Retirement – Making the Decision

Grab a cup of tea before starting this long and rambling post. No, really, it’s long and provided lots of nice reflection time for me.

Every educator has a long range goal of retirement. Our thinking and planning take us in many directions. I will be 64 this summer and no where near the 80% pay maximum that others work toward. In fact I am so far from it, those funds don’t play a big part in my decision.

  • Can I physically continue to do this challenging job?
  • Have I a financial plan for the future that can meet my future needs?
  • What will I do about health insurance?
  • Is this job still as satisfying as always? Or am I finding it harder and harder to push myself in order to meet job demands?
  • Do I have social and emotional plans in order for retirement?
  • Is my partner retired or still working?

I am quick to admit that the changes in education have weighed heavily on me. I do not feel the same passion for the job because the job changed and the changes have been steady, incremental, and deadly to the profession.

Common Core expectations are designed, in part, as a road map for how students will travel along the learning path. Where the CCSS falls short is when it tells “Joanie” when she will reach each milestone along the journey. How often have I thought that “Joanie” needs six more months to reach the next milestone in a normal way, without special services? And what about “John” who arrived in my class already mastering the expectations?

The language of the CCSS for kindergarten often reads, “with prompting and support.” That means students will find some measure of success if a teacher is sitting with them and guiding them every step of the way. Huh? What does that mean anyway? Every student can do just about anything with prompting and support. The implication is that if some kids can master it, then all kids can master it – At the same time! I disagree with that thinking. Some kids need more time but will get there.  Teachers feel the need to pressure students in ways that undermine the joy of learning.

I know that my students are spread across 2 years in their development, some years even more. I have my finger on the pulse of their learning and I know what to do to help them reach the next milestone. But they are not all getting to the same point by the end of the year. One student will still be reading a level A and a couple of others will be at a level G or better. All students are learning and making progress and I know when they need outside help. That is when I – the person who knows the student best – call for a pupil review.

The data I collect and use is my formative assessments. If testing and special education or regular ed. support are needed, I will see that the service is provided whenever the system allows. Pressing students means more kids are entering into special education without real cause.

Enough on that rant as I am only getting started with that stress – stress that leads to dissatisfaction on the job.

  • Physically, I am finding kindergarten tougher and tougher. The muscles and joints have more trouble over time and I am totally exhausted at the end of each day. Getting home too late and too tired overall to go for that walk after starting supper.
  • Our financial plan has been cleared by our financial adviser. Because my husband and I have lived simply and saved since our 20s for the distant dream of retirement, we have the funds to continue living our very simple life style. (sans dishwasher, garbage disposal, garage, expensive home, regular big vacations)
  • We can continue with our current health insurance albeit a more sizable share ponied up by us as retirees.
  • My husband is retiring this month. Last fall he suggested I retire along with him. That thought had not entered my mind until that point. We contacted the adviser and over several months learned that we were financially good to go.

Then the custodian died. He was 58 and was first diagnosed, then gone, in just a few months time. He had not liked his job but loved the people he worked with. He had been looking forward to retirement. I felt so sorry for him. It didn’t seem fair.

There are no guarantees in this life.

My gene pool is riddled with debilitating diseases and disorders and the stress of the job is bringing some of them to life in me.

There are no guarantees in this life.

My husband has often said over the years, “How many good years do we have left?” He means active and vibrant years. Days and nights of adventure, the kind of dreams we have had all our lives.

There are no guarantees in this life.

So with the checklist honestly cleared, I can say “yes,” it is time to retire and start a new life with the man I married.

People have asked me, “What will you do?” Nothing is clearer in my mind than – I will not work!  Teaching will eat you alive over time and most people never see us as always on the job!

Just thinking to the summer ahead:

I will not think about the incoming class.

I will not devise new learning experiences, rich in background and personal experience.

I will not create student materials and checklists for administrators.

I will not do professional development, just personal development, over the summer.

I will not think or worry about anything related to the classroom.

I will not think about student (and parent) needs.

I will not post on the classroom blog or answer the same questions over and over again.

I will not set SMART Professional Practice and Student Learning goals!

I will not work!

  • The final bullet is about my social and emotional needs. While I have some ideas of what we will do, I am open to making a healthy transition. I want to be more active, have more fun, see this great country of ours outside of pricey school vacation times, and return to some hobbies I enjoyed in the past. The picture is not clear but getting to know myself and what I want can mean a wonderful new chapter.

I encourage others who are considering early retirement to take a few weeks to organize yourself and seek professional advice. Do you really need to hang in there to the bitter (literally) end? Or can you get back to enjoying yourself sooner rather than later?



Science Education – Who Is Responsible?

I am engaged in my own after school learning community, surrounding science through the grades. We are aware that the sand is shifting beneath us in that our state has not yet adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. The “older” standards are still in play for many teachers in our school but the real meat of the topics, including things like who will teach simple machines and forces of motion, are up for discussion. As a result, too many things are not explored or taught at all. How can a student reach fifth grade without having developed thinking deeply about the water cycle in a growing scientific way?

What attracted me to the NGSS conversations years ago was the way they are viewed in a somewhat different way, or maybe it’s just that their organization speaks to my logical-mathematical thinking anyway.

There are three ways to view the standards:

View the NGSS in Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) Arrangements

View the NGSS in Topic Arrangements

View and Search the NGSS performance expectations individually

Kindergarten children are expected to explore and then integrate the learning in other ways. With a science-based curriculum, I am able to revisit our learning over the course of the year. Rather than planning a 2-week unit on weather, I can roll back to weather over time, and apply it to seasons, patterns in our universe, the changing angle of the sun over the course of the year, animals and their habitat and adaptations, careers, pets, the needs of all living things etc. I view science through its web design, as all of life is interconnected. This allows students to think more deeply, more personally, and to do that over and over again as new concepts are developed and connections are made.

Should we ask teachers to only teach specific topics? I know that some teachers get deflated because an earlier grade teacher “did butterflies” so her class is now bored. Where is the student and educator passion in that plan? My students want to bring things in from home that are outside of any assigned topic list. I love all of science and I know my class is crazy about all of the science work we do.

I don’t have a Steve Spangler kind of program. Those things can often cost money. I try to avoid that. There are tons of things that can have long-lasting value though and they are worth the investment. Seed packets and soil will give us weeks and months of learning. A pack of Mentos and a 2L bottle of soda, while a snazzy performance, is not likely to create lifelong learning on gases.

I love all of science and I know my class is crazy about all of the science work we do.  Right now, we are rocking simple machines and designing leprechaun traps. Our plants are on the windowsill and in the snowbank outside the window. The sun is higher in the sky and snow is melting. Our classroom pets continue to educate us about their lives. The duck eggs will arrive next month and we will be back to looking at animals, seasons, water cycle, vernal pools, and habitats with our friend from the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation.

We cannot avoid these topics as life and learning cycles on and finds its own pattern of change.

Thanks for listening to this rambling reflection. It’s my process for making better sense of my thinking.


Being a Part of Classroom 2.0 Learning

It was a pretty big thrill for me to be invited, along with my peer teacher Kevin Hodgson, to present a session on Hour of Code at one of the Classroom 2.0 Live programs on Saturday morning/afternoon. Special thanks go to my wonderful friend Maureen Tumenas for thinking of us as a team.

Hour of Code is coming up this week so it seemed an apt time to fire everyone up for the learning adventure.

While I am a veteran of the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform, it is still a big deal for me to present to others in the education field. Having Kevin to lead the way in our planning and preparation made the job a lot easier and he helped to fuel my energy and enthusiasm for the session. It was an important piece in my own development as an educator, a piece that I usually shy away from.

Classroom 2.0The co-hosts Peggy George, Lorie Moffat, and Tammy Moore are incredibly organized and proficient in keeping this weekly series pumping out fresh new teaching and learning program ideas. Once the session enters the archive, you can access the recording here. The YouTube link to the recording is here.

I’d say the session went pretty well. There were some wonderful contributions made by participants in the chat window and also using the whiteboard and mic.  I have to give a nod to the experts in computer science education, including tech integrations specialists, for really getting a handle on how to deliver the goods across multiple grade levels. I like the way things are going in my kindergarten classroom now and  I look forward to continued learning with an even wider group of educators.

Thanks  Classroom  2.0!    You  rock!

#HourOfCode 2014

Are you ready to rock the world? You can do that by getting a little bit of coding time into your school day. There are tons of excellent resources to harvest and the future is in desperate need of computer science majors, especially females!.

I attended a training in Worcester this weekend and found a wealth of information to add to my repertoire.  Our exit ticket was thinking of a plan to share our learning with other educators. That’s why I am sharing this post on my reflection blog and encouraging folks to join in the fun.

  • I don’t have the equipment: sign up for the equipment whenever you see an opening. Don’t feel obligated to stay within the Dec. 8-14 schedule – really! Don’t forgot there are unplugged activities that activate the same thinking.
  • We don’t have the bandwidth: at times of heavy use, you may run into trouble but by and large it works.
  • I just don’t feel confident that I can troubleshoot tech issues: the cool thing is you have the experts sitting right in front of you. The students have an abundance of experience and want to help. Be honest about your concerns and enlist student support early on.
  • The batteries drain so fast: they sure do, so you may have to rotate equipment in and out as well as find a way to stay plugged in at work stations.
  • I don’t want to do this alone: then enlist a peer to collaborate. Students often do these activities together and learn even more.

10,000,000 students are expected to participate this year!

Did you know that many activities are unplugged?  Yes indeed!

That means that when all the equipment is reserved by other teachers, you can still include some code thinking, without the use of technology. Below you’ll find the link to sign up for this international project. No pressure, do what you can, when you can. While the hour of code officially takes place December 8-14, you can tackle the challenges whenever. You can even print up certificates for your students at the end.

This is where you sign up for Hour of Code.

Here are some elementary courses to consider. Click right on the images of the courses to open the sites.

Course 1 is designed for early readers probably K-1.

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Course 2 is designed for students who can read, probably grades 2-5.

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 Course 3 is a follow-up to Course 2 and probably best used in grades 4-5.

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Here’s a Symbaloo webmix I have been working on with a number of different code related games.

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