Baby Steps


This year, I have an interesting breakdown in my class. My kids are either Tier 1 (on level) or Tier 3 (below grade level). I don’t have any in between. A handful of my Tier 3 kids cannot read at all and have tested at kindergarten level (keep in mind that I am a third grade teacher).

I have one boy in particular who’s been to seven different schools, was retained in kindergarten, and nearly enough absences to add up to a whole school year. This boy cannot read and I’ll be working with him as much as I can.

The other day when I was working with him, I put him on the Kindle and he did a short lesson on Hooked On Phonics. At the end of the lesson, he was so excited to read to me! He read simple short a words like Jan ran can cat bat sat etc. I could hear in his voice and see in his face how proud of himself he was. He said that he loved that story and it’s the best. As a teacher, there’s no greater feeling than watching those struggling students finally making a break through. I definitely teared up…

I cannot wait to see what else he accomplishes this year. I’ll be there for him every step of the way.

education · elementary education · school · teacher

Nine, Ten; A September 11 Story

As the summer goes on and nears its end for us teachers, I’ve been thinking about books to read to my students. I wanted to try to do at least one chapter book per month or perhaps two depending upon the length and time that we have.

I read a book, recently, that I’m thinking about reading to them. It’s called Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story. Now this book mainly talks about the lives of some children who were all affected in one way or the other by the attacks, but it talks mostly about the days leading up to the attacks. As an adult reading their individual stories, and the days and minutes got closer to the actual  event, I could feel my heart beating faster and the tension building because I knew what was coming.

I wanted to find a book for my students so that they could learn more of what it was like when these attacks happened. Everyone remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when it happened, but we, as teachers, now live in a time where most of our students weren’t even alive when it happened. Most of my kids this past year were born in 2008 or 2009.

I think that this cotghereuld be a wonderful book to read in the days before September 11th, and then I’ll find another to read after because it’s mostly days that are all leading up to the attacks. Then it does a short chapter about one year after.nineten

This book could be great for teaching perspective and point of view as it follows four very different young adolescences days before the attack. One is a young Muslim girl in Ohio who struggles with fitting in, another is a young black boy who lives in Brooklyn whose absentee father angers him to no end, still another is a young white boy in Shanksville, Pennsyvania who recently lost his father and is struggling to come to terms with that, and the last is a young Jewish girl who just recently moved to California because of her mom’s job and her mom is on a last minute business trip to New York. As you read through each of their stories, there are moments in the timeline that definitely make your heart jump a bit because you know what will happen.

It is emotional and there will be tears, well, for you at least. The kids might not have that type of connection with the story because they weren’t born yet, but who knows.

Either way, I do recommend this story as perhaps an introduction to learning about September 11th.

education · elementary education · school · teacher · teaching

FSA Prep – 3rd Grade

I know we don’t even want to think about it, but the beginning of the school year is right around the corner. As a teacher, I start August 3rd and my kids return August 10th. Like it or not, it’s time to prepare for the inevitable…

This past school year, 3rd graders took the FSA at the end of March and the beginning of April. We started practicing in January when we got back from winter break, but judging from scores and knowing the kids that are in our school, I believe we need to start practicing much earlier. I won’t lie and everyone knows that I am not a fan of this test nor any other standardized test, but they have to take it anyway.

I used these books last year to help the kids prep for the test. The format was good and easy to go through. I would usually give a Reading passage as morning work, and then during ELA we’d work on reading through the questions, going over testing strategies, etc. The same goes for during our math block. We would do fact review first and, of course, review some other concepts, then jump into answering these practice questions. We’d break apart how and what is being asked (because we all know testing language does not make sense) and then we’d try to solve the questions. While solving the question we would either review old concepts or delve straight into new topics. I would sometimes slip a few of these pages into their homework packets as well.

Like I said, I’m not a fan of testing but it has to be done here. My fellow Florida teachers know as well that 3rd grade is a critical year as it’s the first year that they take these tests and if they do not pass them, they are typically held back unless they fall into certain categories. Being that we are a Title 1 school and we’re not scoring well, it’s time we pick up the pace even more. We’ll need to try new things for sure, and one of those things will to be start practicing from the beginning of the year.

I would check the links below and definitely add them to your library. They wonderful resources to have when you start preparing for testing season. They also have them for other grades as well.
FLORIDA TEST PREP English Language Arts Reading Workbook Grade 3: Preparation for the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA)

FLORIDA TEST PREP FSA Practice Test Book English Language Arts Grade 3: Covers Reading, Language, and Listening

FLORIDA TEST PREP FSA Practice Test Book Mathematics Grade 3: Includes Two Full-Length Practice Tests

Comment if you have any questions! I’d love to hear back from some other FL teachers!

education · elementary education · school · teacher · teaching


Hello all!

It’s been way too long since my last post for sure. The school year was beyond busy, crazy, emotional, and everything else you could imagine. I’ve been trying to relax this summer as much as I can since I know come August 3rd, I won’t see the light of day until the following June.

Teacher summers are never long enough! Now isn’t that the understatement of the year?

Now, like most teachers, I am not a fan of fidget spinners. They were a huge distraction this year and there were no observable benefits that I saw with the kids who did have them. They mostly just wanted to show them off.

I did, however, find an item that really kept my kids busy this year (or rather a set of items), was this IQ Challenge Set. I swear, even my most fidgety kids could sit for hours trying to get these puzzles together. Especially the cube. It kept their hands busy, and a few were even able to “play” with it during class. It worked for all ages as well. Normally, I teach 3rd grade, but I did tutoring after school and would have 2nd graders in my room. Both grades enjoyed them as well as the other students and siblings that would pop in the room. I even had some middle school siblings who would come in specifically just to try and figure these puzzles out.
I definitely need to order another set of these. This time though, I need to put each one in it’s own baggie labeled with what it is and perhaps how many pieces there should be to it.
I had a few students who figured out the sphere and the metal puzzle as well. Some got close to figuring out the cube, but, alas, they could not. Perhaps this year I will have a student who will be able to figure it out. Check them out for yourself in the link below!

I’ll keep you posted!

IQ Challenge

IQ Set

Don’t forget to check out other back to school needs as well my fellow teacher friends!
 Shop Amazon – Introducing Education Supplies for Teachers

education · elementary education · school · teacher · teaching · Uncategorized

My First PledgeCents

I’ve created my first PledgeCents cause. PledgeCents is similar to gofundme and donorschoose. It’s a way to raise money for my classroom so that I can buy them the necessary materials that we need. This particular one is so that I can afford science equipment so that I can engage my students in the sciences.

Help out my children and donate whatever you can as well as share the link.


Any amount helps because it all adds up!

Thank you!





From the mouths of babes…

This conversation started today when I was talking about how we should respect the flag / our soldiers (right before we were to recite the pledge of allegiance). I was just trying to get the kids to understand why we stand still during the pledge and how we should act etc.:

Me – “…now class we should respect our soldiers no matter our beliefs because they are only trying to protect our rights and…”

“But they be sinnin’… They be sinners.” – JW

“Excuse me?” – Me

“They killin’ people. They usin’ guns. Why they gotta use guns? That ain’t right. They should use their mouths.” – JW

I don’t know how to respond at this point, but I don’t have to as the others in the class continue….

“Yeah why do they use guns? They shouldn’t be violent. They don’t need to kill people! Just breathe people!” -AD

“How do wars start?” – NF

“Yeah yeah why don’t they jus’ talk things out?” -JS 

“Why do wars start? But how? But why?” – NF

At this point the class is breaking out into questions and exclamations about war and violence, and I honestly didn’t know how to respond to a class full of 8 year olds who wanted to know why people still killed each other in this day and age… That’s a conversation you’d expect in a college philosophy class, not a third grade classroom. How do you explain to eight year olds why and how wars start and why people are still killing one another when you still have the same questions yourself?

These kids, these kids who are just statistics to the government because of their races and their families’ incomes and education levels, these kids who are below the poverty line, these kids who are failing academically, these kids are smarter than they will ever know and they have more smarts and heart than they’ll ever be given credit for….please don’t let them ever stop questioning the system. 



So, here I am sitting at my dining room table writing this blog. Tomorrow starts the second week (first full week) at my new school back in America. This past week was beyond exhausting for numerous reasons.

  • No rest the weekend before as I and many other teachers came in on the weekend to decorate our classrooms as we had no other time to do so because of nonstop meetings and training for the previous two weeks.
  • A trip to Orlando for a summit meeting on Monday which meant that we had to be at the school at 6 am which meant a very early waking time of 4:45 am for me.
  • Open House the following day. Of course, the first grades scheduled to have parents were kindergarten and third grade. Since third grade is my grade, I again was there bright and early. After, I continued to decorate my classroom.
  • The next day was the first day of school. I woke up again at the crack of down and was at school by 6:15-6:20 am to put the finishing touches in the classroom. The other 3rd grade teachers and I waited until about 830 to close our doors as the students slowly kept trickling in (normally everyone should be accounted for by 8 and attendance should be in by 8:30. Being that it was the first day of school, this is not how it happened. There were about twenty-seven students on my roster, and about twenty-one of them showed up. This week more may show or some may go. They never know – this is mostly because the school that I am teaching at has a very high population of children coming from families falling below the poverty line.
    • That day in itself was very tiring. Getting to know the children and also getting them to behave in a somewhat appropriate manner took a lot of my energy. To be fair, most of them were fairly decent.
    • Easily the most tiring part of the day was dismissal. Getting the children home or simply out of the building started at 3. It didn’t end until nearly 5:30. Then we had a meeting and then some extra talking amongst one another. I didn’t get home til around 7:30 that night and I am supposed to be home around 4 on a normal night.
  • The following day was pretty much the same. I was (and am) still getting to know the children. I’m still trying to teach them expectations in the classroom and assess where they are academically (many are far below where they should be).
    • Dismissal this day also was pretty much the same. Disorganized and it took forever.
  • Friday (TGIF) came and the kids felt it. They’re getting to the point where they already don’T want to be in school (still in summer mode) and some feel comfortable enough to challenge my authority indirectly. So, I put my foot down, because these kids will eat you alive if they sense any hesitation.
    • This day also came with me learning about some of the children’s back stories. My god just stick a knife through my heart. The tragedies and lives that these children have witnessed or experienced is enough to make anyone want to curl themselves up in a ball and cry endlessly. How do I look at these babies knowing what they have been through? My heart breaks every day for them.
    • Friday’s dismissal was interesting. We started at 2 with a “mock dismissal” and the children all got into place by 2:15. We thought we would head back to our classrooms then, but nope. The poor kids (and teachers) had to wait in the cafeteria (or wherever they were supposed to be) until the actual dismissal at 3:15. What is more is that they had to wait silently and could not do anything. Now can you imagine 100s of students from K-4 (higher grades in different areas) waiting silently for that long? Neither can I. Poor babies. They were so antsy. Some kids, especially the kindergarteners, fell asleep, others continuously asked to go to the bathroom, all of them fidgeted impatiently in their seats, and many kept trying to speak to those near them. Many of the teachers were just as fed up as the children, but could only do their best to bite their tongues and grumble under their breath.
      • The problems with dismissal seem to be because of a new system that is in place, lack of understanding between the parents and the school, impatience from the parents, over-enrollment (more kids = more time that is needed to get them out of the school safely). Hopefully thing run a bit more smoothly this upcoming week.
  • I will be doing my best this week to continue teaching expectations this week as well as to learn more about each individual child – their needs, where they fall academically, etc.

Wish me luck! Coffee is my blood at this point. Sleep does not exist. Only preparations for the classroom and lesson planning exist. Preparing children for impossible assessments as well. Ahhhh!