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.