mom leaves. You are a gift from God and an answer to prayer. Your influence is endless and will be remembered for a lifetime as his first school teacher. Thank you!!