Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Uncertainties

April 1 marked a significant April Fool’s Day for those in New York State with any interest in public education.  After months of anticipation, rallying, and various attempts to have the voices of parents, students, and teachers heard, our state legislature provided us with quite the April Fool’s joke-massive and potentially destructive education reform.  The biggest problem was, it wasn’t a joke.  While most of our parents, students, and educators were sound asleep, our government decided to change the course of public education in our state.  What this means for me, personally, is an uncertain outlook on the future of public education in New York State.

I was born and raised in New York, by two public school teachers, who eventually pursued and excelled at administration.  I was educated within the New York State public education system from kindergarten until I graduated with honors from high school.  I was and am still very proud of the work my parents did.  They were professional, dedicated, and passionate about their professions.  It was not a “hey, I get the summer off” kind of attitude.  It was an “every day counts for every child” kind of attitude.  I declined to follow in their footsteps, because they worked so hard and while we weren’t poor, I wasn’t sure their efforts were worth the monetary compensation.  If you’ve read my previous blog post about why I became a teacher, you know that has certainly changed (and if you haven’t-go read it now, then come back!). 

I’ve dedicated my adult life to my children.  How many do I have?  Since I was 24, I’ve had 72.  72 young lives have intersected paths with my own in my classroom, and whether there was an instant and effortless bond, or one which was fraught with challenges, I have loved them all.  I’ve taught students who were homeless and bussed back and forth to and from a shelter each day.  I’ve taught students who’ve already had multiple run ins with the law at their young age.  I’ve taught students brimming with knowledge and ideas and supportive families.  Again, I’ve loved them all.  They make up my world.  They are what I think about in the morning when I wake up and mentally review what I want them to get out of our day together (knowledge, love, social skills, etc.) and what I think about when I can’t sleep at night, wondering how I will be able to reach the student who seems so unreachable or what book Susie may like to read once she finishes her latest selection.  I teach my students the way I would want my own children to be taught, because for those precious hours we are together each day, they are my children.  They go home to moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas, but for that day, they look to me for safety, guidance, and knowledge, and I take my responsibility for that quite seriously.

I’ve only been teaching 4 years in my own classroom, but was a substitute teacher for several years prior to that while finishing my graduate degrees.  If I didn’t have an inkling about it before, I am certain now that every child is as unique as a snowflake, with their own strengths, challenges, loves, and hates.  Educating these unique little snowflakes requires differentiated and carefully crafted lessons and activities-they won’t all learn in the same way, at the same rate.  Things “click” for some kids when they can have a conversation about it, and for some, they have to be able to hold it in their hands and manipulate it before it makes sense.  I value the opportunities I have to give my students what they need.  I relish that lightbulb that goes off when it all comes together and the student is proud of what they’ve achieved, by learning something new and often complicated.  I hold my students to a high standard, because they are capable of excellence and I refuse to fail them by expecting anything short of that. 

How does any of this relate to the current education reforms?  It makes me fearful for the public education system my future children will enter.  I want my own children to go to school and explore, wonder, learn, and grow, not suffer anxiety and apprehension over which bubble to circle or how their performance impacts someone else.  I want my own children to inherit an education system that values their worth as little growing and developing humans, and sees them as unique individuals, not a number on a paper.  I don’t have the magic answers to these uncertainties in education, nor will I spend time expressing my personal believes on subjects such as state testing, teacher evaluation, etc.  The point of this post is that it isn’t about me, it isn’t about my worth as a teacher, it’s about my children, and it’s about their worth beyond a number on a page.  I am eternally hopeful that someday, my children will await school with a smile, knowing they are loved and valued and learning everything they can.  I am eternally hopeful that several years from now when I have children, that this type of education will still exist.

Friday, November 28, 2014

K is For...

We are nearing the end of our week of thanks!  I have truly enjoyed sharing some of my favorite things with you all!

Today is for the letter K, and for me, that has to mean the kitchen!


I love to cook, and love spending time in the kitchen while the people I love cook.  I have such wonderful memories growing up of nightly family dinners at the table in our little kitchen, and especially of my mom making big Sunday dinners.  Now, I love to spend time in the kitchen myself, as I love cooking for others (though I can't deny I still love family dinners and my mom's cooking).  A very sweet teacher friend of mine, Shadia, also loves to cook, and it's always fun to talk about delicious things we've made or recipes we've stumbled upon that we would like to try. 
To me, the time and thought put into preparing food for someone else is a real expression of love.  I adore seeing my guy in the kitchen.  He far exceeds me as a chef, and eating something he has thoughtfully prepared for myself (like tonight's delicious bacon and garlic brussels sprouts-yum!) and/or my family is not only delicious, but warms my heart. 
Someday, I hope to pass on my love for the kitchen to my own children (not that I currently have any, but someday) and give them wonderful memories of dinners spent with people who love and cherish them.  Without a doubt, I am so thankful for the kitchen and the memories it holds. 

Make sure you stop back in tomorrow for the final day of the week of gratitude!

N is For...

Sorry this is a day late, my friends!  I had such a busy day yesterday, full of fun and love, that I didn't feel blogging was the right thing to do.  I wanted to just spend the day in the moment with the people around me.

So, delayed as it is, I'm giving thanks today for my Nikon, Nook app, and Non-Delayed Flights!

First up, is definitely my Nikon DSLR.  Some of you may or may not know that I do a smidge of photography on the side, and I absolutely love my Nikon.  I have had the pleasure of capturing family memories for so many wonderful people, and have made some lasting friendships with some of my clients.  It doesn't hurt to have such a wonderful tool to take great photographs for your own home, as well!

Second up would have to be my Nook app!  I love, love, love to read.  During the summers throughout high school and college, I would average reading a book a day and was a frequent flier of our local public library.  I still love the public library and utilize it often, but there are times when I'm stuck without a book and without the ability to get to the library or the store to find something to read.  This is especially true while traveling.  Enter the wonderous Nook app.  I can peruse online, buy it, and have it in my hands (digitally) in mere seconds.  As much as I love a real, in my hand, book, I love having any book rather than no book much more.

Last, but certainly not least, I am grateful for non-delayed flights!  My wonderful love flew in last night to spend the holiday (and weekend) with myself and my family, and we were a little concerned about the weather.  We met and fell in love when I lived in Florida, but I moved back to New York almost a year and a half ago.  In upstate NY, travel can always be unreliable at this time of the year.  I am always so grateful to see my good looking fella, but this night in particular filled my heart with love and joy.  Thanks to all the pilots, flight attendants, TSA personnel, traffic control folks, and everyone else who made it possible to spend my evening with my family and the man I love.
They hug every time they're reunited :)

There you have it folks!  K will be up a bit later tonight!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A is For...


Welcome back for Day 3 of a week of thanks with the ladies at Blog Hoppin!  Today is A, and for me, that means being thankful for my Abby, Ally, and a Lexi :)

Lexi
Ally
Abby

These pups all came into my life at different times.  Lexi is 6 and I've had her since she was six weeks old.  Abby is also 6, but was adopted when she was two after being abused, and Ally is the baby at only two, and I've had her since she was 8 weeks old. 

These girls mean the world to me.  They are fun, fluffy, snugglers who cause complete chaos around the house.  They are adorable mess makers, and sweet (though a bit obsessive) lickers when they think I need a little love.  They wrestle and growl at each other, then cuddle when it's time to sleep.  They are just the best and are wonderful additions to my life!  Enjoy a few more pictures of the sweeties :)


Happy Wednesday, friends!  Hope you have a wonderful, relaxing Thanksgiving Eve!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

H is for...

Hi friends!  Welcome to Day 2 of expressing my thanks for many things in life along with the ladies at Blog Hoppin'!

Today is H is for...and for me, it's hand sanitizer, happiness, and hope!

Hand sanitizer?  Really, Krystina?  YES!  Really, friends.  Better believe that I am oh so thankful for my hand sanitizer whenever the kid who's been sneezing all day gives me a high five, or after handling homework from multiple little loves.  Hand sanitizer gives me peace of mind when I don't have time to properly wash my hands, and so far, has kept me quite healthy in my teaching career.  So I say a big, enthusiastic "Thank you!" to the lovely people at my favorite bath and body store who create delicious smelling sanitizer for these teacher hands. 

Happiness is a no brainer.  I am so thankful to be happy in my life.  I have an education, a career, and amazing people surrounding me, and I recognize each day that is more than most people in this world are fortunate enough to have.  What more could I ask for?

Last but not least, I am thankful that I have hope.  I hope that someday many things will change in the education world, that I will raise strong, smart children who will do great things for others, and that I will be able to make a lasting impact in the lives of my students.  Why, you may ask, am I thankful for hope?  Because some people live their lives devoid of hope-they have become jaded and lost the ability to think they can make a difference.  I'm grateful I still believe there can and will be better things in the future.

Thanks for joining me for Day 2 of my week of thanks!  If you missed Day 1, you can check it out here!

Monday, November 24, 2014

T is for...

I'm linking up with the ladies over at Blog Hoppin' for a week full of thankfulness, acrostic poem style!  Today being the first day, T is for...time spent with people I love!

I am truly blessed to have the best people in my life.  I have an amazing family, and friends who make me laugh and feel so very loved.  Whether they are near or far, these people mean the world to me and I am truly grateful every day that I have been so lucky to have them in my life.  In case I don't say it enough, thank you for being such an important part of my world; I love each and every one of you.
My ladies-Beth and Lex.

Amazing, long time friends, Kim and Aaron, and their sweet little boy.

My wonderful dad.

My sweet guy, who will hike a mountain to make me happy!

One of the best roommates and friends a gal could ask for-my Ricky.
My strong and spunky Jenna!
My beautiful mom and sister. 
The newest addition to our family-my cute little nephew.
My goofball brother, Sean.
My "little brothers", close family friends, Ethan and Noah.
And of course, my littlest pup, Ally.

There are several wonderful people I couldn't track down photos of, and many great teacher 
friends I have met via blogging and other social media, but know that I am thankful 
for all my close friends and family, even if I didn't post a photo!  
I'm also so thankful for you, my readers!  
Thanks for joining me at the start of this blogging journey; I hope it is a fun adventure for us all.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What Made You Want to Be a Teacher?

I never wanted to be a teacher (stay with me).  I didn’t grow up loving to play school with my sister, or dreaming of the day I would inherit my own chalkboard and golden apple.  I grew up wanting to be a lot of things, from author to artist and just about everything in between, but never a teacher.  I was raised by two teachers turned administrators and I saw how hard they worked, and always thought “Why?  My parents are so smart, and they work so hard, they could’ve been anything they wanted.”  It had never occurred to me until the end of my college career that maybe that’s exactly what they wanted to be.

I was a good student in school and got good grades.  I read a lot of books and learned a lot of things.  When I was in high school, I thought I had it all figured out-I was going to go to college and become a doctor.  I shadowed a doctor for a few weeks, a really great orthopedic surgeon, and loved it.  Off I went to college, to a fairly exclusive human physiology program that filtered into a fast track program where you could complete your undergraduate and MD in 6 years total.  My parents tried to talk me out of it, but I’m rather stubborn.  Here’s one of the many times I should’ve listened to my parents.  It took me until my senior year of college to realize I shouldn’t pursue medicine.  I took an elective in Children’s Literature, as I had always loved picture books and reading.  I thought it would be a nice and easy course to round out my last year as an undergraduate.  As part of this course, we were required to tutor underprivileged students in reading twice a week.  And that’s when I very reluctantly admitted what my mother claims to have always known- I may not have always wanted to be a teacher, but I needed to be one.

Some of you may be shocked-how can a teacher blatantly admit this isn’t their dream job?  It may not have always been my dream, but it has definitely become the job of a lifetime.  Why was it not my dream?  I was lucky to have many stellar teachers growing up, but I also had some real duds.  I think the duds stuck with me, and made me have a more negative view of teachers.  I came to think the teachers who went the extra mile and loved their students so fiercely were the rare ones, like my aunt who taught kindergarten with such magic, I swear to this day she must have a wand.  It was in tutoring these underprivileged students, and seeing that some of them had some real duds for teachers, that I saw I NEEDED to be a teacher.  I knew I could put more passion, love, and enthusiasm into the job than some of the ones I had as a student, and that these students had.

So, as a senior in college, I began substitute teaching, I finished out my degree in the health field and began applying to graduate programs.  I even fielded calls from admissions representatives asking “Are you sure you applied to the right program?  We could easily fit you into our Occupational Therapy program, or Physical Therapy, maybe?”  As much as I had dreamed of being in the medical field, I knew that wasn’t my calling anymore.  I remained adamant and began graduate courses that summer.  I continued as a substitute teacher for the two years I spent to complete my two master’s degrees.

There you have it.  I didn’t always want to be a teacher, but I can say I am truly grateful every single day that I am.  Every night I pray that I will be one of the good ones, and never one of the duds, because that’s what every student deserves, and the reason I am a teacher.