Friday, January 29, 2010

Meet Jackson

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wonderful Dream

I'm in my classroom and the phone rings. It's my principal and she's asking if our government representatives can come visit my room.

Congress is about to tackle education reform, and before they do so, every Member is visiting ACTUAL schools and ACTUAL classrooms and talking to ACTUAL teachers. And not just the shiny schools with shiny rooms and shiny kids. My school. My school that has more trailers than actual building space, with rooms that are definitely not shiny, and kids that shine with their own vibrancy, but not the kind that politicians like to show on TV.

I say "of course!" and when they arrive, I am able to show them our room, our routines, and they even sit in for Reading Workshop. They are immediately surprised how much learning happens in kindergarten. My kids are so proud and excited to have such exciting guests in the room.

These representatives also notice that my kids are crammed in a bit. They notice that I spend a lot of time working on socialization and positive behavior at the same time I teach academics. They notice that a lot of my kids don't have a good grasp of the English language, but are working so hard to learn. When they asked me where the ESOL teacher was to assist these kids, I reminded them that my grade doesn't receive such services. They notice all the cords and old computers in the room, as they tap away on their blackberries. They notice that one spot in the room is blazing hot while the rest of the room is chilly. They notice a leaky spot on the ceiling. They notice the schedule on the wall and mention that it seems like we're very busy all day. (They thought we played all day.) They notice the stacks of test booklets on my desk and next to it the current testing calendar. They notice that I do a lot, A LOT, of testing. "You really give your kids all these tests?" they ask.

They also notice the colorful book boxes on window sill so loved and well used by the students. "Oh those?" I say, "I bought those."

They shake my hand and say "thank you."

One month later I read this on the front page, above the fold, of the national news:

"Congress to Make Massive Change in Education Policy"
subtitle: Representatives find that nation-wide, the country is not giving teachers what they really need.

Sigh. Then my alarm went off...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Your homework this evening...

In my previous life before teaching, I worked in an office setting without many of the issues I run into here. Leaky ceilings, too small rooms, dwindling or depleted supplies, too many kids in a room, the list goes on and on. I often think, "what if this was a problem in my old life?" The answer is almost always, "we would fix it immediately."

Clairvoy takes this one (or five) steps further and gives a really wonderful perspective on testing, and what it might look like in corporate America. You should read it.

Looking for Ideas!

Anyone have fun ideas to teach 5 year olds about shadows? Please share!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grumble grumble grumble...

This is a grumble post because the cause of my grumbling is beyond my control, so therefore all I can do is grumble and then put my head down and get to it.

Let the grumbling begin.

My fantastic co-teacher blogged about the same thing you're about to read about, and frankly I thought she said it so well that I would just let it be. But that's not really my style... I need to grumble too.

I was trained on Friday to give a test to all of our second language learners as required by federal law. I don't really have a problem with the test, it will give the ESOL staff and upper grade teachers great information on our kiddos as they come through the ranks. My issue is the logistics -- 45 - 90 minute test for each student, 18 in my room alone, test must be given in total isolation. Not in the classroom, hallway, etc.

I actually have a lot of things I want and NEED to teach my friends and this test is yet another roadblock in the way. During our training, to help organize my grumblings, I made a list of tests we give our 5 year old students. Curious? You should be. Here they are:

1st Quarter:
DRA2 Word Analysis
Name ID
Writing Sample (scored)
KMRA (3 different tests)

2nd Quarter:
KMRA (5 different tests)

3rd Quarter:
KMRA (2 different tests)

4th Quarter:
DRA2 Word Analysis
Sounds/Words Assessment
DRA2 Reading
Writing Sample (scored)

Am I forgetting anything? Surely I am.

For those of you that teach older children and are thinking, "ummmmm... reality check? Our kids get that many too." My response to you is "yes, but all of our tests are one-on-one. I'm not able to give instructions and have my kids complete the assessment on their own. For each test, I sit with the child and we do it together."

Is anyone brave enough to do the math? I have 21 students.

Grumble... grumble... grumble...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why they amaze me...

On our morning message, I asked the kids to check in by moving their name under the American flag. They had to choose between the American flag and the Puerto Rican flag. All but 2 chose the right one, but was what amazed me was the answers I got when I asked what was the same about each flag, and what was different. They came up with so many details! One had the stars in a rectangle, one had the star in a triangle. One had 2 white stripes, one had more. Both were red, white and blue, and both had stars, etc. There was some real thinking and observation going on. Bliss.

During recess, members of this same group, blindly started following three strange men who were cutting across the school grounds. If I hadn't blown my whistle and gave them you-get-over-here-look-and-point, they would have surely followed them into the woods. Absolutely NO thinking was going on there. Definitely not bliss.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


We're finishing up (finally) our ABC book. Today a student was painting black zebra stripes on his letter Z and asked me if snore began with z. My initial reaction was to stretch out snore, "do you hear a z in sssssnnnnore?"

His response?

"No, like in the cartoons, when the man is snoring? There are z's."

Yes, there are. Yet another thing that doesn't really make sense in the world of an English Language Learner.

"It's just one of those things sweetie."

So he drew a man sleeping on his letter Z :) If anyone asks, he can explain it, and that's what matters.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Morning Meeting

This morning on NPR, it was reported that, "President Obama has morning meeting with senior advisers to discuss..." I don't know if the reporter left out the word a, as in President Obama has a morning meeting, but I immediately pictured the president and his advisers sitting on the rug, cross-cross apple sauce, engaged in morning meeting.

When I return from break on Monday, I will be sure to tell my kids that the president has morning meeting. They will think that's really neat. I might even call them my senior advisers, or maybe we'll change the name of the carpet to our oval office. So fun.