Monday, April 27, 2009


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.

  • 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.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


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!