Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cyber Sales!!!

It's that time of year again... Shopping season!

I am having sales in both of my stores at Teacher's Notebook and Teacher's Pay Teachers!

10% off ALL of my items in my Teacher's Notebook store, plus an additional 10% store wide with the code TG2014. The sale is in effect for today, Sunday, November 30 and runs through December 3rd! Go and shop, shop, shop!

Also, tomorrow items in my Teacher's Pay Teachers store will be on sale for Cyber Monday. Again, 10% off ALL items and Teacher's Pay Teachers will add an additional 10% off for even more savings!  The sale will run through December 2.  So, empty that wish list and give your students some really creative, practical, and easy to use products!

Don't forget, gift certificates make a fabulous gift! So pick them up and put a smile on a friend's face! :)

Happy Shopping!

Blessings always,
The Zookeeper

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Life's Work...Renewed

Renewal. Ahh... that sweet feeling!

You know the one.  Where your soul says, "FINALLY! I just need a drop or two of hope to continue forth..."

In today's climate of standardized testing and the rush to pass state and local tests, it is easy to get bogged down, to have our creativity and, yes, our SOULS stifled.  To get, well...depressed. :(

Our school is currently in the category of 'failing.' We are in a mad dash to catch our tails and 'fix' the problem.

Problem???? Say, WHAT?????

I look around our school each day at the bright, smiling, happy faces.

I wander down the primary hallway and see displays of artwork and classwork that impresses me.

I look at the sophistication that comes with older student's work. The delight of 'oh, that's one of mine' feeling.  I see greatness.

But, in today's educational climate, WHO AM I???

I might as well be someone plucked off the street. Shoved into a classroom and handed textbooks, worksheets, and computer programs and told, "TEACH!" Any idiot (I don't like to use words like this, but I feel it is necessary here.) can do it, right????


When I went to college, yes- I have a degree, to learn how to teach, I studied child psychology, child behavior, child learning styles, child development, childhood illness, childhood disabilities, children's literature... Do you see the trend here?

I spent hours working, mentoring, and teaching children ever BEFORE they gave me a degree. Since then I've spent many hours in professional development learning tips and tricks that might help me grab that one student that seems out of reach.

It is my life's work. To foster, to spark, to IGNITE that love of learning that will drive a young one to doing what their soul is made to do.

It is my life's work.

Are there bad schools? Bad teachers? I'm sure there are SOME.

But the trend to drive student learning and teacher evaluations in a way that is detrimental to our children is nothing short of disastrous!

I, as a fully licensed teacher, know what to do. Just let me do it. Just let me TEACH!!

Last night while looking for ways to help my students with geometry, I stumbled upon Doris Young's teacher blog, Third Grade Thinkers. She had posted the following video.

It gave me hope.

Maybe you need some of that, too.

Thank you, Doris Young. I greatly needed that.

So, let's change the 'climate of education'.

Let's let children, be CHILDREN.

They are curious, energetic, intelligent, bits of gooeyness wrapped in love.

I want to see their eyes widen, their breath start to quicken, their spark start to explode. I want to travel down the road less taken with them, for there, they will find a path that is truly made just for them. It will become their life's work.

Just let me teach.
The Zookeeper

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Happy Fall Y'all!!!

I really should update more often!

Golly... time flies!

So, here we are already in our second six weeks of the school year. I had to take a break today. My son has the stomach bug...ewww and yuck! Poor fellow.


I wanted to let you all see my new product that I am excited to show off (finally)...

 Spin, Tally, and Graph the Fall Edition

Head on over to my TpT store and get your copy today! Only $3.00! :)

The Zookeeper

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sale Time!

I LOVE teachers!

So, today through Wednesday you can get 10% off all items in my store!


Head over and check out some great study material and more!

The Zookeeper


<insert funeral music here>

 It's that time of year again...

Testing...  BLAH...

I DO NOT... I repeat... I DO NOT agree with high stakes testing.

But until the system changes I will do what I can to review and hope that my students perform to the best of their ability. (Yes, even if it means they make a 240 out of 600.)

So, we review.

I give out my study guides this time of the year again so that students can go back over the material for the year. (Here in Virginia it's for grades k, 1, and 2- so NOT fair to them!)

My BEST Study Guide has to be my Ultimate Reading Study Guide.

There's so much information packed into 4 pages that you won't believe your eyes! 
I've also left it in word form so that you may edit and customize if needed. Now how's THAT?  

Oh, and it's just $3.00!!! 

Say, WHAT???

Head on over to my store and have a look. Study guides for various Science and Social Studies topics are available, too!

Blessings for a beautiful day! :)
The Zookeeper

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Me Want COOKIE...Mining! ;)

<In my best Cookie Monster voice>  COOKIES!!

I LOVE hands-on learning!  It often causes my wallet and/or bank account to drop considerably, but it is worth it when I see the kiddos enjoying an activity rather than just doing worksheets!

Here they are... (aren't they cute!)

I love that they were so into it that I could get pics without them really knowing!

In this activity students get a chocolate chip cookie. I try to get the ones that are a bit soft. They are easier to "mine."  (I found this experiment on many different sites and I took a little from each one to make my experiment.)

Students are instructed to mine out the chocolate chips without harming the "land" around the chips (as best as possible).  They weren't able to pick up the cookie in any way.  Most were able to do this.  It was a great activity to show how humans are altering our world for the resources that are in the ground.  Students realized that the ones that did break up the "land" had more chips than those that were conservative.

We then used the price of gold and coal to see what the chips would be worth if they were real.  Each child stuffed their chips into a straw. We then measured the amount in inches to see how many inches they had. We then multiplied that amount by the current price of gold. We then repeated the process with the price of coal.

I'm happy to report that they really did learn a lot about resources and protecting our environment with this lesson.  Hands-on activities RULE!

See you next time. Blessings!
The Zookeeper

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lobby Day in Richmond

What an experience visiting our capital and doing our best to "MAKE A DIFFERENCE" for kids and teachers across Virginia!

A small, yet mighty group!

Although I was nervous and unsure of the process, lobbying was an experience that I WILL do again!

Coming from rural southwestern Virginia, the "big city" can be rather intimidating!  I was blessed to travel with two colleagues that have represented our Education Association in years past.  They were familiar with the ins and outs of Richmond.

Even though Virginia sits in the middle of the United States map on the east coast, we are southern!  AND southern hospitality reigned!  We were treated phenomenally by all we came into contact with from secretaries to restaurant employees to shuttle drivers! What great people live in our capital!

The evening before lobby day we were given a briefing about the issues that are important to Virginia education. Of course, high on the list was the Standards of Learning and reducing the number of tests students must take.  Our VEA leaders explained what questions might be asked of us and we were given some ideas for responses.  (Sooooo helpful!)

We had appointments with three legislators that represent our districts.  At first, I felt out of my element, but as the day progressed I realized that the legislators truly needed to hear our stories of how children were being effected by the testing and policies made by our government.  Most were open-minded and understanding of our issues.

(Of course, politicians can say what you want to hear.  We will see what happens when voting takes place.  Make no mistake, we WILL be watching!!)

It is always good to branch out of your comfort zone. I would definitely lobby again. It was an eye-opening experience. If you get the opportunity to lobby for your association, DO IT!!! Only together can we make a true difference for our students and ourselves!!

The Zookeeper

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Road Trip

Monday four fellow teachers and I will be talking to our legislators in Richmond to stand up for education and reduce the number of tests and stress associated with our state testing- the Virginia Standards of Learning.  (Yes, our acronym is SOL and we do associate that with another acronym.  Haha...)

I am excited!!

For a while now I have been fired up about changes in public education.  Don't get me wrong. I believe we need standards and (a reasonable amount of) accountability for all teachers.  What I don't agree with is the way it is happening now!

I LOVE TEACHING.  For 16 years it has been my heart and soul.  Many of you understand this completely.

BUT, I haven't loved teaching the past two years.  Why not????  As all educators know, the ever increasing amount of paperwork, documentation, professional development, and testing have sucked the life out of us!!  I NEVER thought that I wouldn't love to come to work each day.  Now, I show up with a smile on my face and a positive attitude, but now my smile is called (by my teammates and I) our 'game face'.  We go through the motions. Do our best.  Love our students. But we are constantly reminding ourselves to put on our 'game face' so that no one suspects our real thoughts and feelings.  It used to made me soooooooo sad.

But after reflecting on it I have become just flat out MAD!!!

As a teacher...YOU SHOULD BE TOO!!!!!  It is a travesty what is happening right now in American education.

Many of you have different standards than we do here in Virginia, but you face the same pressures and frustrations.  I've heard arguments for and against Common Core Standards. As Virginians we do not use these, but they are similar to our Standards of Learning.  The arguments against Common Core that you have can be used in our state as well.

I often wonder what goes through the brains of those that are setting these goals and making the tests.  I set high expectations for my students.  I want them to become the best that they can.  I want them to love learning and to show perseverance in all that they do. I want them to analyze and interpret information. But it frustrates me to no end that sometimes my students aren't developmentally ready to do this.  My students are eight and nine years old.  Their brain is far from being that of a functioning human adult.

Because students aren't developmentally ready for some of the standards, many of my students now suffer from anxiety about school.  Just this year alone I have been told by three different parents that their child cries and doesn't want to come to school.  That breaks my heart!

Children want to please us and their parents/guardians.  They want to know that they are doing the right things and making progress, but when they are afraid of the tests, we are getting NOWHERE!!!!!

I have really tried this year to downplay the tests.  Instead of saying, "you will see this on the tests at the end of the year."  I say, "You will need this to become a better you!"  It really hasn't helped. It's hard to fool a child no matter how hard you try!  :(

I have one student that often bites and sucks on his t-shirt as I help him one-on-one.  He wants to understand, but it just isn't happening at the same rate as the others.  Does he have hope? Of course, but it's slower.  Sadly, he's not the only one.

It's hard to take the time to focus on making our children into caring, loving, and kind individuals, when we are going at a neck-breaking speed to fit all the standards in and still have time to review before the tests. (And we wonder why our society acts the way they do.)  Sigh... it hurts my brain thinking about it.  We fit in anti-bullying and character development lessons when we can.

I hope we get our message across and that our legislators listen to what we have to say.  I'm feeling hopeful!  Only we can make the changes necessary.

Please send your prayers and good vibes up for us and wish us a safe and fruitful trip...

The Zookeeper