Thursday, December 29, 2011

Update on the Language Barrier

First let me say she has come a long way. Her father told us she spoke very little English and didn't understand much more. She is progressing rapidly. It is truly amazing how the human mind works and how quickly children absorb information and can learn new things! I don't think I would be able to make such progress in such a short amount of time!

A side note, the two others in her class speak only English (no translators). Funny, as most of my students are bilingual and some are trilingual-it will be quite the advantage when they are grown!

My second class with her I discovered she knew the words yes and no. Oh the possibilities that opened up! I gained much insight into what she was able to understand. I also learned to phrase things in multiple ways. If I say it one way and it gets a blank stare, I say it a different way. I am by nature flexible and will do anything to help a child learn, so this isn't as difficult for me as it might be for some people. Sometimes just changing a few words does the trick and sometimes it takes 4-5 tries to get her to understand, but it is well worth it. Encouragement has been phenomenal with her. High fives, thumbs up and smiles are universal. And she loves them all :)

Today I was so proud of her!! She was able to trace her name without my help (we have been doing this hand over hand for a month with no independence gained until tonight). It looked very much like a three year old wrote it, but she is three, so this is putting her right at age level!!!

She was also able to match the entire uppercase alphabet by herself. We have a magnetic board with uppercase and lowercase letters and the students match them (uppercase to uppercase and lowercase to lowercase). This has been an ongoing process. It began with hand over hand modeling. Then it moved onto her being able to match (very slowly), one at a time, as long as I was right next to her. She would take one letter, hold it next to the a, see if it matched and move on down the alphabet. This was a long and grueling process, but it was progress. Tonight I was able to sit at my regular seat and she was able to match the whole alphabet independently by looking at the letter and finding it (not going through the entire alphabet). She got lots of smiles and high fives.

Another thing I began working with her on today was comprehension. The curriculum is worksheet based and begins by random words being read and pictures next to them. They have progressed now to the point where the pictures are more obscure. Like the words on one page today were fast, and it showed a rabbit with "speed marks", past and it showed the rabbit going past a turtle and last and it showed 4 white ducks and a yellow one, the yellow being last in the line. We talked about the pictures and I can tell she understands some. It will take a bit for her vocabulary to expand and her knowledge of the words, how the apply to the pictures and also how to apply them to different situations. She is a very quick learner, and I know this will progress as well.

Such a sweet demeanor she possesses and such a will to learn. She gets excited for each baby step, it never ceases to make me smile. There is something to be said about the student when she is in my last class of the night after a 12 hour day and I am thrilled to teach her (I have 8 hours at my first job then I go to Kumon). She brings such a joy to the classroom, I am truly blessed to be her teacher.

On a completely different note, I am proud of another student tonight. I began teaching him when I started at Kumon, over a year ago. He could not write his name and he could pay attention for about 15 seconds before getting distracted (which makes for a long 30 minute class). He is graduating from my class to the next classroom on Monday. Today was my last night with him. It is amazing the student he now is. He is one of my model students and will be missed greatly. He is the last of the students I started with to move up. The excitement in his eyes is definitely contagious :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Don't Hate Me

"Don't hate me, but I need to talk to you when you get here." that was the text from my director at Kumon. I go in and he tells me I am getting 2 of the 4 new students who are all suppose to be quite a challenge. I question him further and he tells me one of the students will be starting at square 1. Ok, I thought, I can do this.

After introducing myself I asked her if she wanted to take her coat off. No response. I figured she was really shy, sometimes it takes the new ones a bit to warm up to me. Her face didn't read fear and she wasn't about to cry, so we proceeded.

From what I gathered in our 20 minute class session I'm not sure she speaks or understands much English. Mmm. . . literally square 1. We did lots of hand over hand work (including how to hold a pencil and tracing the letters in her name), peer modeling (thank goodness the boys in that class are awesome and more than happy to help out). She did repeat the words after me, although it took peer modeling to get there.

How do I teach a child that doesn't understand me?

Upon talking to a close teacher friend she noted, it really isn't much different from your students with special needs (my other job). They can't talk to me either. But I can tell by body language and facial expressions what they are feeling. I think the difficult part with this student is her face is a blank slate: no confusion, understanding or frustration, just blank.

I'm going to see if we know what language she speaks (several are common in the country she hails from). I'm sure I will butcher trying to learn some simple words, but I can try. Also I'm going to see if one of the other students in the class can talk to her in her native language, as he comes from the same country. The tricky part with that is for him not to revert entirely back to that language, but use it as an avenue to tell her basic things she does not understand and to continue on with his learning without this holding him back. . . so many ideas to ponder. . . so many things to consider before executing any one plan.

I wish I had more time with them, an hour a week isn't very much (2 half hour classes). I certainly hope she is getting immersed in the English language somewhere else besides just one hour a week; I fear that isn't enough and she will struggle to learn quickly. But then again, she is young and more easily able to learn complex things like languages. Perhaps I am turning scenarios over in my head and making this a much bigger deal than it is.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sonic for the win!

I posted awhile ago about Sonic's Limeades for Learning Program. I hope you found a minute each day to vote to help fund things for public school classrooms to help the students learn in creative and innovative ways. I know I voted! Here is one of the projects that Sonic funded (although they were able to fund many of them!!) I like this one because it appeals to me both as a teacher and as a scrapbooker :)

It Is Time to "Cut It Out Now"
Mrs. Deon
"Home is where one starts from." --T.S. Eliot. 7 hours a day; 5 days a week. We spend so many hours in our classroom becoming a family and a team. Help us make our classroom the most welcoming, bright, and organized classroom around!

I teach at a rural elementary school in Southwestern Louisiana. Our location is within 15 miles of a major U.S. Army Base; therefore many of my students are military children. There is no doubt that the classroom make-up is diverse in cultures. Some students have never seen a large city; others have lived overseas! Our school is classified as a Title I school, with the majority of students receiving free/reduced lunch. Many families live in poverty. My students are eager to voice opinions and take active roles in their education. We operate as a team and family. They believe in themselves and they need you to believe in them, too!

From enhancing classroom bulletin boards to creating personalized student journals, this product will improve our classroom for years! We look forward to using this machine in our Language Arts lessons. We like to do many hands-on lessons and projects related to our novel studies and this will take our projects up a notch, for sure! In addition to enhancing our lessons, this product will help make our classroom more appealing and organized. Our teacher will be able to make labels and nametags galore!

This Cricut machine will allow us to add dimension and creativity to our everyday learning. When one reflects upon what made his/her educational career exciting and memorable, it is the special touches teachers were able to add into the curriculum, not the tests and textbooks. Please help make our school year more memorable and imaginative, turning our classroom into a "home away from home."

Isn't that wonderful?!!! I just wanted to take a minute to share, so thanks for hearing me out :)
You can find all of the projects Sonic funded on

*copied from

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oh So Much!

I have learned oh so much since taking this new job! I am a paraprofessional at a local high school and work in the rooms with students who have profound cognitive and physical disabilities.

In the morning I have a student who is only a few years younger than I! It is her senior year, but you can continue in the special education program until age 21. While working with her the past month I have learned to push a wheelchair, maneuvering it in and out of doors (both those that stay open and those that don't), learned how to read facial expressions, what areas of physical therapy I can help out with, how to put on a swimsuit without taking off all of the clothing, how to record a switch and how to create "swichable" power-points and learning activities.

In the afternoon I am with a student who is able to walk, but suffers from massive mood swings, among other things. Every day we go out in the community, as one of her goals is assimilation. I have learned to hold my to5nge when others don't understand, to calm her agitations before they become tantrums, to read her facial and body features (she is also nonverbal), and to direct her while giving her the opportunity to make decisions on her own. We also use the switch for her to communicate with others, but I don't often have to use it when it is just her and I (because I am picking up on her various ways of communicating with me).

I wasn't sure I would enjoy this job, but I do. Both of my girls are delightful and challenging. No two days are the same. Even though we are working on the same goals each day, I try to mix it up with different activities and trying to make it fun for them. I really enjoy working with the girls and am looking forward to my continual journey of growth and learning :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Limeades for Learning

The fast food restaurant SONIC is helping teachers make their dream projects come true! Teachers submit what they need for their classrooms, everyone votes once a day and the ones with the most votes are given funding for their projects~how cool is that! Link a project, vote for teachers and give them the chance to enrich students' lives!!!

Here is the link!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I've been reading like crazy lately, but more on that later.

I got a job today! An aide position at a high school in a special education classroom! Full time w/ benefits! Details on things later. Teacher in service this afternoon and tomorrow, school starts Thursday, so everything is happening pretty quickly!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Waiting and Praying

I thought for sure that this was the year I would get a teaching job and have my own classroom in a bigger sense than at Kumon. I've been praying all year and even more fervently all summer. I had 11 interviews for 8 jobs and used an entire box (100 sheets) of resume paper mailing out resumes, letters of recommendation, transcripts etc. I have met many great principals who, as lovingly as they could, told me they have chosen a different candidate. I know for one position I was up against 150 others who also desire to have their own classroom. I think the minimum was 12 for one job. The odds are not favorable. I love children and I love God and I know He has plans for my life. He has given me these talents to use, now I'm just waiting and praying that He allows me to use them in a bigger setting. I long to show children a joy for learning, to show them love and see them succeed.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Attention, all teachers and parents!

It is no secret that starting school in the fall costs money. There are clothes to buy, shoes, pens, pencils, folders, paper and all of the other things that are on the back to school lists. Today I found a great deal and want to share it with you. I went to Office Max.

Office Max is great if you are a teacher because they offer a rewards program that rocks! You register for a Max Perks card and swipe it when you shop (not a credit card, it just keeps a tally of purchases). Working at Kumon counts as a teacher (I think even aides could get benefits because they just require a pay stub for proof). For every $75 you spend (in 3 months time) they will give you a gift certificate for $10. But they also have an ink cartridge recycling program (which is how I get most of my rewards). For every empty ink cartridge you bring in, they give you $3 in gift certificates :) Now you do have to wait until the end of the quarter (3 months) to print the certificate and it does have an expiration, but I'll take a few stipulations if they want to give me free money! Ok, now on to my savings! I got everything below for FREE! Ok, so some of the discount was from Max Perks, so if you don't have any perks built up, you will pay some for this, but I combined coupons and store deals and even without the Perks, it is a great deal, let me show you!

1. I printed these coupons (note, coupons expire 7/30):
which made the Office Max filler paper $.20 each (originally $1.79)
and the SCHOOLIO notebooks $.20 each (originally $.99)
2. The filler paper is currently on the Buy one get one free sale, so 3 of them were free!
So without Perks, the 6 packages of filler paper and 6 notebooks would be $1.80
3. Since I had 3.00 in Perks (just recycled one ink cartridge), I picked up the dry erase board as well for $.99 and the total came out exactly to $3.00 (after tax)-so it was free :)
Disclaimer- I did not take the time to figure out the tax and make it perfect, I knew I was about $1 short, and chose the white board accordingly-it just happened to be spot-on :)

So, do you have an Office Max nearby? Cash in on these great savings!!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Educational Literature

I recently was given a recommendation to read a book on education. I was mildly surprised that I had not heard of it earlier. I know there are many books written on education, and I do not claim to be familiar with all of them, but I have read many and am familiar with titles of others that exist, even though I have not yet read them. Motivated by my curiosity, I went to the local library's website to see if they had it-negative. Since our library has the amazing resource of being able to borrow books from other libraries, I looked at Bloomington library (which is larger than Normal's) and Illinois State University's (which is larger still, and primarily a teaching school)-negative. The closest place that had a copy of the book was an hour away! So I put in for the hold.

Since then I have received the book, The Schools We Need & Why we Don't Have Them by E.D. Hirsch Jr. and have been reading it. When I ordered the book I was aware it held ideas about education that are not taught in public universities, yet I am still surprised that ISU did not have a single copy of it in six floors, with one exclusively designated for education majors. Our professors taught us to challenge what they say and analyses it, yet this book that contrasts the beliefs is nowhere to be found in the library... interesting.

Now that I have begun reading it I am highly interested in what it has to say. The author backs his opinions by multiple research experiments and observations of children and the education system over time. Hirsch Jr rallies for a core curriculum, something I had not heard of in my four years as a student of elementary education. For those who are unaware of what a core curriculum is, it is a curriculum that is consistent and specific. For example: All fourth graders will be able to identify all 50 states within the United States of America, their capitols as well as major landforms including mountains, rivers that span half of a state or more, etc. A core curriculum is very specific so that all the fourth grade students in the school would be entering fifth grade with the same knowledge. By having a core curriculum, this does away with the information gaps between grade levels (and schools if a core curriculum was administered nation-wide).

I am able to see the value having a core curriculum would hold for a school, district and honestly it would be valuable to be implemented nation-wide. Although a nation-wide mandate would be met with much adversary by many teachers, administrators, parents and citizens. It is completely understandable why. As a teacher who has her diploma and state certificate, I was not educated about this until I took it upon myself to do so. How many other teachers have not seen the studies on this? How many administrators are aware of this. What happens when new information is found in science? Who is going to take the time to construct such rigid guidelines for teachers? There are so many questions to be answered before this can fully be put into place.

I'm sure I will post other thoughts spurred from this book, but I want to first leave you with some questions. I am answering them in the way I believe is true, but I challenge you to think about them for yourself.

I believe there are private schools that have realized this value within the United States and are striving for this. Will it ever happen in the United States of America's public education system? I can't answer that. Do I feel it would be beneficial? Yes. Will it take away teachers' creative license within their classroom? Some, but I feel that a creative teacher is still able to teach within the designated curriculum in creative and unique ways. Will it benefit the students as learners? Yes. Will it allow them to learn more within a given school year? I believe so.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I know it has been awhile, so here are the updates on how everything is going.

My reading goal is going well. Currently reading Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi. I just started it, but am learning much about the history of the Mississippi River.

The boys I was watching, are doing well. The mother's temporary job ended, so I have a new family now (more on that later). My goals for them were reachable, and many were reached. When I left them, the oldest one had graduated from a sippy cup and both boys were eating at the table. They can now both dress themselves (although each day varied on their willingness to do this). The baby was close to walking when I left him (and is now running, I visited a couple days ago). I was very happy with the progress we made. The oldest has mastered most of the social skills he will need for kindergarten in the fall (at least with his brother, friends may be a different situation).

My new family is a challenge in an entirely different way! I am spending 12 hours a week with them and am enjoying learning what they love to do. They recently moved from Congo, so they speak mostly French, mom speaks less English than the kids. Today we read some easy books (on weather and opposites) in both English and French. The oldest (5) enjoyed sharing the French words with me. They love to sing and dance, so I am looking forward to incorporating that into their learning of English. They also have a 3 month old, who is adorable! Honestly, he is a wonderful baby and only cries when hungry or needing a change.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I finished Educating Esme, it was a quick read. The book was interesting, as was Madame Esme's personality. While I feel my personality and hers are rather different, I enjoyed seeing teaching from the perspective of someone who has such a different take on life. I am once again reminded how amazing it is that each and every person is unique (both people in general and students).

What am I reading now? Miracles Happen by Mary Kay Ash. Autobiographies have always interested me, perhaps because through them a person can see glimpses of that person that might have been rarely shown to the outside world. Autobiographies also fascinate me because often I learn new things about the period of time the person lived in. This helps me relate better to history, and will be especially helpful when I teach social studies.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Resolve to Read

Today I was garage saling and came across a book that has been on my list to read for some time (a couple of years). Since it was a quarter, I got it and decided I was going to resolve to read it within the month. Now, reading is something I haven't done much of for awhile (other than reading the Bible). It's not that I don't love to read, because I do, I just need to remember to make time for it. Rather than watch a rerun of a television show, I could read.

I grew up loving books. I lived on a farm and aside from the animals (which I wasn't a fan of) there was not a whole lot to do. I read a lot. My mom would tell me to go outside and play and I would smuggle a book underneath my shirt and find a place away from the windows to read (so my mom couldn't see)-I know, I was a terrible child :)

I have so many books for my classroom library (my spreadsheet has a few more then 400 and I need to log a few still) that I had to store them at my parents house until I get a classroom of my own (Kumon only allows certain books within their program, but they do purchase them all).

So what book did I buy? Educating Esme Diary of a Teacher's First Year by Esme Raji Codell. I read Part I tonight. It shares her struggles within the classroom with students, administration, motivating both other teachers and students as well as her sucesses, small and large, and the funny moments (working with children always involves those). All in all, the book is a fantastic insight! I love reading what other teachers write, because it gives me a look into their classrooms and gives me ideas (that's why I read other teacher's professional blogs). But I did have some concern with one part.

On page 69 (in the 2001 edition) she states: I was ambitious in the choreography of the dance routine [for a Christmas presentation]. It had many complicated parts, but under the threat of death and homework my thirty-one charges learned them meticulously, baring their teeth in a mandatory smile all the way. I'm exaggerating; I know they kind of enjoyed the rehearsals, the anticipation of performance and success. They know I would never let them fail. That's why they do what I ask, no matter how much they complain.

Although you probably did not need to know quite that much, I thought it would give you insight to her humor and context is important to understand the overarching point. I wonder about the second to last sentence. Is it entirely the responsibility of the teacher whether a child succeeds or fails? Some might say yes, but I don't agree. I feel that if a teacher applies his or herself and helps a student in every way possible, and the student still fails that this isn't the fault of the teacher. Several factors could play into the situation: the student's study skills or lack thereof, life outside of the classroom (including social time within school and out of school happenings), whether the student slept well the night before or is feeling well, the list could go on and on. I sincerely hope that Esme does not hold herself personally responsible for the success or failure of her students. For that is a heavy cross to bear. That being said, there are many things a teacher can do to aide her students, and they should be done so each student is given a chance at success. On a separate note, failure is also a part of life. It is something students need to have happen in order for them to learn and grow from it. If a student never fails, he or she never learns how to recover from the situation and rise to become a stronger person. I fear for the student that never fails.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The teacher within

"The teacher within this one is strong." is the statement one of my friends made when I was telling her the goals I set for the children I am nannying. A little corny, yes, but still true. If you have been following my blog at all since October, you know that I do a variety of things job-wise and nannying is one of them. Currently, I care for a family of three boys, ages 9 months, 2 and 4. These boys are all boy. They are dirty, like to wretsle each other on the floor and assert their athority. Some of my goals for them (the two oldest) include taking dishes to the sink after meals, learning to dress themselves (with the exception of buttoning pants), reducing the amount of backtalk, increasing the amount of respect for adults and trying things on their own before asking for help. This is my fourth week with them (two days a week, 5 hours a day) and the four year old is making progress, the two year old still needs reminded, but is able to do most things himself as well. This morning I was thrilled when the four year old said (after he was finished eating breakfast), "do I have to scrape my plate if I ate all my food?", I smiled and told him "no, just take it to the sink". But inside I was jumping up and down and clapping in delight. Small steps are still steps~and with feet that little, the steps have to start out small :) I'm happy for their progress and I hope they continue thriving on the journey to independence.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Last weekend I visited my parents and we went to play basketball at the Metro Center (local exercise facility). There were several people there (it was pick-up). We formed teams and it was fun. However, that isn't the point of this post.

There was a couple there, husband and wife. The husband was a great player, he had a mighty serve and could bump, set and spike equally well. The wife was... not nearly as talented as her husband. When she went for the ball, she only made contact about half of the time and often the ball flew in the wrong direction. What caught my attention was not her lack of skill, but the way her husband encouraged her and uplifted her when she did well. While volleyball may not be her specialty, I'm sure she is great at doing many other activities.

This made me think of my students. Some are so easy to praise because schooling and reading comes easy to them. Others struggle to remember what sounds blend together to make which sounds. The ones that struggle are often the ones that need the most encouragement and praise. The wife obviously struggled, but kept at it because she had the support of her husband. Had she not, she might not have played. Struggling students need to know they have the support of their teacher (s). Without that knowledge and encouragement, students might give up and decide learning isn't for them.

Although I make a conscious effort to encourage all of my students equally, this reminded me that some students need it more than others. We are suppose to treat each student equally, yet some students will give up if they don't have the extra encouragement. My personal goal is to let each of my students know that they can learn. They can conquer those blends, learn to count by 10's, read those sentences. They need to know that I believe in them, because who knows what the rest of the world is telling them? As a teacher, one of my many roles is a cheerleader, and I will cheer consistently for those who often send the ball flying in the wrong direction.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Tonight I had a student who would not pay attention unless I called him Buzz, as in Buzz Light-year. He also called me Space Ranger, which I deemed ok for the night, as he was the only one (out of 4) that came to class. He is obsessed with Toy Story, so I used this to my advantage.

He was working, but very distracted when I asked him how Buzz did his work. He said, "Buzz is a spaceman, he flies from planet to planet with lightning speed"-his face was completely serious. I then replied, "if you are really Buzz, then shouldn't you be able to work with lightning speed?" I was hoping it would focus him, and it did. He was done with the worksheet in no time and got to move on to the more fun activities (which are a must for this student, because he needs the extra practice with letter sounds and blends-the focus of the fun activities).

Teaching children is never dull :)