Wednesday, January 30, 2008

They didn't tell me about this part...

No one told me what it would be like sitting in a meeting whose purpose is to help a child and the parent is seething with anger. Anger at me. Anger at the others in the room. Anger at the process. I understand her anger. In fact, I think I would probably respond the same way. It was just so hard... so so hard.

Given the topic of the meeting we were instructed to focus on the needs and deficiencies of the child, not the things that make him the wonderful little being that he is. That's hard to hear as a parent and that's hard to say as a teacher. I wanted to give the parent a big hug but it seemed inappropriate given the tension in the room.

Next week we get to talk about some of the good stuff. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What ever happened to PBS?

One six year old + lots of W.W.E. + unlimited use of the remote control = bad day for teacher.

Seriously, I am blown away at what my students are exposed to. W.W.E.? Really? These kids then expose other kids in the room and all of a sudden a I have two kids arguing like drunken sailors, and somehow it's my fault for not isolating each kid in their own protective bubble.

I know this experience is helping me learn how to deal with similar situations in the future, but right now I just want to pull my hair out.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Trapped in these Failing Schools"

Admittedly I am relatively new to the public school system, but I take such issue when politicians (not just the POTUS) talk about kids "trapped in our failing schools." I have worked in two schools who work incredibly hard to make AYP. One school did not make it, and one school did. Both schools have high transient ESOL populations -- those in education know that it's difficult to work with each child to reach their full potential and pass the required standards, every single time. Am I saying it's impossible? No, of course not. That's why we work so hard - the teachers and the kids, but when we are testing Spanish speaking kids in English the scores don't always match up with the ability of the kids and the quality of the teachers. I'm rambling (and ranting) but it makes me angry.

I would invite the "trapped in our failing schools" speakers into my classroom - or into any classroom in the schools I have been in to see what life is like. To see what current day public education is like. Or maybe I will give them a test written in Latin and see how they do.

Is it too much to ask that policy makers recognize our training and trust us to do our jobs? Isn't that what I do for them?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hugs

I have two special friends in my room that have opposing physical needs. One of them seeks physical attention because he sees that as love and acceptance. His mom uses hugs to get him to stop bad behavior. So he misbehaves to get hugs. I have to say things like, "I will not hug you right now because you did not listen," or "I can't hug you right now because you hurt your friend." I give him hugs when he behaves appropriately but lately that's not often. Lately he has been acting out because he sees his teachers focusing a lot of attention on a student who needs physical attention.

This kiddo needs to be held and hugged. When he's have a rough day, and lately this has been often, he crashes and thrashes around the room. As he's thrashing and crashing the people in his path often get hurt. The only way to calm him down is to apply pressure. Sometimes we put him in a vest filled with weights, but the most effective thing we have tried is simply sitting on the floor with him in our laps and squeezing him. It's not about sitting on an adult's lap that calms him, it's the pressure we put on his body when we literally squeeze him. Think about that gentle squeeze you give someone when you give them a hug. We apply that squeeze the entire time he's on our lap. Sometimes 5 minutes - sometimes 30.

So my hugger sees this and thinks, "that kid misbehaves and gets hugs." So he misbehaves looking for the same result.

My kiddos do a pretty good job understanding that everyone has different needs but these two special friends don't have that understanding yet -- and I can tell it's just confusing for them.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

P.S.

I think my new student from China was given an American name - very recently. Has anyone heard of this happening? He doesn't speak any English but he also doesn't respond at all to his name. There might be other things going on but it's too early to get a handle on it. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to get his attention because saying his name isn't working.

TGI almost F

I'm off. My kids are off. It makes for off days and frankly, an off week. I'm a firm believer in fresh starts and clean slates but I'm no longer looking to the next day. Now I am looking to the next week. We have experienced some intense behavior issues this week with some of our friends - new and old - and that just affects the entire dynamic of the room. On top of that, we haven't been allowed to go outside this week due to testing. I understand why... but when my kids' outdoor time is eliminated, it's tough on them. So, kids who are normally independent have become incredibly needy. Tattling is at an all time high. My kiddos are screaming for attention and it feels that only a few have received it. I need the weekend to regroup and refocus on my entire class and how to manage every kiddo in it, not just a select few. They need the weekend to run around and play and be five.

On a high note -- my kiddos did an amazing job comparing two books today and learning how to put information into a Venn Diagram. Hands were up, ideas were shooting around the room and our end product was awesome. They did so well I took them all outside to the far corner of the property (was I allowed to do that??), as far away from testing locations as I could get, and we played a rousing game of Freeze. Tweeeeet, "RUN!" Tweeeeeet, "FREEZE!" Red cheeks and giant smiles all around. I just hope the poor kids being tested didn't hear... they'd likely be very jealous of our fun.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tomorrow.

Today was one of those days. One of those days that I didn't teach - at all. I spent the day scrambling to meetings, fretting over my neediest kids, swallowing anger at parents, and brainstorming ways to make these kids' lives just a little bit better. What about the kids in my room you ask? They were trapped with a substitute IA who preferred yelling to talking and who repeatedly asked for breaks. "Do you mind if I go get a drink? Do you mind if I go use the bathroom?" Well, yes I do. You see -- I do those things when I don't have kids in the room. I'm just taking out my frustration on easy targets.

Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow we will have a great day. Tomorrow there aren't any meetings. Tomorrow I get to teach. I can't wait for tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hooray!!!

As a first year teacher I am full of self-doubt. Can I teach these little minds? Can I help them get from August (not knowing their letters) to June (emergent readers and writers)? Well, I just finished by winter writing assessments and all but one kiddo improved! Many are at the benchmark for the end of Kindergarten. Hooray! I can do this. THEY can do this! I am so proud of them. Kiss your brains my lovies!

Another new one...

I got another new kiddo today. He's from China and doesn't speak any English. He sits next to my other new kiddo from Peru, who doesn't speak any English. I can communicate with my kid from Peru because I am lucky to have a Spanish speaking IA and I know some basic Spanish to facilitate things like "tie your shoes" and "use the bathroom." Unfortunately I don't know any Chinese except "hi," and there is only so many time you can use that. My other Chinese student is under strict orders from home not to speak Chinese in school, so I won't be getting any help there.

So I'm up to 21 kids... 21 beautiful wonderful kids who need one-on-one attention and instruction. 21 kids who need to learn how to read. 21 kids who need to learn how to be members of a community. 21 kids who are all so different and have incredibly different needs. I think today I am feeling overwhelmed and very jealous of the teachers that have 16 or 17 kids in their room.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Martin Luther King Day

As a first year teacher (am one of those "career-switchers") I am always thinking of how I will do it differently next year. My lessons on Martin Luther King, Jr. is a great example. After 2 days of talking about MLK and reading a couple of great books, my kids told the music teacher that MLK "had a gun and shot people." Nooooooooooooooooooo! This is where I made my first mistake - I forgot they were 5. My second mistake - I talked to them about MLK before discussing "equal," "different," "African-American," and "fair." My third mistake - the first time I talked about MLK I jumped right into his adult life and was asked if he was still alive. I answered that he wasn't and that this happened a long time ago. My curious Kinders asked how he died... and I told them. From the get-go my kids were obsessed with how MLK died and had little interest in the good work that he did. Totally my fault. They wanted to talk about guns and that made me launch into a lecture (always a good idea with Kinders right?!) about guns. You can see why this was spiraling into a disaster. All of sudden all my angst about my kids' video games and TV watching came out in an ugly way. Mistake #4.

So I had to regroup. After music class I showed them a clip of MLK and his famous speech. I wanted my kids to see what he looked and sounded like. They were in awe, "is that really him?" Yes my lovies, it is. Isn't it amazing? Isn't he amazing? "Does he die now?" Hurrumph. Lesson learned. Hopefully their 1st grade teacher can repair my damage. As for next year... I have it all planned out.

I am now one of them...

I never thought I would be a blogger. Really. Apparently behind the curve I just started reading blogs a few months ago and I discovered that I really loved it. I became addicted to a few favorites and not a day would pass that I would check on my favorites and get excited when I saw a new post. My favorite blogs all focus on teaching - after all, it's what I do, it's what I love. I would read other blogs and think, "what a great place to de-stress after a tough day, or what a great place to shout good news from the rooftop, or what a great place to go when confused or frustrated... writing it will often lead to an answer." So here I am. Wish me luck. My husband will likely be pleased... I'm not sure how many more stories he can handle about the funny thing that so-and-so did today. Onward!