A New View of Critical Race Theory, pt. 3

Do you know Mary Walker from Union Springs, Alabama? She is America’s oldest student because she did not learn to read, write, and perform basic math until she was 116 years of age. Let me take a moment to introduce you to a former slave who proved a person can achieve great things regardless of his/her beginnings.

Mary Walker was born in 1848 and into enslavement. She was not allowed to learn to read or write. Then at the age of 15 in 1863 with the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation she was set free with her family. Yes, her family was free but without the skill set needed to understand written and financial transactions. The jobs available were sharecropping, house keeping, and so forth. She worked hard at a young age to contribute financially to her family even though it was only change she desired to help. Mary married at the age of 20 and continued in jobs such as cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and even sold sandwiches to raise money for her church. It is at this church she received her precious Bible that she hoped to read one day. Mary moved to Chattanooga at the age of 69 in 1917. She raised a family never knowing how to read or write, but she dreamed to be free one day. Finally, at the age of 114 she enrolled in classes and by 116 years of age she could read, write, and do basic math. Mary stated, “You’re never to old to learn.” At her death in 1969 at the age of 121, she was known to be the last surviving former slave. Before her death, she received various awards and was recognize by two U.S. Presidents and Canada.

This is by far my favorite mentor text to use to center a weeks worth of lessons around. The ELA, writing, and social studies standards are numerous in The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Hubbard and illustrated by Oge Mora. Also, outside of the standards students can learn about perseverance, overcoming great obstacles, and never giving up on your dreams regardless of circumstances.

As I read this book, I introduce the concept of enslavement in the south and the Civil War to build background knowledge. I discuss the Emancipation Proclamation, also. As a class, we discuss the effects of growing up during enslavement and how this impacted Mary Walker’s life (cause and effect). I am careful and sensitive with my language while teaching about this time period to young elementary students. I have found my students are excited and interested to learn the history of the United States. As we progress through the book and various lessons it is undeniable that enslavement, the denial of civil rights and segregation had a profound effect of Mary Walker’s life, but she persisted and over came many obstacles to learn to read. Side note, when Mary was interviewed about her life in the 1960’s she was still hesitate to speak out because of “the Klux”.

This lesson could be interpreted by many as CRT and be frowned upon in an elementary classroom or any school setting. Slave owners were white in the United States and regardless of personal feelings this is a fact. The laws in place during this time period kept Mary Walker and her siblings from learning to read and write. Is this Critical Race Theory or a factual recollection of the history of America?

Until next time….Dandelion Dreams

Never stop reading. learning. and questioning

A New View of Critical Race Theory, Pt. 2

I discussed in part 1 my feelings or breakdown of Critical Race Theory. CRT has a deep meaning that is generally taught at the university level in law school and you can read about that in my previous blog. In my previous blog I also shared the definition of critical, race, and theory, which leads to my thoughts on teaching children to take a critical look at race and theories that are part of American history. Lastly, I am deeply concerned about the lack of teaching social studies in schools and when I say lack of teaching, I mean the accurate history. We can not change history or deny that something took place in the past, but we are bound to repeat it and/or raise a generation that lacks the knowledge to understand how our country was created and think critically moving forward.

I have chosen to start with the colonization of America as I take a critical look at theories taught in classrooms across America and more specifically the tradition of Thanksgiving. Now, you may be imagining cute little boys and girls dressed as Pilgrims and Indians heading off to the cafeteria to enjoy a traditional school Thanksgiving lunch, but that is not accurate and we still continue to perpetuate that historical inaccuracy. Why? Do we believe our students can not handle the truth? Do we as adults believe this is the accurate story of Thanksgiving? Have we ourselves chosen to ignore that hundreds of Native Americans were killed or sold into slavery? Do you know that Thanksgiving came about because of Sarah Josepha Hale’s 38 year campaign?

Shall we dive into some background knowledge concerning the Europeans and Native Americans. I could never cover the entire history in a blog post so I have chosen to highlight some important facts. The New England tribes already had an autumn harvest feast of thanksgiving. Another fact is Squanto was kidnapped and sold into slavery with others by English explorer Thomas Hunt. Squanto was purchased by monks and received his freedom to return to North America in 1619. In 1621, William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Colony, decided to have a feast and invited Massasoit and 90 warriors to come to the 3 day feast and this feast was a harvest festival. A harvest festival was a tradition celebrated by Europeans brought to America. Many refer to this as the first Thanksgiving, but the reality is this feast dealt with political alliances, diplomacy, and an attempt to peacefully coexist, according to Harvest Ceremony, Beyond the Thanksgiving Myth. According to the National Museum of the Native Indians, the English continued to attack and encroach on Native American land in spite of their agreements. The interactions with the settlers had devastating effects on the culture of the American Indian. Lastly, many Native Americans in New England gather together on Thanksgiving and it is a day remembrance and mourning. The colonization of now America was not “good” for everyone and not peaceful.

There are some that will argue what is wrong with letting the students dress up and believe the myth that continues to be spread. I counter with what is wrong with teaching students the accurate story of Sarah Josepha Hale and the first Thanksgiving, as it is a fascinating story. She campaigned for 38 years and wrote letters to five different presidents. Abraham Lincoln finally said yes. It was a time to bring the country together as victory loomed for the Union. I also argue that children can be taught about the history between the Native Americans and the colonists. It can begin by learning about the Native American culture in the younger grades. Children love to learn about the world around them and are able to look critically at injustices in our nation’s history on their level.

I close with the thought that in order to understand how we got to where we are we must begin at the beginning. I’ve given a quick critical look at the theory used to teach about Thanksgiving in the lower grades that ultimately leads to stereotyping and is an injustice to Native Americans (race).

In part three of my blog post concerning my look at CRT, I will be discussing the enslavement of African Americans and how I teach this concept to first graders through a picture book.

Until next time…..Dandelion Dreams

A New View of Critical Race Theory, part 1

Let’s talk about a hot topic in the news today, Critical Race Theory. I am witnessing this phrase being tossed around by the right and left. The phrase is driving the media to divide the nation. I would like to break it down from my educator point of view but, first I will give a very brief introduction of CRT. Critical Race Theory was officially organized in 1989, but dates back to the 1960’s and 1970’s. It has basic tenets that examine how the law and legal system is set up to benefit the wealthy and powerful, according to Britannica. You can read more by visiting the website. Now, let me state my blog is strictly my point of view relating to Critical Race Theory and is no reflection upon any others. My view begins with the definition of each of the three words that make up Critical Race Theory.

A definition of the word critical states involving skillful judgment as to truth, merit, and etc. Example: to take a critical analysis. Critical can also mean to find fault or to judge with severity.

Race by definition as it refers to people states a grouping of humans with shared inherited physical or social qualities. Race is White, Black, Native Americans, Jews, Europeans and the list continues.

Theory by one definition is a particular conception or view of something to be done or the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles.

When I put the three definitions together I interpret Critical Race Theory to mean taking a critical (deep) look at how race has shaped our country and how the perception of different races has been perpetrated or ignored. CRT is not one race is superior over another. CRT is not to be used to brow beat another race different from your own. CRT should not be used to heap guilt or shame upon any particular race. Critical Race Theory should be used to examine beliefs and systems set in place that need to be examined. Understanding CRT begins with the teaching of history and I mean the true version of history. This will include the good, bad, and ugly. We should also begin teaching history/social studies at a young age beginning in kindergarten. Teach at their level of understanding. I am still shocked when I see young children dressed as pilgrims and Indians at Thanksgiving. I will save that for part two or three.

I welcome thoughts, comments and open to dialogue. This is part one of three…more to follow.

I would encourage you to also read “What is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is It Under Attack”?


Until next time…..Dandelion Dreams

A Dandelion Moment…

Another ordinary day in the classroom of Dandelion Dreams 119, but since I have not written in quite some time let me say my ordinary has changed to virtual ordinary. I am for the 2020 – 2021 school year a virtual teacher for three schools in my system teaching first grade. This has been a blessing and opportunity for growth as I have never been a teacher to embrace technology to its fullest. Technology and I have had a love hate relationship for many years and most educators will understand. But, we are now the best of friends and I have grown as a teacher.

I digressed, so let me continue with my story. Every single day since the first day of school I sign off with I love you in sign language as well as saying it. The students after a few weeks began to sign back to me at the end of class and it is now our thing. Also, students will randomly sign to me during lessons and I will sign back. At times, I have had to speak sternly to a few students during our learning time, but always close the conversation with the I love you sign.

As our day was beginning, I received a text from a father stating that his wife had died the day before in a car accident and he was unsure how their daughter would react today being in class. He also asked that I not mention her death in class. I was heartbroken and completely taken back. One of my precious delightful little girls had lost her mother at such a young age. I could not imagine one day without my mother, so my heart was full of sadness. Class continued on as normal and I was very aware to watch this little one on camera as our learning progressed throughout the morning. We were beginning to wind down our learning time and had about 10 minutes left of class time when out of the blue the little girl blurted out “My mom died yesterday” and began to cry. My heart was so broken. I began to tell her that I did know and I was so very sorry, but remember your teacher loves you so very much. As I am looking at my computer with 20 boxes with 20 little faces looking back, I see one little girl hold up the I love you sign and then one by one their little hands come into view telling their classmate they love her. I have never witnessed a more touching, beautiful, and tender moment. As tears are now streaming down my face, I ask the little one to look at her classmates on her computer and see how very much they love her.

It really doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of life what we learned today on April 20, 2021 in first grade, but what does matter is the compassion, tenderness, love, and kindness this little girl experienced from her virtual classmates where they have all never even met each other in person this school year. Secondly, my pride is soaring because they have grown and learned something that will never be measured on a test, but will carry them far in life…compassion and empathy for one another.

Until next time….Dandelion Dreams

Distance Learning…thanks COVID-19

Let me begin with COVID-19 stinks. I can think of many other words to use but this is a family friendly blog..😊. There are obvious reasons why this virus is horrible.. sickness, financial ruin, loneliness for many due to stay at home orders, in person school cancelled and death. I do not want to minimize how many are suffering due to this virus. My heart hurts for all.

As a teacher, the cancelling of in person learning has thrown me into a funk. There really isn’t a word to describe how I feel except I’m living in a funk. You see I am a hands on teacher. I love to hug, high five, pat on the back, tap on the head and cheer my students. I love smiling and greeting each child by name in the morning. I love saying “I love you” as they leave each day. I love seeing their smiles as they walk in the door. I also love when I have to discipline them for a poor choice because it says I love you enough to help you become the best version of you. I am not only hands on, but lean towards the creative artsy side like drawing, building, doodling, stickers and writing with old fashion paper, crayons, colored pencils, and markers.

I do not love distance learning. Technology has never been my friend, lol! Technology and I have a love hate relationship, just ask my students. Technology loves to freeze as soon as I pull up a website or video or it decides to update, ugh! I think it knows how I feel. But, I miss my kids! I want to see their faces and hear their voices. I want to hear their never ending stories about their dog, cat, or sporting event. Also, hear about their sibling wars, parents fussing, and how mom got a speeding ticket. Hahaha! I miss my kids! I miss seeing the “aha” look when they master a skill. I miss when they applaud their friends for a great answer. I miss seeing them comfort and encourage each other. I miss the letters and pictures they leave for me on my desk. I miss our little family and sense of community. COVID-19 stinks!

Reading is by far my favorite relaxing activity. On Sunday, I was reading Relentless by Hamish Brewer and he writes about living every day with passion and purpose. Outside of my personal family, teaching is my passion and purpose. It was my wake up call to get my head out of the sand, shake off this funk, and embrace technology during this time. Technology will give me the opportunity to see and hear my kids. Also, allow them to see and hear me. So kiddos here we go off on an adventure together…I love you!

Until next time…Dandelion Dream

Curriculum Pt. 2

My last post received quite a few comments and questions. First, let me thank each and every person that gave me wonderful positive feedback and even Natalie Wexler the author of “The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System and How to Fix It” chimed in. I was flattered. I have always believed that knowledge is the key to teaching and our job as educators is to expose our students to as much knowledge as possible during the course of a school year. Our job should not continuously focus on teaching to a test or drill and kill lessons. Yes, there are skills we should and required to teach our students, but teaching in isolation as Wexler points out in her book is empty calories. I will not rewrite my last post because I could speak about this topic as they say, all day. The purpose of this post is to answer some questions I had about building a content rich curricula. I am very fortunate to work in a school with a trusting administrator that allows teacher creativity in planning of lessons. This post focuses on the unit we completed about astronauts and the July 20, 1969 landing on the moon.

Our unit began with the book The Darkest Dark by Chris Hatfield. Prior to reading our book I made an anchor chart titled astronauts and had the students write anything they knew about astronauts. I generally begin each lesson with an anchor chart and activate prior knowledge to guide the direction of my lessons. I had students that knew quite a bit and seven to eight students who knew very little. The main standard to begin our unit was author’s purpose (RL.1.5) and this particular lesson can be found in Rooted in Reading by Amy Lemons and Katie King. If you need a jumping off point to start your lessons Rooted in Reading is a wonderful resource. This was not the only standard covered as there are so many different ways to plug reading standards into books. The Darkest Dark is a autobiography and details Chris Hatfield’s journey from childhood to becoming an astronaut. The main focus is his childhood fears and dreams. Also, in each Rooted in Reading is a non-fiction reader packed with information. We used the reader Out of This World to research astronaut facts and the students made their on fact focus board that would be used later in our astronaut writing. I used the reader to focus in on main idea and key details. As we were reading we would stop to discuss how the key details bring us back to the main idea. So, the students are learning an important skill that is always on a standardized test but within the context of rich information. No empty calories! I have included pictures below.

Our unit continued with learning about Neil Armstrong by reading I Am Neil Armstrong by Brad Meltzer. I want to take a moment to say when I decide on a unit I google as many books as possible on the subject and decide which way to take the unit according to standards and prior student knowledge. I do try to teach my reading through science and social studies. Neil Armstrong led us to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The students learned about the sea of tranquility, atmosphere, orbit, Micheal Collins, lunar module, and much more. We learned moon facts and how many times an astronaut sees the sun rise and set from space (this fact was very fascinating to the children). We learned the 4 stages of the flight and the scary moment of possibly running out of gas. Side note, my students felt it was a bit unfair Michael Collins had to stay behind and did not get to walk on the moon. I tried to state his importance, but in the mind of a 6 year old it just wasn’t fair. We learned about President John F. Kennedy and his part in the space race. We located Kennedy Space Center and the Atlantic Ocean. I only scratched the surface for times sake.

I would like to now to take a moment to list all the text to text connections that were made during our unit. We read Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty because Neil Armstrong was an engineer before becoming an astronaut. We also read Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty to highlight how architects are already designing homes that may possibly be used if humans can live on Mars. I would say one of our favorites was Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. This book is a must for every classroom. We were able to dive into discrimination, kick off our black history month, and how the knowledge of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden helped the United States win the space race. I could write an entire post on Hidden Figures! I also brought in some fun books. We read The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot and The King of Space.

It is time consuming putting content rich units together and requires hours of research and google becomes your best friend, but the rewards are far greater than the time required. I will state again, every educator should read Natalie Wexler’s book The Knowledge Gap. Also, find teachers to follow that provide content rich material not just “cute” fonts and crafts. Teachers like this can help give you a spring board to build upon. A few I follow are Amy Lemons, Katie King, Naomi O’Brien (read like a rockstar), Vera Ahiyya (the tutu teacher), and Jen Jones (hello literacy). Lastly, trust yourself as you have been trained to teach.

Enjoy the pictures….Dandelion Dreams


I took quite a bit of time off from writing considering my last post was in May. I have changed schools and grade levels since that post. I now teach first grade and the move from third to first has been refreshing and challenging. I must say I am thoroughly enjoying teaching first grade. Now I will move on to the reason behind my writing today….curriculum. Warning…longer than normal post.

Recently, I read a book by Natalie Wexler “The Knowledge Gap..The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System – And How to Fix It.” I became interested in the book when Ms. Wexler appeared on Morning Joe on MSNBC. She stated many thoughts (many is an understatement) that I have held dear for a number of years and that is we must provide our students with a content rich curriculum. In this testing culture we have created that drives education we have removed providing content rich curricula. My humble opinion is that the teaching of social studies is the subject that has suffered tremendously. It has been replaced with more reading and math to hopefully reach a magical score. I would like go on record that science is suffering also, especially in the lower grades. I would like to take a few minutes to outline some points Wexler makes in her book concerning the route of education.

A key point Wexler makes is how education has been reduced to the teaching, reteaching, and reteaching of skills. Yes, skills are important and have their rightly place in the learning process, but teaching skills in isolation is not the answer. I witnessed this first hand while teaching third grade. I would teach the skill of identifying the main idea and supporting details repeatedly and when given a test my students would score poorly on questions relating to main idea and supporting details. I would reteach the skill with the same result. One day while reading the book The Salamander’s Room I asked a question relating to a salamander. My class sounded like crickets and it hit me like bricks….my students have no background knowledge on salamanders or amphibians. This led me to inquire about other subjects/areas. My findings were the same. My students lacked vocabulary and basic background knowledge. No wonder my students could not comprehend passages they were reading and apply the skills that were taught. According to Wexler, “The teaching of disconnected comprehension skills boosts neither, comprehension nor reading scores. It’s just empty calories.” I had been feeding my students empty calories due to a lack of background knowledge and vocabulary. This led me to completely revamp my teaching with a strong focus on vocabulary, social studies, science, and inquiry. Let me state, I did see a steady increase in my standardized test scores over the course of the next 3 years. One year I had the highest gains of any third grade class in the entire system.

Another issue Wexler tackles in her book is delivering a content rich curriculum. As Wexler points out “It is hard for teachers to single-handedly build knowledge in the absence of a content focused curriculum.” Students are like sponges and enjoy learning about new places, animals, events in the past, and the world around them in general. Students deserve a curriculum that is rich in knowledge and it must begin during the elementary years. It takes years to build knowledge and we can not wait until middle school or high school to expose students to the vital knowledge that will serve as their foundation for years to come.

I could expand further on Wexler’s book and encourage every educator to take the time to read “The Knowledge Gap”, but I would like to discuss what I have seen in my first grade classroom this year so far. As I stated earlier, I completely revamped my teaching a few years ago and continued my goal of providing a content rich curriculum to build background knowledge and expand my student’s vocabulary even in first grade. I have heard various comments over the course of this school year and the majority of the comments are positive, but the push to teach skills absent of a curriculum rich in content is still strong.

This year for me has been a growing and learning year right along with my students. I am amazed at the level of engagement from my students and their eagerness to share what they have learned. We learned the 7 continents by studying Ferdinand Magellan and the location of the continents. The meaning of indigenous through learning about Dia De Los Muertos and the Hispanic culture. Also, the myth behind the first Thanksgiving and the effect the settlers had on the Native American population. We celebrated International Day of Persons with Disabilities the first week of December. While we were studying the important contributions people with disabilities have had on society my students were quick to point out the information previously learned about Dr. Temple Grandin, which we had studied weeks earlier. They made a connection and activated background knowledge to expand their own learning and growing. Also, we completed a two week learning unit examining Jewish culture. As a class we became versed in the various countries that make up Europe specifically German and Lithuania. They learned the plight of the Jews during World War II along with the meaning of immigration and various reasons to immigrate to a new country. I specifically wanted to highlight this study because of the pictures I have included in this post. One drawing is from a student that according to a standardized test is performing far below grade level, but note his picture of a child leaving his homeland to make the journey to America without his parents. The students were asked to visualize as I read and then write and illustrate what they visualized. I have some students who at this time can not write and some who can write a complete paragraph. The point is no matter the child’s academic level every single child is learning and engaged. I have only scratched the surface of learning that has taken place in my classroom since August. I am amazed each week at how my students have grown and how they use new vocabulary words we have learned in their writing. (We have learned 75 new words so far.)

As I close, let me state we must be intentional in teaching. Our students are capable of learning in a content rich classroom regardless of academic and socioeconomic level. It is time we expand our student’s mind and introduce them to various cultures around the world. Teach them the accurate history of our country and empathy for others. Students should not be completing the same apple unit, life cycle of a pumpkin, or Christmas activities they have done since kindergarten. Please understand I am not pointing fingers. I am trying to convey the urgency of educating tomorrows adults. Lastly, we can not continue with the excuses….these kids can’t do that, this is the way we have always done it, this will not show up on the “test” and many more. Let us be deliberate, intentional, and set high standards for all learners.

As I stated earlier, notice the stars on the country of Germany and Lithuania as we learned different countries in Europe. These two particular countries were in our lesson. Also, note the little boy on the ship leaving his homeland for America in 1938.
Notice the story blocks depicting the story and how she would feel if she had to leave her country due to war and her family had to hide. On a side note, I did teach the plight of the Jews from a developmentally appropriate space.
The illustrations are amazing from the mind of a 6 year old. His depiction of the Night of Broken Glass in 1938 and the ship leaving Lithuania bound for America.

That’s a wrap 2018-2019…

All across America teachers are taking down, boxing up, and cleaning out their classrooms. Another year has ended and we, educators, are saying good bye to 2018-2019 school year and hello summer break and no we do not get “paid” summers off. If you do not know each teacher has to pack up the entire classroom and move everything into the hallway, so maintenance can strip and wax the floors. This is done at the end of every school year. This task for me is generally a time of reflection. A reflection of what went right, what went wrong, mistakes made, and great memories made to last. It is a time to say farewell as the walls become emptier with each passing day.

The school year lasted 180 days at 7 hours and 30 minutes per day. That is 180 days to hopefully help open the mind of a child to the joy of learning that will continue for a lifetime. It is also 180 days at times filled with laughter, a-ha moments, groans and moans. As I reflect on the past 1,350 hours spent with 21 3rd graders I think back to mistakes I made and wish I could have a do over just as students wish they would have paid attention just a wee bit more, at times. I reflect back to maybe an occasion when I spoke a bit harsh or should have really listened instead of hurrying little Sally along because we were late for lunch, again. Maybe I forgot to list a child who made the honor roll or forgot to return a parent’s phone call or email. Maybe I should have tried one last time to reach that unreachable student who seems to push everyone’s buttons on a daily basis and the list continues on and on. You see teachers are human and we make mistakes.

My mind now shifts as I find a beautiful drawn flower with a note that says “I love you, Mrs. Dasinger, best teacher ever!” I remember the laughs we all had as I explained everyone farts, so let’s not all chime in on who did it every time we hear a fart. Oh, the laughter that comes from an 8 year old when the teacher says….FART. I remember the smile on George’s face when he made that first 100 on his reading test, but he quickly reminded me he still does not like to read. Okay, George. I giggle to myself as I remember a spunky little girl singing the theme song to Mr. Ed, The Talking Horse. I hold deeply in my chest every hug that was shared each morning for 180 days.

I have said good bye and as I moved the last desk into the hallway a sheet of paper fell to the floor. The paper contained words written to no one in particular just words from a student expressing his sorrow and feelings of abandonment because his mother has left him behind. I lock the door for the last time as a tear falls down my cheek and I hope he knows how much his teacher has loved spending the last 180 days with him. I hope all my students near and far know…..Dandelion Dreams

Teacher, Take Care of Yourself

I have been missing in action for the past few months. My goal has been and is to write a new post at least once a month. I would love to write two, but life does take over at times. Anyway, let me explain my absence and reasoning behind my post.

On Feb. 25 at approximately 5:40 p.m. I was attacked and mauled by a rottweiler while walking in the neighborhood across the street from my home. I suffered multiple serious injuries that required being taken to the emergency room and 16 days later surgery to repair the damage. I spent 42 days confined to my home while I was healing. Finally on April 11th, 47 days later, I was released from the doctor’s care. I have horrible scars and even a full 2 months later deal with problems where one wound is not healing properly. I could go into more detail about the physical healing along with the emotional/mental healing that is taking place, but I want to turn in the direction that teachers need to practice self care regardless of circumstances.

Teachers typically spend I would estimate 15 – 20 hours a week outside of normal work hours, 7:20 – 3:20, grading, planning, and gathering or making materials for class. This time does not include time spent worrying or thinking about that one student that seems unreachable. This time also does not include responding to emails or calls from parents. Now, I was forced to slow down, rest, and concentrate on myself. During the 42 days I was at home I did worry about my students. Were they behaving? Were they learning the material needed to be successful in 4th grade? Was the substitute following my plans (yes, she was wonderful) and the questions continued. Side note, I could not have gotten through those 42 days without my wonderful co-workers keeping my classroom running. Finally, I had to tell myself to let it go, concentrate on my healing.

Teachers, we have to take better care of ourselves. Teaching is an overwhelming profession and that can become all consuming. Let us admit it, trying to meet the academic, emotional and mental needs of children is hard! This does not include the constant changing laws that politicians dream up without consulting with educators and we are forced to confront those in power to have our voice heard, but that is another post for a later day. I digressed. We can not be all we need for our students if we do not take the time to rest and recharge.

I learned while at home that rest is very important and undervalued. I decided to make changes for when I returned and I want to share the three simple changes I made. First, set definite work hours and leave work at work, the majority of time. I normally work until 4:00 or 4:15 p.m. three days a week. I do not bring work home with me any longer. It will still be there when I return the next morning. Secondly, reserve the weekends for yourself and family. I do not check work email on the weekends. I do not do anything work related on Saturdays. I specifically said Saturday because I do reserve roughly 2 to 3 hours on Sundays for preparing for the upcoming week. Let me add, I do not have small children at home any longer and if you do let work go on the weekends completely, if possible. Your children are only little once. Enjoy and soak up every moment. Lastly, disconnect from social media from time to time. Your classroom does not have to look like Pinterest nor does every lesson have to be a song and dance. Social media can become overwhelming for teachers because there are educators that look like they have it all together. As Hope King states so eloquently at Get Your Teach On, the pictures on social media are just a snapshot of a day. If needed hit the unfollow button for a little while.

I am proud to say that since returning to work I have stuck by my changes. Please, if you are like me and have a hard time turning off the teacher brain, make changes for your health. Do not let an emergency, accident, or sickness take place to force you to rest and recharge. Students love a happy, smiling teacher that enjoys teaching because he/she is refreshed, focused, and rested.

Until next time….Dandelion Dreams

Dandelion Dreams….Dreams

I’ve had some thoughts for my next post for a few months now and decided it is time to share what has been bouncing around in my mind…..dreams or what has happened to dreams in the education world? Let me state, I am not advocating for the abandoning of standards or curriculum. We must educate our students to the very best of our ability every day within our classrooms. Okay, now that the disclaimer is out of the way I can begin.

Many years ago my mom told me a story of myself as a young child and it goes like this. One day she was walking down the hallway of our home and heard cheering and applause coming from my bedroom and as any mother would do she decided to peek in on me. The scene she observed was me performing for all my stuffed animals. My animals were lined up side by side to enjoy the show. Of course, I was also making the sound effects of my audience cheering at my performance. I am sure my animals were giving me a standing ovation (I am embellishing). You see I was a spirited little child and truth be told probably a hair challenging, at times. I also had a big imagination that was filled with hopes and dreams. I can not recall what my performance was for my lively audience. I may have been a singer, gymnast, figure skater or anyone my little imagination could conjure up at that particular time. My point to this trip down memory lane is whatever I was doing that particular day was a dream.

Dreams are an integral part of childhood. One definition of dream is a cherished aspiration, ambition, or goal. Children begin their educational journey at the tender age of 5. They are wide-eyed, full of excitement, wonder, and dreams. Dreams of digging up dinosaur bones, walking on the moon, living among the woodland or jungle animals, seeing the wild mustangs runs on the beach, swimming with whales, studying penguins, and saving a kitty stuck in a tree. The few dreams I have mentioned are cultivated in a classroom many times through play. A child sitting at a sand table watching the sand pour through his/her fingers plants the seed for a new tool that will move or sift sand in a more efficient manner, but at the time discovering a dinosaur bone was the dream. Another child is standing at a table building a rocket out of cubes, legos, or toothpicks and marshmallows and the seed is planted for a new spacecraft or just a small part that is necessary for the spacecraft to lift off, but at the time landing on Mars was the dream. In the back corner, two students are sketching and creating with markers, glitter, sequins, or just an 8 pack of crayons. Those creations may be the next new clothing line or illustrations for a children’s book that will be written 20 years in the future. You see these are dreams. The hopes, aspirations, and ambitions being brought to life in a classroom that is cultivating the little mind of a 5 year old.

Unfortunately, the scenes described above are not those being played out in classrooms around the country. The scenes are students completing mindless worksheets or test prep material in hopes of reaching a magic test score that exists somewhere out there in the universe. A score that in all reality means very little at the end of the day. I teach 3rd grade and have heard many times over from various students over the years….I hate school…another test….I’m not a good reader because I am still a yellow dot….do we have to. It saddens me to hear those phrases from a child who is only 8 years old. I ponder those sad phrases and wonder where have the dreams gone in education? What will we do as educators to be sure our students are able to dream? I am reminded of a quote from Mister Rogers “Children’s outside world has changed, but their insides haven’t.” Those 3rd graders didn’t change, but somewhere along the line we in education decided to change. I read a statement this morning as I was scrolling through Instagram by Matt Halpren that goes hand in hand with my blog post and I asked if I could please share his thought “Kindergartners should be blowing bubbles, not filling them in.” Blowing bubbles like a dandelion blowing in the wind.

I close with a scene from my own classroom earlier in the school year. I read the book The Raft by Jim LaMarche as our mentor text for the week. (You can find the overall lesson by Amy Lemons and Katie King creators of Rooted in Reading by googling their names.) I decided to take the lesson a step further and transform the classroom into a woodland wonder and on the last day I brought in cardboard to create a pretend raft. The students were able to sketch, color, and write on the raft just like Nicky from the story. The students were abuzz with laughter, joy and wonder. I am not sure if that one activity will increase one child’s test score, but I am sure that at least one of those 3rd graders loves animals and was dreaming of being the next Jane Goodall, Jeff Corwin, Dr. Laurie Marker, or Dr. Paula Kahumbu. Hopefully, that child will look back and remember being in a classroom on a makeshift raft of cardboard remembering his/her 3rd grade teacher planting a seed to fulfill a dream.

“The duty of an educator is to let his/her students dream, help them find the thing that captures their heart and seems worth devoting the whole life to.” tweet by Shilpi Mahajan.

Let me share my dream. I have a dream to write a children’s book about the little girl dreaming in her bedroom that will be titled “Valerie’s Dandelion Dreams” dedicated to my mom and dad who let this little dandelion dreamer dream. I love you both!