Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wah Flippin' Wah

I'm not interested in a "who works harder" debate, but if I have to read one more article or hear one more story about how unfair it is that federal workers might be subject to a pay freeze for two years, I might scream.

Welcome to reality my federal friends. I'm on 4 years and counting...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Love

It's been a rough few days for yours truly. I was thinking about blogging about it, but blogging is supposed to be my therapy and after writing the post, I didn't feel better so I scrapped it. It's hard being a teacher when you're struggling right? It's hard being there for all your lovies if you're not there for yourself. Well enough of this pity party because I work with amazing people.

My two fabulous co-teachers could tell I'm down and they both approached me and asked how I was and what could they do to help? Love. Then during the afternoon, when I had my kids strengthening their auditory skills at identifying rhyming words (Dr. Seuss movie) another fabulous colleague came in and gave me an incredible neck and back massage. She said I looked like I needed one. Double love. I am so lucky to work with such caring and fabulous people.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Frontline

My teammates have been grumbling about getting our testing done and data inputted by the school district's deadline. I agree with the grumbling, it's a whole lot of work that takes away from our teaching, and much of the work doesn't really inform our instruction. I can happily deal with data crunching if it's helping me plan my lessons, but busy work for the sake of busy work certainly deserves grumbling.

I happen to be very lucky to have two co-teachers in my classroom this year. I teach in an inclusion school so our special education teacher co-teaches with me and our reading specialist is also co-teaching with me this year. Out of the many benefits of this arrangement, the one that is most helpful when talking about testing is that my classroom has three teachers to complete testing when others on my team have to do it all on their own.

This realization got me thinking about kindergarten teachers and how we're the front line in the army of teachers in our school. We often know very little to nothing about kindergarten students when they arrive at our school. Unless they're transferring to us from a special education program at another school, all we have their name, birth date and address.

Our school has designated classrooms (this year three) where our special education kindergartners are mixed in with general education. This is done so our special education teacher can actually service these students. These three classrooms have some level of expectation on the first day because we know some of our students already, usually 3 or 4 students out of 20.

Then there's the rest. All of a sudden, a kindergarten teacher who has neither a special education co-teacher or a literacy co-teacher can easily be faced with students who clearly need more support than your average five year old. A child who appears to have no experience in a group setting and has social/emotional problems can be quite a challenge, two or three of these kids in a classroom can make for a very tough year. Instructional Assistants are incredibly important in our classrooms, but as I discovered last year, they should not, and cannot, be focused on one or two students all day everyday. It's not their job, nor their area of expertise.

Largely, by the time these kiddos get to first grade, they've either a) adjusted to school and its expectations or b) been "flagged" or even identified as a child with special needs. First grade teachers have a head's up about what's coming their way.

So yeah. Kindergarten is the front line. Maybe they should start issuing Kevlar with our science kits.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Overheard

Child singing, "Hey, soul sister, what's the mystery...radio, stereo." (A classroom favorite).

Other child sings, "I like to ride it all night long."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Please, just show up.

It's half-way through the first of our two parent conference days and I'm already irritated. Not surprisingly, I have found myself here before. Although when I reread my post from 2008, I seem to blame my self-diagnosed OCD on my pissy-ness, today I putting it squarely on the shoulders of my parents who pulled NO SHOWS for our conference.

Out of nine conferences so far, four have pulled no shows. It's not that I received a message to say they couldn't come. It's not that I arbitrarily picked a time and expected them to make it. NO. I worked my behind off to communicate with them personally about when they are available, confirm a time that worked for THEM, and then also sent home a paper reminder in their home language (I have Spanish and English speaking parents.) Their conference times come and go while I sit at my desk not wanting to delve into a project because they might, they might, show up. WHO DOES THIS?! This isn't just my Spanish speaking parents either, the current culprit is a mom that I know because I had her older child two years ago. YOU KNOW ME! Why would you blow me off?!

Breathe.

A colleague gently reminded me, amidst my ranting, that the real shock is that THIS IS YOUR CHILD. Can you show up? Please? Not for me, although I would like that too, but for them. Show up for them.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why I am allowed in the building some days, I do not know.

Today is Book Character Day and while I have issues with it in general (if it's NOT Halloween, DON'T schedule it at Halloween, etc etc) I have been giggling by butt off all morning.

Why you ask?

A colleague dressed up as Ramona Quimby.

What's so funny about Ramona Quimby you ask?

Well, this Ramona Quimby is pregnant.

Ramona Quimby, Age 16. HA!
Ramona the Bravely Rebellious. HA! HA!
Ramona, the girl who took the wrong path. HA! HA! HA!
Hey Ramona, did Henry do that to you?!

You get the picture.

I can't stop. CAN'T STOP.

Somehow I think Beverly Cleary wouldn't find me so funny, but I think I am.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some nursery rhymes need to be retired...

Does Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater bug anyone? It really bugs me and I can't bring myself to teach it to my kids.
I mean, COME ON, Mrs. Pumpkin Eater. You're telling me that you can't escape a pumpkin and go find a better life? I highly doubt that life inside a nasty pumpkin is "very well." Screw Peter and his barbaric ways, I'm sure some dwarfs would take you in, or you could call your gal pal Cinderella and go live in her castle. Just don't call the old lady, her shoe is full.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Trauma

We had a presentation on the effects of trauma on a child's brain today and wow... portions of it hit home and hit my classroom.

Early in the presentation, a recording of a 911 call was played. It was a small child, watching his mommy and daddy fight, and this child was terrified. I couldn't tell who was beating up who but I don't think it mattered. What mattered is that the sound of pure fright in that child's voice made my stomach turn, and then sink. I immediately thought of my own child and that my own personal nightmare would be his voice sounding like that. She also spent extensive time talking about how infants' neurons grow rapidly with love and attention, and do just the opposite when those things are absent. Again, it brought me right to my son and how the sound of any stress from him, from day one, caused me to want to soothe him immediately. I've never been a "let him cry it out" kind of mom and I'm happy to report I have a kiddo who can soothe himself when needed but also goes to sleep at a regular bedtime with rarely a tear.

So that was the home.... and then I began chewing on thoughts of my classroom.

I began to think of the struggles many of my kids have experienced at a very young age and my heart began to ache a bit. It's not often that I look at a five year old in my classroom and try to see them in their 10 month old selves, but when I stepped back to try to do that, I became very sad. A baby who might not get picked up when she cries, not because she's not loved, but because the caregiver is watching five other babies while parent(s) are working long shifts. A baby who isn't spoken to simply because mom or dad might be so exhausted that being physically home is all that can be managed. And worse, a baby or a young child who routinely sees a mom beat up, or hears a neighbor screaming, or sees a fight outside their window. I've always been aware of the realities of the children I teach, but today I tried to put myself in their baby shoes, and it blew me away.

As these babies grow up, they lack coping mechanisms that resilient children have -- those pesky neurons again, and they have high stress levels. These children come into my classroom and seek out the negative, because that's what they know. They prefer an angry voice or an angry face because that's what they're used to. It's my job to show them that there's another world. There's a world with love, patience, and calm.

I do my best. Some days better than others, but in general, I approach my class with calm, patience and the understanding that consistency in routine and reaction in imperative. This isn't enough for everyone, but is certainly my base-line.

I also realized today that I am truly failing two of my students. Two students who I have been looking at as true behavior problems. Nothing specific like inability to pay attention, or trouble controlling their body, just annoying irritating behavior. Two students who are always in trouble, always being spoken to, always asked to change their card, basically always dumped on. Not from day one, but as the weeks went by and my usual bag of tricks failed at every turn, my patience withered and my calm even tone was replaced with bugged eyes, sarcasm, and short snippy tones.

The presenter referred to this as our "shark voice." She pleaded with us to approach every child, every day, with calm, with even tone, with a soft face. She said, "be aware of your shark voice." I looked down at the floor, slightly ashamed. I can admit it.

So tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I will brainstorm individual behavior plans for these two, a device I usually reserve for specific behavior problems. Who knows, maybe they just need some positive love many times throughout the day. Won't I be the jerk if that's the case?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Isn't this your job?

Dear Weather.com,

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't the purpose of weather.com to give accurate weather forecasts? I checked you this morning and saw that it was going to be sunny in the low sixties for our field trip. Our field trip with eight kindergarten classes. I thought, "great! beautiful weather!"

Well weather.com, you failed. You failed big.

The ACCURATE weather report was fifty one degrees, cloudy and windy. I dare say the windchill was below 50 degrees. How do I know? BECAUSE I WAS FREEZING MY BUTT OFF.

We ate our lunches on the bus and left a full hour earlier than planned.

Luckily, my kids didn't notice because they all got to pick out their own pumpkin to take home. It cost me $17 bucks but it was worth it. That's all they're likely to remember anyway.

I hope you do a better job next time.

Sincerely,
Me.

P.S. I think you should pay me $17 bucks.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

For the love of...

Is someone playing a very cruel trick on me? It's as if some horrible blob is hovering above my class and sucking the ability to follow directions right out of my students.

I'm about to lose it.

I'm not talking about following three or four step directions, I'm not talking about walking in the hallway correctly, I'm talking about, "do you hear the words coming out of my mouth?"

Example #1:
Me: "Friend, please stop at look at me."
Friend stops and looks at me.
Me: "You are using way too much glue. There is glue everywhere. You don't need anymore. Please put it down."
Friend nods and then squeezes a huge blob of glue on his letter sort.

Example #2:
Me: "Okay friends, the first thing you are going to do is put your name on your paper. Can someone tell me what the first thing you're going to do is?"
Kid: "Cut."
Me: Deep breath... "No, not yet. What's FIRST."
Kid: "Write your name."
Me: "Yes! Now go do it."
Kid returns to his table and starts cutting.

I could go on and on, but my blood pressure is rising just typing this.

We have had class meetings, class discussions, I have listed directions in 1, 2 or 3 step fashion. I've had the kids repeat back what the directions are. I've had kids model, kids explain, and kids help their peers. Not following directions is the leading cause of green cards going to yellow and then to orange in my room. NOTHING IS WORKING.

And it's not just 3 or 4. We're talking like HALF MY CLASS.

Please, for the love of my sanity, share some advice. I would greatly appreciate it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumpkins for all Learners

Today was a great day for many reasons, one of them being an on-the-fly-pulled-from-my-behind lesson on the life cycle of the pumpkin. My plans said, "introduce the life cycle of the pumpkin." Um, thanks former self from last week. Great job with the details.

The only lesson we had done before today was to make a list of what we know about pumpkins and what we want to know.

So I grabbed a short non-fiction book with photographs and easy descriptions. The kids enjoyed the real pictures and the simple text of how a pumpkin grows.

Then we put the book down and retold it by drawing pictures on the easel.

Then we snuggled down into the carpet and acted out the life cycle of the pumpkin.

Then we switched on the Smart Board and sequenced the pictures in the appropriate order.

This all took about 20 minutes and it hit my spatial (drawing the pictures), kinesthetic (acting it out), linguistic (reading the book) and logical learners (organizing the sequence).

Through the lesson, we answered many of the questions we asked the previous day, such as "do pumpkins grow on trees?" and "do seeds need water to grow?" I know am patting myself on the back, I fully admit it, but I really thought it rocked.

I am congratulating myself with a burger and wine. Cheers!

What she said...

Everything I wanted to say has already been said.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Independence

I believe one of the most important things I can teach my students is independence. Whenever I am asked about my teaching philosophy, that word is always forefront. If you come into my room you might hear me tell a kiddo that I won't tie their shoes. They need to try it themselves or ask a friend. You might hear me tell a child that, "no, I won't open your snack. Ask a friend." I think it's incredibly important for these five year olds to understand that self-sufficiency is the bedrock of their success. If they can't do something, that's okay, but ask a friend. If a five year old is tying another five year old's shoes, they are both benefiting from that experience. The shoe-tying kid is strengthening their skills through practice and teaching through example. The shoe tie-ee is likely paying more attention because if their friend can do it, why can't they?

Sorting buttons...

I feel independence doesn't stop at basic life skills such as opening a Capri-Sun or tying a shoe. Most of my teaching consists of a focus lesson followed by independent learning centers. This structure carries over in literacy and math. I work really hard and setting routines and expectations so that a student knows what their job is, knows what to do at the job, and knows what to do when done. All without my assistance. This frees me up to work one-on-one with kids, to do our ever growing assessments, to work with a small group, or lately to chat with colleagues or reply to emails. It's the lately part that's making me feel just a tad guilty.

Um, hello TEACHER?! You're a teacher right? Shouldn't you be TEACHING? That's what the little teacher-nerd sitting on my shoulder is saying.

Color sort...

Of course I don't think I should go into these independent groups and shake it up with teacher-led instruction, but I do think I need to get a bit more involved. My fabulous co-teacher suggested I follow her lead and make check-lists for learning objectives I am looking for. Then while my wonderfully independent kiddos are working, I can circulate around the room making notes of who is demonstrating what. I love this idea and need to get cracking on these checklists. It will certainly make me feel more productive, it will force me to see if my centers are successfully supporting the learning objectives, and it will decrease the chance of my boss showing up in my room while my kids are at centers and I am emailing our IT guy about the latest gadget I want.
Number dominos...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Evolution of Writing Workshop

This is my fourth year trying to perfect the kindergarten Writing Workshop. I've been to see Lucy Calkins, I've been to see Katie Wood Ray, I've read many a professional texts and sat through many a professional development focused on kindergarten writers.

It's the hardest part of my day.

Until this past week, I've pretty much stuck to a similar format. We begin Writing Workshop (WW) with a mini or focus lesson. Basically, "this is what writers do... you are all writers... now go and do it." Then the wee ones are sent back to their tables for quiet writing times while I conference with individual kids on what they're doing. Then we wrap it all up with a share session that highlights someone's story that did what we were hoping to see.

Now I know I'm not all that flexible, but this format does change depending on the day, the needs of the kids, and well, my mood. Bad mood teacher = shortened WW. Some days we don't even make it back to our tables. We do shared writing (I hold the pen but get ideas from the kids) or interactive writing (they write the words), or we read stories by other authors who do a great job at writing about real things happening. Ezra Jack Keats is a fine example. His books about Peter, Willy and the gang are an awesome example of writing about everyday things that happen to you.

The whole point is to get our kids to understand that they are authors and they have stories to tell.

Pause....

Have you ever heard a kindergartner tell a story? What about a kindergartner with limited English, limited experiences, and limited ability to hold a pencil?

And that's why it's hard.

SO. This year, with the help of my fabulous co-teachers (gawd, I love that it's plural!), we are revamping what WW looks like. We're thinking about centers focused on drawing, concept of story, and beginning, middle and end. Independent writing will still happen everyday, but it will be a smaller part of the workshop. I'm envisioning something that looks similar to my Reading Workshop.

Already we've been working on drawing. Many of our kids don't know where to begin so we've broken things down into parts of a whole (one of the Patterns of Thinking) and shown them that they can draw anything, they just need to go one part at a time! You should have seen the elephant they did together today. Awesome. I will try to remember to take a picture and post.

This week and next we will be pulling small groups to work on beginning, middle and end as well as story vs. picture.

I've also chilled out with the "you must be silent during independent writing" shtick. Turns out if you're not all up in their grill about being quiet, they enjoy writing more. They might talk to their tablemates, but they're talking about their stories, and that's fine by me.

I'm very excited about this. I hope I have amazing results to report! Or at least results that don't mention me thinking how much I hate WW.

Health Hazard

Due to a change in our recess schedule, we now have 30 minutes for lunch, instead of 60. I KNOW I KNOW, many many of you are saying, "SIXTY? Who the hell gets 60 minutes for lunch?" Well girlfriends, we did. Our kids ate lunch and then our fabulous I.A.'s took them outside.

Our new recess schedule has us going out later in the day, after lunch and after math. I like it. It works. The only adjustment is now we have to eat lunch in the same amount of time as the rest of the school. Tough life right? Well, GIRLFRIENDS, yes it is.

Lunch is at 12:50. I arrive at 12:47ish just to get a jump on the process. At 12:55 my kids have finished getting through the lunch line and I have said, 19 times, "please get a straw and napkin." Actually, by the ninth or tenth time, I'm just saying "straw. napkin."

I leave the cafeteria at 12:56 and begin the marathon long walk back to my room. Luckily I have long legs and can bust it back there by 12:59. I now have 21 minutes until my bum is due back in the cafeteria to pick up my kids. Oh, and I'm both a stickler for being on time, and feel incredibly guilty for being late because if I am, then my fabulous I.A. doesn't get to eat her lunch when she should. 12:50 is stinkin' late for 5 year olds, 1:00 p.m. is stinkin' late for me, but 1:20 p.m. is stinkin' smelly late for our I.A.s. But back to the clock...

By 1:00 p.m. I am ripping into my microwaveable meal and popping it in. Some are 1/2 power for 4 minutes, followed by full power for 2. Some are full power for 3, some are slow cookers -- seriously, 7 or 8 minutes. Plus I share my microwave with fellow lunchers, because it would be rude and mean if I didn't, so my same lunch-time colleague and I politely jockey for microwave time.

After all of this nonsense, it's close to 1:10 before I sit down to eat. I have about 8 minutes before I need to leave my room to get back to the cafeteria at 1:20.

I inhale my hot lunch and inevitably burn the roof of my mouth.

This vicious cycle repeats itself until the weekend when I can enjoy hot meals like a normal person. Then I bring my healed mouth to school on Monday and we start the dance again.

(Alright fine, YES, I could bring a sandwich, or cold pasta salad, but that takes planning and time in the morning and frankly, tossing a frozen meal into my bag is much quicker. And then what would I have to blog about?!)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Browser Blues

Does anyone else experience annoying and frustrating browsers? Explorer and Firefox seem so sensitive. Blogger hasn't been working with Firefox (error messages galore) but works fine with Explorer. Explorer doesn't like many sites I use and tends to just shut down without cause or warning. Our county's web sites favor Explorer and forget even trying to use my home-Mac with them. Just blank screens that load and load and load...

What gives?

Line Cutters Unite

You might be shocked by this, but I have been supporting line cutting. Not cutting the whole class however, just one special friend. This is the second year with this friend and she has very serious needs. But in the process of working with her very serious needs, she also has developed a stubborn streak and will start a power struggle over things I know, and she knows, she can do. Using the bathroom for example. She doesn't like to use it unless she wants to use it. Well sweet pea, in my room, you use it when we have bathroom breaks. So use it. Now.

She has taken to walking very slowly in line. Giant holes in the line drive me nuts and I have spent more than a year telling her in English and in Spanish to hurry up, let's go, walk faster, come on Friend... I thought she might not understand the basics of line walking. But then I told the kid behind her to walk around her. WHOA. She totally gets line walking and she got pissed. And she walked faster. Success! So now my kids know that if she is walking too slow, they should pass her.

Hopefully this is a quick fix. My only concern is that it will turn into a game. When it does, I will think of something else.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why my blog should charge me by the hour...

I think I have professional depression. It’s been stated that 50% of new teachers leave the profession after 5 years. This is my fourth.

Now, before my husband asks why the hell we spent all that money on my elementary education graduate degree, I can tell you that I’m not quitting. I. Am. Not. Quitting. I am just trying to find the reason or source of my overall blahness. I can’t continue to wake up each morning, exhausted, not wanting to go to work. I can’t continue to come to school and only be half engaged with my class. I can’t continue to mumble, “It was fine, I am tired” to my husband each time he asks how my day was.

I’ve been approaching many of my fabulous colleagues and asking, “are you wiped out too?” Turns out, many of them are. So one of my developing theories is that I am simply in a contagious rut that I will bounce out of within the next few days or weeks (please God, days). Why we are all in this rut, we do not know. One colleague and I tried to remember if we felt like this the past year and both of us seemed sure that this feeling is new.

There are some moments, on bad days the moments last all day, when I wonder if this profession is where I will be for the next 5, 10 or even 20 years. I wonder if I have the stamina. I wonder if I have the desire to help a group of 20+ kiddos go from here to way up there year after year. These moments are not daily, but lately they've been too frequent for comfort.

But each day gets better. If I was in AA I would tell you that it’s one day at a time. I had a fabulous planning session with my two amazing co-teachers. That alone lightened my step and invigorated me. I’m changing things up that I find boring. And if I find it boring, just imagine what my kids think. Our conversation was fun, exciting and sometimes giddy. Love planning like that.

I’m also adjusting my approach to those couple of students that are just irritating. I am digging deep and finding something to love, no matter how little, but there are two left that I’m still in the trenches with a shovel with. How deep do I have to dig?! But that’s just two. I have eighteen lovies that all have a special something about them.

New routines and new schedules have also been hard, so I’m looking at those and figuring out ways to make it all work. My fabulous administration has been working hard to help me change specials to make it better. That’s been awesome.

Frankly, with each word I type, I am thinking that it’s fine. I’m fine. This is all fine. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I certainly see the light.

The subtitle of this blog, because blogging is cheaper than therapy, never rang truer than it does today.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pile it on...

We had a in-service this morning to learn about the new content added to our math curriculum. I left feeling so down and frustrated. Let's rewind.

My first year of teaching I left as though if I sent the kids home in pretty much the same shape they arrived, it was a good day. I achieved that most days. Navigating the curriculum, navigating what my team did, and just figuring out what to do was incredibly hard.

Year two was better. My language arts blocks were more organized thanks to Literacy Collaborative and math inched along. It wasn't great, but better.

My third year felt solid. I feel great about language arts and I have the big picture in math and the help of required quarterly assessments which aren't fun to give, but they help me stay on task.

Now it's my fourth year. I'm ready to go and now I'm told that what I thought I had a handle on is drastically different. Kindergarten students need to count to 100 and know fractions like 1/2, 1/4, etc. These two new standards are just examples for many more.

Now please don't peg me as a oh-woah-is-me-I-have-teach-more whiner. And trust me, I don't underestimate my kids' ability. But, GAH, just when I feel like I know what I am doing, whammo, it changes. I'm struggling with how I am going to pace this through the year to introduce and teach additional material but also address the needs of my kids who need more time and just aren't ready for fractions, or counting to 100, or whatever... I'm afraid I may fail them this year. We're 11 days in and I'm stressed that a group of my kids can't copy a repeating AB pattern. It's hard to think about mid-year and end-of-year as success stories.

All of these additions to better prepare the upper grade kids on their standardized tests. I'm feeling a bit bitter and piled upon because we're the first grade in...

On a brighter note, the cafeteria manager gave me free leftover chicken tenders. Woot.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tinkering Heaven

I just discovered Blogger's new design options. SO FUN! But now I must get back to work...

That previous post was posted at 2:36 p.m., it is now 3:23 p.m. and I am putting an end to my tinkering... again. I couldn't decide if my background should reflect me, my room, or both. I couldn't decide where to put my picture, my lists, my search box. In the end, I settled on a background that just makes me happy. It will likely change.

Google Docs

On a technological savvy scale of 1 to 10, I consider myself a 6.5 to a 7. I like to use technology to make teaching easier and more interesting, but I also get stuck in my ways and resist change.

As I have mentioned before, I am ridiculously lucky to have TWO, yes TWO fabulous co-teachers in my room during Reading and Writing Workshop. Now that the basic structure of Writing Workshop has been set up, we got down to business to figure out conferencing. There are three of us and 20 of them.

Our mission: We each want to routinely conference with different kids and take anecdotal notes, but we want to share one working document so that no matter who conferences with a student, her notes will be in one location.

Our solution: Google Docs. My two fabulous co-teachers and I all have access to one Excel file on Google Docs. The Excel file has 20 tabs. Each tab is a different student. One each student's page we have fields for the date, behaviors observed, teaching points, follow-up?, and teacher's initials.

We have a check-list in the classroom to record who we meet with and when. During independent writing and conferencing time, we choose a kiddo and sit down with them. They have their writing, we have our laptops.

I'm really excited about this. Not only do we have one working document -- I HEART efficiency, but we also get to see each other's comments. I will learn from my co-teachers what they see and how they turn it into teaching points. And hopefully I will return the favor.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ah... there it is.

I found the love, finally.

Some gems from Writing Workshop today:
  • One of my fabulous co-teachers told a rather hysterical story about watching her grandmother lose her undies while walking into church. True story. She was walking up the steps, the undies dropped down to her ankles, and she, like a true lady, stepped out of them gracefully and kept walking. My kids were in STITCHES. Possibly because my other fabulous co-teacher and I were laughing out loud. (Kindergarten laughter rarely begins with the punch line, it comes after one kid laughs and everyone copies.) While we were asking if anyone had questions about the story, one little one raised her hand and when she was called on she just sat there. I thought this might be a false alarm but then after 25 seconds or so, she asks, "Was your grandma skinny?" HA! Smarty pants.
  • During independent writing, a student was drawing a picture. It had a round head, a long neck and a round body. Picture that in your head... I stared and while giggling in my head asked him what he was working on. As he added legs he replied, "An ostrich." I know, my mind is always in the gutter.
  • I approached one of my rather sassy smart girls to conference with her about her story. When I asked her to tell me about it she looked obviously put out. Then she said, "can you come back later?" Oh dear, love you.

More to come this year... I have a great group.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is it just me?

I've spent the past week reading blog posts about the first week, the new group, and new ideas, and ugh, I just can't get there.

I think I can't get there because my new group is so new I have little to say. I don't get them yet. They're simply a group of antsy kids.

Are the couple of kiddos who have been rather... annoying, shall we say, simply annoying because I don't know them? Their inability to sit still for more than five seconds isn't just a side note to their personality, it's their whole personality at this point, it's all I've got. And those kids that seem perfect... well come on, I know they're not, but I have nothing else to work off of. I need a few more weeks to figure out these little beings before I can reflect on them.

It's clear my fellow bloggers are making me feel inadequate. How silly, but how typical. I'll keep reading about everyone else's great days, not great days and inspiring ideas. Hopefully I'll find my own in the near future.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Brain Dump

The first couple of days of school feels like my entire first year. How I survived that, I do not know. I am so happy that this feeling, this go-go-go-breath-what?-who?-you what?-go-go-no!-um, NO-wow-go-go-go feeling only lasts a few days.

I use my bathrooms visits as a measure of how bananas my day was. Yesterday, the first day, I didn't sit on the pot until 5:00 p.m. I did leave school at 4:00 p.m., but now I am spending my afternoons with my go-go-go-go toddler son. So, yeah, 5:00 p.m. Don't try this at home. It's not good for you. Today? A visit to the teachers bathroom at 12:30 p.m. WOOT! A better day. Tomorrow I just might manage a quick stop during my class's snack time at 10:30 a.m.

I have 20 little friends in my room. Two from last year, 17 new ones, and 1 friend that is still MIA. I would love to have only 19, but my OCD-self kind of wants her to show up since her name is on everything. Come on girlie, make us a complete set!

Like most teacher bloggers, we are all going through the same stuff... for example, kiddos who just don't know how to sit. You'd think I was teaching a puppy obedience class. "Sit down please. No, don't get up. Please sit down. HEY. YOU. SIT DOWN. PLEASE." Maybe I'll just list a few of the things my colleagues have heard me say over and over and over:
  1. Find the line please.
  2. Raise your hand.
  3. Eyes forward.
  4. Hands in a ducktail!
  5. Criss-cross please. Eh hem, CRISS CROSS!
  6. Eyes up here please.
  7. Raise your hand.
  8. When I say your name, I'd like you to look at me the first time I say it.
  9. Quiet hands please.
  10. Is your name _______? Because that's who raised their hand quietly and that's who was called on, and that's who should be talking.
  11. Raise your hand.
  12. Pee in the pot please and thank you.
  13. Oh I don't think so.
  14. It's not time to go home yet, let's look at the schedule.
  15. It's not time to go to sleep yet, let's look at the schedule.
  16. It's not time for lunch yet, let's look at the schedule.
  17. It's not time for recess yet, let's look at the schedule.
  18. Raise your hand.
Whew. I'm exhausted just listing those.

Now, don't misread me... I think I have a great group. But even with a great group, that first week is TOUGH. I don't know these kids yet so I don't have a relationship with them yet, so caring deeply for them isn't there yet. It will be, that's not a question. I've been told I have the cutest class, and well, I think that is a correct assessment. They're damn cute. But right now they're cute but annoying. Soon they will be cute and awesome.

I am also lucky-ducky to work with three fabulous colleagues. One is our amazing special education teacher who spends an hour or so with me each day, another is our wonderful literacy coach who is co-teaching reading and writing workshop, and the third is my I.A. who has been with me since the beginning. WOOT. I have a good group of kids, a fabulous Instructional Assistant who I can't live without, plus two other amazing teachers in my room. A girl can't ask for anything more.

So let's leave it there... happy and positive (that's my mantra for this year too).

********
Oh, one other thing. I do have one special friend who has made all the adults who encounter her bug their eyes out and look at me with a "really? she did/said that?" look, but I'll give her a few weeks before she gets her own posts on here! It's too soon, and frankly as I mentioned above, because I don't know her very well she's just annoying. It's more fun to write about her when she's endearingly annoying.

Positive right?!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Do crickets get first day jitters?

This is an email I sent to a member of our office staff this morning...

"Not sure if this is a work order or a custodial request, but there is a cricket chirp chirp chirping away inside my heating/cooling vent and it's DRIVING ME BANANAS. Who can help me? Thanks!!"

I might hurt someone.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Here we go...

Tomorrow is the first official day back for teacher week. Kids come next Tuesday. Because this long break was killing me, I've already been in a few days to get my room in order and I'm happy to report that it's 80 percent there. All that's left are little organizational projects that I will happily tackle next week.

What weighs the most on my mind is getting myself back to first day of kindergarten mode. I must not think of the lovies I said goodbye to in June, but the lovies that I said hello to last August. Over a year ago. I keep reminding myself that to be successful, we must... go... slow. Really slow. Baby steps. This is how we go to the SmartBoard one at a time, this is how we come to the carpet, one at a time. This is how we line up, one at a time, and yes, this is how we walk in the hall. Super slow, super quiet... super s-l-o-w. Guess who hates going slow? This one. Yep, awesome.

This is a tough time of the year for me because I know these kids' potential, but I also know that it can't be rushed and if I want my room to run smoothly, we must start very slow, very methodically and very purposeful. Three things that I am terrible at.

So don't laugh when you walk by my room and it's taking 30 minutes for us to unpack our backpacks. It's all part of my master plan. In few weeks, we'll have it down to 15 minutes and in a few months, 10. But now, yeah, it will take a 1/2 hour of instruction time to unpack bags. That's the way it goes in kindergarten :)

Here we go!

Friday, June 18, 2010

More wah-der, the good kind

It was just announced that our current A.P., who I adore, will be our new principal. The room burst into cheer before the announcement could even be completed. Ecstatic. Hooray. And yes, the tears flowed. I've been so emotional today, a colleague asked if I was pregnant again. Ha, NO I AM NOT, but geez, it would be nice to stop crying!

Wah-der

If my 18 month old were here today, he would be following me around repeating, "wah-der, wah-der, wah-der..." Wah-der is for anything in liquid form (tears for example), and is repeated over and over and over when spotted.

I said goodbye to my kids a few minutes ago and wow, I was not expecting the tears. Not just tears, actual voice cracking crying. Talk about water works. I held it together for the first couple of hugs... I'm not a hugger, so these hugs were already pretty powerful already, but my kids took it to another level. They held those hugs so hard and long, they told me they would miss me so much, they cried, yet I still held it together. And then I got to my friend who I have taught for two years.

This friend is the sweetest boy I have ever met. This friend has very little at home. Very little time with a parent, very little money, very little nutrition, very little structure. He sleeps on the living room couch. Bed time is when the family decides to retire for the night. He has a tough life yet still understand what it means to be a good friend, what it means to be respectful, what it means to be responsible. School has always been hard for him. While struggling through a book, he would stop, look at me, and say, "this is just so hard for me..." Broke my heart. But, he persevered and worked so hard and at the end of his second year in kindergarten, he was ready for first grade.

He was fourth in line for a hug. He leaned into me and hugged me so hard, I barely got my words out. The words, "have a great summer, I will miss you very much" just aren't enough for this boy. I will miss him. I will worry about him. I will constantly wonder if he's okay.

After that, I was done. Tears everywhere. At dismissal, parents snapped pictures of me and their kids - tears streaming down my cheeks. What a mess!

Then, because our school is the most amazing school in the world, all the teachers hiked up the hill to the entrance and waved good bye to every student who left. Teachers were cheering and clapping and wishing luck to the kids. Some of them, well fine... I was one of them, also reminded them to put on their seatbelts. Come on, you can't just let that go! Cars drove past and kids got individual shout-outs and cheers, and then the busses passed.

You have to experience it to understand, but when a bus full of your students drives by and you're waving and cheering, and they're waving and cheering -- well, wow, it's powerful. I looked around and saw many teachers' eyes fill up.

Then they were gone. We all walked back into the building and headed back to pack. My room is almost packed up and looks nothing like the place I have spent the past 180+ days. Next year I will have a new group and we'll start again, but right now I think I will just be happy being proud of my students, and of course, missing them too. Damn it, here come the tears again.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happy Dance

Roses are red,
Picnics are fun,
Guess what world,
My paperwork is DONE!


Long time... no post

I'm not sure why it's been so long since my last post. I guess my post-it to-do lists and my ever jumbled mental to-do list never allowed me room to settle down and reflect. Or, put simply, it's the end of the school year and it's been BSC.

We still don't know who our new principal will be for the next school year and the waiting is getting excruciating. I await in anticipation to be told that our fabulous A.P. was chosen (HIP HIP HOORAY) while at the same time await with dread to be told Mr./Mrs. Outsider was chosen (BOOOOOOOOOOOOO). Fair aren't I? I promise to be professional and supportive to our new boss, but since I don't know who that is, I've decided I can act like a 5 year old until the announcement.

My kids are doing great, rock-stars actually while we wind down the year. I've been out of the room a ridiculous number of days and I keep returning to fabulous notes from the substitutes. No joke, some tears will be shed when I say good-bye to this group. They're just a fantastic bunch of kids.

My mind is on the piles of paperwork I will finish today (another day out of the room) and on my impending vacation. Since we've lost our beloved modified calendar, I have 2 1/2 months in front of me... that's a whole lot of down time for someone who sucks at down time. So, of course, I am making a list. I am making a list of how to relax. Silly, no?
  1. Yoga! I've been taking a weekly yoga class here at school and am now excited to take it twice a week at my fabo-gym. I think a yoga class in an actual studio is going to be incredible. By the way, if you haven't discovered yoga yet, what are you waiting for?!!
  2. Actually visit my fabo-gym.
  3. Clean the house as it gets dirty, not waiting for the Dirtcalypse to hit.
  4. Do laundry as it gets dirty, not waiting for the entire family to be our of undies.
  5. Make lovely meals for lunch and dinner.
  6. Have lunch dates on my patio.
  7. Teach my kiddo to blow bubbles in the water. (Right now, he drinks it).
  8. Read 2 books a week.
  9. Rearrange the kitchen cabinets.
  10. Go into the city to have lunch dates with the hubby.
  11. Plan play dates with other teacher friends.
  12. Keep my gardens up and running... no more drive-by weeding and watering.
  13. There must be more?? No way will this list last me until Labor Day.

Okay, enough with planning my relaxation, must tackle paperwork first. Onward!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Disgusted

I find it ATROCIOUS that as I am struggling to teach my students about healthy eating (part of our curriculum mind you), the cafeteria provides them with a Kellogg's "box breakfast" that contains bright pink apple jacks and a Pop-Tart.

A POP-TART! The Apple Jacks are bad enough, but seriously?! A FROSTING COVERED PASTRY FILLED WITH SUGARY "JAM." Oh, there were sprinkles on it. I didn't let my kids eat them.

Hey Kellogg's? Would it kill you to put your healthier products in the boxes? Smart Start? Raisin Bran? COME ON. Oh, and hey county? Would it kill you not to buy crappy products for our children? Kellogg's wouldn't sell it if you didn't buy it.

Ugh, disgusted.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Testing Funnies

Me: "What sound does r make?"
Kid: "rrrrrrrr"
Me: "What's a word that starts with r?"

long pause....

Kid: "ARRRRRR like a pirate."

Wish I could give points for humor!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reflection

The first of many reflections after testing...

Dear Next Year Self,

Please work harder to help your students understand that j and g have different beginning sounds, and the beginning sound of u is not /ya/.

Love,
Me.

Choo-Choo

At home, my son is obsessed with choo-choos. He has some plastic trains in his bath - choo choo! He has a puzzle with a train - choo choo! He has a book with a train on it - choo choo! And, his toothpaste has Thomas the Tank Engine emblazoned on the front - choo choo! (Thanks Orajel). He finds a way to locate all of his choo choos in a matter of moments so all I hear in my head is his little adorable voice saying "choo choos, choo choos." Which, incidentally is close to the same sound for his shoes. That can make for miscommunication in the morning.

But, back to the point.

After a choo choo filled morning, I come to school and I still feel like a choo choo, I mean a train. Chugging up the May Testing Hill. I think we can, I think we can... some days are better than others, and yesterday we had a glorious triumphant day when a kiddo, who all of a sudden seem to lose the ability to identify his sight words, nailed the test after two weeks of daily intervention. I KNOW we can, I KNOW we can...

Tomorrow I will be able to complete one of our year-end assessments and add up all the scores. Hopefully that train will go into the station solidly successful. Then I'll hop on the next one.

Chugga chugga choo choo.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I will stand up in defiance!

It's 52 degrees outside. Feel free to take a stab at what my A/C is doing...

I can hear someone cackling BWAHAHAHAHAHA in the distance. You sick twisted person.

You will not break me! YOU WILL NOT BREAK ME!

(But you might get me sick).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How quickly I digress.

Remember this?

Well whatever. I cleaned up poop today, and it wasn't my 16 month old son's.

I need a shower.

They're trying to break me...

Setting: 5 brutally hot days, no A/C. Sweating teachers, whining kids, brought in giant fan from home for slight relief.

Apologetic email from office staff about how our system is totally messed up. They're working on it.

Fast forward to this week.

Setting: unseasonably cold Monday and Tuesday. A/C is pumping. Shivering teachers, whining kids, decided it's better to be cold than hot.

Visit from maintenance staff who also said the system is a mess but now it's working. "Thank you sir! I do appreciate that our A/C is pumping out on this 59 degree day... hahaha... no really, thanks for fixing it."

Fast forward to today, you know, the day after yesterday's visit.

Setting: Hot day, no A/C.

(Insert my special bug-eyed-hands-up-and-shaking pose* here.)

*I reserve this pose when I'm talking about something that is MAKING ME CRAZY.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rookie Mistake

It was if I was in my student teaching today. What a disaster. Let's start at the beginning...

We've been studying coins, and frankly I am bored. The kids need to learn how to identify a penny, nickel, dime and quarter; they need to identify the value of each; and, they need to be able to make 10 cents using pennies and nickels. We've done a game, we've made a kick butt chart, we've learned a great poem, but we're only halfway through.

We worked on identification for awhile and have just started value. I'm having a hard time getting jazzed up about it so I googled for lesson ideas. Once teacher suggested that you give each coin "antennas" and attaching the smaller coins to each. So for instance, a quarter would have two dimes and a nickel. Since this was above where my kids are (and need to be) and modified the idea to this:

A large penny, nickel and dime glued to construction paper. Over the penny, the kids glue a pipe cleaner and one small penny. Over the nickel, the kids glue 5 pipe cleaners and 5 small pennies, and over the dime, 10 pipe cleaners and 10 small pennies.

A-w-f-u-l. HELLO TEACHER. Pipe cleaners don't stick to paper with glue unless you use a lot, I mean A LOT. Asking kids to cut out 16 little pennies equals torture to most, and guess what? One sheet of construction paper doesn't really fit the 3 coins and their antennas very well.

The hallway outside of my room looks like a bomb hit a pipe cleaner, glue and paper money store.

Reflection? I still like the idea. I like the kids making visuals of how much each coin is worth. I hated the execution. I have another year to brainstorm a better one... and a year to peel all this glue off my fingers.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Food for Thought and/or Reality Check

A few of us were recently presented with the possibility that access to our blogs from school might be blocked. Turns out, most other schools in our county are. We are the lucky ones (intentional or unintentional, no one is sure). What this brief panic attack, then reality check provided me with was forced reflection on my reflections. Are you following me here?

I've always been honest about the purpose of this blog. It's my therapy. It's my forum to spill my guts about the good, the bad, and the ugly for others to read and say, "yeah, me too lady, me too."

Along the way, some really wonderful things have also happened. I've asked for and received fabulous ideas for lessons. I've shared class projects and received amazing feedback. I've shared feelings about problems or struggles and cyber-colleagues have responded with support and understanding. I've been able to go back and read previous posts and reflect on an issue. Has it improved? Has my perception of it changed? Should it change?

Upon reflection of my reflecting I have concluded that yes, my blog is a good thing. But, with anything in life, there is room for improvement. I'm not interested in changing the purpose of my blog... I need this outlet, I DESPERATELY NEED IT, but I plan to refine it. Will I still share the good, the bad, and the ugly? Heck yeah, but I will also strive to find more purpose in those posts. Some will hopefully be funny, some might be sad, but I want to eliminate those complaining-without-a-purpose posts. Like this one or this one.

I want to do more of posts like this one, this one, and this one. Posts with purpose. And don't think I won't share the bad... a sad woe-is-me post still has a purpose. If I am feeling blue and decide to post about it, I am clearly looking for someone else to empathize, sympathize, relate, or just say "it'll be okay."

And yes... (eye-roll) there will still be "toilet posts." This is kindergarten after all.

So... onward.

I'd like us to raise a glass (preferably filled with a favorite beverage) and toast to blogging! May our blogging freedom continue!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The dark cloud that is May...

UGH UGH UGH UGH UGH! It's May, also known as Testing Month. I just started our literacy test and so far, the results are grim. All I have tested is rhyming (I have many more tasks to complete) but my kids are BOMBING IT. What happened?!?! We have a Rhyming Forest (tree trunk is a word, the top is the rhyme), we have rhyming centers that kids say they love and I know they do well in, we pick out rhyming words in shared reading every week. Kids come up to me DAILY with a words that rhyme. Yet, for some reason, they think log rhymes with bee. They think coat sounds like snake. I break the rules and ask them again, "are you sure?" or "do you hear the same sound in king and hand?" Yep, they're sure.

At this point it's anecdotal. I've tested less than half, but wow, what a terrible way to start the day.

On a brighter note, it's Teacher Appreciation Week. Today the students were asked to bring in a flower for their teacher. Some brought whole store bought bouquets, some brought single flowers, some brought something picked from home, and two kids showed up to class 10 minutes late because they had snuck out of the school to pick flowers for me. It's all so very sweet... I wish I could enjoy it the way I should. Instead, I am looking at this enormous lovely bouquet thinking, "ugh, I don't deserve this." I know I'm being dramatic, self-centered, and well pathetic, but still... I am disheartened and need to whine.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Released!

I had a training to attend this afternoon and because our county is so big they made start time later than normal to ensure everyone made it on time. The training was less than 15 minutes away from my school. The substitute showed up for the half-day at 11:20, I departed at 11:30 and found myself with a bit over an hour to kill.

B-L-I-S-S.

Guess what I did?

I went to Borders AND BOUGHT BOOKS!
I went OUT TO LUNCH!
I treated myself to AN ICE CREAM CONE, in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY!

I found myself among those normal professionals... those people who get to leave their office if and when they please, those people that can soak up the sunshine during work hours, those people that talk with other adults over a leisurely lunch.

Wow. It was nice.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I'll admit it...

...I'm a big fan of school cafeteria chicken nuggets. I'm not ashamed. Any other caf-foods you're willing to admit enjoying from time to time? Hmmmmmm?

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Real Resume

I was memed by organized chaos this weekend... yep, she gave me homework (but I still love her). The assignment was to share what my real resume would look like, not the one I would submit for employment, but the one that gives a true sense of my talents as a kindergarten teacher. So, here we go.

Strengths:
  • Able to foster real or fake excitement (they look the same) over anything from a new baby sister to a story about playing Mario and not dying. In their eyes, that's equal excitement.
  • Able to make a rainy day into cozy reading time and still align it with my states' standards.
  • Able to maintain a straight, non-gagging face as flatulence fills the air.
  • Able to help child who has never held a pencil write an entire book on sharks, all by themselves.
  • Able to give gentle reminders to pee in the pot, not on the floor, as if I am reminding them to push in their chairs.
  • Able to discuss all toileting issues with ease.
  • Able to sing The Ant Song, The -Ing Song, The Five Senses Song, The Yellow Song, The Red Song (you get the picture) year after year with as much gusto as if I am singing it for the first time.
  • Able to teach a child who reads on a 2nd grade level and a child who doesn't recognize their ABC's in the same room, at the same time, with the same lesson, at each of their levels. It's called differentiation but I call it teaching.
  • Able to accept sneak attach hugs without shock or surprise.
  • Able to wear a pink sparkly princess sticker on my shirt all day long without batting an eye. It's a gift after all.
  • As colleagues have mentioned, able to hold my pee for 8 hour or more.
  • Able to get excited about 2+2 and 1+3 and spread that excitement to a 5 year old.
  • Able to tell when a 5 year old has behavior issues or a learning disability, or a mixture of both.
  • Able to smile politely when people who meet me say, "awwwwwww" when I tell them what I do.
  • Able to spend 8.5 hours a day in a room built for people half my size.
  • Able to sit on a rug that has been bled, peed, pooped and vomited on without ever being properly cleaned without a problem.
  • Able to understand how important a sticker can be.
  • Able to find a rhyming word for ANYTHING.
  • Able, after a learning curve, to come home to my husband and not talk to him like he's 5.
  • Able to take a child who used to pout when we had independent reading time to a point where she begs for new books.
  • Able to talk for hours about the importance of play; and...
  • Able to talk for hours about the importance of Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop.
  • Able to get up every morning, no matter how tired, and put on a smiling face for 21 five year olds.

Weaknesses:

  • Vomit. I don't do vomit.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's not just an American problem...

I was reading The Economist this morning, skimming the pages catching up on worldly events, "Hey sweetie, did you know they are banning the burqa in France?!" when I ran into this article.

The content was not all that interesting (Sorry Economist, you know I love you...) it was about one political party's desire to reform education, what has been tried, what hasn't worked, and how test scores have been affected. If you read one of these, you've read them all. Politician makes decree -- parents comment -- before and after test scores are graphed and analyzed -- public vs. private control is debated -- end of article.

Guess what is always missing from these articles? The classroom teacher's perspective. I know I use this blog to whine about how teachers are often ignored by politicians during the education debate, but I have yet to see an example of how we are not only involved, but actually given an equal seat at the table. Instead, I feel like teachers are looked upon as the army that will implement the policies they had little voice in forming, yet are held directly responsible for them when they fail.

Ask a teacher how she would reform education, I bet the story would be different.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Queens of Gossip

I would argue that the best gossipers are teachers, and the best environment for gossip is a school. We are quick, efficient, and excited to spread news. We rule at this. The school is made up of hallways filled with doors, with new ears behind each one. If the next person isn't in their room, you can grab them in the hall.

Some exciting gossip was made known this afternoon and I am not lying when I say it spread like wildfire, or it spread like a great game of telephone, through the entire school.

The gossip is good, like "guess who kissed who" kind of stuff, so I can smile as I type this.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

WAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!

This morning, at a hastily called staff meeting, our principal announced that she was leaving. A loud collective gasp quickly followed with murmurs of "what?!" and "no...."

This is not an exaggeration.

While she was explaining her departure (nothing tragic) tears sprang up into eyes all over the room. I've only been here three years but that didn't take away from the enormous sadness that weighed on my chest and trickled down my cheeks. I can't put into words how much this principal means to this school, but I am sure my colleagues will be posting something eloquent over the next few days. Sometimes others just say it better.

I can speak to what she means to me. Personally she has been my professional rock (no offense to my husband, my boulder). During my first year she gave me her no nonsense support that I desperately needed. She tackled problems with speed and practicality. Loved that. My second year she helped me find my way through maternity leave and what I like to call "maternity return" (harder than the leave). My third year she gave me the support and confidence I need to be a team leader without feeling like it was too soon or I was too green. She handles everything with a no-nonsense-let's-get-to-the-point approach that I love.

She is a cheerleader who doesn't need pompoms and she can comfort without a hug. Not many can claim those talents. Sigh, and now she's leaving.

To cope, I am attempting some humor by approaching this using the five stages of grief.
  1. Denial: GASP! WHAT?!?! NO NO NO NO NO!
  2. Anger: How dare she hire me and then leave after 3 years. She can't leave. She should stay here until I decide I should leave. She can't do this to me.
  3. Bargaining: What if we work out a telecommuting arrangement? How about discipline cases are sent somewhere else, like the equipment shed? Will she take a bribe? Can we beg?
  4. Depression: How am I going to go on............
  5. Acceptance: Sigh. Fine. Leave. I know, I know... this is a good move for you. You will be happy. The timing is perfect. I am happy for you... I am, really I am.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Playing on Fears

I'm not going to lie and say that I don't lie to my kids if I need to make a point. Funny that Organized Chaos just posted about the same subject but for a different reason. I am not a cuddly kindergarten teacher. Not a big hugger. I firmly believe that kindergarten students need to learn to man-up and learn how to zip their coats, open their snacks, put their straw in their own Capri-Sun, and for the love of God, TIE THEIR OWN SHOES. You will very rarely see me tying a student's shoe. I learned it, so can they.

Today, one of my brightest students asked me to tie their shoes. This kid thinks they are too smart for kindergarten and reminds me of this feeling almost daily. So I had fun with this one. We happened to be walking past the library where a favorite first grade teacher was and I popped in with a simple, "hey, can I borrow you?" (Funny now that I think that's how I asked her for help when she was in the library, ha!) Without question, she followed me out into the hall while I told my kids, "So, you remember our first grade teacher don't you? I was just telling her that some of my kindergarten students don't know how to tie their shoes! And do you know what she said?"

Well, let me tell you, she ROCKED THIS. She went on and on about how first grade teachers NEVER EVER tie shoes. In fact, she would be shocked to have a student in her class who couldn't tie their shoes! She said if your shoes come untied in first grade you have to ask a friend or walk around all day with untied laces, "and we all know how dangerous that is!" She told them they all had to practice over the weekend. My bright one could barely make eye contact.

Just as I thought she couldn't do better, the first grade teacher then told the kids she would come to our room on Monday to test them! Awesome! She is even going to wear shoes that tied so they have TO TIE HER SHOES. Oh my gawd, brilliant!! Love her! Most of my kids were excited. The bright one? Well she tried to convince me that she's not worried because the first grade teacher will probably forget. Oh my little one, don't bet on it.

***UPDATE: First grade teacher did show up on Monday and my little bright one NAILED IT. She practiced all weekend. Love it***

Snazzy

Aren't these just the definition of snazzy?!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rant

Just read this article on Obama's push for education spending reform.

For some reason, Blogger won't let me cut and paste a paragraph that really grabbed me (second page, starts with "Duncan has said...") but the gist is that the Administration will remain committed to providing Title I funding to needy schools but those needy school have been failing, so the current way isn't working. The Post followed up with a comment that lawmakers will simply push for formulaic changes to ensure the schools in their districts get enough funding when Title I simply doesn't cut it.

Sigh.

So what I am understanding from the article is that the Administration doesn't really like Title I funding but understands it can't simply go without. So they will baseline fund the program and then make the schools fight like dogs for scraps. Or, if for some crazy reason our representatives in Congress have the poor schools in their districts on the top of their priority list (unlikely), they might go to bat for us.

And we, the poor failing schools, are the problem.

Right.

Am I for innovation? YES. Am I for best practices and staff development? YES. Am I for providing the kids in my room with the best kindergarten education I can? YES. Our school does all that but unfortunately this year was a failing year. One of my colleagues reported something like a 40% rate of transiency among our kids. You get a new group - school-wide - almost every year. Many from another country, many with very limited skills. We work our behinds off to get these kids up to speed, yet when a small handful can't do it in the time we are given - WHAMMO - YOU FAIL.


Maybe I am bitter, maybe I am tired of Title I being grouped in with "failing schools." Maybe I am tired of "failing schools" being all grouped together. Maybe I am tired of the national conversation NEVER EVER being about the struggles my school faces. I can't imagine we are the only ones.

Maybe no one will admit that no matter how much innovation, how many great teachers, how many great administrators, you still have some kids who need more time, you have some kids who just won't excel, you still have parents that don't care, parents who don't know HOW to care, or parents that aren't home to care.

I'll step off my soap box because I'm not even sure this is making any sense anymore, I'm just irritated...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Photo Story Fun

We took our photos from the other day and put them into the SMART Notebook software and wrote a class book*. I love this kind of interactive writing, because the kids still think seeing pictures of themselves is NEAT and they still think the SMART Board is cool. Double bonus. After we finished the book, we plopped the photos into Photo Story and read the pages of our book. So, when all is literally said and done, this activity involved math, writing, reading and oral language. Love it when that happens!

video

*I would love to share the book but I don't knwo how to share a SMART Notebook file on the blog. If anyone knows, please share!

Friday, March 19, 2010

English as a second language...

ESOL Student: "Did you know you can hump on a camel?"

Me: (pause...) "You mean a camel has humps?"

ESOL Student: "Yeah, Alice the Camel has humps."

Then our lunch bunch broke into Alice the Camel while I died laughing on the inside.

Bliss

Dear Teacher,

The kids were GREAT! No problems at all and we had a good time together!

Thank you,
Substitute Teacher

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shadows!

Here are photos of the finished product!
Group shot...
Can you guess what his shadow is? A giraffe!

I love this one...
This is my favorite. Mr. President is all ego and his neighbor is about to eat him!

Shapes

We are having a great time with shapes this year. The kiddos need to learn how to identify and draw a square, rectangle, triangle, and a circle.

Our first few lessons were what I call "Shape/Not Shape" lessons. The students looked at a group of squares and were told, "these are squares." Then we looked at another group of shapes that were not squares and, you guessed it, were told, "these are not squares." Then they were given a variety of shapes and asked to sort out the squares. We would discuss how they knew something was a square. It had four sides... it had four corners... the sides were the same.... yadda yadda. We did this for triangle and circle too. I will admit that I didn't do rectangle because I was getting bored with this... (so that means they were too!)

After Shape/Not Shape, we talked more about corners and sides. I made 231 tiny balls of clay (next year I will use something else!) and cut up a bunch of pipecleaners. The kids' job was to create each shape using the correct number of corners (clay) and sides (pipecleaners). This was superfun. Here are a few examples:

Then we brought out the geoboards. Now, I will be honest, I never used these with kindergarteners because I assumed I would spend more time dodging flinging rubber bands. Well, I was wrong. My kids ROCKED IT. Check it out.
Then we hit the grass. I put the kids in small groups and told them to make themselves into a shape. The remaining children had to thumbs-up or thumbs-down if the shape looked good enough for a picture. A side benefit of this activity was to see who emerged as a leader, and who didn't. Fascinating!
And we're not done yet! Today the kids will be searching for shapes in the classroom and drawing them. Tomorrow we will be making pictures using only shapes. I'll post the results. Happy Thursday!