Thursday, November 29, 2007

Balance (dayle timmons)

Question: dayle,
I know your dedication to young learners and the teaching profession is steadfast and I admire that about you. We've talked about this before, but would you share with me and others (that may need to hear your words of wisdom), how you have managed to keep these two areas blanced throughout your career as an educator? I struggle with this daily and often carry guilt in one area or the other? Please reassure me that I am not crazy!!!
All my admiration,

You’re not crazy, Elizabeth. There is nothing more difficult than trying to be all things to all people. Balance, for me, like for most moms that work, came over time. I learned that you CAN have it all, you just can't have it all at the same time! These are some of the things that worked for me along the way. I share them in hopes that they might be helpful to someone else…

1. I have always considered my life at school as my own personal mission field. I believe that God put me on this Earth to be a teacher, to minister to those around me including my peers, the children and their families. I really do believe that I am doing God’s work every day and that colleagues, children and parents that come into my life come by Divine appointment (usually because of lessons I need to learn instead of lessons that I need to teach!), so I have never resented the time that school takes. I feel a deep moral obligation to do this part of my life right. My life goal has always been to make a difference and most of time, I believe that teaching allows me to do that. My advice: Think about why you teach, what it really means to you - and find the joy in it.

2. I am very organized so I usually have a good idea of what needs to be done. I am a very good manager of time. I usually have a list (that used to be in my head but lately I have to write it down!) of “things to do.” Some of the things are for school and some are for home. When the kids were little, I tried to include them in my “to do” list – even if it was something for school, but mostly I always kept the “to do” list accessible. When the kids were out or occupied, I would work on the “to do” list, knowing that I couldn’t get too absorbed (which is the key) because I needed to be available to them as soon as they were “back.” Children, especially, have to know that they come first. My advice: Always have an on-going plan for getting things done. Never put off until tomorrow what could be done today.

3. I have always known when things were just “too much.” Most of you know that after Courtney was born I stayed home for a year, went back to work for a year and just couldn’t juggle it all. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything well. I have always felt God’s hand in the personal part of my life. He gave me a family for a reason and He has very high expectations! Being a teacher, a wife and the mother of two was just too much for me at that time in my life. Even though some people have called me driven, and I personally thought that staying home was the end to any kind of “career” aspirations I might have had (how could I have known all that would happen to me AFTER I came back to work!) I was able to make the decision to stay home very easily. I stayed home until Courtney went to Kindergarten. Although we hadn’t prepared for me not to work, and things were extremely tight, I have NEVER regretted that decision, because it gave me peace.
My advice: Don’t get overwhelmed with your life. It will rob your happiness. Know when enough is enough and always know what the greater priority is in your life.

4. I am a morning person. I get up early so when the kids were little my husband and I worked out a compromise. I got up before the kids got out of bed and left for school. I did all my planning before school at school (it’s so quiet and you get so-o-o much done!) and was ready to leave when school was out so I could be home for the kids. Jimmy coached so he was not available in the afternoon and early evening. He did all of the breakfast, dressing, getting to school and I did all of the being there after school, dinner prep, homework, afternoon activities. It gave each of us individual time with the kids and also gave each of us guilt-free time to do what we needed to do for work. My advice: Work with your support system so that you have time to do what you need to do (I love Karen Morris’ suggestion in an earlier post of one night a week at school, which is the same idea).

5. Decide what’s really important to you and get rid of the stuff that you’re doing just because somebody else thinks you should. For instance, Secret Santa was one of those activities that I had to let go. I LOVE Secret Santa but one year I realized that I spent as much time stressing over Secret Santa gifts as I did buying presents for my own children. Secret Santa was just too much for me. Now I go and enjoy the breakfast and don’t feel one bit guilty about not participating because I know it was the right decision for me. I could give you dozens of examples. My advice: Be intentional about what you choose to do. Align your time and passion with your belief system. Free yourself from guilt.

I wish I could say that I have it all figured out and that I never get stressed any more. That’s not true, but I do know to listen to my heart. When I feel overwhelmed, I know that something is out of balance, and that’s my internal signal to really think about what’s going on in my life and to straighten things out before things get too far out of balance. Often it means trusting my relationships, being honest with myself, and asking for help.

I have a special place in my heart for young mothers. You have the whole world open to you if you can use the energy and wisdom of your age and yet still see life through the eyes of your child. You are preparing our next generation of children to take their place in our world, not only in your homes, but in your classrooms. This time in your life is your legacy…

With great expectations, dayle

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Julie At Your Service (Julie Middleton)

Question: Dear Julie,
We all know that "Customer Service" is extremely important in our business, how and why do you maintain excellent customer service daily?

Dear Moena,
I have to say that it is not always easy to smile and be kind to every person that walks in the door, but I really do try to to that. I am a people pleaser and that makes me always wanting everyone to be happy, even those people who are furious about something and want to see someone right away. Sometimes all I have to do is listen and that makes them feel better. There are those that are never happy no matter what you do but you never know when you might actually make a difference in someone else's life--so I keep trying. I am always reminding my children that you should never underestimate the power of your actions. One small gesture can change a person's life. I really believe that we are put in each others lives to impact one another in some way.
Love, Julie Middleton

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Co-teaching (Elizabeth Conte)

Question: Elizabeth,
I know what an extraordinary educator you are and I learned so much from watching you. Now that you are working with your fantastic co-teacher, Randi, What are the perks and obstacles that you have found since recently becoming a co-teacher? any suggestions for the first year teacher who will most likely be co-teaching in the near future?

Oh Danielle, you make me smile!

Co-teaching is very different from single teaching. Here are the perks and obstacles we have found so far this year:


  • Finding a teacher who shares my philosophy and passion for students was key to making our co-teaching situation work. A big bonus was finding someone who values family-life as much as I do and understands when I need to be mommy or wife instead of teacher!
  • We keep each other motivated and challenge each other to continually strive to improve as teachers.

  • Learning how to parallel teach and finding that it truly impacts students' learning in a very positive way. it takes a lot more planning and preparation, but it's so worth it!

  • You don't have to write sub plans when your co-teacher is going to be out... wow, that's a relief.

  • You know that old saying, "Two heads are better than one," Well, it's true. I learn so much from Randi every day!

  • Reaching all your students, especially those low babies, is more realistic in a so-teaching situation. We both are teaching mini-lessons for each workshop and pulling small groups or conferencing one on one during work periods. We don't job share...we are both teaching all day long.


  • Getting used to saying "we" instead of "I" when I communicate with parents. I was so used to saying "I" or just signing my name to took me a while, but I think I've got it now.

  • Time, time, time... co-teaching is not a time-saving strategy. You have to plan together, reflect together, conference with parents together, etc... the list goes on and one. Be prepared to spend time on the phone with you co-teacher.

  • I have an easy-going personality and can be quite flexible when it comes to my classroom...this really helped when transitioning to co-teaching. As long as you keep flexible and are ok with re-developing your classroom together, this won't be an obstacle

Suggestions for Danielle:

  • Really put some thought into who you might co-teach with. Look for someone who shares your teaching style, discipline style and philosophical beliefs about teaching and children.
  • Think about your reason for co-teaching---it really can be a great benefit for students, but only if you have the right mindset going into it.

  • Should you decide to co-teach, be prepared to learn SO MUCH and establish a great relationship with your "partner." It really can be a WONDERFUL thing!

  • Always know, my door is always open and my phone is never turned off, should you need a listening ear or some hopeful advice.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Elementary Versus Middle School (Moena Perry)

Question: Dear Moena,
After working in middle school what do you like better about elementary? What do you miss?

I absolutely love being in this environment. I love the work and dedication I see in all of the teachers here. I'm really intrigued with the content knowledge in literacy, investigative math application and inquiry based learning. What I admire is the collegiality among peers and the love of life-long learning. However, what makes my heart sing are the KIDS. I am a kid kind of gal; believe it or not, I still love "Hello Kitty!" I am just exhilarated and on a continuous cloud when I see the students engaging in learning. When I sit in classrooms and watch the magic of learning unfolding; I go home EXTREMELY HAPPY that I made the choice to come to CHETS.

Middle School can be a challenging place, but I do miss the athletic events and the social development of the students in middle school. When I watched students make the decisions to embrace their own learning without the coercion of parents and family members, I loved it. So, many people don't understand the crossroads that middle school students face and they are just labeled, but, I got it, and I miss seeing the turn around.

I do realize that I've missed out on a lot with little people, and if I had to make a choice I would choose ELEMENTARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love, Moena

Todd Parr's "Feel Good Book" (Meredy Mackiewcz)

Hi Meredy,

I heard you did a great lesson on The Feel Good Book by one of your favorite authors Todd Parr! :) How did you get to know Todd Parr? Do you have any "Feel Good" tips I could use for my safety net kids? Thanks, friend.

Hi, Friend,

I love Todd Parr! I discovered him @ Barnes & Noble--his books are so colorful and they jump out at you! The kids loved The Feel Good Book and so I have purchased the others (The Family Book, It's Ok to be Different, etc...). We do an author study of Todd Parr at the end of K each year and students make their own books modeled after Todd's. They love it and really do a great job.

I took his simplistic drawings and words (w/ deep meanings!) and incorporated it into the 1st grade Health Lesson to make it more kid-friendly (and easier to teach!) Todd Parr is all about accepting differences and celebrating diversity and learning from each other. I already know that you, Julie, do a great job of making the students feel comfortable and secure in your group, even though they are very diverse learners. Thanks for asking! The Tinkerbell necklace looked so pretty on you, too! :)

I can't wait to see it on Moena...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Extended Day Training (Danielle Clark)

Question: Dear Danielle,
You spent a couple of years at Chets as an extended day teacher before you "officially" joined us! I've already thought that would be a great training ground for future teachers. How did that experience help to prepare you for the "real world" of teaching?
Cindy Tsengas

P.S. - I've been impressed with you during the past couple of years!

Thank you Cindy:) Extended Day was a great place to tart my future teaching career. it was the perfect place to practice my upcoming lessons for my pre-internship classes and a great way to learn classroom management! I would stay after wide-eyed at the great Chets Creek teachers and their amazing classrooms everyday trying to soak in as much as possible. Extended Day also taught me that children need structure, if I did not structure my afternoon and have some daily routines the three hours of Extended Day would feel like six. the one area that Extended Day did not prepare me for was parents. In Extended Day you get to enjoy your students and their smiling faces and then when their name is called over the walkie you send them on their way. when i finally go the fantastic opportunity to do Elizabeth Conte's maternity leave I learned how valuable parents were to my classroom as well as the challenges they brought. After my experience Elizabeth's room I felt confident about beginning my career as a professional educator. overall, I know that being an Extended Day Instructor has profoundly impacted my professional career as an educator, and I loved every minute of it :)


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting Back to the Classroom (Julie Johnson)

Question: Julie Johnson--
How is getting back into teaching after being away from it for seven years? How have things changed for the better? How is teaching second grade compared to kindergarten?

Dear Maria,
THANKS for asking! First I want to say I absolutely love being in the classroom again after being away for 7 years. The love for the children and the love of teaching have always been there. It's nice to fulfill that love again. I have learned so much from the whole Kindergarten team. They are such a great group of team players that have made my transition very smooth!

Things have defiantly changed for the better since I last taught. The technology and resources at Chets are incredible. It is nice to have different means of teaching every child's different learning style.

The primary grades are critical times in a child's intellectual, social, and emotional development. Kindergarten is not that much different from second grade because I am focusing on these developments.

:) Julie J.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Vocabulary (Maria Mallon)

Question: Dear Maria,
Rumor has it that you are the Vocabulary specialist! Could you please share some of your strategies that you use? Are they adaptable to the upper grades?
Can't wait to learn from you,

Dear Christy,
I don't know about being a vocabulary specialist but I do love to teach children now words new words and how to use them. Our team was fortunate enough this summer to work with dayle and start our own Unit of Study featuring vocabulary from our Star Books(to download the entire unit go to the Vocabulary widget on the left side of the blog, These are selected books that we read several times a month to our pre-emergent readers. These books include: The Three Little Pigs, Caps for Sale, The Three Billy Goats Gruff and several other classic tales. Within these books, we found a wealth of vocabulary words both written and implied from the story. The words are not necessarily the longest or hardest to pronounce, but words that the children may use in their every day language and/or writing. For instance, this week we just finished "A Pocket for Corduroy" and some of the words were: patiently, dilemma, damp, and hesitate. We learned how the words were used in the story, gave the children some examples and non examples of using the words in certain scenarios and showed them a picture of what the word means. The follow up comes when I use the words as many times during the day as possible. For instance, during the recent fire drill I told my class while they were waiting to go back in, "I like how patiently you are waiting." This gave them a situation to remember and hold on to the word. I also chart the situations they tell me when they use the word at home. A child told me this week that he had a dilemma about what Halloween costume to wear, red Spiderman or black Spiderman. I also send home a list of the new words for the week in my newsletter.

To try it out, go through the book of the month and find four words that you think your students would benefit from knowing and find two inferred words from the story. Write the six words on index cards. Find the definitions of the words and give some examples of how to use the words. Work on two words a day. I copy the cover of the book and put the index cards under the cover for quick reference. Use the words in the classroom and you'll see how quickly your students will use them and how impressed other people will be when they hear your students speak and see these words in their writing!! Don't hesitate. :)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Top 10 Things I Appreciate about CCE (Cindy Tsengas)

Question to Cindy Tsengas...
(this is taking a big RISK by the way Cindy...)

1. You saw education "on the outside" for a few short weeks this year, Cindy. Some of us have never been classroom teachers any place other than Chets. How are things different as a teacher "out there"? What do we have to be grateful for that other teachers might lack? In other words, what do we take for granted?

2. How does being a co-teacher in a classroom compare to being a safety net/ resource teacher?

3. How did you work your magic with the safety net children you taught? They all did fabulous! Please, tell me your secrets!

I'm all ears!
Love, Karen

I can't tell you how much it means to me to be wearing Tink for this week. I know it sounds weird, but i keep on touching it like it's some sort of talisman!

Like you Karen, Stahlman was an inspiration to me when I first was introduced to Chets. She had such a vision that was shared by so many dedicated people! That vision and foundation has grown exponentially with our beloved Susan. the only way that I can answer how I saw education "on the OUTSIDE," is to tell you my top 10 things that I appreciate about Chets Creek...

1. The over 24,000 items that we have in our Media Center (though at inventory, it's a bit overwhelming!)

2. The incredible way that everyone shares information not only within our school, but all over the country.

3. The way you can find 40 cars in the parking lot, on any given day, during the summer, because teachers are inside preparing for the new school year!

4. The way everyone goes to extremes to embrace whatever our new theme is (We are so over the top!!)

5. The wonderful communication that we enjoy.

6. The way that we treat each other as a family, so when the going gets tough, we are all there to support each other (Betsy, we so love you.)

7. The incredible way that each of you wants every child to be a success, no matter what their abilities.

8. The support that we receive from our business partners.

9. The traditions that we have here: Literacy Festival and parade, Kindergarten Pow Wow, cookies with Auntie Claus, 1st Grade Sleepover... Please, stop me!

10. The thing that I appreciate the most about Chets is the welcome that I received upon my return from the "OUTSIDE." I am so very blessed to be a part of this family. I hope that you all understand what a truly unique place this is.

Now for the second question... for me, being a co=teacher, after being a resource/ safety net teacher, is really stepping out of the box. I have so much to learn about... tests and report cards, dealing with parents, grading papers, dealing with parents, teaching mini-lessons, dealing with parents (I can's believe how many conference it's possible to squeeze in). but, I've been given the wonderful opportunity to learn all of this under the capable wings of Jenny Nash and Joe Montisano. They have both been so open and welcoming. We are all still tweaking our system, trying to figure out how to best meet the needs of our children.

As for your last question, I have always loved working with the children who need a little extra attention. sometimes they just need to know that there is another person who is on their side. sometimes they just need a little self confidence. I get so excited to see these kids soar! having been many of the children Media specialist, they already know me so we already have rapport and trust. I am like a second mother to them, and I will hound them relentlessly to follow through on their responsibilities. somehow or another, they all know that I really care about them and I believe they can accomplish anything.

Our children are all such gifts from God! Many of them have been given burdens to carry that would break an adult's spirit. If I can help them be happy and function to the bet of their ability, I feel that I've done my job at the end of the day. I am forever grateful to the leadership and mentors that I have had here.
Cindy Tsengas