An Open Letter to New Teach for America Recruits

An Open Letter to New Teach for America Recruits.


A must read, well-reasoned letter from a Chicago teacher to Teach for America recruits.


Robert Shepherd:A Fundamental Question About Common Core

“The notion of a single set of standards for all appeals to authoritarian types with a rage for order, uniformity, predictability that is, at its core, inhumane.”

via Robert Shepherd:A Fundamental Question About Common Core.

4 things public school teachers need to do right away

When I started this particular blog a couple of years ago, I wanted to write about the joys of being a special education teacher of preschool children with developmental delays.   However, I spent just a little more time on two other blogs:  Inspired Illusions , my art blog and, both on my own website.  This one fell to the wayside.

So, the revised focus here is to highlight the political aspects that govern every area of teaching.  Because there are so many politicians who are either bought by corporatists or just fail to see the impact of going along with the majority, I want to add my voice to the conversation.

In Illinois, like so many other states, the big issue is the misinformed “pension problem”.

There is NO “pension problem” in Illinois.  

There is NO “pension crisis” that needs “reform”.

But there is a Revenue Problem in Illinois.

A problem that our legislators have historically failed to address as they lied and robbed the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) over the years.  And now that they have themselves in a situation that is being proclaimed as dire, rather than closing corporate tax loopholes, they want to steal from retirees and make teaching in Illinois a temp job rather than a respected career.

use your voice

Teachers are among the most highly educated  group in our society.  Teachers need to step out of their classrooms and look around to what is going on.  They need to

  1. write to their legislators
  2. write to their local newspapers
  3. blog
  4. share their stories about the demoralization and wrong-minded policies  that are being foisted upon us in the name of “reform”.

My favorite education bloggers and pension advocates are among the following:

Diane Ravitch

Fred Klonsky

Glen Brown

John Dillon

Jersey Jazzman

Ken Previti

Deborah Meier

The Common Core does not make sense

testWhen I

first read of the Common Core standards I was highly skeptical.  Just like I couldn’t believe that the mandate for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) would ever become the law of the land. Imposing untested (as in no field studies) standards and onerous sanctions, along with the carrot of  the promise of ridiculous amounts of money to the States is a combination for disaster.  I am always amazed to watch administrators at every level in education toss out any common sense they have to blindly follow along the latest


Read Diane Ravitch’s blog post for more background on this topic and why she has come out in opposition to the Common Core.



Preschool classroom changes

So, you look at that photo of a round table in the classroom and you may wonder, “Why did she take that picture?”

  1. Documentation of a re-purposed area of the classroom
  2. Vision of the shiny floor reflection before the students arrive for the 1st day of school
  3. Reminder to keep the table free of teacher supplies so I can work there with individual students!

I’ve been back in the classroom for only two days and I’m not yet acclimated to the “school schedule” of going to bed earlier than midnight.  But, before I go to bed, I wanted to be sure I could move a photo from my phone to Evernote and then to the blog.

I spent the evening making a file folder game for sorting basic shapes and my favorite professional development activity of pinning to my Pinterest boards.  It’s taking a long time to move preschool – related pins to the new account from my very diverse original account of art, home, and school pins.

Later today I’ll post my new lesson plan binder and forms as well as a poster I’m making for Sensory Break ideas for two little ones in the classroom.



Summer – Time to Recharge

People who live with teachers know that summer time is not a time of week after week without a thought of school.  It is rare for a day to go by without making at least a mental note of something I want to do when I get back to my class in August.’

In the past several days that I’ve been “on vacation” I’ve accomplished the following:

  • Unloaded my car of the bags of materials I’ve brought home to work on this summer
  • Laundered all the stuffed animals from the preschool classroom
  • Sorted and reshelved teaching magazines and resource books
  • Loaded up a box for game making with cardstock, file folders, index cards, markers, pens, stickers, etc.
  • Made daily visits to Pinterest to add to my preschool, art, and recipe boards
  • Brainstormed and recorded ideas to OneNote pages with ways to connect with parents of preschoolers (Fotobabble, QR codes, blog pages, etc.)

It’s not bribery – it’s behavior support!

I recently read a blog post of a young mother with a darling 2 year old daughter.  Mom was relating how she had succumbed to the “bribing” style of parenting, and was not too happy about it.

I used to feel disconcerted when I thought about this as “bribing”.  With a different frame of mind, I’m able to think about the process as a learning opportunity.

In the classroom we refer to this as “first – then“.  Some folks call it “grandma’s rule“.

Any behavior that a child likes to do

can be used as a reward

for doing a less preferred activity.

For children who need more support than just a verbal, we use a little card, with removable pictures of the activity you would like them to accomplish, and then a picture of the activity the child would prefer to do.

I’m not at school right now, but doing a search on “first then visual” will take you to lots of examples of what I talking about, like this.

Fall Harvest Sensory Table

Our sand/water table has been a popular center this week in preschool.  We filled it with dried beans, pie pumpkins, sweet potatoes, small white potatoes, red apples, acorn squash, ears of dry field corn, plastic fruits and vegetables, as well as cups, pots, spoons from the kitchen area.

We also have small clipboards, scrap paper, and colored pencils to write “recipes” or draw pictures of the activity.


We all gathered around between clean up time and snack to pick corn kernels off the cobs.  The children really get into this!  Once the corn is off the cobs, we’ll use the cobs during painting and printmaking fun next week.

Making Applesauce

We made applesauce in the microwave today and then ate it at snacktime. Here are some industrious preschoolers carefully cutting apple chunks into smaller pieces with appetizer spreaders.


In a microwave safe bowl covered with vented plastic wrap, heat for 10 minutes:

8 peeled, cored, and chopped apples

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2-3 Tbsp sugar (optional)

Stir after 10 minutes, then return to continue cooking for another 5 or 6 minutes.  Mash soft apples with a potato masher.  Cool and serve.


Fun Outside

Our classroom is located in a building that has students from preschool through seniors in high school, so we use the playground that the PTA generously funded and constructed for the elementary students.  The preschoolers enjoy the climbing equipment and three slides.  There is always something that is just out of their ability reach, so they typically do not get disinterested when playing out there.


    B. conquers the spirals last spring.        H. takes a breather on the tri-colored ladders.

      J. has found a way to climb higher on the dome.

There are days when we don’t have the time to go all the way out to the main playground (it’s a very long trek down a long hallway and then past a softball field.  On those days we play on the grass and sidewalk right outside the preschool classroom.  Most of the time we bring out sidewalk chalk or play simple running games or circle games.  However, this week, we’ll also bring out some water to paint on the sidewalk.  We are talking about fire safety this week with a visit from the local fire fighters on Friday.  So it seems natural to bring out the buckets and brushes and fire helmets and see what fun the children create for themselves.

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