Saturday, October 8, 2011

What is Happening?

After having taught in various schools, states, grade levels, etc., one thing that baffles me is an increase in students who either cannot read or struggle to read.  I personally believe that, regardless of IQ, most humans will learn what they can or need to in order to survive.  There are basic things we learn...walking, talking, etc. without having to be taught because our brains know that we need to do these things to have an easier life.  I kind of see reading in that category.

How do you get by without being able to read? How do you sign a contract? Or do you just not know what you're signing--pretty scary.  How do you drive, shop, do anything without being able to read?

Yet, I keep seeing it over and over again.  I was first surprised when I met students who had made it all the way to the 6th grade without being able to read.  I had a student who couldn't spell the word cat.  I'm not mocking this student's intelligence.  In fact, I fully believed in this student's ability.  But somehow just reading words was a challenge.  What happened? Was somebody not there?

At this same school, they were concerned about this increasing problem with reading.  So, there was a reading program put in place and we were all mandated to use it.  All it consisted of was reading all block long for 90 minutes.  You read to students for 20 minutes, do an activity, have the students read from a personally selected book for 20 minutes, do an activity, and then have them read a class novel for 20 more minutes and do an activity.  It was redundant and what myself and many of my colleagues discovered was that it was turning our students off when it came to reading.  They were also being required to read every night and turn in a reading log (seriously, how many do you think were even being honest about that?).  They were in reading overload.  I tried to change it up and make things interesting.  However, I was instructed I was not to deviate from the model at all...because it supposedly worked.  I never saw it do anything but make the students hate reading.  If a student can't read, making them read more isn't going to help.

I then worked with students at another school with a language program that was pretty successful in teaching reading.  I worked with the county's reading specialist personally on this program, and we really saw our students learning to read better.  But it still stumped me how so many students made it all the way to the 6th grade (the one I was teaching at the time) without being able to read...and many of them not even caring to learn.  

I can understand being frustrated because the way somebody is teaching something to you isn't working for you.  But, personally, if I struggled to learn something that I needed to know to get by in life, I'd look for any way to learn it that I could find.  

I just really don't get it.  Am I missing something about society today (I'm serious here)? Is it becoming more possible to live life without needing to read? I just don't know how I could do it.  I'm not even talking about having a college reading level --just at least being able to read period.  

I sort of rationalized a 6th grader not being able to read because they are still depending on adults for most things.  But it really floored me when I came across 12th graders who were unable to read and totally disinterested in learning how.  I was truly scared for those students because if they can't read by the end of their high school career, where are they going to go? What are they going to do? 

That's all there is to this post.  After working at various schools and brainstorming ways to encourage reading, I see no difference.  Those people who want to read will read and those who don't won't.  This isn't mean to be pessimistic--just realistic.  My goal as a teacher has become to show students how learning makes life easier.  But I think something is changing in society.  I'm not sure what it is...maybe it's text language, more media, technology...but each year fewer students are able to read.  And I really think that's a skill you can't live without.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How Hard Can It Be?

This Thursday, for my "what I've learned" post, I am going to attempt to explain two things that can be kind of hard to understand before you have children.  I often need a clear picture of something to understand it.  And if anyone reading is anything like me, hopefully this post is helpful.

I know that I am not the only person who wondered about sleep before having a baby.  You hear it a lot when you're pregnant, "Get sleep now because you won't get it later"... (as if sleep is just something you can store up on and go into your storage unit to pull out when you need it later).  The point is that it often doesn't make sense before you have children how hard it is to get sleep.  I mean, the baby sleeps A LOT, right? Young babies sleep at least 15 hours out of the day.  So, just sleep when the baby sleeps and you shouldn't be short on it.

Here's the hold up and why, for me personally, sleep has been so hard to come by.  Imagine settling in to your warm, cozy bed.  Your eyelids are heavy and you just can't wait to sink into bed for a peaceful night's sleep.  You've entered the euphoric state of dreamland feeling blissful when alarm clock goes off out of nowhere.  It won't go off on it's own, so you have to get up and turn it off.  But it can take thirty minutes or more to turn it off.

When you go back to bed, you've now been startled out of your peaceful state.  And you don't feel like you can go back to sleep because what if that alarm goes off again? Something in the back of your mind is constantly thinking about that alarm and can't stop.  So, you really cannot mentally relax fully; thus, what sleep you do get is not that refreshing.

Before the first day of school, most teachers can't sleep.  There is too much excitement or anticipation for what the day will hold.  I'm sure the same is true before starting a new job, going to an interview the next day, etc.  Just imagine always feeling like that every night.  That is exactly why I have found sleeping is so hard with a baby.  My mind will not stop thinking about him (which is a good thing).  Even when somebody else is watching my baby and I KNOW he is in good hands, I still have "what if it needs me?" playing in the back of my mind.  

Plus, it would be fabulous if I was rich enough to have a maid, nanny, housekeeper, etc. so I really could sleep whenever the baby slept.  But, sadly, I am a commoner and my house would be in total disarray if I slept whenever he slept.  Plus, I'd never get a shower or eat.   So, just in case anyone else was wondering what makes sleeping so hard when you have a young baby who sleeps a lot, maybe that helped make sense of it.  I know I would have appreciated an explanation beforehand. :)

I don't mean to make it sound like a burden--it's just one of the ways life has changed for me since having a baby.  


You hear about parents who talk about having a hard time getting out of the door with little ones.  Again, this is one of those things that might seem like it would be pretty simple.  Grab the baby and go, right?

Well, I'll spell out a typical day for me trying to get out of the door with the baby

1.) Feed the baby, burp the baby, feed the baby, burp the baby (takes somewhere from 20-30 minutes and even longer with a brand new baby)
2.) 5 minutes later...EXPLOSION...change the baby
3.) Is the diaper bag together? Do I have wipes, a change of clothes, diapers, etc?
4.) Put the baby in his car seat...dang it...he just spit up everywhere
5.) Change his clothes
6.) Since he just spit up, he's hungry again
7.) Feed the baby again
8.) Put the baby back in the carseat, grab my purse, grab my keys, grab the diaper bag
9.) Out the door..Who knows what time this would be, but I have to make it back by nap time or else I will have one cranky baby on my hands.

And this is on a day when perhaps he isn't all that fussy.  Those days, we just aren't going anywhere because he will scream no matter where we go.

You do learn a thing or two about preparedness to make it easier to get out of the door.  But one thing I've learned is that babies are unpredictable and sometimes you just can't be fully prepared.  

BUT I wouldn't trade seeing his sweet little face every day for anything in the world!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another Sleep Update

While I was up visiting my family, I let Gordon Lee get a little spoiled.  I just didn't feel like going to the trouble of having him sleep by himself because I'd have to keep running up and down the stairs.  I'd tried it for one day but when he woke up to unfamiliar surroundings, he wasn't going back to sleep.  So, I just let him fall asleep in my arms, his carseat, or somewhere he found comfortable.  

But I knew when we came back that I wanted to go back to getting him to nap in his crib.  So, I tried going back to that.  He has taken 1-2 naps in there every day.  And I wanted to post some things about his napping and also ask some questions in case anybody reading might have some information for me.

First of all, the book I was reading said to lay him down when he is sleepy but not yet asleep.  I hadn't really been doing that previously because I found that if I laid him down in any state other than completely asleep, he'd be jolted awake and it would take that much longer to calm him down again.  But yesterday, I just figured I'd try it and see what happened.  Well, he fell asleep! I was so excited.  He slept for about 45 minutes until he woke up for some reason.  I wasn't able to get him to go back to sleep to finish that nap, but I did get him to take another nap for about 30 minutes.

Today, I tried something even different.  I just laid him down in his crib when he was wide awake after a morning feeding.  I turned his lullaby and turtle lamp on and walked out of the room.  The only reason I did this was because I am starting to feel sick and I just needed a break to take care of myself.  Well, much to my surprise (and excitement), he fussed a little and then just fell asleep! I don't know how long he slept because when I got out of the shower he was crying.  However, I know he slept at least 30 minutes because it was that long before I got in the shower.  Once again, I wasn't really able to get him to go back to sleep after he had woken up.  I put him in the baby bjorn and did chores while he watched.

Then, I put him down for another nap that lasted about 25 minutes.  By the time I got in there (which was just seconds after I heard him crying), he was screaming with his hands clenched across his chest. come some questions or things I'm currently unsure about

1.) Gordon Lee sleeps next to me at night.  This started out with a growth spurt that had him feeding all night one night.  And then, I discovered he slept better with us than on his own.  So, I let him keep sleeping with me.
I'm starting to think this wasn't such a good move because I think I've trained him to believe he can't sleep unless he is next to me.

2.) I'm not sure if his shorter sleeping periods are actually coming from something that is hurting him and causing him to wake up.  After I got him up from his most recent nap, he stopped crying when I picked him up and carried him around.  

So, I'm really stumped here as to what to do.  If I keep letting him sleep with me, I could be just making it harder for him to sleep on his own--and I really need him to do that for my well-being.  If something is physically hurting him making naps harder, I do want to be able to comfort him so he can sleep. Any comments, ideas or suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Baking with Baby

With the approach of October yesterday, I had the urge to bake.  I wanted to make something that would go with the season, of course.  So, I called my mother to see if she had any good recipes.  After going through options like cookies, pies, etc., pumpkin bread seemed the most enticing!

I decided that I would make a loaf today while little Gordon Lee took his nap.  After filling up his tummy and putting him down for a nap, I went to get ready to make my pumpkin bread.  Unfortunately, after only about 5 minutes of sleeping, he ended up having an explosion in his pants that startled him awake.  Daddy graciously changed his diaper and tried to put him back down for a nap, but it wasn't working.

My baby only enjoyed being carried around in a sling or carrier for about a month until he would pitch a fit any time I tried to strap him to me.  I'm sure one of the reasons had to do with how hot it is down here and it isn't fun being strapped to someone when it is hot.  Yet, another reason (that my dad just happened to discover) for him disliking slings and carriers was that he wanted to face OUT.  Since he was too small at the time for this to happen, my dad improvised his own sling.
(a t-shirt turned baby carrier--inventive)
Gordon Lee was a huge fan as he could be toted around while facing outward.  Well, I decided that just MAYBE he might be big enough to face out.  As it turns out, I was able to adjust the baby bjorn for him to face out today!  

Ahh...fantastic! I could put him in there and still make my pumpkin bread.  Well, it was absolutely a success!

He started out alert and very excited to look at everything that was going on! He enjoyed watching me get the ingredients out, pour them together, etc.  There were a few areas, however, that required assistance.  The first challenge was breaking eggs.  I couldn't see my hands very well, so my husband came in and intervened turning the baking into a family affair! I'd originally just planned on calling him in there when it was time to put the bread in or take it out (since I wouldn't dare get the baby near the oven!) But there we all were making pumpkin bread together.  

Gordon Lee had such a great time that the excitement got to him and nap time set in.

Ahhhh beautiful! We were able to get something fun done and work the nap in at the same time! 

As for the bread, I haven't tried it yet.  But even if it isn't any good, a great time was still had by all. 

The bread looks good and if anyone wants to make it, here's the recipe!
(I apologize for the poor picture quality.  I had to take these with my phone as my husband needed the camera at work)

This recipe makes 2 loaves.
Grease 2 loaf pans and  pre-heat oven to 350.
3 cups sugar (or splenda)
1 cup vegetable  oil (or use applesauce)
4 beaten eggs
1 can (16 oz.) pumpkin
1 teasp. Baking powder
3 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 teasp. salt
2 teasp. Baking soda
½ teasp. ground cloves
1 teasp. Cinnamon
1 teasp. Nutmeg
1 teasp. Allspice
2/3 cup water 1 cup pecans or walnut pieces (optional)
Combine sugar, oil (or applesauce) and eggs, beat until light and fluffy.
Stir in pumpkin. Combine all the dry ingredients and stir into the pumpkin mixture. Add water and nuts. Mixing well.
 Bake at  preheated oven 350 degrees for 65 minutes. When using splenda, check about 5-10 minutes earlier.