Thursday, January 17, 2013

Teaching in the Every Day

This is a second installment of "The Visiting Classroom" - a new column for Switching Classrooms. We'll spotlight what every day parents are teaching in their classrooms.

January's Visiting Classroom is Meghan, who teaches two-year-old Carley every day.

1. Tell us about your daughter - how old? What are her favorite ways to learn? Favorite projects?
Carley turned 2 this past October. And she is EVERY bit of a two-year-old now! I have found that she learns REALLY quickly through song. If you can sing it in a song, she can learn it and repeat it quickly. For example, we taught her how to spell her name by singing it to the tune of the Mickey Mouse theme song. There is a lot of repetition that goes on daily….we are constantly singing the alphabet song/nursery rhymes/etc. or counting. Sometimes we’re counting objects she sees, other times we are just counting out loud. She shocked me by being able to count to 16 the other day….I had no idea she could do that!

 Her favorite project is coloring and stickers. She loves drawing and coloring and peeling stickers. She’s very crafty!

2. What life lessons are you trying to instill in her?
I really want her to be kind to everyone she meets. I worry about kids being mean when she is in school…..I want her to be nice to all the kids, especially the kids who don’t have friends.
I want her to love books and reading. I want her to see the value of being educated. I want her to feel free to explore and be creative. Mostly I just want her to follow her path in life and be happy.
3. In your previous life, you were an elementary teacher. What information would help readers with their children? What do teachers wish parents knew?
I wish that parents would be able to see teachers as partners in education and vice versa. I felt like a lot of the time parents would blame teachers for problems or come to conferences feeling defensive/combative and teachers often dreaded conferences for fear of being “attacked” when a child was struggling. I think that teachers and parents need to realize that everyone has the same goals: for children to be successful in the school setting. I understand that as a parent it’s hard to hear that your child is struggling and I would break my own heart to learn that Carley was having a hard time in a class. However, when a struggle comes to light, it’s better to have all the adults on the same side of the table, working to find a solution than to have teachers/parents feeling worthless because nobody is able to help.

I wish that parents knew how hard it is for teachers to see a child struggle. As a teacher I wasn’t just there to “babysit”….I really and truly wanted each child in my room to thrive….I wanted to make school a fun place to be and a great experience for each little person in my care. When I would see a child “not getting it” it wasn’t something I took lightly or brushed off as “no big deal”….I cared. I cared a great deal….I took that burden home with me many nights. If parents and teachers could focus less on “who’s to blame” for the gap in learning and focus more on “how can we all pitch in and help” I think our education system would be a lot better off.

Interested in being our spotlight "Visiting Classroom"? Email me at 

Meghan was born and raised in the Bloomington/Normal area. She attended Illinois State University and majored in Elementary Education. She then worked in corporate America for 18 months after graduation waiting to find a teaching job….and hated every minute of it. She was lucky enough to get hired for my first teaching job 3 days after the school year started. Despite the hectic start she settled in and found that her dream job was teaching first grade, and did so for 5 years. While her love for teaching grew during that 5 years, she also ended up falling in love with a boy and getting married in 2009. And, as so often happens when people get married, they had their first daughter in October of 2010. Suddenly, all priorities changed. She taught for another 18 months, before deciding to become a full time SAHM. A happy home-bound mama since May 2012, she teaches Carley every day and sells her creations at Crafting Crew.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Reward Systems: Setting Kids Up For Failure?

Do parents and teachers rely on reward systems, and do they work?

An endlessly debated educational theory (or rather educational practice) is the reward based behavioral system. Parents and teachers use them, and I have used them in a traditional classroom, and at home.

Basically, a reward based behavioral system is when adults ask children to do a task or behavior, and when the child does it, he or she is rewarded. The reward can be a sticker, or candy. I've seen parents reward a child with a Power Wheel rider for doing a task.

You can probably see the debate: can you replace the word "reward" with bribe?

A perfect example of this is a potty-training sticker chart. (A child goes potty, gets a sticker).

Elementary teachers sometimes use "blurt posters" (for students not blurting out in class).

Secondary teachers (many critics claim) use grades. Critics contend that 'A's are merely stickers for performing tasks.

And critics of the critics claim the job market uses a reward based behavioral system: performance = paycheck.

Stickers when they are little, money when they are older. 

The overall debate centers on the "squelching" of the desire to learn. Do children learn or behave a certain way to get stickers, or learn because they are curious and humans innately want to learn?

Parents and teachers use reward based systems. For instance, we recently gave Za a goal, and she met it. Here she is with her "prize":

And she reverted right back to the old pattern. Reward system fail.

Do they ever work? Many say yes - and reward systems are still used. I've seen them work. But did the child understand the purpose behind the learned behavior?

Maybe, and that is where the other side criticizes the reward based behavioral system. With the above Barbie reward, Za knew why she was to do something, and can still explain why she should and can complete her task. She chooses not to do so.

Which leads us to the question parents and teachers debate: Are children marching through life, looking for the next sticker, or are they behaving and learning because they have a desire, and believe it is the right course of action?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Monster Jam Tickets

I have accepted another four tickets for a giveaway for a blog winner! This time, I have tickets for Monster Jam, which will be at the Peoria Civic Center - soon!

Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam®, starring the biggest performers on four wheels: Monster Jam monster trucks! The twelve-feet-tall, ten-thousand-pound machines will bring you to your feet, racing and ripping up a custom-designed track full of obstacles to soar over or smash through!  Monster Jam provides a massive night's entertainment tailored perfectly for your family's budget, and these colorful, larger-than-life beasts are sure to capture the hearts of both young and old.

First, the information
  • When: February 1-2, 2013
  • Venue: Peoria Civic Center
  • Show Times: Friday: 7pm  Saturday: 2pm & 7pm
  • Discount: SAVE $5   Offer code/password: CRUSH5

    Offer redeemable at, Peoria Civic Center Box Office or by phone at 1-800-745-3000. Savings code for online purchases: CRUSH5Offer expires Thu. JAN. 31, 2013. Offer valid only on $20 and $15 adult tickets. No double discounts. Not valid on previously purchased tickets. Not valid day of show. Excludes Front Row and Gold Circle seats. Limit 8 tickets. Savings coupon subject to ticket availability. Additional fees may apply.

Now the sweepstakes:

I have four tickets for the Monster Jam show. I will draw a name on January 29. The tickets are for the Friday, Feb. 1  - 7:00pm performance.

You guys know the drill, because I don't make it hard:
1. Leave a comment about Monster Jam on Switching Classrooms' Facebook page. (You will need to 'like' the page if you haven't already).

2. Leave a comment here, below about Monster Jam.

Keep in mind that you must be 18 years or older to participate. 

One winner will win four tickets for Friday, February 1, selected at

I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within this blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-Show events.
 Even though I receive these benefits, I always give an opinion that is 100% mine.
Good luck! 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Blog Sharing

Sharing is learning - and I always share blogs that have something to offer parents.

Crystal and Co is having a blog party, and it looks like other moms are too!

Teach Beside Me is having a blog party - and tons of education/parenting bloggers are there too.

Head over there for sharing ideas and freebies for working with your kids. Enjoy, and happy Saturday!

Grab button for Teach Beside Me

Friday, January 4, 2013

Group Work and Christmas Trees

Group work is increasingly "pushed" in schools

I've sat through countless in-services as a teacher, and many of them "pushed" teachers to add group work to their list of activities. As far as educational theories go, the need for student collaboration and general cooperation is needed, thus group work. The reasons for teachers using group work are plentiful:

1. Students will experience different personalities and methods of learning from peers.
2. Students will learn how to get along with others and develop tolerance.
3. Students will work with others at a job some day.
4. Students will realize satisfaction from completing a large activity rather than a smaller one alone.

Alas, group work often fails, as this meme floating around Pinterest illustrates:

Students struggle with group work because students do not play fairly. Teachers feel bad about giving different grades to individual students in each group. Some students cannot work after hours or travel to other students' homes. Parents are frustrated. The entire situation lacks control. Even though teachers know students need skills acquired from group work, there are countless reasons why teachers do not assign group work.

The skills are still important, and teaching them at home may help the situation teachers face. Today I took down our two Christmas trees. The kids immediately clambered on the plastic containers and dumped out boxes. I almost banished them to the basement playroom, when I stood back and put it in perspective. As the "group leader" I established some rules:

1. Many ornaments and decorations are glass, so we must be careful.
2. Do not climb on the trees.
3. Do not run.
4. Everyone will have a job, and that is each person's focus.

This is the box of kid ornaments for their tree.
Overall, the process was a success. Just like with students, I repeated the rules a few times and had to halt the process because Ty or Za *forgot* to be safe and soft with glass. They worked together and neatly arranged their Christmas keepsakes. I encouraged them and applauded their efforts.

I'm very glad I did not send them to the basement to take down the trees alone, like I almost did.

Is group work a skill that needs taught at home? Should the basics be taught at home? Would this encourage more group work in schools?

I'm on Pinterest! <meta name="p:domain_verify" content="0d63dd02231247c581d950bb33e1eebf"/>

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Organized SAHM: Part I

I have no idea what I'm doing

My friend J., sweet and caring person she is, sent me and a few other of her mommy friends an email titled "Hey Organized Mamas!"

Let's all pause to laugh at this silly assumption: I have a friend, who knows intimate details of my life, who thinks I am organized. We should assume I'm a stellar actress.

See? Happy children. So happy they won't smile for their mama.
She continues that she wanted to email a few of her friends who "are organized and appear (at least to me) to have it together." I might appear to have it together, but those cohesive moments are rare, and very, very fleeting - and never strung together. Since I have been a SAHM for some time, I'm going to give a bit of advice for other moms joining the gang.

SAHM background

When I started this SAHM gig, it was so I could spend time with my kids. It was so I was not a zombie working all day (as a high school English teacher), grading papers all night, and mothering in-between. Some moms zip from work to home and to daycare and "appear" to have it together. At least their hair is combed. I don't know how people do it. I was a danger to myself, and probably others when I drove. I was that tired. Cutting back on bills and writing on the side, I started staying at home with Ty and Za, and along the way C.J. joined the group.

I started this blog so I wouldn't lose my mind, so I could reflect on my parenting, because that is what I did as a teacher. I also missed teaching and writing was an outlet for that.

Learning with eggs. I will find a way my kids learn with Easter eggs, and I will write about it. :)
I also wrote this information because I found none when I started. Three years ago I google-ed "sahm life" and "sahm schedule." I found nothing but moms squabbling on chat boards about who was a better mama - those at home or those who worked and balanced life. That didn't interest me, and I don't engage in that conversation here. I've been a working (outside the home) and working (inside the home) mom and both are grueling.

You must have learned something

I've created schedules and modified them. I've written lesson plans for my kids and discarded them - completely. I've made considered writing a household schedule.

Organized I'm not, but I do have some ideas that can make a SAHM life easier. I'll try writing them out the next few days, not only for J. but for other beginning SAHM. I'll share what I've learned and I hope it helps someone. I needed help when I started.

I cannot promise organizational bliss. I can't even promise you how many posts will be in this series, but I can tell you I will try. Being a SAHM (or dad!) is deathly hard. They paycheck is not for years to come.

Let me close with this. I did my master's research on organization. Yep, that's right. I studied organization in fifteen year olds. I developed a plan to organize them in a classroom, implemented that plan, and it worked. I have attempted to organize my home and my children. Comparing the success I felt with my teenage students to the success I feel with my toddlers I have learned:

I have no idea what I'm doing.

Part II in this SAHM Organizational Series is up!
So is Part III