Thursday, November 28, 2013


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!! Today as we all gather around the table with family and friends to devour all that delicious food, let's not forget to take a moment and remember what we're all thankful for.

I'm thankful for my family. Yes, we all may be crazy in our own right and we may bicker over senseless things. But in the end, we are there for each other and I wouldn't trade them for anyone in the world. My mother is the one that is always there to listen and offer advice. My sister-in-law is my sense of comic relief and my poor future boyfriends/ brothers will grill you to make sure you're the right person for me!

I'm thankful for three little people named Sara Elizabeth, Steven Louis, and Emma Grace. Seriously, they are my three favorite people (despite the moments when Steven whines and runs away from me). I will never forget the day I woke up as a senior in high school and found out my sister-in-law was off to the hospital to have Sara. Sara's first Christmas will always be my favorite because that is when I got asked to be her godmother. The bond I have with this child is incredible and I love all three of them SO much.

I'm thankful for my jobs. Rarely do you often find a job, let alone two, where you click with most people. I am grateful for the school I work in. I get along with all of the teachers I work with and I have a pretty awesome boss. I will be sad the day I leave there once I have found my own classroom but honestly, there is nothing more rewarding then having students write you thank you notes, wave at you in the hallway or come up to you because they trust you. I also am thankful for my coworkers at the restaurant because they make shifts pleasant when you have nasty customers.

I'm thankful for basic things, like my education, clothes, food and the house I live in. Some people are less fortunate. Walking past the Giving Tree for needy families in the community at school reminds me of how grateful I am for what I have. I picked a tag off for a 5 year old girl who wants Princess Toys and I cannot WAIT to go shopping for her next week! I may grab another one or two next week.

I'm thankful for this little furry creature. She may bark at all hours of the night, at the most random things (like the mixer & vacuum) and may like to bite (which we are trying to change) but she has made my heart happy ever since I lost my precious Shadow.

I'm also thankful for coffee because without it, working a double tomorrow on Black Friday might not happen.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Common Core

Tonight, the commissioner of Education, Dr.King, in New York, is hosting a forum on the Common Core standards that are slowly being phased into the education system. He was in the building where I work today. I am actually watching the forum being presented as they are doing a live-stream of it. While not every single state is implementing these standards, there has been a lot of outrage against it in New York.

To be quite honest, I told someone the other day that I actually feel sad to be an educator lately. The  types of tests that today's students are being required to take in order to graduate and because of federal regulations compared to the type I had to take is just ridiculous. I see so many kids struggling daily with their math concepts. Kids who are generally doing well are going down the tubes. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard "I hate math."

What exactly is the common core? To be honest, everyone I talk to is not quite sure. Essentially, they are wanting us to educate children to be college-ready. Well...have we not been doing that all along? They want the levels of complexity to increase as the students progress from grade to grade...hasn't that been happening all along? I work with 7th & 8th graders. They're now learning how to write a research paper that young...some of them can't even write a proper sentence! I get that people higher up in the state want the best for the kids of New York and each state but there are SO many other issues that need to be tackled.

Last spring was the first year that the tests for NY assessments in grades 3-8 reflected these new standards. How successful were they? Only 31% of the students in grade 3-8 passed or surpassed the new tests. That is just a disgrace. The passing mark set was way too high. I proctored both of these tests for students who are classified in Special Education. I, someone who has a college degree and two Master's degrees, could not do any of the problems on the math test. Not because it has been awhile since I took math. Because I did not understand what was being asked. If the adults are having trouble understanding, the kids are definitely going to suffer. The results were such a drop from previous years. I have seen these "modules" and instructional booklets that teachers are to use when teaching lessons. It really says "2 minutes to pass out papers. 5 minutes for questions." One math teacher actually said "I feel like I am rehearsing this as a script if I were an actor. It does not feel natural." Teachers are able to explain things differently to each student. What if one student cannot comprehend what they are being taught from a packet? Yet, they can get it from a verbal answer from the teacher. You're telling me that if you have questions and it goes past 5 minutes, you can't ask anymore? That probably isn't the case, but sometimes it takes longer to explain something. As an educator, I would rather spend more time on a concept and until a child got it, than following a "script."

Every interview I have gone on asks "What is your best common core lesson?" and to be honest, I had no idea at first. How did common core even fit into the foreign language education curriculum? I was not even sure. I did as much research I could until it felt like my eyes were going to fall out of my head. From everything I read (and continue to read), it seems the literacy standards is where the foreign language standards fall. I can see how that is with reading comprehension, being able to pull information from the passage(s) and being able to produce proof, whether it is a short answer or an essay format.

Do I think common core is the best for our students? No. I think they are suffering. I think the students are going to look back on their junior high and high school experiences and look at it as a trainwreck. My 8th graders are already taking 3 high school credit bearing classes (math, biology and their language). If they pass language, they can drop but obviously I strongly advise them not to. But they wanted this year's 8th graders to take the state math test in April, the alegbra regents in June and a common core regents as well. WHY? Why repeatedly test them on something?

Most of the teachers I work with don't agree with it and they hate it. Just let us TEACH. That's why we went into this field. We love the area we are certified in. We love working with children and want to share our love of math, science, social studies, languages, etc with them.  No teacher should be rated based on their students' test scores whether they are ineffective, effective or developing. Kids have off days. Kids don't test well. That doesn't mean the teacher is ineffective.

I really look forward to reading tomorrow's paper and seeing how people react to this. As hard and sad as it is to be an educator in an ever changing field (we all go in knowing that policies can change and will change), I do NOT regret it one bit. I LOVE my job. I LOVE working with students. I could go on more about this but I'll just leave you with this:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

{Sunday Social - I Am Thankful!}

Happy Sunday everyone! I am super excited for the short week I have at school (just Monday & Tuesday!) and than a break!

This week's Sunday Social with Ashley & Neely is about all the things you are thankful for. After all, this Thursday is the day we give thanks, although we should be doing that all year round!

I'm thankful for a loving & supportive family. I'm the baby of 5 kids and the only girl, so I have always had my brothers watching out for me. We may get on each others nerves from time to time (in what family does that NOT happen?!) but I know they are always there for me.

I'm thankful for my friends. I always had a small circle of friends growing up and to me, I always thought it was better to have a small circle of friends you REALLY got along with then the friends you were merely acquaintances. They all "get" me and have my back. I wouldn't trade any of them for the world!

I'm thankful that I have been blessed to work with a wonderful department at the school where I work. I work with 5 different teachers on a daily basis and I love it because it helps me see different teaching styles. I have a great chairperson and I feel like they are my second family, especially after everything they did for me on my birthday. I know I will miss them when I eventually get my own fulltime teaching job!

I'm thankful for three little munchkins who call me Aunt Kristin. The best days ever were when each of them were born (12-6-04, 9-11-06, 4-4-09). They bring such joy to my life.

Steven Louis, Emma Grace, Sara Elizabeth

I'm thankful for my education. Despite being in debt, I would not change it for anything. After all, going to SUNY New Paltz, I met some of my best friends there! It helped shape me into the language teacher I am today.

I'm thankful for coffee, because without it, I would certainly NOT be functioning during the day!

I'm thankful for my little sweet munchkin dog, Lily. While she may have her psycho moments at times, she is fun to have. She will never fill the void in my heart from Shadow, my last dog, but she puts a smile on my face. After all, she lets me put a Christmas hat on her!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

{Sunday Social}

I am back from a lovely adventure to my college town for my birthday (that is tomorrow!) so I will be sharing the fun adventures my two friends and I had later in the week. Time to go rest up for two days of parent-teacher conferences.

Link up with Ashley & Neely here!

1. Name four jobs you have had in your life:
camp counselor, cashier at Rite-Aid, host/takeout/server @ CPK and teaching.

2. Name four movies you would watch over and over:
The Blind Side

We're The Millers (can't wait to buy it this week!)
The Notebook!

3. Name 4 Places you have lived:
my hometown, New Paltz, Seville, Spain and that's it. I have only lived in three places!

4. Name 4 of your favorite foods:
Chicken (I eat this a few times a week), Pizza, Caesar Salad, and cantaloupe
5. Name 4 things you always carry with you:
my iPhone, my purse, my keys and hand sanitizer
6. Name 4 places you have been on vacation:
Disney World, a cruise to the Bahamas, Spain and England!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Puppy Training

My puppy Lily is now 6 months old. To say she has given me a run for my money is an UNDERSTATEMENT. That puppy is quite a handful!! Sometimes I wish I could go back to the first few weeks when she was sweet and innocent. Now, she is somewhat of a crazy maniac.

The place where I am taking her for puppy kindergarten (as they call it) is a place my friend Steph recommended. She used to groom my other dog before she moved to VA with her now husband. They do behavior classes and agility there. Oddly enough, it is called "Doggie U". There are only four puppies in it (there should be 5 but Harry the Corgi didn't come to the last class). The instructor, Kathy, is teaching us how to have the dog sit, down, stay (sit-stay, down-stay combos), leave it, come, walking on a leash, etc.

Lily seems to be grasping the concept of it. She'll be good in class and for awhile at home. Then, usually when I am at work she acts like a brat (according to my mother). She will bite at your feet when you're just wearing socks or shoes. The bitter apple spray to deter her away is not working. I try to distract her with a toy but I swear Lily has ADHD in dog form.

Last weekend my mom bought bone marrow bones when we were grocery shopping because everyone has been saying to give Lily a bone to help with the chewing (she also likes to bite my hands. Or she will bite the bottom of your pants). She had it in the backyard and my brother Brian thought she was eating acorns again (she has done it in the past). Lily turned around, jumped up on him and bit him. She didn't break his skin but ever since then, my mom has been on edge with the dog. I asked the trainer about this and she said since that would be considered a high value treat, you should only give it to her in the crate and when she is done, throw it out. To be able to get it to throw it out, you gotta distract them with something else. I told my mom this after class and she goes okay. Tonight (or Sunday night), she gave Lily a bone to chew on while I was at work (I have no idea what kind it was). I took her out before I was going to bed, and put her in the crate. Apparently after I went upstairs, she was barking so they let her out and my mom says that she attacked her & my brother Brian. I am just frustrated because I tell her WHAT the instructor TOLD me to do and she DID NOT DO IT.

What am I suppose to do with this behavior? I almost wish I had of started puppy classes EARLIER (like August) but who knows if this would have made a difference. All the dogs in Lily's class are around the same age as her. I am frustrated because Lily usually listens to me but when I am at school, she is in her crate (because no one is home during the day) and when I am at work, she is in either her crate or she is out (but confined to the family room, kitchen and the backyard. I take her for a long walk each day when I come home and I play ball or frisbee with her in the backyard to tire her out. This dog has toys up the wazoo.

Truth be told, I am afraid my mom is going to make me get rid of her. Honestly, I will cry if she does. I don't think it will happen because I am busting my butt to get her to stop all her bad behaviors. I think the issue with the bone is she is being food possessive/food aggressive. I am trying to hand feed her the kibble (to teach her not to bite the hand that feeds her). But I am slowly losing patience.

I am open to any suggestions you guys have. It is an issue that needs to be resolved now. I just may have to have a one-on-one consult at my house with the trainer for my mom to be calmer and understand how the dog needs to be trained.

And because what post isn't a post without a picture of Lily:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

{Sunday Social}

Happy Sunday everyone!! How is it November already? October happened in the blink of an eye, it seems. It changed to being super cold (which I am not a fan of)...can it be summer again?

1. What is currently on your wishlist?
My birthday is coming up soon (two weeks from tomorrow!) so I have got a lot of things on my mind. I have been on the search for a pair of brown boots (riding boots I think they are called). I can't do shoes with big heels so hopefully I can find something when I go to the outlets soon. I also want to get a new Vera bag for school. Disney came out with one (they partnered with Vera Bradley recently) and it's adorable!! I have been eyeing it for two weeks so I might have to order this:

2. Share a new iPhone, droid, iPad app that you recently discovered that we all need.
DuoLingo! I have a passion for learning languages and always wanted to learn Italian. This is a free app I downloaded that you can learn any language!

3. What is a new fall TV show that you have added to your DVR?
Hmm....that would be Rebel Wilson's new show!

4. Share your social media links so that we can follow you (Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc). Tell us which is your favorite and why:

5. What is a tv show, movie, or song that you could watch or listen to over and over and never get tired of it?
Oh this is such a tough one!!!

TV Shows would have to be: FRIENDS & Say Yes to the Dress

Movie: Now & Then or anything with Jennifer Aniston

Link up with Ashley & Neely today!