Testing, testing…state testing

Someone once told me that a test doesn’t define who I am as an individual or what I accomplish. This is something that I try so hard to instill in my students.

However, high stakes testing is a reality in public schools across Texas. The word test, or let alone STAAR, brings mixed emotions to many students and teachers across the state. It’s a snapshot view, so to speak, and can’t define who students are and what they have to offer. However, students are so much MORE than what a test shows.

Testing doesn’t show a student’s heart, intent, or creative abilities. High stakes testing shows what students can do on one day, at a specific moment, and how they answer specific questions. It leaves no room to show if a student doesn’t understand a specific question other than them scoring it wrong. So many students do great because they can analyze a test question and choose the right answer.

However, what about those that are not good test takers? What about the students who are not on grade level and work below a grade level test? What about the students who just have a bad day and don’t do well? Those students are left feeling vulnerable, unsure, and uneasy. As someone who used to fit into struggling learner category, high stakes testing brings back many emotions. The feeling of frustration bares its ugly head in so many capacities.

We can say all day long it’s just a test and it is. However, so many of our students have anxiety, act out, and have difficult days before, during, and after this test. I don’t have an answer on a solution. I just have a heart and an open mind for what is to come each day before, during, and after testing days.

However, as an educator, I ask for educators to have patience with our students during testing times. I ask for us to remember what it felt like to test and what emotions it brought to our lives. Our students have real fears, emotions, and anxiety.

It is up to us, as educators, to keep stability, consistency, and support THEM each and every day! Our students are WORTH IT and, even on testing days, I look forward to every opportunity to be surrounded by students each and every day!

Set the tone, BREATHE, and enjoy every opportunity you have to be with your students!

State test (1)

Gratitude & Appreciation

Appreciation

Gratitude, something that is not always voiced or given. However, shown or intended to be bestowed upon each day. The day to day impact and wisdom shared is coveted and appreciated by so many. The random acts of kindness and little encouraging notes mean so much too.

Gratitude and appreciation look so different based on the culture of the schools and who the team players are. However, there are still similarities in all settings. There is hard work appreciated, kindness throughout, difficult decisions made. and impact made each day. There are students making our day, laughter to deal with difficult days, and decisions coming down that impact the students and staff each and every day.

Something I realized as an early teacher (and before) was you must give gratitude and appreciation specifically to others. It can be a simple note or email or text (nowadays) but, as educators, we must acknowledge what we see, note who has gone above and beyond, and recognize each other. It’s not about the number of notes; it’s about the recognition and value of others. Every person deserves to be recognized for their hard work and dedication. It must be specific, real, and to the point.

So many times, however, we all get busy and the recognition and appreciation gets put on the back burner. It’s not intentional, it’s life! However, as people who know what it’s like to be appreciated, I am asking for the intentional recognition to be a priority when something good occurs. It doesn’t have to be long, it just has to be specific to the person. The specific gratitude will, in turn, bring out appreciation each time.

Intentional recognition not only builds the culture around us. It gives meaning and purpose to those around us too. It is intentional, specific, and purposeful to show gratitude. In a field of juggling so much and making decisions that impact and change paths often, gratitude and appreciation must be an intentional priority to celebrate the good, appreciate those around us, and to move forward as a cohesive unit. A unit who knows others realize the good they bring to the table and the impact they see too.

Gratitude & Appreciation: an intentional priority for cultivating the culture around us! See it, acknowledge it, recognize it, and celebrate the good it brings each day. 

Courage to be seen

Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. –Maya Angelou

Courage: Something people are born with an innate sense of knowing while others have to build up over time. It seems some have more courage or the ability to be seen without difficulty. Courage looks different on so many people.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Strength is something that isn’t defined as how much you can lift or withstand. It’s how much you can take, how much you can endure, and how much you can hold and manage without breaking. In education, strength looks so different on so many due to the different capacities we work in.

However, we all face different capacities (or so it seems) each day. Decisions and trials, though, still make us have a unique bond. A bond that is so great that it gives us a community of strength as the days and weeks go on. A bond on strength, camaraderie, endurance, and hope. A bond that gives a net of encouragement on those days when we wonder what we can give when our internal tank is empty. A bond that encourages us to have courage and to be the best we can be to serve our students and our community each and every day.

As educators, we must have the courage to be seen and the moral strength to take on the day to day difficulties. It’s tough! No class or book can prepare you for the trenches you endure and face each day. Some days can be amazing and others can be really, really difficult. Difficult can continue on for days and that makes you appreciate the really good days even more. As people, we must have the courage to endure the trials, overcome the struggles, and continue to lead with the willingness to show up and have the courage to keep going.

Courage may look so different on so many but having the courage to show up is the first step in moving forward. Move forward for the better as well as the ability to keep going and to be seen. Take a breath, have a plan, and have the courage to be present day in and out.

Courage starts with showing up and letting outselves be seen.

Oxygen first

Oxygen, a necessity of life. Something we need on a daily basis. Oxygen can be something we’re willing to receive and give out without hesitation. It can surround us and, at times, we can ignore the deprivation as we press on to meet a need or to complete a task.
Decisions, stress, outbursts, behavior, needs to be met, and the list goes on. Every day as educators, we are pulled in many directions. From before the sun to many hours after us, many seek our attention and need our input. It’s a continuous cycle that repeats day after day and week after week too.
The nature of the beast is that we, as educators, are in a profession that pulls us so many ways. It happens in a blink of an eye and can be rewarding and exhausting simultaneously. The need to meet our own needs and recognize the fact that we need oxygen to continue gets left behind or overlooked in a sense.
I, for one, am guilty of ignoring the exhaustion and don’t always remember to breathe first. It’s a vicious cycle and have a great support system to remind me but it happens.
We’re human and this is just a friendly reminder to be sure to breathe and take the oxygen first before you put your best foot forward each and every day.
Oxygen first...

Lighthearted comedy club

WigmanSelf proclaimed “Wigman”

Laughter, it’s something that gets us through the day and makes a mark on many hearts. Laughter keeps us going, provides entertainment, and makes the world a better place. People respond well and it etches memories into the heart.

My students are smart, quirky, creative, and make my world go around and around on a daily basis. Just because they think and act differently doesn’t mean they don’t make the world go around for others.

This year, I have the opportunity to work with a group of students who have multiple and varied disabilities all together. To paint you a picture, I have Autism of different varieties, Intellectual disabilities, OHI, Learning Disabilities, and much more. Their labels don’t define my students and they LOVE becoming famous on my quotes of the day I post on social media.  They’ve been coined “the comedy club” and it’s really a highlight of my and many others’ day.

A few highlights from my comedy club that make me smile & laugh.

“Flu symptoms are sore throat and other symptoms. I’m fine since I just look off. I don’t have that.” Earlier in the day, “I survived the worstest flu of the season this year.”

“Can I get a hair head or a hair and a head?”

“Miss Hahne, do I need to have condoms (he meant commas) in my composition?” After asking him to repeat it, he said “oh yeah, I meant commas. Duh!”

“Hey Aliens, it’s a great day today.” “Great day today, isn’t it?”

“When you behave bad, you go to the depths of hell.”

“Sit back and watch the clouds go by. Relax”

“I work-did already ready. Give me my reward.”

“No candy today. I lose control. No candy today.”

“How about no work and just free time today, I’m tired.”

“Take a deep breath and laugh.”

There you have it. A glimpse of the comedy club and their antics on a daily basis. They provide the laughter, smiles, and make the world go around and around each and every day. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be surrounded by such a fun and hilarious group of students daily. Their comedy makes the world a better place.

Our students > a state test

This past week I had students ask me about STAAR (Texas state assessment) and when it was slated to be given. My first response was the month but that didn’t stop my wondering minds standing in front of me. They wanted to know the dates and whom would be testing them (they are in small group and individual testing locations). You see, my students are in special ed and this assessment creates a lot of unknown and fear for them. It changes their normal, changes where they attend for the day, and changes what they see. It creates a lot of anxiety for them and adults alike and these are JUST ten and eleven year olds.

When I was able to look up the dates, my students started to look upset, rock, and get very quiet (very unlike them). The FEAR and anxiety had started in January. JANUARY! As an educator and someone who struggled at their age with learning, this breaks my heart into a million pieces.

As a Special Education Teacher, my job isn’t defined by a state assessment. I meet my students individual needs each and every day! My job is defined and reviewed by an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and meeting the needs of my students each and every day. Do some of my students take the regular STAAR with accommodations, yes. Some of my students also take the STAAR-Alt due to their disabilities. But the STAAR doesn’t define my students or myself each day!

My students are SO MUCH more than just what is on paper and what a snapshot of the test day gives and brings. The STAAR test is a day in their school year. It DOES NOT define who they are and what they have to offer. It’s not individualized or what level they are on. It’s a standardized assessment. Just a test on a given day that is a snapshot of that day not what all a student can and can’t do!

As the STAAR (or a your state assessment) gets closer and closer, I have to stop, take a breath, and tell my students each day that they are SO MUCH more than a state assessment. It DOES NOT define who they are, what they offer, and who they will become. It’s just a TEST. To them, though, it’s a day in the week that throws their who day and schedule off. It has problems that are too difficult compared to the level they are at and it’s tense. To them, it’s a day that is not routine and scheduled like they are used to. To them, it’s so much more than JUST a test.

In a world that assesses our students, we have to remember that our students are still KIDS who have questions, fears, and anxiety just like us but they don’t have the adult attached to them to be able to breathe and process like us.  Our students are SO MUCH more than just a test! 

As state assessments get closer and closer, I challenge educators to have those conversations about when the assessments occur, how STATE assessments do NOT define what students are, and how AMAZING our students are each and every day!

KEEP CALM and TEACH students who are SO much more than a test!

Realize & Recognize the amazing

Everyday, we as educators, have goals, items to attend to, and tasks to meet. We strive for our best in a society that doesn’t always appreciate what we do. We deal with questions, emails, and roadblocks in our path.

Unless you’re in school, an organization, or have been in school, society doesn’t always realize what we face day in and out. The meltdowns of many students, discipline, lesson planning, long term planning, curriculum, parent complaints, conferences, and the list continues. Society also doesn’t see the light bulb moments, the AHA moments, the connections, and the smiles and love our students give and receive.

 

resizedYou are amazing

As educators, we have got to stop & realize and recognize we are amazing! Society may not say it or recognize it but we, as an amazing community of educators, need to say it and recognize it daily. When we see amazing in our schools and communities, we need to recognize and acknowledge it. We need to note it. We need to say it! We need to cultivate and grow an amazing culture of educators. We must recognize the good that comes our way!

YOU can move mountains & be an amazing educator day in and out! Own it!