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.