Saturday, March 29, 2014


For months, I have watched my Facebook news feed roll and roll with the haters of Common Core. And for months, I have just scrolled on and held my tongue. Today, I have had enough. I decided that today was the day I was going to share my knowledge of the CCRS (what we in Alabama call our Common Core: College and Career Ready Standards) and how beneficial it is to our children. 
Let's start at the very beginning. I feel like I am going to be all over the place with this because I have seen so many questions that need to be answered. 

How do you know anything about the Common Core? I have been teaching elementary school for 10 years, and for the last 2 years I have been an instructional coach. I have spent numerous hours in training for the roll-out of CCRS and have been in classrooms teaching the standards with teachers and children. And the best part? I am observing children actually understanding things they never understood before. 

Who created the Common Core? The best answer I hear is President Obama. And I like to chuckle at that. Yes, he has time to sit down and make a list of standards a kindergartner needs to master by the end of the year. Please people, I mean, he is having a hard enough time rolling out that website for health insurance. I can assure you he did not make the standards used for grades K-12. A group of state leaders got together and pretty much said they wanted all kids in the US to be on the same page with learning. They took the best standards (standards your child was already learning) from different states and combined them together. They got teachers together and got their input. They also got parents together and asked them for their guidance. This is wonderful. Why? Because if I choose to pick up and move to Montana tomorrow with my family, my child does not lose an ounce of learning. She is on target for any state we enter. There can be no state "better" than another. And believe me... as someone who is in the trenches, I have seen it. Years ago, I had a student from New York City who blew my children out of the water with reading. It made me want to take a field trip to PS 111 and camp out in her old classroom. And I have also seen the problems with children coming from another state and not even close to being prepared for my classroom. We are all on the same page now. I am not sure why this gets such uproar. Why would we not want our children to learn what other children are learning? It does not "dumb us down" these standards are deep. They are rigorous. They promote higher learning. I am not seeing the problem with this! 

What about those standards?  We have always taught using standards. Just like any job, we must be accountable for what we do each day. Teachers just don't wake up in the morning, roll out of bed and say "Whoop! Today I want to teach time and money! Yes! Sounds great!" Yeah, not how it works. We spend hours planning our day around a set of standards. And for as long as I have been teaching, that's how we have done it. The standards changed a little with Common Core. Some standards got moved to other grades because it was cognitively better for the children. Some standards were thrown out or squished into 1 sentence. Any way you look at it, they are the standards we have always used to teach children. 

Yes, but I know some of those standards teach anti-American ways or about other religions! Not one standard in elementary school has us teach anti-American things. Want proof? Please go do your own research. You can visit the CCRS standards page on our Alabama State website and read through them yourself. Do we teach about other religions? I can't find anything definitive in the new elementary Social Studies or Language Arts standards. But my question back to you is this: why is learning about other religions a problem? I am Catholic. I went to Methodist school. I learned a lot about the Methodist religion. And I am still Catholic. And by learning about other religions, I am a better Catholic. I think by learning about other's beliefs it would make me appreciate my religion. I had a mother at home who instilled in me our religious beliefs so I would continue to be a strong Catholic. So many times as an adult I have had to google questions I have about Mormons or Muslims. Why? Because no one taught me what those religions think. I have to do my own research so I can be an informed adult. 

Are there teachers who don't like the Common Core? I am pretty sure there are those teachers who don't like the CCRS. Does everyone in your job love every single thing your boss asks them to do? Just curious. I have spoken to some high school teachers who don't. And I get their reasoning. I really hope they come around. High school teachers are subject specific. Common Core makes them more universal. Math teachers have reading standards built in! (Oh! Math requires you to read! For the love!) And they received more standards than before. But we are trying to work together. We have a team here in Dothan City and we try to work together from elementary to high. We want to make sure that when we have a child leave our 5th grade they are prepared for what middle school needs, and so forth. 
I can also guess that there are teachers out there who just aren't doing the CCRS correctly. Don't you have those people in your job too? Stuck in their ways and refuse to attempt to change? And what do you do? Take a picture of their work and put it on a website and claim it is what it is not? That's what's happening to my job. Prime example in this news article. This dad just happened to get pissy about a math problem that could be solved the "way" he learned to do it, and by all means, his way is easiest. Do I think the teacher should have taken off points for the test? No. He got the correct answer. But I am not that child's teacher and I didn't see the whole test and what was asked of the student. 

This was a good segway into the math strategies portion of this post. 

I have always been a "math hater." There is an article circulating right now that uses that term and I like it. I was always a "literacy lover" and still am. But math never came easy for me. Fractions, elapsed time, division; all these things made my skin crawl, and as soon as someone put a word problem in front of me, I had a mini panic attack and immediately knew I would get the answer wrong. 
                         Until I started learning the Common Core.
Now, I am a mathematician. I have never been able to call myself that before. I understand math. I get the "why" behind a certain skills. How did I come to this amazing knowledge? By learning how CCRS teaches math. Listen to this... we all don't learn the same way. How many parents have sat around the dinner table with other parents and discussed how your child's teacher only taught one way? How your child is a visual learner or an auditory learner? 
CCRS teaches strategies. You can sit around all day and tell me that when I subtract I need to "borrow" a number, and "carry" another, but that makes absolutely no sense to me. Why are we carrying? Who and what are we borrowing from? CCRS strategies show children what numbers are and why you can't take a big number from a smaller number. It is teaching your child to think. Oh the horror! Pull them out of school! 
Let me give you an example. This year, I spent time in a first grade classroom. I taught a strategy called "mental math" first thing every morning. I would pose a problem, give the children some "think time" and then ask them to share out their strategy and answer. They couldn't share without their strategy. I wanted to watch them talk it out. No paper, no pencil, just me and their friends. We all listened and respected each other. I wrote down what they said. We had been doing this for about a month and I was seeing dramatic test result increases and tons of motivation and class discourse. I posed the problem 8+7 to them and asked them to think of a strategy (we had previously been learning strategies for addition, so they had a few in their brain). Each child let me know when they were ready and I would write down exactly what they said. And then came little cutie who blew me away: "Mrs. B, this is what I did: I made that 8 a 10. I did that by taking 2  from the 7 and giving it to 8. That means that the 7 is now a 5. So now, I have 10 plus 5 and that equals 15." HOLY MOLY. Did I expect that? No! And I jumped up and down and hollered and then explained it again in teacher way for everyone else. Could she have counted on her fingers? Yes. Could she have memorized 8+7? Yes. Is there a problem with that? No. But do I know that  she understands number concepts? YES! So going back to that article with the engineer dad and his "you could have solved this is 5 seconds by doing it this way" do you see what I am getting at? Math has to make sense for children and if we teach them multiple strategies for a problem it will help them do just that. Your child might like to borrow and carry. Then great! If they understand "why" they need to borrow and carry, then let them use that strategy. If they need to make a number line or use a ten frame, then let them do it that way. Eventually a child will wean themselves off a strategy with multiple steps and find ways to make it easier. But at least they are thinking and understanding. 
I use math many times as an example when helping others understand CCRS. This is an area most of us struggle in. But reading standards are just as important. We are teaching children to "close read" where they take passages of text and really dig deep. We teach them about vocabulary and words that are used in every day language and words that we would use for certain jobs. We teach strategies for reading and writing, and people, they are working. One of the components I love is the increase of non-fiction text. 

My child is struggling for the first time! I get it. These standards make it harder right now. Hold tight, believe in your child, support your child's teacher, and give it a minute. We are taking children who could just "look in the back of the book" for the answers, and making them thinkers. Being a thinker isn't easy. They have expected us to give them the answer at the end so often they only want to please us as teachers and parents. Let them think and most of all, let them try. 

I can't do my child's homework with them. Aaah yes...this one I hear a lot. Instead of trying to do your child's homework with them, have your child teach you. Let your child show you some of the strategies they are learning. Do you only read TO your child? Or do you let your child read to YOU? It's the same with math. Let them show you. Don't be so quick to show them our old way of doing math. If they still can't get it, write their teacher a note. Ask for some tips. Ask for the strategies they are learning in class. But don't give up. This is not going to happen over night! It has taken me a year to learn all the ways one can work a problem. Help your child find the one that works for them and show you and explain it to you. You'll be surprised at what your child can teach you! 

I know I haven't hit every problem people have with the Common Core, but I hope I started some positive conversation. Please feel free to comment with any other questions and I will make sure to answer you. 
Please, as in all things, become informed about what our children are learning. Do your own research on the standards. (Meaning, don't read the biased Fox news articles, actually look at our standards pages) Don't bash something you are not working in daily, or because Suzy's mom hates it. Ask someone who does it daily. 
I am frustrated too. I don't like someone bashing something I love to do and something I am watching work for our kids. I went to college for a reason and continue to educate myself with professional development and my own research so I can be the best teacher and instructional coach I can be. 
At the end of the day, it is all about our children. I will advocate for them until I no longer have a voice. 
We should all strive to push our children and advocate for their learning. I will leave you with a quote from one of my favorite people, Dr. Bice, our State Superintendent: 

"Incorporating the Common Core Standards into our already highly regarded content standards brings a new level of rigor and perceptual understanding to teaching and learning.” 
Dr. Tommy Bice, Alabama Superintendent of Education

Saturday, December 7, 2013


So... Instead of trying to give the many, many reasons why I haven't blogged in 9 months, why I have unpublished posts in my post box, I will tell you the best reason why I have been absent----

Sweet little Levi will make his appearance in April! 
We were shocked and surprised to find out we were having a boy. I felt for sure it was a girl again.
Lucy has named him "George" after my daddy, and that is many times what we call him. She is very excited to be a big sister to a boy baby! 

This has been a trying pregnancy. Lots of morning sickness in the first trimester. I am finally feeling better. Still very tired, but overall, doing well. 
If you can please excuse the mess of clothes behind me in the mirror, this is me today. I sang at a wedding and it took me a few outfits to find one that fit! 
We are half-way there... only 19 more weeks till we meet our sweet one. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013


the page is blank. 5 months is a long time. i let my little blog fall to the wayside of life. i could tell you i didn't really miss blogging until a day last week when i went back and looked. looked at all the memories on here. and i was sad. sad i haven't captured a spunky 3 year old and all her glory. so here i am staring at a blank blog screen (now covered with these word of backtracking) and i don't know where to start. well..starting where i left off might be a good place.

I started my new job. It was and is not what I thought it was going to be. I was going to change the world! Make teachers fall in love with my amazing and funny personality and my ever expanding wealth of knowledge. That did not happen. not for all, just for some. and I took it really hard. really hard. Doctor visits full of stomach ulcers, late night prayers, and daytime trips to the bathroom to cry. That was how my new job began. slowly, it has changed. I am doing better and the amount of children who I have fallen in love with is larger than I could have imagined. That's the best part. working with 350 students who all know your name and want hugs and ask when it is their room's turn for Mrs. Burns to visit. I like that part.

In all of that drama, I was still a momma and wife. Lucy has changed so much and is growing so much before my eyes. She will be 4 in July and I sometimes can't believe I have a little girl on my hands. She is now sleeping in a very large full sized bed. She doesn't need my help anymore to do little things like put on her shoes, brush her teeth, go to the bathroom. She's independent and working hard. She is taking gymnastics on Monday nights and loves it. She tells funny stories, and remembers every single thing you say to her. She is mastering the skills on her report card with flying colors. I am impressed with her knowledge and quick thinking skills!

So much more I want to say about her. Gonna have to make a list of all the funny things she has said. I want to be blogging more and remembering these special and precious times I have with her!


Friday, August 24, 2012

Busy days.

Hello! It has been a very long few weeks in our household. First of all, summer came to a screeching halt with the start of school. We spent 2 weeks in our classrooms without children doing cleaning and professional development. It was long, but fun. Then in the midst of all that, I interviewed for a job as a reading coach at another school. It was a long-shot, but it is something that I have always wanted to do. I love teaching teachers how to be better teachers. Well, I got the job! That meant I had to prepare to leave the school I had come to call my family and home to move across town to another school. I was emotional and a pure basket case. Then I realize that until they hired someone for my current job, I could not leave my position. So back to my classroom I head, getting things ready for a wonderful group of 2nd graders. I have been very distant and stressed, trying to get my head around being a teacher for the next 2 weeks and thinking of the new job. I am still not "officially" at my new job, but will start next week sometime. I am excited, nervous.... and well, overwhelmed. I love teaching and I am dang good at it. Leaving the classroom scares me and excites me all at the same time.
All of the emotions come baring down on me and then my little baby girl starts PreK at the same time. Talk about emotional! But, she loves her "new school" and she enjoys her teacher and learning and all the wonderful things that come with school. I am so blessed we have found a home for her during the day. I love hearing her talk about her friends and teacher. It just warms my heart. I am so happy with her new school.

So, here are some pictures of our life in the last 2 weeks! : )

Lucy and her bestie Foster at dinner. She was offering him a cherry. He didn't want it obviously! We love that little golfer! 
Girl baby in her big girl uniform on her 3rd day of school. She was upset she had a hangnail. But dang, she looks so cute!
Her happy smile at Open House. This makes me so proud. And those dimples!
First day of school! And a fun pose. Love this munchkin!
Celebrating TaTa's birthday. Yes, I dressed her in Alabama gear just for him!
Her first dentist appointment. She loved this. We practiced for weeks and talked hundreds of times about the importance of teeth and why "sugarbugs" are so bad for us!
I am so blessed to have had a wonderful summer. I enjoyed every minute of it. Now I am in panic mode as I settle into my new job and new environment. I am so happy the Lord has given me such a peace about Lucy's education for now. We will cross another bridge when she is ready for Kindergarten. As for now, she can rock it at private school!
She is growing up before my eyes. Some of her favorite words right now are "comfortable and serious." She cracks me up with the things she says.
The other night I told her to thank Jesus for living in her heart. She said "Jesus doesn't live in my heart, He lives on the wall!" (Meaning her crucifix on the wall!)
Then we had to discuss how Jesus does live in our hearts because He loves us so much!
The next day, she asked me if Jesus lived in my heart under my black shirt! How funny the mind of a child!
I'll try to update more as things settle down. Praying for peace and an easy transition for my new career choice. Praying also for my new staff that they will be open to me. And really, praying for my old staff as they manage life without me! Who's going to DJ all the pep rallies, teach Zumba at field day, run all the technology in the school, keep up with the safety plan, and make the faculty meetings more fun?? :) I know they will do just fine without me!
Thank you Lord for blessings in abundance!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pictures in our house linky!

Today I am linking up with Kelly over at her blog for a SUYL topic of how you display your photos in your house. I love pictures. I am almost a bit obsessed with how many pictures we have up of ourselves (vain? I don't know!) I just know looking back at pictures of our lives brings back such good memories! Sometimes I get so sad when I think of all the times when I was in high school or college that I don't have pictures to remember them by! No facebook back then...just those old disposable cameras! ha! Now it is so easy to take a picture with your IPhone and it will travel all over the Internet (scary!) or to any of your friends in an instant. What will my child have when she's in college? So exciting!
Anyway, I digress! Here is a little peek into how I display some of our favorite pictures!

This is the wall when you walk into our house. I have an amazing photographer friend who took all these pictures for us. I love the look of the different colored frames. I was given our last name picture as a gift and I love the way it looks with these frames!

Most of our pictures are housed on shelves. Our entertainment center is full of pictures. Some are Lucy as a little baby and you can see the picture under the "y"'s a picture of Scott and I on one of our first dates! I love how young and tan (and skinny!) we both look. Brings back such butterfly-in-your-stomach memories! (We usually don't have a birthday banner up...I had just made that for her birthday and have not taken it down yet! Same for the cards! )

Finally, this is an area of my living room I love. The picture of Lucy between us, looking up at us...melts my heart. I love how different it is in the fact you cannot see our faces. I have got some strange remarks on this picture, but it just captures her love for us. It really is all about her!
I also love the picture of she and I laughing. It shows how we are in our daily life! I just completed the picture with the bird and I am madly in love with it. I like to think I'm a painter! Ha!
It says: "Your love, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies."
One of my favorite verses and favorite Third Day songs!

Well, that's about it! I hope you enjoyed peeking into my house and seeing how I show off our pictures!
Thanks for stopping by!
I've got to get back to the Olympics now! Super pumped after watching the opening ceremonies. How about you??

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The last bit of summer...

Summer break is coming to a close for me. I'm sad, but ready to jump into my new position in second grade. We have been busy. Besides have a birthday for Lucy, we did some traveling and now I'm back up at school every day getting ready for the new year.
Lucy had her 3 year old checkup today. Here's what I learned:

1. Lucy is in the 70th percentile for weight (at 33 pounds.)
2. She is in the 25th percentile for height. (I'm hoping this does not mean she will be short and squatty!...and really, I have never had to spell the word "squatty." Did I spell it right? ha!)
3. Night terrors happen about 2 hours after sleep. Nightmares happen from about 2 am on. So, this means we are having night terrors. Screaming and crying for a few minutes. Then telling me monkeys or bugs are in her room. And for the record, neither of those things are really there!
4. She's smart, but I already knew that!


Here are some pictures from our month:

Lucy's birthday banner. (thinking I might need to dust that star way up there now!)

Learning to write. Here is her number 5 and 6. She did great!

New pajamas. Rockstar hair and a rockstar stance. a.mess!

The Toy Story entry table. I changed it more before the party but I never even took pictures at the party!

New pose and new sparkle shirt from godmomma Beebs.

Baseball game with mom and dad!

Sitting in the stands...

Swimming at Gigi's house!

Lots and lots of birthday ice cream! I mean, a girls got to get her calcium from somewhere, right?

Ready to start a new year, and ready for Lucy to start preschool! Can't wait. Soak up the rest of summer, friends!


i have just totally messed up all my posts. So this is a test!