Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ah... there's the spirit!

Our school is closed all week due to the massive snow storm that hit us... hooray! BUT, yes, there is a but, I had a bunch of things I planned to do this week to wrap up my room for the holiday break and I am NOT GOOD at letting to-do's go. Knowing I'm not the only to-doer in the school, my principal came in today to open the building for us.

As I am busily printing off report cards and end-of-month newsletters, Christmas music comes blasting over the P.A. system.

Now that's awesome.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Me vs. Them

I feel like that mountain climber from the Price is Right this morning. Yesterday felt like a Thursday (and you know how I feel about Thursdays) so today should be Friday, but it's not. It's Wednesday. I feel like I'm hiking up the tallest mountain with no end in sight. My kids are whipped into a pre-holiday frenzy just as I am winding down from 2nd quarter and dreaming of lazy mornings in my jammies. Excellent combo.

My good girls have gone bad. They don't care if they have to change their cards. They want to live on the wild side and hang with the bad boys. I found one of them ROLLING ON THE FLOOR when she was supposed to be in line. That's not good girl behavior. I saw a bad boy give her an approving nod and I wanted to scream, "NO! DON'T TRY TO IMPRESS THAT BAD BOY!" (I'm pretty sure I got that language from my mother.)


My bad boys have gone UBER-BAD. I have said "REALLY?!" many times with a look of disbelief (mouth hanging open, teacher-bug-eyes). "REALLY?! You thought that tackling your friend on the carpet during shared reading was a good choice?" "REALLY?! May I ask why you're attempting break dancing, circa 1985, while we're trying to line up?"


My "problem children" are simply off the reservation.


And the kids in-between you ask? They're watching from the sidelines practically cheering on their classmates. Their little eyes are shining with, "ooohhh, awesome. Did you see what she did?! Let's see what the teacher does! Oooh this is going to be good!!"


There is one little shining light however, my little one that tends to drive me BSC seems to have calmed down. I think she has found her chi on a little island surrounded by chaos. Sadly I am sure this is what her home life is like so our classroom is simply an extension of what her "normal" is... but frankly, I'll take it right now. If she joined in the Lord of the Flies-type behavior my other lovies are experimenting with, you might find me crouched in the castle on the playground rocking furiously.
Let the countdown begin.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Literally?

If you teach kindergarten, this post will not be a surprise, but it might make you give that knowing smile. We've been reading Dr. Seuss's Hop on Pop all week, focusing on different things. One day we focused on rhyming, one day we covered up the words and practiced looking at the pictures, but today was the day to just read it for fun. So here were are, reading along, using funny voices and laughing when the ball players fell off the wall when we got to this page:

Have you ever heard that 5 year olds are very literal? Trust me, they are. We spent 5 full minutes debating whether or not Dr. Seuss knew what he was talking about, because the 4 "things" on the left might be tall, but the 2nd one in is shorter than the others, so they are not all tall. I tried, many times, to show that Dr. Seuss meant that the 4 on the left were all tall compared to the 4 on the right.

"But they're NOT ALL TALL! There is one that is tall and the others are shorter! Dr. Seuss is wrong!"

Long exhale... what do I do with this? Yes, you're right in the literal sense, but this is Dr. Seuss, he writes SILLY books that don't make sense. Again, I explain, Dr. Seuss is talking about ALL of them, not just the TALL ones. I say this over and over, many different ways. No luck. We're literally stuck on this page.

Finally, one of my lovies shots out, "Can we just turn the page?!"

Yes sweetie, we can. Thanks goodness. Ah, who doesn't love 5 year olds?!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursdays...

I never get a "bad case of the Mondays," but let me tell you, I get whopping cases of the Thursdays. Holy moly. My special is in the afternoon on Thursdays which means my little lovies are with me from 8:30 - 12:25. That. Is. A. Long. Time.

What makes this a double whammy is that my kids also get a case of the Thursdays. By noon, they're whiney and restless and I'm impatient and annoyed, so by the time we are getting through the bathroom line to prepare for lunch, my head is about to snap off and they're ready to quit kindergarten. (It may not be THIS bad, but right now, in the moment, it sure feels like it.)

Today as a child repeatedly interrupted me as I was telling him to sit quietly in the hall, my brain was saying "please shut-up" and my normally solid filter ALMOST let it slip through! It came out, "please shu...shush! SHUSH! I am asking you to SHUSH." Gawd. Walk away... walk away...

Here's to Friday. Always better than Thursday.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Collaboration

I HEART collaboration. For me to embrace this as much as I do can come as a shock because I've always been a just-let-me-do-it kind of gal. I'm not saying that's a good philosophy, but it's one that I haven't ever been able to shake.

During my student teaching I taught on two VERY different teams. One team collaborated for all the academic areas. There wasn't one part of the day, outside of morning meeting, where I hadn't planned with another teacher. From a student teacher perspective, the support was great, but the empowerment of being treated as an equal with good ideas was even better. The other team I taught on openly hated each other, so there was zero collaboration. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching both grade levels, but did miss the cohesiveness of the collaborative team.

My first two years as an "official" kindergarten teacher had some collaboration, but not as much as I'd like. Then this year I was blessed to have a fantastic co-teacher in my room for Reading Workshop. Our planning meetings have become these sessions where great ideas just pop out, or good ideas poke their head out and then we excitedly talk them into great ideas. RW has become my favorite part of the day, and in turn, my kiddos really like it.

Our literacy specialist came into my room this morning for a meeting whose purpose was to arrange a time when she could come into my classroom, observe Language Arts, and then participate by co-teaching. This turned into a fantastic planning session for my Writing Workshop, and when she left I had a week-long focus lesson that I was giddy with excitement about.

Collaboration seems like a no-brainer, a home-run, a slam-dunk, but if every single person is not 100% on board, it's very difficult to make happen. I'm here to say that if you are a I'd-rather-go-it-on-my-own kind of teacher, you are really missing out.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tears... the good kind.

Today was a rather squirrely Friday. My class didn't seem to have the ability to use an indoor voice at all so we were just LOUD, all day long. LOUD during morning networking, LOUD during reading workshop, LOUD during quiet story time (I know, right?!) and yes, of course, LOUD during choice time. I gave some reminders, I gave some "you know better than this," and I gave some death glares. Then I gave up. They were productive and on task, just LOUD.

During choice time, one of my sweethearts was singing "This little light of mine... I'm gonna let it shine... this little light of mine... I'm gonna let it shine..." Nostalgia waved over me. I really love that song. I immediately went to my laptop and opened i-Tunes, fully prepared to make a quick purchase. I discovered that we have a CD with that song on it so I marched over to the CD player without telling anyone what I was doing and put the song on. Almost immediately, my LOUD group of children were singing with all their hearts. I sang along and found myself tearing up a bit. We played it 3 more times.

Love them.

This little light of mine... I'm gonna let it shine...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Traditional Blue

I'm not sure if all school districts do this, but when our kids have picture day, so do we. I don't know any teacher that has opted to buy a photo package with the country brook in the background, or the disco lights like my husband's 8th grade photo (still hysterical!) but we always receive a sheet of our mug with the traditional blue background. Every year I stick it with the previous year's photos... this morning I received this year's in my mailbox and had my annual self-discussion, "what could I do with these?"

Now I have the answer!

They are the PERFECT reference for hairstyle. I can lay them all out on my desk and go back and say "good hair" or "bad hair" or "wtf hair?!" And now I have a photo to give my hairdresser that's not a celebrity with an unattainable 'do (you know, the Meg Ryan haircut that looks so effortless that actually takes a team of stylists to create?). It's me, and my hair, in traditional blue...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Yay or Nay?

Situation: your class is sitting in the hall doing a pretty good job being quiet. Another class is completely out of control and their substitute teacher is screaming nonsense and no one is listening. The noise is deafening. Do you reprimand the loud class or ignore it because they're not yours?

I flipped on a class today... did the look-of-death-finger-pointing-your-teacher-would-be-so-disappointed-with-your-behavior. I began my speaking in a firm voice but was being completely ignored so I yelled. Really loud. They froze. They became quiet, but that's not really my preferred mode of dealing with loud kids. I immediately felt guilty for a) yelling, but b) also butting into a class and a teacher that's not mine. But then I didn't feel bad because they were so completely out of control. I decided that I would want another teacher to do the same to my kids if the situation ever presented itself.

BSC

I have a newish kiddo who has infected my angelic class with evil. Oh I know this sounds incredibly harsh, but this blog is to be a therapeutic tool when I need it, and boy do I need it.

This child is smart and knows exactly how to push my buttons. Until today I have stayed in control and maintained the belief and practice that with a child like this, bad behavior is ignored and good behavior is praised. Today the child is in control. After hours of ignoring, after hours of my stress level rising, I snapped. I didn't snap at the child, but after ignoring really ridiculous behavior (pretending to chew gum, laying on the carpet, kicking my feet while I'm teaching, poking classmates, you name it, it was done) I thought I would have an ulcer. I was so tense. I gave the child a warning... "you continue this, you will leave this classroom." The child called my bluff and off we went to the Principal's office.

I'm so frustrated because no matter what I try, I'm not getting even close to the result I want. Incentives work for a day or so. Reasoning fails. Ignoring doesn't work. Positive response works for a day and then seems to be forgotten. I'm trying to keep a running log of the behavior to look for patterns, hoping that eventually I can put together a behavior plan that will actually work, but in the meantime, this child is driving me BSC.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Proud as Punch

I am so darn proud of me and even more proud of my kids. I had this idea in the shower (don't you love those?) and I tossed the idea out to my kids and they turned it into a fabulous teaching tool. We have been making a Forest of Rhymes. Throughout the day, at unscheduled times, the kids can tell me two words that rhyme. Then we sit together and write one word on the trunk of the tree and the other on the leaves. Some kids are writing their own words and recognizing that their words have different beginnings and the same ending (to quote a special friend from last year, "ta da!") Some kids can work out the beginning and ending sounds and I fill in the rest for a lovely little interactive writing lesson. Some kids are just thrilled that after several attempts they can sit with me as we sound out their words together.


Example of an attempt:
"I have a rhyming word! Bat and bubble."

"Sweetie, bat and bubble have the same sound at the beginning, but the end are different, they don't rhyme. Let's try again."


(This generally repeats itself 3 or 4 more times before the little one gives up. A handful of my kiddos just don't get rhyming yet.)


Now, if you know me, the fact that they are allowed to do this pretty much at any point during the day, is a stretch for me - a good stretch. A it's-good-to-work-on-not-being-SO-structured stretch.

Here's our masterpiece in development:



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NYT Editorial

I often think the kids in my school are forgotten. No one seems to be speaking about them when talking about test scores, new initiatives, or "kids these days..." But then a good friend said she thought of me while reading this.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Squirrel Suggestions? Help!

I have started doing interactive science notebooks with my kids this year and it's going well. They keep their notebooks in their book boxes and often read them in addition to their song books and library books. I love that the science content we learn is accessible on a daily basis and not quickly forgotten.

But I am stumped and here is why:

The kids need to know that squirrels need food, water and air to live.

In their science notebooks, the teacher information is on the left side. This is where I provide a picture, or a sentence about what we have already learned through read alouds, shared writing and discussion. The student information, their interpretation of the information, is on the right side. I am desperately trying to think of a way for a 5 year old to show that a squirrel needs food, water and air to live.

Please please please give me your suggestions! I've given up looking for pictures of air and water for them to glue into their books.

Testing Rant

While I've had this information for a few days, it just sunk in today.

I HAVE TO GIVE 80, THAT'S 8-0, INDIVIDUAL TESTS BY DECEMBER 22ND.

Our math pacing guide has changed (I'm okay with change) but now we are paced to give 4 different math assessments 2nd quarter. FOUR. There's a total of seven all year and we gave 2 1st quarter. So we are cramming in FOUR leaving just one for 3rd and 4th quarter. We're also now teaching addition and subtraction 2nd quarter, where I used to leave this to 4th quarter when I felt that my kids had a stronger sense of number. Side note - if you work with 5 year olds, do you think addition and subtraction are developmentally appropriate this early on? I'd love to hear what you think.

These assessments need to be done one-on-one, the student at my table, me on my laptop recording their actions and responses, while the rest of the students are working independently at math centers*. I need to do this 80 times in 18 days while teaching.

*My kids are used to centers, they do them daily, but math is in the afternoon when their attention spans are shorter and they need a bit more direction and support than they do in the morning literacy centers. Math is also incredibly hands on so the centers tend to be noisier and busier than my literacy centers. Oh, this is also the time my wonderful assistant is on her much needed break.

Shall we try some addition?
4 unsupervised math centers + 1 lone teacher completely engrossed with a student at her table = chaos.

How about some subtraction?
80 individual tests - scheduled math block = 0 time to teach math.

When little things seem so big...

This morning as I was standing at the door greeting my little ones, I watched one of my girls walking slowly to the classroom. I greeted her with the standard, "Good morning Maria!* How are you?"

Maria looked up at me with watery doe-eyes (she really has doe-eyes) and said, "not good."

"Oh... sweetie, what's wrong?"

"It's my book. The juice exploded and it's all wet and it ripped."

"Your book from me? Or your library book?"

"My library book!" Tears began to fall...

"Oh, Maria... let's not worry too much. I will talk to Miss Booker* and we will see how we can fix it."

Sniff, sniff. "Okay."

I'm waiting to hear from Miss Booker if we can grant little Maria clemency. Her devastation seemed to be all she could handle. Poor little thing... she spent the entire morning absolutely distraught because she ruined her library book. I heart her.

*Of course names have been changed!

UPDATE: Miss Booker dismissed any financial charges for little Maria, but she ruled that she complete some "hard labor" in the libary to work off the cost of her book. LOVE IT!!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New favorite read aloud

Llama Llama Red Pajama

I laughed out loud when I got it at a workshop, and laughed more as I read it to my class. It's a super fun read. Especially if you have a little one(s) at home.

Distinctions

When using/implementing the Patterns of Thinking into my instruction, I have found that it's... well... it's difficult. The patterns themselves are not difficult to understand, and they're not difficult to apply to many lessons when I am sitting with my colleagues for a brainstorming session. What is difficult is getting the patterns to be part of my own schema, so that I automatically turn to them when planning lessons.

The systems pattern is an easy one (at least I think so). Parts make up wholes, and those wholes are parts that make up bigger wholes. I have found using this language with kindergarteners quite easy. "Yes! I can do this!" I never really got any further than "parts."

I felt like my white-belt was a sham. Like maybe I should have only been rewarded a white bracelet.

Then, when quickly throwing together and on-the-fly lesson (come on, you know you do it too) about past and present, the distinctions pattern popped into my head. We ran with it. Honestly, the beginning was rocky, but my kids don't hear "what is, and what is not" as often as they hear "what are the parts of..." Once we got rolling, I think they got it. Now I'll spend some time working distinctions into my language. Up next, relationships. Or maybe perspective. Both seem daunting for me and my 5 year olds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In their shoes...

I attended a workshop yesterday focused on shared and interactive writing for kindergarten classes. The information was great, the ideas were creative, and it would have been incredibly engaging except that I've heard most of it before. Now, I'm not being all "oh here we go... this is so beneath me," I promise, I'm not. It verified that what my school does is amazing and actually ahead of the rest of the county. I wish everyone gets the training and professional development opportunities we get. So with that being said, I wish the presenters either were aware of a solid group of people the workshop already had this type of training, or if they didn't know, I wish they had asked. Then they could have differentiated for us to keep us engaged, or asked us to share what we do so we could hear people's comments and learn from others as well. This must be what my higher kids feel like when I'm teaching content that they already know. Sometimes it takes being in their shoes to really get it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Time

At the beginning of the school year, I struggled with time, seemingly too much of it. Our bell schedule changed to a later start time and even though the minutes seem to match the previous year's, the day felt so much longer. I was used to having just about all of my instruction time before lunch, the short afternoon reserved for specials and on some days, free choice time. Now, I have a solid chunk of instruction after lunch and if you know kindergarteners, this is not a great time for instruction. My kids and I left for home each day exhausted. Last year I barely had time for free choice time on a daily basis, usually only having it 2 days a week. This year, I seem to have wide-open time at the end of the day, perfect for free choice. This year I had room for a morning break on Thursdays to let my kids run between reading and writing. Well, that was then.

This is now.

Now I feel like I don't have ENOUGH time. Is it possible that I secretly want my kids for longer? I vowed to launch into guided reading groups directly at the beginning of the quarter. I've gotten started, but it's not nearly as steady and consistent as I'd like. Same for writing and math. We're not desperately behind, but we are not where I wish we were.

Yes, I have had meetings, planning days, fun-kindergarten-days like Fall Fest taking up time, but not enough for me to lay blame.

I suppose what this is is priorities. In the beginning of the year I needed my kids to become part of our community, to learn the rules, to learn the routine, and to master some basic skills. They needed to know their ABC's, the sounds the letters make, how to count to ten and how to write their name. They needed to be able to tell a story to their friends and listen to others' stories. Now I need them to apply that basic knowledge to recognizing words, recognizing sentences, learning how to apply that phonetic knowledge to the words they see everyday. I need them to take their knowledge of the word "five" and apply it to the quantity, many different ways. I need them to add math words to their vocabulary like "more," "fewer," "most" and "least." I need them to transfer their phonetic knowledge, and their concept of story, and create stories of their own. These new "needs" take much more time than the skills from first quarter.

Reading Workshop once dragged on, now it's over in a flash. Wait, what? Time's up? Newman. We didn't finish. Same for Writing Workshop. Storytelling was fun, but the time could drag on. Now the kids are feverishly writing at their tables and I am amazed when I only get to conference with 2 or 3 kids.

Did I feel this way at this time last year? Or the previous year? How do I not remember?!

I think it's time to revamp my schedule. If it's better on paper, that's half the battle.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Today's Lesson

"Friends, (heavy sigh),... everyone farts. We all do it and it always smells, but the smell goes away in a minute. Don't make a big deal about it. Okay, back to what we were talking about..."

Monday, November 2, 2009

At a loss...

It wasn't my birthday, it's not yet Christmas, but I was the recipient of this today:
It's a jet spa attachment to my bathtub. Little did the gift-giver know that I take a bath every single night... this is a PERFECT gift! I'm just at a loss because it's a rather personal gift, no? It's so incredibly generous and thoughtful and I love it, yet I am wondering if I will be able to get into my "bath zen" and not think about the gift-giver while in a tub of bubbles. I take those baths with the specific purpose of NOT thinking of the gift-giver and his 20 little peers.


Friday, October 30, 2009

P for Pumpkin...

Introducing our non-Halloween pumpkin carving creation! We read Goodnight Goon (a play on Goodnight Moon) by the glow of our carved pumpkin. Very scary :)Here the kids are separating the pulp from the seeds. Very gooey work. They loved it.



"Do it for the children!"

This is one of those, "What We Will Do For Our Kids" stories.

Yesterday I was at the store stocking up on veggies for my kiddo. He is dangerously low on food and I can't give him what my husband I eat on the weekends and still feel like a good mother. (Last night we had pho, tonight is Five Guys, and tomorrow night... who knows, but it's Halloween so it's surely not going to be a healthy trio of chicken, veggies and rice!)

At any rate, here I was at the store and I realized that I needed a pumpkin for today's lesson on the parts of a pumpkin. Shockingly, two days before Halloween, the pickings were slim. Really slim. I took the best looking pumpkin from the sad group of 4 and put it in my cart. As I am wandering around the store wondering what else I need, I kept looking at this sad pumpkin in my cart. It wasn't big enough, and it seemed to light for its size meaning that the insides just might be dried out. I knew this just wouldn't do. The BEST part about carving a pumpkin with 20 5 year olds (many of who haven't ever done this) is to have lots of pumpkin guts for them to touch and scream "eeeewwww!"

I checked in with Customer Service. No dice. Ugh, I was kicking myself for thinking I could wait until now to get a pumpkin. I considered sacrificing the beautiful, huge an PERFECT pumpkin we found as a family to carve... my baby's first pumpkin, the one we paid way too much for because it was at a fancy pumpkin festival... then I looked at my kid and said, "no way." (I think my husband would have flipped his lid. He's still teasing me about spending $20 on a pumpkin when the store was selling 2 for $5!)

Still wandering around the store when notice there are medium pumpkins all over the place as decoration. Hmmmm... they looked nicer than my sad choice in the cart but they weren't big enough. So I began the hunt. Up and down every aisle until I saw it. The perfect pumpkin decorating the bakery. The gentleman behind the counter approached with a "how may I help you?" and I said, "Ummm... I actually would like to buy THAT pumpkin." He actually told me no at first, in a very nice way.

Gentleman: "I'm not sure I can do that."
Me: "I really need it. I'm carving a pumpkin with my kids tomorrow, my CLASS, and the one I have just won't do it."
G: "I'd have to call the manager..."
M: "Great!"
(G begins making calls and by this point, my kid is bored and wanting out of the grocery cart. He's not the type to just sit and fuss. He started to climb out not understanding that it was a 4 foot fall to the ground.)
G: "It might be awhile... I'm waiting for the bakery manager to call."
M: "I can wait." (It's clear my kid cannot).

Finally the phone rings and as the gentleman is explaining there is a customer who wants to buy the display pumpkin, and I am wrestling with my squawking baby, I shout out in desperation, "do it for the children!"

I got my pumpkin.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A girl could get used to this...

Eight out again today. It's amazing how calm the room is and how much learning is happening! 13 is now my lucky number.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Germaphobe

I never used to be a germaphobe. I always contended that as long as I take care of myself I could beat any sickness.

Now I have a baby.

Now I am missing eight kids from my classroom, one confirmed case of the flu (not the swine).

Now handwashing is no longer encouraged, it's mandatory, at a minimum of 10 times a day.

Shudder.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Vegetable Lasagna

I stared at the "title" box contemplating what to type... I can't quite tell if I am calm and relaxed now that 1st quarter is over, if I feel incomplete about it, or if I'm excited and revved up for my 2 week vacation, or a mix of all three? Am I allowed to blog when I have no idea what I am trying to say? Normally, when I'm in this place, I talk out loud to whomever was unlucky enough to be in my path, but it's the end of the day, the end of our second parent conference day, and with the exception of a colleague across the hall whose ear I have bent many times today, it's just me and the custodians. And they're busy.

(So what's my point? What IS my point?)

This has been a rocky quarter. I've been trying to figure out how to make a non-cohesive group cohesive. I've been trying to be more of a leader among people who have way more experience than me. I've been trying new things in the classroom but sometimes neglecting others that are important. I've been trying to let certain things just slide off my back, and also trying to make my point heard. Lots of trying.

(Still not finding my point, but at least I have a topic.)

I suppose I still can't think of a title for this post because I'm not sure how I feel about all this trying. I can honestly say I don't feel strongly that I have made any progress with the trying, but oddly, I'm not frustrated, but I'm not ambivalent. I'm just ____________.

As a good friend would say... this is very vegetable lasagna. Let's leave it at that. I am feeling very vegetable lasagna.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

George Costanza

You might get this Seinfeld reference...

I was walking outside when the wind gusted up and branches blew, and acorns starting pelting me in the head. I actually made a movement to duck behind a Head Starter.

I am pathetic.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Torn

Great day planned with a screening of our class-made movie about our trip to the apple farm, Mo Willems read alouds to prep for his simulcast this afternoon, and a new math game to learn and play...

...but my husband is home with our sick baby and I'd rather be there. Not here.

Sad sigh.

Monday, October 5, 2009

(insert "what stinks" face here)

Something in my rooms stinks and I can't find it. It's smells like a cross between old ham and rotten socks. I think I am going to stop looking for it in case I actually find it...

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Curse

The perpetual curse of a teacher... you have a long week but finally, FINALLY, Friday arrives. You get to school with a bounce in your otherwise tired steps. You have a lovely weekend ahead of you! The kids are fine, the day is chugging along, and that's when you feel it. You feel that burn behind your sinuses, deep in the back of your throat.

And it's then that you already think of the things you need to cancel this weekend because you will surely feel like pond scum.

Thanks my little ones... you who spew your spit and mucus all over me on a daily basis. Thanks a lot.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Stretch...

  • language arts testing - CHECK.
  • inputting data online - CHECK.
  • next week's lesson plans - CHECK.
  • parent conferences scheduled and confirmed - CHECK.
  • a million little to-do's - CHECK, CHECK and CHECK!

kick ass sea bass.

(forgive the curse, but kick butt dirty mutt isn't as fun).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Crunch Time

I don't want this to sound obnoxious, but I don't normally have to deal with crunch time. I am so obsessed about deadlines that I always finish tasks ahead of time. This certainly has it drawbacks, the main one being that I don't always slow down to completely think things through. But, I digress. My point today is that I am feeling the crunch time and I am not happy about it. This is awful. I hate this feeling.

I have a substitute coming in tomorrow so I can finish testing my kids and her plans aren't done yet (you have no idea how bad this is for me). Of course I have them 75% complete, on my laptop at school. Not here. Bad planning (not me! NOT ME!)

I have parent conferences next week and I haven't even BEGUN to think about, let alone add to a pretty chart, all the things I want to talk to each parent about (again, not my normal m. o.)

I am teaching Sunday School this Sunday and I haven't even glanced at the topic, let alone what materials I need. Our director emailed me to ask if I was all set and I said, "of course." (Liar, liar, pants on fire.)

My house is a disaster (whose house is this?!) My car looks like a trash can (and might smell, I'm not sure), and well, eeeesh, nothing seems together. I think the wee-one might be staying at the sitter's an hour or so longer tomorrow so I can get my act together. This is ridiculous.

I'm going to go find my neighbor. She has wine in her fridge.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A for Apple...

... 18 of my friends (2 sadly didn't come to school), three teachers, and five mothers climbed aboard a school bus this morning with 3 other classes and we drove west to a historical farm for a program all about apples. I was nervous because I was responsible for planning this trip. So many things could go wrong... busses don't show up, terrible rush hour traffic, bathroom emergencies/accidents, missing children to be found locked in a bathroom stall... (this has all happened).

With the exception of the blank stare the bus driver gave me when I handed him directions, the trip went off without a hitch. Perfect weather, no traffic (?!), fantastic chaperones, well behaved kids, and more importantly happy and engaged kids. Hooray. I don't think I've ever been on such a perfect trip. The bar is now set very high!

Thinking and Thriving

I have blogged about this, briefly, in the past but found myself consumed by it this morning. As I was driving into work I asked myself, "Have I been walking my talk?" I feel like I can talk a good game about the Patterns of Thinking. I can answer questions, I can link the patterns to instruction, I can hold a relatively informed discussion about DSRP. But, am I doing in my classroom?

I decided that yes, I am, especially in Writing Workshop which is just storytelling right now. I don't want my kids to pick up a pencil to write stories until they understand what a story is. I have been using the idea that a story is made up of parts -- and I do this two ways. All stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. So when my students raise their hand to tell a story, I first ask them if their story has those three parts. We use the ThinkBlocks to give it a visual. After the student tells the story, I ask the class to tell me what happened in the beginning, middle and end. We use the small blocks for each part of the story. What accidentally happened was that my kids noticed that the really great stories, the ones that made us gasp or laugh, or both, had many more parts than the ones about going to the park, playing, then going home. Hooray! They just learned that details make for a better story.

I will continue to chew on this over the next few days because I feel as though I am using Patterns of Thinking language in my instruction but I am not really paying as close attention to it as I should. More soon....

P.S. Do you have great ideas for using Patterns of Thinking with K learners? Tell me please.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Christmas in the Mail Room

As I walk into the mail room, what do my eyes spy? That red and white box that can only be one thing, MY SCHOLASTIC ORDER! I race back to my room, rip the box open and spend the next 1/2 hour savoring all my shiny new books. Here are some highlights:
  1. Thump, Quack, Moo by Doreen Cronin. It's a bit above the the heads of my class but I laughed the whole way through.
  2. Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex. A gory rendition of Goodnight Moon to be read to my Halloween obsessed class.
  3. Gorgonzola: A Very STINKYsaurus by Marge Palatini. A very funny book about why it's not nice to stink and how you can get the stink to go away. Some of my kids should benefit from this.
  4. I Know an Old Teacher by Anne Bowen. My kids LOVE There Was an Old Lady, they will crack up at this one. She just might swallow a child...
  5. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. I have an Alexander and he's always grumpy. I can't wait to read this to him.
  6. The Napping House by Audrey Wood. HARDCOVER. My very own beautiful book. Not for my kids' fingers. Just mine. All mine. Yay.

And many more... I have to go read...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pajama Day and the Classics

Today is Pajama Day... a day when the kids are allowed to wear their jammies to school to show how much school spirit they have. I love it. I don't wear my jammies, I wear sweats. "Nice" sweats, but they are still clearly sweats. Sigh, I love it. It's raining, I have a hot Starbucks drink, and I'm in my sweats. TGIF right?

As I was leaving Starbucks this morning I thought, "wow, this would be a PERFECT day for a movie." Then the teacher responded, "your job is not to show movies." Then I responded, "Yea, I know. Not today. But my kids don't understand what classic movies are. I need to fix that." (Seriously, this is how my brain works). See, here's the thing. I have a classroom full of amazing little ones who haven't ever seen Charlie Brown's Great Pumpkin, or an episode of the Muppets, or even know what Bedknobs and Broomsticks is. They're a new generation, but they are also a generation of kids whose parents didn't watch these either. I see this as a travesty. Really I do. I'm not kidding around. Sure, it's fine to love Cars, or A Bug's Life, or Hannah Montana -- in my day I loved the Smurfs, the Snorks, She-Ra and He-Man -- but you have to familiar with the CLASSICS. It's as American as apple pie. Is this the most effective way to teach patriotism? Of course not. But Pajama Day isn't the best way to teach school spirit but we do it because it's FUN.

So... help me. Here is my list of movies that my kids will see at some point this year. Please let me know what I should add. Come on, get nostalgic!
  1. Any Charlie Brown movie, but definitely The Great Pumpkin.
  2. The Muppet Show, definitely an episode showcasing Animal, Fozzie, and the Swedish Chef.
  3. The Wizard of Oz
  4. Frosty the Snowman (do they talk a lot about Christmas in this? I don't remember).
  5. Mary Poppins
  6. Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Funnies on the Playground

One:
Upon seeing George's twin brother on the slide..."Hey! Hey! HEY! LOOK! It's George's COPY!"

And another:
Four friends sitting on a bench backwards, slapping the back of the bench and talking into their hands. One friend was steering. "We are going to another planet!! Come with us!"

Monday, September 21, 2009

Professional Development or Remedial Math Methods?

I have been trying to process the professional development workshop I attended this afternoon because I left so disgusted and annoyed. I tend to flip out at somewhat minute details so I have been chewing on this for the last few hours to try to decide what exactly bugged me, and asking myself if it's worthy of my bad attitude. By the way, my fabo colleague attended the same workshop and left with a similar attitude, so already I am feeling justified. At any rate, here are some thoughts...
  1. I love professional development, not remediation classes. This felt like the class for those of us that failed the test and need more practice...
  2. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ask me what I know before assuming I don't know it and then presenting it as new information. In the education world, we call this "checking for prior knowledge" so as not to waste our students' time and to avoid boring them to tears. (This is in bold because it's really my biggest beef.)
  3. I love teaching kindergarten. I love 5 and 6 year olds. I love learning techniques to grab their attention and add creativity to my classroom. DO NOT USE THEM ON ME AND A BUNCH OF ADULTS OVER AND OVER AGAIN. It's flipping insulting. Why don't you say, "here is a technique you might want to try in your classroom" and then present it to me as an adult.
  4. Check the tone and cadence of your voice. We are all teachers and we know what a "teacher voice" is. Don't use it on us. We can turn it on and off to accommodate the situation (i.e. we don't use it when gently reminding our husbands where the towels are kept), so can you.
I suppose I could go on but it's not really healthy and I have made the most important points. This is the second of seven workshops in the series... I am hoping they improve or I might toss myself off my roof.

Just another manic Monday...

... and yes, I do wish it were Sunday!

My baby boy, my wonderful little adorable baby boy, has decided that waking up at 6:00 a.m. and having a bottle with Dad while Mom showers is no longer his thing. He now like to stir around 5:00 a.m. and demand a hot breakfast that requires an adult to lug themselves out of bed. Did I say he was wonderful and adorable?

So when I walked into school this morning I was a bit bleary-eyed. Dressed in a schlumpy outfit of cords, flops and a long sleeved t-shirt, I sat down at my desk to get my head around the day. Then it hit me. Today is Fall Fun Day. It's like field day in the spring, but shorter and in the fall (we won't get a spring field day due to reasons I don't yet get). I'm in flip flops. And corduroy pants. I am not dressed appropriately! Gah. Now not only am I tired, I am unhappy with my outfit. Cue the phone ringing (never ever a good sign). It's our registrar telling me I have a new friend starting today. Sigh... great, thanks. The more the merrier. Oh, and we have a training at another school this afternoon -- conveniently close to my own house, but not so much when I have to double back to the babysitter's house who is conveniently next to my own school.

Yea... I know... this was just one long b**** and moan but sometimes that's all I can really do. Here's to Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Happy

I get the strong feeling that my kids really like each other* and that makes me happy.

*Last year I had some incredible cliques that were really awful, mean, and ultimately damaging. One student left. Even though I was gone for 3rd quarter, I was crushed that I wasn't ever able to solve the problem.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bunched Undies

It really gets my undies in a bunch when a parent tells a student they can't buy them a $1, $2 or $3 book but they send them to school with Lunchables, Kool-Aid Koolers, and Doritos for a snack.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Prince Obama

I wasn't sure what to expect today when my kids watched the president's speech. I have a hard enough time keeping their attention and I have to repeat everything at least twice. Somehow I didn't think President Obama would be asking them to tell him what he just said.

But I thought it was so important for them to watch, as did my fabulous principal. Our whole school was slated to watch the speech together. I however, had a meeting during the viewing time, so I arranged to watch it earlier... after lunch... with no recess (raining)... I didn't have high hopes, but I pushed on.

I prepped my kids with who they were going to watch and what he was going to talk about. Then I let the president take the floor. Oh my... personally I LOVED the speech, but as I scanned the room, I had a few friends practicing their ABCs using their alphabet desk strips (I KNEW they knew how to use those), a few friends staring at the ceiling and a few friends trying their hardest to get their neighbor to misbehave. I spent 15 minutes reminding kids to pay attention, giving the death stare, and putting my fingers to my lips. Every few minutes I would rephrase what the president said, "did you hear that?! He just said you have to read every night!" "Did you hear that? He said KINDERGARTEN!! He's talking to YOU!" When it was done, the president's march (I know there's a more appropriate title) came on and I turned it up as my kids hopped up out of their chairs and danced.

I didn't have very high expectations, but I went for it...

"So... what did you think? What did President Obama tell us?"

Pause.... pause...

"He told us to not give up."

GASP! "YES!!! What else?"

"He told us to read."

"EXACTLY! What else?"

"He told us to turn the TV off."

I'm dying. Absolutely DYING!!! "Anything else?"

"He said to take care of our teachers."

"Ummm... yes, of course you should! What else?"

And for 10 more minutes, my lovies talked excitedly about what they had just heard. At the end of the day, we were walking down the hall as the other classes were watching the speech. One of my kiddos popped his head in the room and said, "Hey! They're watching the PRINCE!" Prince... president... whatever, they got the message.

Absolutely awesome.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My bubble is beginning to fill back up

Today is a staff development/teacher workday, and yes, it's wonderful. Teachers get to talk and plan and bounce ideas off each other, and wear their sweats, and have 1/2 hour long doorway conversations and the drop of a hat. LOVE IT.

We had a workshop this morning where we crunched our testing data to see where we succeeded and where we struggled. Lots of numbers (my kryptonite) but they had meaning and it was interesting and worthwhile. I came away with a better understanding of what our general testing data means.

However, the best nugget of information I came away with is that while we might be struggling, if you compare us to schools in many (yes MANY) other states, we would be considered exemplary. Our state simply holds us to a much higher standard. Of course this is the standard that I hope to meet, but it feels good to know that we're not the slowest child on the playground.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More...

To calm down after my blogrant about AYP, I went home and packed my kiddo into his stroller and set off for a walk to the park. He LOVES the swings. 5 minutes into the walk he passed out cold and I was left with only my thoughts... and I hadn't calmed down yet.
  • Should the president get 100% approval rating by 2014? Do we consider him failing if he doesn't?
  • Should Members of Congress receive a 100% attendance rating by 2014? Are they failing if they don't? (Yes, attendance is figured into AYP).
  • Should a person's yearly reviews in the suit-and-tie world yield perfect ratings, with no room for improvement by 2014? If not, is that a failure?

I could go on, but I have to get to work at achieving 100% by 2014.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Again.

I suppose this might be a yearly post, as I blogged about this before, but here we are again, feeling blah about today's staff meeting. We didn't make AYP.

We teach a very transient population, our kids face numerous road blocks in their personal lives that obviously seep and flood into their days at school, many of our students arrive with zero English skills, parents are often absent in the evenings, and the list goes on. But listen to me. I am not making excuses for us. I am trying to shed some light on the complexities of our school. "We didn't make AYP" does not fully explain what we ARE doing. And that's why it bugs me.

Some of you are very familiar with how kids are counted under NCLB, but some of you are not. Let me give you an example: a low-income, Hispanic student with a disability takes ONE test. This test score is counted FIVE times. Five times because this student is 1 - low-income, 2 - Hispanic, 3 - LEP (limited English proficiency), 4 - special education and 5 - she is part of the overall population. Under each category (they call them subgroups) her test score is listed. So let's get more specific... this wonderful student walked in our doors 2 months before she had to take the SOLs. She takes the test and she misses it by one percentage point. She fails. Her failing score is counted 5 seperate times. Let's cut her a break and take away her disability. She's counted 4 times.

You can certainly see how a handful of kids, and it's truly a handful, can make the difference between balloon dropping celebrations and downtrodden sad staff meetings.

Our administration does a great job at reminding us that we do excellent work and to keep our heads up and to push forward and to yadda yadda... whatever, it still blows.

I'm all for accountability. I'm all for striving to help every child succeed. I'm all for every child to be counted. But why 5 times?

By 2014, 5 years away, each and every child must pass. Every. Single. One. We are working our tails off and can't get all 29 benchmarks (this year was 26) when the benchmark is 81% passing. How the hell are we going to get 100% passing???

I think of some of my favorite friends over the past few years... and I'm not thinking of the ones that will always be fine test takers. I'm thinking of the boy who went home everyday and told his mom that "kindergarten is just so hard." He's in his 2nd year and we are seeing progress, but not SOL-passing progress. I'm thinking of a boy that was abused emotionally and physically, never potty trained, and has huge emotional disabilities. Sitting in his chair for more than 30 seconds was a daily challenge, let alone learning his ABCs. I'm thinking of a girl who just didn't get it. She seemed to have zero ability to retain information. We worked daily with her and she's doing it all over again with another K teacher. They will all be counted multiple times.

Again, this isn't excuses, but come on people, we are not magicians. OF COURSE I believe that every child can learn. OF COURSE I believe that every child should not be "left behind." But when you give us limited time and limited resources, and you pack our classrooms full, and you don't demand the same out of parents that you demand out of me, well listen donkey, the truth of the matter is that there is no way you're going to get your 100%. Put that in your pipe.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Really

Dear Mother Nature,

I'd like to express how PLEASED I am that you chose to dump a huge thunder and lightening rain storm on our school precisely when it was time for kindergarten to start their lunch and recess. On Friday. After a long long week. Seriously, awesome. Thanks. I hate you.

Love,
Me.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Apologies and Funnies

I've been "off-line" for longer than normal... I'm our team leader this year and so far it's been much like a mild yet nagging headache. It's difficult to blog about my thoughts and experiences because I am bound to hurt feelings, or to say something unprofessional or inappropriate and I am trying my hardest to do this job as best as I can. So... I have chosen to talk to my husband instead. He's thrilled.

BUT! Yep, there is a but, I had lunch with two of my kiddos today and something happened that I run into with my large group of Spanish speaking students. On many occasions, a student will be searching for a word and will inevitable say, "I don't know the word, only in Spanish." AND EVERY SINGLE TIME it's a proper noun. Cracks me up.

"Where is your family from?"
(Picture the child struggling...) "I only know it in Spanish."
"Okay sweetie, what is it in Spanish?"
"Argentina."
"AH! It's the same in English."

OR...

"I heard you have a new baby sister! What's her name?"
(Again... obvious and painful struggling...) "I don't know it in English."
"Well tell me in Spanish!"
"Diana."
"AH! It's a beautiful name and it's the same in Spanish and English. Just like YOUR name!"

Poor kiddos. I suppose I shouldn't find it funny but I do.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back to School Night

Sigh... (this is a happy sigh!)... 17 out of my 18 families came to Back to School Night. 17 moms and dads listened politely as I rambled on and on, they asked really good questions and they even were kind enough to laugh at my lame jokes. They all signed up for a fall parent-teacher conference and each one of them shook my hand and said, "thank you" when they left.

It's the little things...

I think this year will be great, regardless of my grumbling this past week. Frankly, I think most of that grumbling has been misdirected. Don't get me wrong, sitting in pee deserves grumbling and reading depressing articles about beat-down teachers does too, but somewhere between the Starbucks and school this morning I reminded myself that I am pretty lucky to work where I work and my kids -- even though I don't really know them yet -- are pretty great.

For those working moms out there, I think my funk is more about making it work at home and school, something I have blogged about before, rather than beginning year blues.

Onward. It's Thursday. It's an Art Day. Rock on.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

feeling blue...

Organized Chaos blogged about this article and it got me feeling blue... then my husband sent me the same article the next day with the subject line, "this is why I love you so much." Normally that kind of subject line would make me feel every color of the rainbow but blue, but I can't shake the content of the article. The author loved her job, felt purposeful, understood the great need, yet still couldn't do it. The barriers just became too much. She's not a quitter. She was beat down.

I am not thinking about leaving my profession, but it's hard not to contemplate it at times, especially in the beginning of a school year with more children, seemingly longer hours, less supplies, less money, and a baby at home.

I do love my job but on days like today, I feel like I am asked to do the impossible. Or the very very very hard. I feel like the teacher, the parent, the friend, the mentor, the guide, the grandparent... you name, I see the need and try to fill it. Our kids have huge needs and it's hard to fill all of them (or even some).

I try to remember the days when I relish this challenge. There are many, they're just not recent.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Justifying

So I put a movie on today... on the 4th day of kindergarten... but it was based on Rosemary Wells' book Timothy Goes to School and Yoko and I explained that stories come in many different forms and it was only 20 minutes. I can justify the heck out of it can't I?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

too fresh

As a self-described foodie, there is no such thing as "too fresh," unless you are talking about my classroom.

Others have blogged about this but it really resonates with me and is also the cause of my funk this week. My class is just too fresh. I don't know them and they don't know me. We haven't set routines and they haven't really grasped the rules yet. We have the beginning of the year incessant talkers (usually my preschool graduates) and the bizarre behavior issues (usually my kids who have never been in any type of a group setting).

Nothing gels, nothing flows. The day is choppy despite my best efforts. It's like the jar of hot fudge in your refrigerator. When you pull it out it's a bit grainy and solid, but give it time, some love and some heat, and you have a chocolaty river of goodness.

I'm just waiting for the river, or even a trickle.

I know there are fabulous kids in this room, I just haven't gotten to know them yet. I'm still looking out the door as my kids from last year pass by -- 2 inches taller -- confident first graders -- and wish they could come back in.

It's the blessing and the curse of this job. You get to start fresh every year, but you have to start fresh every year.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I hate the first week

I sat in pee. I SAT IN PEE. (Insert a SLEW of curses here).

Monday, August 3, 2009

Woosh!

That's what it felt like today.... WOOSH! Here is what we accomplished as a class:
  1. unpacking
  2. walking to music
  3. learning the playground rules
  4. finding our carpet spots
  5. participating in an abbreviated and heavily modeled version of morning meeting, but not in the morning.
  6. eating lunch
  7. recess
  8. packing up

As I began the list I assumed I would be making the point that we didn't get to much, but now that I see it listed it's clear we did A LOT. This is a short day (8:40 - 12:50) and included in this day was a 30 minute music class and a 20 minute lunch (that actually took 30 minutes because kindergarteners are just that slow). I feel accomplished. I wonder how much we'll get to tomorrow?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hugs

I don't think anyone would argue that teachers don't get as much credit for the work they do as they should... but at the same time, I don't think teachers always think they deserve more credit than they get. We work with a tough population and test scores never really reflect the honest truth at how well our kids are actually doing. Well, our cluster Superintendent just gave us a welcome-back-pep-talk and spoke about this specifically. How we gained over 150 kids last year, how we believe in every single little being that walks through our doors, how we don't have that achievement gap that everyone else is struggling with. She heaped such wonderful praise on us and even called us a "model" and a "miracle school." I'm not going to lie, I teared up a bit. It felt pretty nice.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shiny and New

Today is the first day back... a week of training and setting up our rooms and visions of shiny and new school supplies dancing in our heads. My room smells like fresh floor wax, there is no offending odor eminating from the bathroom, the items in my room are clean and free of stray pencil marks, the floor has not one piece of trash, I am not concerned with 5 year old mucus covering much of the furniture... ah, bliss.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Adios Amigos

I said goodbye to the kids yesterday... it felt great. They are a wonderful bunch of kids but I was ready to say adios.

Now I have 5 weeks of down time in front of me, and as my husband reminded me this morning when I was up at 6am with my son -- "you will be going crazy in about 3 weeks and ready to go back." Yeah, I know.

But today it's a lunch date and an afternoon date and a whole lot of nothing else. Happy summer!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thanks FCPS...

This is why school funds should be tied to research, not property taxes. Thanks FCPS for ignoring the research and shutting down our year-round program. Brilliant.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Love It.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wah, wah, wah....

It's a cold and rainy day in May. The kids are all tired from the long weekend and everyone is moving around with a little bit o'bummy on their shoulder. Around mid-morning, the entire staff received an email letting us know we have a mandatory 5 minute meeting at the end of the day today. It's as if a dark storm cloud came rumbling in via the internet.

Turns out that due to budget cuts, the 2009-2010 school year will be the last year we will have a almost-year-round calendar. I suppose I knew this was coming, but there was always a glimmer of hope that our tiny, yet loved and effective program, would survive the red pen.

I wish I could be more eloquent on the subject, but right now I am just bummed out. Sort of like losing the big game at the last second.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

All-Nighter

My son has attempted to pull two all-nighters in a row. We passed this insane way of life weeks and weeks ago but appears he wants to revisit it. Needless to say, I am EXHAUSTED. One of my little kiddos did not get a good night's sleep last night and is clearly exhausted as well. When I told the kids that I was very tired and explained why, she quietly gave me the "me too" sign. If I wasn't so grumpy I might have laughed out loud. It's as if she's silently saying, "Yeah, Mrs. P., I am so there with you."

So cute.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kindergarten Honesty

"Mrs. Platt? No offense, but you look scary when you yawn."

Monday, May 18, 2009

The ants go marching one by one...

So tomorrow is our field trip to a local park to learn all about ants. My kids are REVVED up and ready to go. To prepare we have learned a fun song about the parts of the ant:

(to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes)
Head, thorax, abdomen
And 6 legs!
Head, thorax, abdomen
And 6 legs!
And antennae that we call feelers,
Head, thorax, abdomen
And 6 legs!

Now you try it!!!!! Come on, do it.

Picture the kids wiggling their arms when they sing "and 6 legs!" It's quite cute.

After we learned about the parts of an ant, we anxiously awaited the arrival of our ants in the mail to put into our ant farm. They arrived on Thursday... dead. Ugh. REALLY? My kids were bummed out. One kiddo asked, "can we catch a bunch of ants on the field trip and bring them back to our ant farm?"

Awwww... no sorry sweetie.

Can you picture that? I bunch of 6 year olds stuffing ants in their pockets to bring back to school? My kids would try it if I let them and I get tense just thinking about the wicked case of ants-in-the-pants we would have!

So no real ants for us to observe in the room, but we're still excited for tomorrow. Onward!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bunched Undies

While I was growing bigger and bigger by the minute, I had to take a class hosted by our school district to become certified to administer a reading test. I dutifully attended each long evening class, missing only one for a doctor's appointment. I listened, I took notes, and I felt that I understood how to administer this test.

2 weeks before my due date (1 week before I gave birth), I took the assessment for the class.

While on maternity leave I was told I failed.

Now, please don't take this the wrong way, but I don't fail things, especially tests. After I calmed down and accepted that I did not perform as expected, I asked why I failed. Did I completely miss the concept? Or did I just make careless errors? I asked why I failed so that when I take the assessment again, I can be prepared.

I was not, and will not, be told why I failed. I'm just told, "you failed." If you are a teacher, you are clearly seeing why my undies are in a bunch. HELLO! SCHOOL DISTRICT?! THIS IS EXACTLY HOW NOT TO DO ASSESSMENTS.

So now I am taking another long evening class this evening, and a reliable source who just took the same "revisit" class (aka the failure class) told me we learn good tips and tricks on how to pass. Again, bunched undies. To top it off, I won't be seeing my baby boy until he's sound asleep tonight - it's the longest I've been away from him and while I know he'll be completely fine, I am not. So if you see a teacher, scowling and looking sad, at a school this evening. You know why and you know that her undies are in a bunch.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Teacher Fatigue

I come to school a full hour before the kids arrive, but between walking down the hall to the room, back to the teacher's lounge to stash my lunch, waiting for my Outlook to retrieve the information, heading back out to pump (yep, we're still doing that and it's still a hassle), I only have about 30 minutes of prep time.

I used it today to decidedly not prep. I spent my precious 30 minutes of morning time reading my favorite blogs that I have neglected over the past few months. Turns out my favorite bloggers are feeling just like me. Tired, burned out, and stretched in all directions, and I am hearing the same thoughts from colleagues in the building. "Are we done yet?" "Oh, I'm already taking things off my wall." "I am so done with this group." There's not a lot of excitement or energy.

I don't think it's the kids necessarily... I think we're just, as a group, exhausted. Some of us have different factors that exacerbate the tiredness (insomnia, new baby, baby on the way, stress) but on a whole it seems like the general teaching population needs a long nap.

We have 26 school days left before summer break. And yes, I am counting.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Socks - Old or Smelly?

Our shared reading book this week is Do-Whacky-Do. A rumpus fun story about 10 clowns who want to go to town, but on each page the readers discover why each clown can't go*. The last clown decides that going to town alone isn't fun, so he decides to do a dance with a kangaroo. Strange? Oh yes, but so fun to read!

*One clown sat in sticky glue, one clown got sick with the spotty dotty flu, and one clown in particular was busy making old sock stew. When we read that page, we hold our noses. A question arose about old socks. "Why are we holding our noses? The socks are old, not smelly!" So we discussed that cooking socks might indeed smell, if we wash old socks, then they won't smell. I had to use my socks as an example. "See these socks? I've had them for a long time. They are old. But I wash them each time I wear them, so they are not smelly."

And that was the lesson of the day.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bliss

Five of my students are out today... five less than my already small 17. The remaining 12 and I have had a lovely day. I've had time to work with each kid one-on-one and there hasn't been any behavior issues. Bliss.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Viola Swamp Strikes!

Six of my children enjoyed recess on this sunny beautiful day. The remaining 11 sat on the bench to think about why they decided to harass the substitute Music teacher.

Before anyone leaves a comment about how wrong this is, and how I'm not allowed to take away recess, and how these kids need fresh air and exercise. I AGREE. That's why I am feeling so Swamp-y.

Inaugural Think Block Lesson

My kids and I sat down with the Think Blocks today to discuss parts of the flower. They identified stem, roots, leaves, petals and also added water, sun and dirt. We set the latter 3 off to the side -- I wasn't sure what to do with them.

When I asked what a flower is part of, one student said "NATURE!" So then we talked about what makes up nature. The kids came up with trees, feathers, birds, people, grass, houses and toys. When I asked if houses and toys went with the others, one student said, "no! they don't grow!" YES! We have lift-off!

That led to what nature was a part of... the Earth. Houses, people, water, America, recycling were all thrown out and parts of the Earth. What was Earth a part of? The overwhelming answer was God. Well, okay. I could have predicted that. So I talked briefly about what the universe was and then recapped from the beginning ("So let's ask one more time, what are the parts of a flower? And the flower is a part of what?" Etc.) and ended the lesson.

Then we talked about our brains and why they hurt.

Thoughts:
  • The lesson on part/whole that ThinkWorks detailed on their blog made my brain hurt. Don't get me wrong, it was great, but I really really struggled on how to use it with my kids. Being from Ithaca (here's my shout-out!), and coming from an academic family, I smiled as I read it because all I could think was, "this is so academic, so Ithaca... must simplify." So this was a pared-down version for a first lesson to Title I ESOL kids.
  • I liked the part/whole concept and realized my kids need assistance is thinking in this matter.
  • This way of teaching is very abstract compared to what I am used to which made it difficult to begin, but once I got rolling I could see how it benefits the kids.
  • Admittedly I had to count on two of my higher-level thinkers to really guide the rest of class. Which was fine, but...
  • Admittedly, only a handful more were actually guided. There were a heck of a lot of blank stares.
  • I will not draw on them all that much because the kids focused more on the drawing ("let me see! I can't see") rather than the idea. When I left them blank or simply put the first letter of the idea on each block it worked better.
  • It was a good start. Now I need to chat with colleagues to get more ideas.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Holy Spring Fever Batman (or should I say Ben 10?)

My children have seriously lost their minds. I have spent the past four days channeling Viola Swamp, which is funny because for the 2nd week in a row I have put a Miss Nelson book in the listening center. They WON'T STOP TALKING, or poking, or whining, or tattling, or doing EXACTLY what I have asked them NOT TO DO.

All of sudden my little angels are bringing candy to school (always been a no-no). They're bringing toys to school (another no-no) AND WHAT IS UP WITH THESE BAKUGAN THINGS? My boys are obsessed with them and now I have a collection of them. I hate them.

The classroom management plan and my normal routine of positive praise seems pointless so I tried reasoning with them, "Isn't it more fun in here if I am not yelling?" I tried mild threats, "The first grade teachers will not allow this kind of behavior, I'm not sure you guys are READY for first grade!" I have tried the supersonic, bug eyed, "SSSSSHHHHHHH!" I have tried taking away fun things (my least favorite form of punishment). Nothing. Nada.

My wonderful Instructional Assistant and I feel that we haven't ever seen them like this. At the end of the day we look at each other with that "WTF?!" look on our faces.

TGI-almost-F.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Superwoman

A colleague told me that I need to stop trying to be the superwoman I once was. Then I cried.

Let's rewind.

I have been back from maternity leave for one week and things have been going quite well. My kid loves his daycare provider as do I, my students are happy to have me back, as am I, and things are running relatively smooth at home with the new schedule. So what's the problem?

I feel like a half-sie. Or maybe a part-sie.

I don't feel like I am giving a full whole to being a teacher, to being a mom, or to being a wife. Instead I feel like I am giving only part of what I could or should. Yes, I know, I KNOW that this is normal, this will change, and I shouldn't be so hard on myself. But I can't help how I feel. It is what it is.

I know this is normally an outlet for me to rant, express frustration, or sometimes even joy, but I am consumed with trying to figure out this new life and there has been little room for the old pleasures. Hopefully I'll find my chi soon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fleur de Jelly Belly

Today we began discussing spring and seeds. I chumped out a bit and showed the kiddos a 20 minute movie about growing a flower. Yes, it was a cartoon. Yes, the bright colors and fun music got them to pay attention, but yes, it was a PBS production so I don't feel all that bad.

After the movie we discussed the steps we need to follow to grow a flower. This turned into a great interactive writing lesson and they came up with 7 steps to grow a flower. My favorite? Step #6 -- Wait!

I was feeling all warm and fuzzy about our lesson until one of the kids asked if jelly beans were seeds and before I could answer, a classmate told him that yes, they were and there were jelly bean trees. Instead of recapping the lesson with the kids, I spent 5 minutes explaining where and how jelly beans were made.

Thanks Easter Bunny.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Patterns of Thinking by Jack Black

Well, not really by Jack Black, but in my mind it was! I attended a workshop today focused on patterns of thinking. Our presenter, Derek Cabrera, of ThinkWorks (based in my hometown!!)bore an incredible resemblance to Jack Black, both physically and with his gestures. While Mr. Cabrera was really interesting and engaging on his own, thinking that at any moment I might see a School of Rock-type episode kept me rapt with attention! Seriously.

We learned about patterns of thinking.

Unlike my colleague Organized Chaos who will undoubtedly provide us with a very in depth and interesting reflection (she always says it best), I really only have a few things to say:
  1. What an eye opening idea, yet one that seems so "duh."
  2. This workshop was one of the very few where I felt like I was respected as a teacher as opposed to being told that what I am doing is ineffective and here is a brand new way to do things! And it requires a lot more time!
  3. I am going to love this approach.
  4. My kids are going to love this approach.
  5. The Think Blocks are interesting, but I'm not sure I want/need them right away. I'm much more wedded to the questioning.

Stay tuned to see if a) I actually begin to implement this* and b) what the results seem to be.

*I'm really on board so this is very likely to occur!

Friday, March 20, 2009

I've Been Memed

Elementary, My Dear, or Far From It memed me this:
Teaching assignments, how long? I'm a career switcher. This is my 2nd full year in my own kindergarten classroom.

Favorite class taught---and why? My current one. My first year was insane and I had no clue what I was doing. I get it now.

Worst class taught---and why? My first year. Good kids, very inexperienced teacher.

Favorite class taken? It's been so long since I have truly enjoyed a class I've taken. I do remember a Literacy class I took in my Master's program where the professor began each class with a read aloud. Loved it.

Favorite education book? Hmmmm... honestly, I buy them because they sound great but then I never use them.

Best teacher buddy?
Organized Chaos. Hands down. I also loved both my clinical faculty in 4th and 2nd grades. Very inspirational in their own way.

Best administrator? I love my current principal (and I'm not kissing up, I truly do) but I HEART our AP. She's amazing. She's incredibly accessible and always gives thoughtful, sensitive, and realistic advice.

Most disappointing experience? DRA2 class.

Most thrilling moment? Coming back from maternity leave to a classroom full of readers!

Funniest incident in your classroom? I laugh daily and can't narrow it down to just one.

Most memorable student? Since I laugh daily you can assume that the reasons for my laughter are abundant. I have many and it's only been two years.

What about unions? I pay dues yet they were useless in helping me figure out my maternity leave. Humph.

What about charter schools? A fine idea but my school does a lot of the good stuff that charter schools do and we don't get any recognition because we are a public school.

What about merit pay? Again, a fine idea but it needs to be very personalized. Don't punish me for a kiddo who just arrived from Mexico and hasn't ever set foot in a school setting. Look at my students' progress, not just the final results.

What does "21st century learning" mean? It means nothing to me. It's used by policy makers and administrators who are constantly looking for ways to improve our "failing schools."

What makes a teacher "effective"? An effective teacher is able to reach a student beyond the curriculum.

Most overrated "reform"? Ever changing math curriculum. It bores me.

Best professional development? Having a literacy coach with me in the classroom. Invaluable.

Personal education hero? This is a tough question. I really look to my administrators as models and mentors.

Priorities, if you could spend $5 billion on education? Bricks and mortar baby.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Hello hello hello!

Today was my first day back, but in reality it was just a dry-run. Today was the last day before a 3 week break. It gave me the opportunity to test out a) getting out of the house at 6:40 a.m. with a 3 month old infant; b) discover and experience the "joy" of pumping at school; and c) learning how to love my job but miss spending the day with my son all at the same time. So here goes...

THE GOOD: my kids nearly peed themselves with excitement that I was back. That felt good. They also made a HUGE sign that was hung across the windows that welcomed me back. That also felt good. I received many many "welcome backs" from my colleagues and that really felt good. There was lots of good today.

THE BAD: two of my kiddos that drove me nuts before I left drove me nuts today. They tattle, they bait other kids, they whine and they accomplish NOTHING. Good gravy. Seriously you two? Really? You still can't function in a classroom? Eye roll.

THE UGLY: attaching a breast pump to myself two times during the day and a confirmed case of scabies in the neighboring classroom. I think those speak for themselves.

I have 3 weeks to digest this. I'll be back in full force mid-April hopefully with lots of good, little bad, and the reality is there will always be the ugly. That's what makes this fun to read right?