Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Little Downer

have to say that this post is definitely not one of my bubbly, super excited, happy posts. Not to be a Debbie-Downer, but there are some things that need to be addressed before a vote happens. The NC General Assembly is voting on a major change for North Carolina education and teachers. In the new proposed budget cuts (Yes! More budget cuts...what could they possibly be cutting from the education system that has not been cut yet is my thoughts?) there are many aspects that I, along with many other teachers, educators, and even politicians, are not too thrilled about. 

The General Assembly
I first heard of the budget cuts because my good friend, colleague, and bridesmaid Candace, told me that our Masters Degree through Appalachian State University may not be acknowledge through a pay increase by the time we complete our courses. Currently, teachers in North Carolina only see a pay increase (minus the teeny-tiny increase last year) through a Masters Degree or National Board Certification. Candace and I are scheduled to complete our degree in August 2014. However, with the new cuts, Candace told me that if we are not currently getting paid for our Masters at the start of the 2014-2015 school year, we will not receive the pay from that point forward. Therefore, Candace and I.... we are out of luck. Needless to say, I felt that it was my obligation to email some Senators and Representatives regarding my thoughts and opinions. 
Candace and I 
I sent my first email and heard back from four of the twenty-five individuals I emailed. I can start by saying that I was slightly frustrated with that. Can’t a secretary at least email me back for you? I mean, at least acknowledge that you saw, maybe even possibly read the email? (Read receipts on emails are awesome by the way!) A couple of the replied emails were simply "Your opinion matters," but there was one that was very supportive and very concerned about the passing of the budgets also. Representative Tricia Cotham was wonderful! She was so supportive, so helpful, and made me feel as though teachers had a support crew in the Assembly in Raleigh. Then there was an email from Senator Phil Berger. That one was definitely not the email response I was hoping for. 

That particular email mentioned that Medicaid had eaten much of the Senate budget. Not to mention, there was $1.2 billion dollars that needed to cover unexpected costs in Medicaid. Therefore this "diverts money away from state priorities like education." (If it is a priority, shouldn't that mean it comes first? I’m slightly confused on that.) The email did mention that Senate Republicans got teachers their first raise is nearly five years for 2012-2013! (Whoo-hoo a whopping 1%) The email then told me that North Carolina was looking to switch to a “Pay for Excellence” program. I believe this is sugar-coating words for “Performance Pay.” This opened a new can of worms in the Stadler household. There are multiple issues that I have with performance pay; I would definitely say more issues there than with not paying for a Masters Degree!

Here are my issues with “Performance Pay.” First this pay is typically made through student performance on a standardized test. So technically…that’s not really even paying the teachers on their performance right? It is paying teachers based on students’ performance. But here are my issues:

1. Studies have shown that performance pay encourages competition among teachers rather than collaboration. This is contradictory to our current goal of increased collaboration through Professional Learning Communities. I worry that this increased competition would also lead to incidents like that of Atlanta Public Schools from 2005 – 2009. (That was a mess!) Teachers and administrators were cheating on their tests. They were changing answers on students’ tests in order to boost their overall scores. Wouldn't performance pay encourage the same? I mean teachers are basing their salaries on that of the students in their classroom.

2. With performance based pay there is also research that shows the students’ attitude on any given day could alter test performance. If performance pay, or pay for excellence, is based on standardized test scores, students could face multiple scenarios the day before or day of the test that is being analyzed. For example: I have had multiple students loose a pet during the school year. What if that happens the day before the test? What if parents are going through a divorce during testing days? What if a student does not take their ADD or ADHD medicine the morning of the test? The situations are endless. Students face numerous challenges throughout the school year, and even test days; these could drastically affect student performance on the tests they take. Research shows that this system will also discourage teachers from teaching certain students in certain areas. How is it fair to compare the teachers of high income schools to those of lower income schools? How is it fair to judge teachers who have drastically different materials and resources to use to teach their students? Not paying attention to these students and their situations contradicts our current act of “No Child Left Behind.”

3. How is the performance of teachers going to be assessed? Would this pay come from single standardized test performance scores? Our current “standardized tests in schools were not designed as teacher assessment tools and aren't valid measures” for teacher performance. Would this system be based on the overall growth of a student during a single year? If this is the case, I am curious if the pay would fluctuate. If a teacher “performs” highly one year and gets a pay increase, but the following year they do not “perform” as highly, would their pay decrease? (I believe that is another can of worms not worth opening!)

4. Finally, I was taught in college, through Belmont Abbey College, not to teach to a test. However, with pay for excellence, or performance pay, wouldn't that system be encouraging it? Wouldn't this system encourage teachers to repeatedly teach towards a standardized test that they know their students’ performance on would determine their pay for the year? I believe if we switch to pay for excellence, or pay for performance, not only are we cheating our own college education, but we are cheating the most important individuals in our classrooms today. With this pay system students are losing their opportunity at a well-rounded education from their teachers.

With all that being said, I believe I will get off my soap-box now (at least on my blog!). However, I do feel that it is critical that our Senators and Representatives hear our concerns. I emailed back approximately ten of the individuals I originally emailed with my latest email regarding performance pay…needless to say….I have heard back from zero. A little discouraging yes, but that’s not going to stop me. I anticipate continuing to email and continuing to get my voice and opinions out there. How else are the people in Raleigh going to know how the teachers feel throughout the state? I encourage everyone to write a few emails and tell their sides. Check out the the Senate here with email addresses and names, the House here with emails and names, check out my emails here, and even check out a few websites that helped me prepare all this wonderful information: The Heart of a Teacher, Missouri Edu Research, and The Washington Post. 

I promise my next post will be back to the happy, bubbly, I love being teacher regular posts :)

I do start the NCWriting Project next week, only 7 days away, but who’s counting? Until next time :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I Might Be a Hoarder

This week is our "final" official week for school. Teachers have three workdays (Monday, Tuesday, and an optional workday on Wednesday). Monday began with some hardcore cleaning of my students' and I's home for the last 180 days. This is where I came to believe that I may be a hoarder. If not a full-blown hoarder...I believe I have hoarder tendencies. I always seem to accumulate more things than I can get rid off; however, this year Ms. Holbrook (our principal) told us that we needed to clean out our teacher desks before we left for Summer vacation. I just finished up my fourth year of teaching and I can not remember the last time I cleaned cleaned my desk out. I have organized it multiple times...but never fully taken everything out. This is where I noticed my hoarder-ness. I can not believe the amount of things, stuff, pieces, and parts that can fit within my teacher desk. I pulled out everything from pencils, pens, money, candy, paper clips, bouncy balls, and lotion, to Tylenol, markers, stickers, sticky notes, and stuffed animals. I was slightly embarrassed with the amount of things I found...but yet I was also slightly impressed with the amount of things I found!

As my husband would tell you, cleaning brings out my ADD also. I began on part of my room, only to stumble across something that sends me into another area (without finishing in the first), which prompts me into a third area when I find something new (now I'm up to two areas that are unfinished). Cleaning my room is a pretty intimidating job and task to anyone who happens to come across it in the middle of my mess. Here are just a few pictures of the mess I make myself before re-cleaning everything.

My desk area. There are things everywhere! 
At least the back counter is looking organized!
Another view of the increasing desk mess I am making. 
I finally decided to call it a day after getting to work Monday around 8:00am and cleaning until close to 4:00pm. I did get a break in there for a lovely lunch with my husband, teammate, and some fabulous sixth grade team members :)

After some intense filing on Tuesday...and a major clean up in my room, I was able to call Wednesday afternoon my "final" peace-out from my classroom for the summer. I totally cleaned out my room, got everything turned in to where it needed to go, attended a Coach's Symposium with some of the coolest coaches I know in the area, and turned in my keys. I always think turning my keys in is a sentimental moment. I feel like it's the closing on a major event. I guess it's a good thing...but I always get a little tear in my eye. However, it's the summer time now and I'm ready to get some Pinterest projects completed, get the UNCC Writing Project underway (at the beginning of July...I'm sooo pumped!), and get a few vacation and pool days under my belt. I will continue my blog for the summer on updates with completed projects, completed assignments, and looks into my summer courses to make me an even better teacher for my students next year!

So until next week...hopefully with my first completed Pinterest project (FOLLOW ME!), I'll leave with some pictures I was able to take as I left Cramerton for the summer. :)

I love this place :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Getting a Few Tears

Well today is here...I have to say I am sad that the end of the year has rolled around. I can not believe this year has flown by and my little sixth graders are "grown" up and moving on to seventh grade. After spending 180 days with these wonderful, crazy, goofy, and intelligent kiddos, how can one not be sad to see them leave? The end of the year is always difficult for me. I am terrible at goodbyes and absolutely can not stand to see others crying and upset. Therefore, the last day of school is always an emotional one for me. Whether the year went smoothly or was total chaos, I have come to love every student in my class, and can honestly say that I will miss them from year to year.

With that being said...Today is Awards Day for Cramerton Middle. All grade levels attend the celebration where we recognize our fabulous students and their accomplishments throughout the year. It is a wonderful way to really acknowledge students for all of their hard work and dedication throughout their educational career at Cramerton Middle. It is always a touching experience and closing to the school year. Congratulations to all award winners!

Our Program for the Celebration
Mrs. Cunningham and her twin :)

Ms. Holbrook welcoming students and parents.
Seventh Grade Students
Sixth Grade Students
Audrey, our Student President, introducing the Eighth Graders.
Eighth graders in the middle of the celebration!

The Dolphin Character Award winner, Victoria, and I :)
 After the Awards Ceremony, students ate lunch in our classrooms and had time to get some picture memories with their friends. Here are some of the students who I was able to sneak in a picture with :)

Cute little Abigail (40 Book Challenge Maker!)
My TNault & I !!
Little Katie! (40 Book Challenge Maker!)
Lauren (40 Book Challenge Maker!)
Caroline! She's almost my height!

The girls and me :)
Ohhhh Auriyon. 
My Sydney came to see me :)
Finally for this week I wanted to post a little more from our A.R. party on Wednesday. During that celebration we got the sixth graders together and created our own A.R. Reward Harlem Shake video. I have to say that I am pretty impressed with it :)

Also, I wanted to share the pictures from the photo booth that we were able to use from Image Gallery. I actually got my wedding pictures, engagement pictures, and bridal portraits done through this company and loved them. We have a teacher on staff who also works at the photography company and is able to bring the photo booth to our A.R. celebration. Here are a few of my personal favorites from Wednesday...but be sure to check the others out herePhoto booth pictures from the A.R. celebration! 

It is officially the start of our summer as of 12:00pm this afternoon. It was tough to see my little sixth graders leave the hall knowing that the next time I saw them they would be only visiting in between classes, during Connections, or on an athletic field or court. But I am happy to have had all my students this year and I look forward to continuing watching them grow and mature throughout the next few years. I am sad to see the eighth graders leave for high school, but know that they are prepared and I am super excited for the adventures that they are moving towards. I wish all my students: current, previous, and athletes, nothing but the best and I hope to see them soon :)

Until then, I'll blog away throughout the weeks of summer and keep everyone updated with my plans for next school year! Yep, I'm already thinking about it! Let the planning begin ;)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

It's a Party; It's a Party!

Well it's the last week of school and it's time to celebrate how amazing my students have been the entire year! We have a full week of parties and rewards...so I'm going to break it down into two updates!

Monday was a "normal" day for my sixth grade kiddos. We had a regular schedule and decided to write letters to the upcoming sixth graders on Tips that they needed to know. Students chose to tell the sixth graders about things like not stressing over lockers, not worrying about getting lost within the school, and making sure to reach Accelerated Reader (A.R.) goals. Students then designed a "seal" for the Dolphin team to include with their letter. Get the letter and seal templates here! Check out some letters from my students:



Monday afternoon was also the 6th grade Student-Faculty Volleyball game. Sixth grade teachers volunteered to play against student volunteers in a three game match for winner! Needless to say the teachers had to make a team uniform. We decide to go black bottoms and neon colored tops. Don't we look awesome?

It was a great game and I know all students, teachers, cheerleaders, and those involved really enjoyed it. Here are some pictures from the history- making games :)

Teacher team!

Student team!

Our lovely teacher cheerleaders :)

The crazy student cheerleaders!

Daniel & Mrs. Kinnett keeping score. 
Tuesday was our 6th grade picnic. Students went to Encore classes first thing in the morning from 8:30 to 9:55am. When they came back we held our 6th grade hallway Yearbook signing. This is where we close all doors to the classroom, with students in the hallway, and let them mingle and sign each others' yearbooks. It gives students a chance to see other friends that they may not see within the last few days of school.

After 30 minutes of stuffy, heated, crowded yearbook signing, we take the kiddos outside for a picnic afternoon. Students are free to enjoy the afternoon with sports equipment, electronics (no phones of course), towels, blankets, and anything else they use to spend their time. Students get to hang out with all other sixth graders and really enjoy the afternoon. We also have a D.J. come out to occupy us with music, while we have our lunch catered by a local company. This year's menu was hamburgers and hot dogs provided by Honey Baked Hams. They were fabulous. Check out our lovely afternoon:

View from the hill of the 6th grade picnic! 

Our D.J. for the afternoon!

Our wonderful lunch crew from Honey Baked Ham.

Today, Wednesday, was our Accelerated Reader reward day. Students had individual goals to reach by reading books and taking comprehension quizzes. Students use the Renaissance Learning (Check It Out!) to complete their A.R. quizzes. As a reward for reaching their goals during our nine week period, we had a party all day :)
Our Dance Party outside.

The lovely snacks and drinks set up by our fabulous PTO!


Enjoying the day :)

We even had a photo-booth! 
Today we also held a little "get-together" for the softball team. With our eighth graders leaving us for high school in two days we wanted to give them one more send off. We will miss everyone greatly over the summer, but especially the eighth graders next softball season. Here's our final moments :(

Courtney & Sydney being goofy.
Yum Yum!
Some of my eighth graders!

I love this group of girls :)
What am I to do without these lovely ladies next year? Is it softball season yet? I'm ready for August 19th to roll around ;)

Until Friday's post...with Demerit Reward day and Awards day.. Have I mentioned I can not believe it's the last week of school? :(