• Spring? Testing?

    Posted by Shelly Childers on 2/26/2014
    Building Blocks Spring? Testing? I hear teachers saying "I can't wait for spring to arrive" all of the time, especially right now when our weather has been crazier than usual. But how often do you hear teachers saying "I can't wait for the test to arrive!" Not so much - unless of course, they are only waiting for it to arrive so that it will be over. The sentiment is never coupled with an excitement that generally accompanies an "I can't wait" statement.
     
    Well, it is that time of year. Our teachers are planning their very best lessons in order to prepare our students for success on state assessments. They are coordinating efforts for remediation for struggling readers, and acceleration for students who just need an extra push. Our teachers are planning motivational ploys that will encourage students to do their best, and they are planning writing camps and events that will engage and teach. Our teachers are amazing, and there are not enough words to describe their endless efforts, their energy, and their dedication to each and every student in Deer Park.
     
    Springtime will definitely be a welcome season for all of us but the testing season should be just as welcome. (I know it's a stretch but stay with me!) We should welcome the opportunity to showcase our students, to stand up to comparisons and hold our heads up high, to see exactly how far we have taken our students and just how much they are capable of accomplishing. We should welcome the opportunity to broadcast our success. At least in this moment, I'm going to take my own advice and welcome the opportunity to let everyone see what amazing teachers and students we have in Deer Park, Texas. Bring it on!!
     
     

    Success

    by: Ralph Waldo Emerson

    To laugh often and much;
    To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
    To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
    To appreciate beauty,
    To find the best in others,
    To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
    A garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
    To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
    This is to have succeeded.
     
    Breathe easy my friends. You are amazing educators, amazing mentors, and amazing adminstrators. Welcome the season!!
     
    Shelly

     PS - As always, I want to hear from you. Once you sign in using your regular user name and password, you will see the comment section. In the comments section, let me know how to best support you.What information do you want/need? Keep checking in. I'll keep posting, and your comments will definitely give me direction. Thanks so much.
     
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  • Thanksgiving

    Posted by Shelly Childers on 11/22/2013
    Building Blocks There's an old hymn that I love titled "Count Your Blessings." Just typing the name has me singing the lyrics in my head and reminds me that it is important to both count your blessings and to name them as well. I am so blessed to work in a school district that is so dedicated to excellence. We are always working to become better teachers, to build better relationships, to improve rigor and encourage learners, and I am blessed to be a part of the process. I walk into rooms across this district and see engaged students, passionate teachers, and focused administrators. I work with devoted men and women whose efforts are focused on the children of Deer Park. My support staff is nothing short of phenomenal in their abilities and in their attitudes.
     
    When there is a need, people pull together to provide. When students are struggling, teams put their heads together to come up with solutions. When teachers need encouragement, someone steps up to offer a kind word. Blessings surround us and we are so very fortunate. 
     
    As I am typing this entry, my mind is full of swirling thoughts competing for my attention. The joy of being home for a week, visiting with family, eating good food, playing with my grandchildren and reading a good book or two is cause for thanksgiving. The time to step away from the intensity of accountability, testing, curriculum, and instructional concerns is cause for thanksgiving. The plenty that surrounds us, the freedoms that we enjoy, and the abundance that we take for granted are all causes for thanksgiving. The dedicated educators, the talented administrators, and the amazing support staff in Deer Park are causes for thanksgiving. 
     
    Whether you are home or traveling, whether you are surrounded by family or friends, take the time to count your blessings this holiday season. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
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  • Fall is here

    Posted by Shelly Childers on 10/28/2013
    Building Blocks Fall is here. Well, at least we can pretend it's here. We've managed to string together a couple of days of cooler weather and so for us - it's fall! How confusing that must be for our little ones as they learn about the seasons, only to look outside and see the sun shining brightly and leaves still on the trees. This entire season is full of confusing things - don't ever take candy from a stranger. Unless of course, it's Halloween and then it is perfectly acceptable to solicit candy from strangers. Or how about the assurances we give our children that ghosts and ghouls and monsters are not real - only to dress them up in the scariest of costumes. My two year old grandson informed me last night that he wanted to be either a vampire or a zombie for halloween, even though he has a perfectly cute superhero costume! Apparently superheros are not scary enough!
     
    Confusion is all around us, but hopefully the one place that confusion is missing is in our classrooms. Our instruction should be solid, engaging and rigorous. Our classrooms should be energetic, exciting and full of academic talk. Our students should be working, learning and stretching their limits. Our teachers should be facilitating, differentiating, and guiding. Sounds overwhelming, right? Teaching can be overwhelming, but it should never be confusing. We know what we need to teach, we know where our students need to be, and we have the tools to get them there. If I had to label teaching and learning, I think I would go with this adjective - exciting!
     
    Enjoy the changes in the air - cooler weather, the holiday season, your fall wardrobe! And don't forget to enjoy watching your students learn. Celebrate both, their successes and your own. As we begin to look at our first benchmark results and make plans for our upcoming instruction, don't forget to celebrate successes before you head back to the drawing board on the tough stuff. Each and every one of you are working so hard and your students will benefit from your efforts.
     
    Shelly
     
    PS - As always, I want to hear from you. Once you sign in using your regular user name and password, you will see the comment section. In the comments section, let me know how to best support you.What information do you want/need? Keep checking in. I'll keep posting, and your comments will definitely give me direction. Thanks so much.
     
     
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  • I can't believe it's September!

    Posted by Shelly Childers on 9/9/2013
    Building Blocks I can't believe it's September! Where did the summer go? We had a long summer full of staff development and training and now you are all in your classrooms again, ready to implement all that you've learned. Or at least I hope so! Our students are our greatest gifts, and yet, the opposite is also true. You are the greatest gifts that some children will ever receive. Never forget the impact that you can have on a child - you truly guide their future.
     
    I was reading an article this morning and I thought of each of you. Nancie Atwell wrote the article about her mentor, Donald Graves. She said he was her teacher and yet, she never had a class with him and was never his student. Since I am a huge fan of Nancie Atwell, and have been since her book In the Middle was published, I was intrigued. She read an article that he wrote for a journal and later attended a workshop that he gave at an English conference. After communicating back and forth about the writing workshop and how to implement it in her middle school classroom, she says, "although I was never Don's student, because he shared so much of his writing and thinking, he was always my teacher. In turn, Don looked to the people on the front lines to teach him." This is the same woman who went on to write one of the most pivotal instructional texts in education.
     
    The article and her comments reminded me of the many people who have influenced my teaching, who have been mentors in my writing process, and who have engaged in academic discourse that helped me to grow as an educator. When I take the time to do this, I am humbled and overwhelmed by both the quantity and the quality of these interventions. I feel like I'm the luckiest person in the world. I have had people who cared about my growth as a teacher, who nurtured my writing, and who encouraged my pursuit of higher education. I have had models to watch, to admire and to emulate, and I've had encouragers who kept me moving in a positive direction.
     
    My prayer for you as you begin this new year is that you, too will have these people in your life. I hope you are encouraged, challenged, instructed, and influenced to be the very best teachers that you can be. You deserve nothing less. And the greatest part of this is that our students will thrive under this kind of teaching.
     
    May this be your very best year of teaching.
     
    Shelly
     
    PS - As always, I want to hear from you. Once you sign in using your regular user name and password, you will see the comment section. In the comments section, let me know how to best support you.What information do you want/need? Keep checking in. I'll keep posting, and your comments will definitely give me direction. Thanks so much.
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  • I Love Books

    Posted by Shelly Childers on 7/15/2013
    I'm admitting it right up front - I stole this entry! A wonderful friend of mine sent me this entry from a blog titled "Jim's Awakening." I loved it - every word and wanted to share it because it echoes so clearly how I feel about books. I just wish I had written it! Enjoy.
     

    books               

    I love books.

    What a miracle that out of small, flat, rectangles of paper so many worlds can unfold - worlds that instruct, educate, entertain, and inspire us.

    Books take us to places we will never go, simulate experiences we will never have, enable us to be mentored by people we will never know.

    Books help us understand where we have been, where we are, and where we are going - why things happened, what is happening, and what will happen.

    Books reveal things within us, in other people, and in our world we would have never known.

    Books are filled with gifts that no one can give us - gifts of words that paint permanent images on our souls.

    Books teach us how to live and how to die.

    Books are some of my best friends.

    I love books.

     
    We're having a great time with Codi Freeman, digging into the TEKS and working on Workshop Training Texas Style. The summer is going by way too fast. Enjoy your time - relax, recharge, and reenergize!
     
    Shelly
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  • Summer Workshops

    Posted by Shelly Childers on 6/20/2013
    Building Blocks Summer is well underway and our workshops have been very exciting. Last week, Paul Janeczko, presented two poetry workshops to elementary and secondary audiences. It was wonderful to listen to a "real" poet talk about his process, share his poetry, and lead us through poetry activities. I think all of the participants had a great time, and I know that they walked away with some great resources for their classrooms.
     
    Today, I'm presenting a journaling workshop geared specifically toward ELA teachers. We are working on an interactive journal for both reading and writing. I've really enjoyed this group of teachers - they are great fun and we're sharing a lot of ideas about mini-lessons, generating ideas, spelling, vocabulary and even grammer!
     
    John Jones has spent this week presenting RtI as it is working currently in our district. He is refining our concept of RtI, sharing data, and engaging in great conversations with administrators and teachers concerning our roles in intervention.
     
    July is packed with early literacy workshops, reading and writing workshop trainings, and many others. Secondary teachers will be attending a four day workshop in August that will be crucial to our goal of rigorous curriculum and college-ready students. Laying the Foundation should be a great workshop. I'm really looking forward to it.
     
    I am so blessed to work in a district where staff development is valued and supported. Our students are going to be the beneficiaries of your dedication and hard work this summer.
     
    As always, I want to hear from you. Once you sign in using your regular user name and password, you will see the comment section. In the comments section, let me know how to best support you.What information do you want/need? Keep checking in. I'll keep posting, and your comments will definitely give me direction. Thanks so much.
     
    Thanks to all of the amazing teachers in Deer Park ISD.
     
    Shelly
     
     
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  • Legislative Updates

    Posted by Shelly Childers on 5/22/2013
    Building Blocks The latest updates from the legislature are listed below. Each of these bills will return to committee and more changes can still be made. I wanted to get the information out to you as quickly as possible. Several changes to the elementary and junior high testing schedules are included. Stay tuned for more information!
     

    HB 866

    HB 866 passed the Senate last night with changes added bythe Senate Education committee.  This bill allows students who do well on STAAR exams in third and fifth grades to skip exams in fourth, sixth and seventh grades.  The Senate put the STAAR writing tests at grades 4 and 7 back in the bill.  The House can either agree to the committee amendments or request a conference committee.  If the House accepts the amendments,then the bill can go to the governor.  Texas would still need to apply for a NCLB waiver before the law could be implemented.

     

    HB 2836
    HB 2836 also passed the Senate last night.  Several changes were made, including language from SB 1718 (a bill about schools with unacceptable ratingswhich failed on a point of order yesterday).  The bill now contains language to conduct a study of the TEKS and whether the number of TEKS should be reduced.  It also has language restricting the number of benchmark assessments to no more than 2 per subject per year.  It still contains the language about time restrictions for STAAR testing.  Changes added in the Senate Education committee puts the STAAR writing tests at grades 4 and 7 back in the bill.  The House can either agree to the amendments or request a conference committee.  If the House accepts the amendments, then the bill can go to the governor.


    Change is in the air...
     
    As always, I want to hear from you. Once you sign in using your regular user name and password, you will see the comment section. In the comments section, let me know how to best support you.What information do you want/need? Keep checking in. I'll keep posting, and your comments will definitely give me direction. Thanks so much.
     
    Shelly
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  • Curriculum Writing

    Posted by Shelly Childers on 5/21/2013
    Building Blocks We are very involved in English Language Arts curriculum writing at all levels and it is really exciting to see groups of teachers working together to plan lessons and create experiences that will benefit Deer Park students. Teachers are discussing, debating, sharing and laughing together as they work to improve our existing documents and link them even more directly to the TEKS. I finally feel like we are getting a handle on the TEKS and the depth and rigor that are required to teach them. Fifth and eighth grade students have tested and then tested again, EOC's are completed for the year, and right now we are all waiting - waiting for scores to come in, waiting for the legislature to make some final decisions, and waiting for summer to get started!
     
    Scores at the fifth and eighth grade were OK - and I just say OK because the standard is going up again next year. I'm planning to look at all of the scores when they come in - celebrate or cry :) - and then start looking at the scores at next year's passing rate so that we can see right at the beginning of the year, how much ground we need to cover. I'll be really anxious to meet with everyone early next year to share what I've learned. (OK - that's getting a little ahead of myself but...)
     
    In the middle of all of this, I'm planning summer workshops and ordering materials. I think the poetry workshop with Paul Janeczko is going to be great and I'm really excited about the interactive notebooks that we'll investigate in the journaling workshop. There are tons, literally tons, of primary and elementary workshops this summer, and all of the secondary teachers are encouraged to attend the Laying the Foundation training in August. It should really get us headed in the right direction toward a rigorous classroom environment.
     
    I'll be writing later this week to give you the initial scores - stay tuned!
     
    Shelly
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  • 5th Grade Reading Key

    Posted by Shelly Childers on 4/30/2013
    Building Blocks I was planning last Friday with a group of teachers from Deepwater and we decided to create a Reading Key that would help students to focus on the key vocabulary, question stems and characteristics of the different genres that students will see on the test. I’m posting the information so that teachers who will be implementing the tutorials for 5thgrade reading can use it or modify it to suit their needs. It is, of course, only an option, but with the information that we currently have, it's better than nothing.  Once we review the key with the students, they will use the folder each time they complete any reading assignmnet - asking “What genre is this?” and “What are the keys that will help me to answer the questions successfully.”   The Reading Key Folder is only a resource. I used the released questions, the item analysis, and information from the TEKS to create the folder.

     

    I have also included a list of the weakest SE’s at the district level for 5th grade.  I know we don't have 3rd and 4th grade scores yet, or 6th and 7th either, but the weakest areas are often very similar. Most of our issues were with non-fiction text, although the very weakest single SE was concerning character role and function in fiction.
     
    Great things are happening in our classrooms. Keep up the good work!
     
    Fiction                                                                                                                        
     
     
    reading key
     
     
    As always, I want to hear from you. Once you sign in using your regular user name and password, you will see the comment section. In the comments section, let me know how to best support you.What information do you want/need? Keep checking in. As soon as I see that this works, I'll start posting away!
    Shelly
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  • Words from Victoria Young - What should we be asking our readers?

    Posted by Shelly Childers on 4/29/2013
    Building Blocks In a recent presentation, Victoria Young shared a powerpoint that included some sobering numbers. Using the STAAR data that we have right now, she projected our passing rates at the final standard. My only comment is "Wow! We have a lot of work to do." After Round 1 of 5th grade Reading and 8th grade Reading, interventions have started. There were increases in many areas, but the increases are not nearly enough when you look at the jump in the phase in scores for next year. I'm including a link to Victoria's powerpoint so that you can check out the questions that she has included. It is a good place to start as we continue to add the rigor that will be required in the next few years. We have six weeks of school left. This is the perfect time to start looking at the TEKS that our students will need next year. Now is not the time to take a break. Increase the rigor, teach to next year's skills, and continue to engage learners. In other words, keep keeping on!
     
     
    As always, I want to hear from you. Once you sign in using your regular user name and password, you will see the comment section. In the comments section, let me know how to best support you.What information do you want/need? Keep checking in. As soon as I see that this works, I'll start posting away!
     
    Shelly
     
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