Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Really

How did I end up with a longer list of things to do at the end of my teacher work-day?!

Happy Teacher

T is for teacher.... ta, ta, ta.
W is for workday... wa, wa, wa.

Letters and sounds are all you need to keep this teacher calm as can be!

(My aplogies to Dr. Jean for butchering her song "Alphardy" but I am working on 11 hours sleep, a cup of Starbucks, and a whole day without the kiddos to get testing paperwork done... what a nice day).

Monday, August 25, 2008

One Month Down

Friday was the last day of the first month of school. Given the fact that I jet out of here at lightening speed on Friday afternoons, I didn't really reflect on that month until today. I still can't believe that the kiddos have been with me in Kindergarten for 4 weeks! We've had some great "yays" and some "hurrumphs." As I am a list maker, here is the list:

Top Yays:
  1. Four kids who couldn't even form a letter on the first day can now write their own name, and I can read it.
  2. All the kids know which table they sit at (this has been a struggle for a few!)
  3. Our routines have fallen into place.
  4. The tattling has subsided (thank goodness, I was losing my mind). Thank you to A Bad Case of the Tattle Tongue!
  5. My class spontaneously bursts into song at all points of the day -- snack, unpacking, waiting for the bathroom. It's awesome.
  6. I've only had one cold.
  7. Our Song & Poetry books are working like a charm (each song or poem we learn as a class is colored, cut, and glued into a notebook. The kids read them from memory).
  8. Being 5 months pregnant and teaching Kindergarten isn't bad! In fact, I am having a fantastic year.

Top Hurrumphs:

  1. The pooper.
  2. Speaking of the pooper... The pooper, who hasn't had another incident since that frightful day, struggles with speech communication... so we're still having bathroom struggles. He insists on saying "pee pee" when he needs to go - and I force him to say "bathroom." Since it's 4 weeks in, we're also starting to enforce specific bathroom times - morning, snack, lunch, afternoon. He doesn't get this yet... he grabs his crotch and yells "pee pee" whenever the urge hits him. He might be a candidate for a name change.
  3. The All About Me book... clearly this was too much for them. So much for all that prep work (hours). Right now we are just focusing on the city and state they live in, and leaving their address and phone number to later in the year.
  4. My I.A.'s school duty. It's no secret that I don't want to share her.
  5. Writing Workshop is still a struggle. We read books and watch videos that make it look so formulaic and accessible. Then I try it ouot and it goes just sort of okay. Still working on this one...
  6. It's become evident that I have one specific kiddo who is very very very lost. The past 4 weeks have shown me there is a problem, now I have to figure out how to tackle it (and this isn't Poor Spacey!) The Lost One couldn't even match a picture to an identical picture today... it made the ABC activity very very difficult :(

All in all, my yays outnumber my hurrumphs and that's what matters. Here's to the next 4 weeks!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

TA-DA!

Have I told you about this kid in my class? When he is finished with anything... writing his name, coloring a picture, gluing his letter sort, he holds up his work and at top volume he screams, "TA-DA!" If you don't acknowledge is ta-da immediately, then the "TA-DA!" gets progressively louder and closer together. I discovered this when I tried the politely-ignore-approach.

I very much appreciate his excitement and ta-daness about finishing a task... I think we all have a bit of that in us, but really, I hope the verbal expression of it is just a phase.

Happy Feet


organized chaos and I have been chatting about "happy feet." We've both been in funks over different issues but decided to look to fancy shoes, a.k.a happy feet, to brighten our day. Well guess what folks, IT WORKS.


Yesterday I was supposed to wear happy feet and forgot and put on my boring old flip flops. My day... well, my day sucked.


Today I slid on my Dorothy's there's-no-place-like-home look alikes and VOILA. Quite a lovely day.


I like our theory and I am sticking to it. Who wants to tell my husband we need to add a line in the household budget for fancy shoes?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Them and Me

Admittedly, I flipped out over nothing when I ranted about being alone for Writing Workshop. One day alone will be okay -- but I have been trying to fit in some Social Studies after recess during my I.A.'s lunch break. M-i-s-t-a-k-e. This is the time for Quiet Story Time, not small group work on All About Me books. Kindergartners are expected to know their last name, home address, phone number, and birthday. So we are making our own books. This isn't easy, trust me. At any rate, this is not a project for this point in the year so I am pushing it off and I am learning my lesson that 18 5 year olds are not yet ready to work independently as a whole group just yet. Small groups of 4 or 5 - yes. 18? No way.

Back to Quiet Story Time - it's my favorite anyway.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Moron

I just wasted all that angst and time typing my "oh woe is me" email about Writing Workshop when upon further inspection, I am faced with being alone only ONE day a week for writing.

Stupid me. I just whipped myself - and colleagues nearby - into a frenzy. What a waste.

I think I need sleep.

Challenge of the week... need advice

My wonderful I.A. is called out of the room for recess duty during our Writing Workshop time. It's frustrating that this is the case, but I understand the need for extra help around the building - selfishly I don't want it to be MY extra help. I've scoured my schedule to see when Writing Workshop could be moved to happen when she's in the room but my only options are to put it during Reading Workshop, or put it in the afternoon.

The problem with swapping it with Reading Workshop: we do Literacy Centers as part of our Reading Workshop and she runs one of them. The kids are up to doing 2 independently as well as one with me, and one with her. Eventually they will be able to do 4 or 5 on their own, but not for a few more months. I need her here.

The problem with moving it to the afternoon: If you know 5 year olds, and you know what they are like after lunch and after recess, I'll let you imagine my trying to get them to focus on writing. Pfftth.

So my challenge is to conduct Writing Workshop all by my lonesome. Problem is, I have half the class ready to put their stories into story books (drawn pictures on each page depicting their story) and half the class that should start on one page of paper working on how to take the idea from their head and draw it onto paper. I don't want to hold back the first half, but I don't want to rush the second half. My idea for group work might work if I can jump between each group -- while they stay focused (or I'll even take somewhat focused) on the task at hand. Best case scenario -- this works. Realistic case scenario -- it doesn't, let's not kid ourselves. Writing Workshop needs one-on-one, or at least small group, conference time.

Ideas? Advice?

I thought I had built up immunity...

.... but I didn't. I'm feeling sorry myself. It's August, it's been gorgeous and sunny and breezy, my husband just returned from a week-long trip, and I spent the entire weekend sniffling and coughing because my kiddos still haven't learned NOT to sneeze all over me. We talk about it, many times a day, "Friends, when we cough or sneeze, we cough or sneeze right into our arm... like this. We don't want to spread our yucky germs around the room. We don't want our friends to get sick do we?"

Useless. Phlegm, snot, and germy coughs fly around my room.

No matter how many surfaces I wipe down with Clorox anti-bacterial wipes (I buy them in bulk) or spray my hands with Clorox anti-bacterial spray (I love Clorox), the germs find me.

So here I am, in August, sounding as if its in the middle of winter. Hack, hack, sneeze, sneeze.

I'm off to make some hot tea.

Buggers.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Poor Spacey Part II

A hug was given (and I am decidedly NOT a hugger in the classroom) and we have had a lovely day. Even when we were all walking down the hall in a nice line to lunch and she stopped and stared at a random spot on the wall while her classmates frustratingly whispered urgently, "go!!" many times, I managed simply to smile and encourage her in a nice voice to keep going... I will just work my many reminders to her into my normal repertoire. That problem - my problem - is solved, now what is the cause of her spaciness?!

(P.S. I know it's not the best descriptive to use but it's nothing like I have seen before. It's not your typical lack of attention... there's something that's not firing. Now I'll be working with some of my rockin' co-teachers to get to the bottom if it...)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Worst Feeling Ever

It's times like these that I have a hard time shaking... I have a little girl who clearly has a lot of needs. She needs many many reminders, she needs constant one-on-one attention, she needs constant direction - without which she will be found roaming around or standing alone with a blank look. Normally when I get really frustrated, I can laugh about it and step back. I say in my head, "Oh poor spacey one..." But today, at dismissal, when one table refused to stop singing our Red Song at the top of their lungs (cute but not a good time), one table kept opening their take-home folders and pulling out the contents asking questions about everything, and one table just sat there, I just about broke in half. And my poor spacey one was in front of me, staring off into space, take-home folder in front of her (not in her bag as asked 5 times). I said her name 3 times... each time getting louder. At this point I should have seen my father channeling through me and stopped. But I didn't. I slapped my hand on her table (it was loud) and said in my meanest voice, "I TOLD YOU TO PUT YOUR FOLDER IN YOUR BACKPACK." She looked at me like I was a monster - and I felt like one. And she complied. And I felt worse. Ugh. Tomorrow I am giving her a big hug and saying I am sorry. Hopefully she forgives me.

A Letter to My Feet

Dear Feet,

I've been meaning to tell you for quite some time now that I am sorry for the treatment you have received in this year's class.

I am sorry that our big, well-meaning friend seems to stomp on you whenever he is near and all you get is a, "oooooooopppppsss....ssssooorrrryyyyyy...." I'm sorry that I make you stand close enough to the students to physically line them up, and open you up to unintentional stomps and steps. I'm sorry that I seem to put you right in the way of a falling can of juice (I know that one hurt), or a falling boy who tripped over his own feet. I'm sorry that you are so close to our curious friend who likes to touch and pet you when you are near (I know that creeps you out). I'm sorry that our friends have a knack for pushing their chairs right into you when I'm least expecting it (you probably expect it by now, don't you?)

Most of all, I am sorry that I only take you for a monthly pedicure... you deserve one much more often. You have a hard life right now and I want you to know it doesn't go unnoticed.

Love,
Me.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shoe Shopping

I was at a wedding this weekend and an old friend and I started chatting about teaching. She teaches 1st grade at Boston suburb school. She was describing her main struggle - the parents. Her parents consistently battle her on the appropriate reading level for their children. The parents insist the books she sends home are too easy, she repeatedly encourages them to ask their children about the book, their predictions, their sequencing... you know, literacy skills! Her parents think because their kid can read an entire Henry & Mudge book, they can read that level. They pay little attention to the idea that their child doesn't understand what he/she is reading.

I smiled.

I smiled because I began to question what struggle I would prefer to have. Pre-school prepped kids with in-my-face parents, or, in my case, zero-prep kids and mostly absent parents.

Some days I would like to be in her shoes, other days, my own shoes fit perfectly. Sure, it's a struggle getting my kids who haven't ever picked up a pencil to catch up with my kids who are beginning to read (not to mention all those kiddos in between), but I think I prefer that struggle to convincing a parent that yes indeed, I know what I am doing. That might just get irritating after awhile.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Perfect Storm

We had a great Back-to-School night but as a result I am exhausted (not to mention that our AC didn't start working until 11:45 p.m.) and I do not handle tiredness well.

Mix that with 17 excited 5 years olds... and kaboom.

Let's hope that we have a mellow day and I can put it behind me and crash into bed as soon as possible.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Diamond in the Rough

Admittedly I have a small class and they are lovely... no massive behavior issues. All in all a nice group of kiddos. Today, however, they were SO irritating. I swear their ears were full of cotton. I had to repeat simple directions, such as "please sit down" so many times I thought I might scream.

So this little tidbit during our letter-of-the-week lesson brightened my day:

Question: "So friends, we have lemons, we have lollipops and we have lizards." What else starts with L?"

Answer: "Love starts with L."

Yes it does cutie-pie, yes it does.

Monday, August 4, 2008

5 Things Policy-Makers Should Know

Thanks to kiri8 and organized chaos for memeing me on this fine topic... and no worries for you faithful readers, we have not had a repeat offense by the pooper. I think the true offender may have been the cafeteria lunch. Hennyway... back to the point. First of all, faithful readers may have picked up that I had a previous career before teaching and that career was working for a policy-maker. So I am extra excited to tell him* (they're almost always hims) what he SHOULD know...

1. Just because you have been to one school, at story time, and read to an overprepared-for-your-visit group of children for the fuzzy press release and nice photo op does not mean all schools are like that tiny little snapshot you witnessed. Everyone was on their best behavior, administrators included. Every school is very different, every classroom is very different. Don't ever make assumptions that you know what goes on in a classroom. Let us tell you.

2. My job is not "cute." Please don't say "awwwwwww" or think I am super-sweet when I tell you what I do. It's insulting. What if I said, "Awwwwww... making laws that affect my life is so ca-ute!" Think about it.

3. Please send your kids to public schools. You work for the public, you serve the public, you are paid by public funding, you make laws that affect our public schools, so please put your kids where your mouth (and vote) is. You might be surprised at what a great education they get.

4. Please leave our curriculum, best practices, test scores, benchmarks, etc. to our county and if you must, to our state. I'm talking to the feds here -- just give us money to build. I know your slang on the Hill is "bricks and mortar." We want that. Figure out how to build us a nice school! How can you justify getting money to repave a main street in a podunk town you might retire to while the school in your community has mold on the walls and kids are learning in trailers? Which leads to me my final wish...

5. For the love of God, stop tying education funding to property taxes. It's DUMB. Yes, I know Title I funding is supposed to even things out, but come on. When have you seen a "rich-kid" school in a poor community? Never. How about a formula that's based on the number of children in the school and some other factors like cost of living in the area. I'm not naive, I know there is more to it, but you guys are smart. You can figure it out. Please understand that when everyone is moaning about the housing crisis and home sales are dropping, that translates directly into my inability to provide materials for my kids. Was my stimulus check supposed to buy supplies for my classroom? Was it? Did you use yours to buy your bloated staff scotch tape? I didn't think so.

Wow, that felt good.

*My policy-maker was actually wonderful on the subject of education. I think he hated school as a kid and thinks all classrooms should be petri dishes for creative chaos and individual thinkers. I'm not on board with the creative chaos but I did always appreciate his understanding and perspective. My list is directed at the majority of his colleagues.