Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Refreshing PD

I know that we, as teachers, gripe a lot about the amount of time we are pulled away from teaching for meetings and PD that turn out to be pointless and trivial (and sometimes, let's be honest, just stupid -- like the year I was on the alternative calendar and a presenter went on about how we should set up our first day of school when we'd already been in school for three weeks!).

I feel it necessary then, to give some praise and thanks when I have PD that I feel is meaningful to me, my vision as a teacher and for the staff in my school. Today was day 2 of our 3 days of PD. We started out by having some of the teachers in our school present on The Expanding Expression Toolkit. I had forgotten that one of our 2nd grade teachers is the veritable queen of grant writing. She is absolutely amazing and our school is certainly going to feel the loss when she retires some day (which hopefully won't be for a very long time!).

At any rate, this teacher wrote a grant for every single teacher in our school to receive this toolkit. Considering they cost $229 each, and we have about 22 classroom teachers, that's really very awesome. Basically the kit helps to teach children about expanding their vocabulary in a fun way. When I taught at Former School, one of our resource teachers did a lesson with this with my class. I had forgotten all about it until they pulled them out today. I am really excited to get into the manual and see how I can really step up my teaching of vocab and writing with this, especially for my ELL students.


We also spent some time going over our new Positive Behavior Support model. They already have a ton of things in place for it and I'm really excited about it. I think that this is going to help to turn some of the misbehavior in our school around and provide common language between all children and all teachers, which is vital. Some things are a little sketchy and Mrs. Principal apologized for that but we're hitting the ground running to try to get things into place as consistently as possible starting on that very first day.


This afternoon we had some DIBELs training. They made some changes in K-2 and the booklets are different for all grades. The upper elementary staff only spent part of the time in there and then we broke off to do some work on our standardized testing prep. Mrs. Principal sat out with us and we all had a great discussion about our vision for New School (which for whatever reason, had really crappy scores last year) so we can move forward, be proactive and do what is best for the kids. I'm hopeful that with the PD information we got yesterday and the Expanding Expression Toolkit that we're on the right track to getting the year off to an awesome start.


I also finally got somewhat of a peek at a class list. We have an intranet program that we use for attendance and things and just for curiosity's sake, I opened mine up today and saw a list of students. We haven't been given a hard copy at this point. I had 30 the first time I checked and 31 the last time I checked. BUT Mrs. Principal told us that no students who have transferred or registered in other schools have been taken off yet. I'm hopeful to not end up with more than 25 which is still a lot but much more manageable than 31! We just got a new 1/2 time secretary (our old one was transferred full time to another building) so part of her job the rest of this week is going to be removing children who have had cumulative record requests from other schools from our lists so hopefully by the end of the day Thursday we'll have a better idea on how many children to expect.


So far the PD really hasn't been too bad. I brought some things home to work on tonight, simply because I'm a big planner and like having my ducks in a row. Tomorrow is another full day of PD and then Thursday is my day to spend in my classroom. I am hopeful to get copies and everything together that day for at least that first day of school. I did find out that our art/PE teachers are starting immediately so I have a prep at the end of the day on the first day of school which is awesome!


I also really have come to the conclusion that a lot of Mr. Negativity's (aka Mr. 4/5 Split) issues are self-generated. Today at the end as we were finishing some things up, he complained that in the entire time that Mrs. Principal sat with the 3rd-5th grade staff, she only looked at him ONCE like it was some major horrible crime. He is the only male teacher in our school (there was a 1st grade one last year but he retired). I interacted with Mrs. Principal a lot today and didn't ever feel like she wasn't giving me due attention or whatnot. I really think that perhaps Mr. Negativity has the issues he has because he expects the kids to be horrible, he expects that Mrs. Principal is going to be down on him (and therefore perceives that she is) and so on. She and I and Mrs. Cooperating Teacher were left talking a bit at the end of our session and she had mentioned something about just trying to stay positive because of things you can't control or change and I wholeheartedly agreed with that. I am not going to judge Mrs. Principal based on what someone else tells me about her. I'm going to see how the consistency is and how she backs me up when I need her to. I really believe that is one of the most essential things I can ask for from an administrator.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Yes, I am one of *those* teachers

Today as we were doing some grade level work with the new PD program, we were talking about the assessment the 4th/5th grade is doing the first few days of school. Someone suggested perhaps we push back the test to the second week and I said no way, my plans for the first week are done and I'm not changing them unless a disaster happens.

Mrs. Cooperating Teacher just stared at me for a moment, then clucked her tongue and said "you're one of those teachers, huh?"

Yep, I am! I can already see I am going to drive them all insane with my organization. Muahahahaha!

Teaching for Results

Today was my first 'official' day as a staff member at New School. We have inservice this week. Often, I've found that inservice week means I am going to be bored out of my mind as they pound senseless information into our heads that they never ask about/mention again until the end of the year.

So far, from our presentations and work today, and the overview they gave us for the next two days, these inservices won't be a waste of my time. That's good because I am all for PD that I can actually use in my classroom to benefit my students.

We started today away from our school building for a 3 hour PD about using the NWEA/MAP assessment data to really target differentiated instruction for our students. We implemented the MAP assessment full-district K-11 last January (with some schools also opting in for the fall test too). This year is the first time that all children will be tested 3 times per year. A consulting company, founded and run by an actual classroom teacher (that always makes such a difference, doesn't it?) was our presenter. Basically, this woman, out of frustration for her own son's academic lack-of-progress on this test set out to find ways to really use the data from the MAP and presented some of her ideas to us today.

Some of my colleagues, let's be honest, the older ones, weren't real thrilled with all of it...but I have to say, I think it will be something that will really help revolutionize how I can differentiate in my classroom. Basically the test identifies a key area of strength and a key area of weakness for each student and you put symbols on their desks that are color-coded to help you remember, at a glance, what each student needs to be working on. [I don't want to give too much away and violate the hard work that this woman has put together.]

I am really interested to see how it all comes together in the classroom. Apparently our district has a year-long contract with her because she had mentioned she would be coming back. While I would be very interested in being the person to actually be at those PD sessions because I did find it interesting, I'm leery of how much out-of-classroom committment it would entail to attend those meetings and bring that information back to my team. One of my goals for this year is not to be out of my classroom at senseless meetings all the time!

The afternoon we spent time as a grade level (and 4th/5th worked together) to go through some of the information presented this morning and talk about how we might adapt and use these strategies in our classrooms. It was kind of nice that both grade levels kind of worked together on it so it'll be a bit more uniform across the board for the upper floor. Consistency is key!


Tomorrow we're having some PD on our Positive Behavior Support program that is being implemented and DIBELs information since they said the scoring is a little different this year. It'll be a long couple of days I'm sure, but then we get a nice long weekend to recover before we meet our kiddos! I still haven't seen a class list so I don't have a clue how many bodies I should be expecting, but I am ready whenever they are!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

You're kidding...right?!

Yesterday, I embarked on an adventure I never want to go on again. Back-to-School shopping with 3 girls. By myself. Never again, I tell you! It wasn't so bad but you know how us girls are with our clothes. I was wiped by the end of the afternoon. I think I could have gladly gone to bed at 6 p.m. and slept all night!

The Oldest is in the band and our first home football game was last night so there was no early bedtime for this gal after a marathon of clothes shopping. At any rate, we've been calling The Oldest by just our last name recently and she acts all offended and annoyed. It's all really in good fun though. The band was waiting to go onto the field and were standing right below where we were seated in the stands so I texted her, in all caps, with just LAST NAME!!! and she snuck her phone out of her pocket, checked it and promptly stuck out her tongue at us. It made the wait between the end of the first half and the halftime show more fun.

But during said downtime and I had checked my phone to text The Oldest, I noticed a text from my older brother. He is currently living in our parents' basement, rent free and constantly grips to me about how broke he is. The fact that The Husband and I have busted our behinds and sacrificed a lot in the last few years following Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps....I really don't have a lot of sympathy for Big Brother. I mean, I love him and all, but he makes some really bad choices and then wants other people to help him fix things.

Case in point, he had the nerve to ask me if I have any "spare supplies" that I could provide him to give to my niece because he's "broke". Sure, I could easily cough up money to buy my niece supplies if there really wans't money there to afford it. However, the fact of the matter is, my ex-SIL has made well more money than I have in the last few years (that will change now solely because the raise I get sliding from the bachelor's to master's scale is relatively significant in my district) and Big Brother has more tattoos than I can count which is what he chooses to spend his money on despite the fact that he lives with our parents at our age. He has spent the summer running all over the place playing in basketball tournaments like he is still 18 years old without a responsibility to be had.

I was honestly kind of pissed that he asked me. So I text back that sorry, I didn't have any spares since I bought supplies for my 3 and the 30 children I am anticipating this year. I hate to be rude and mean to anyone but darn it, I am not a charity. One of the only reasons that I tolerate having to purchase those things for my students is because for 9 1/2 months, they are my children too. I will spend more time with most of them than their parents do (because many of our students go to our after school program and thus are in school from 8 a.m. at breakfast time until 6 at night). That's why when people ask me how many children I have, I always answer my 3 plus the number of students I have (ie. "I have 29" as was the case last year). As much as it sucks to shell out around 5 to 7 hundred dollars of my own cash each year on my classroom, I know that in the end, it is going to come back and reward me tenfold for doing something good for children who need it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Yes!

Today, The Youngest and I did head in to New School for a bit. I am so pleased with everything I got done at home this week and was excited to get into my classroom, put the finishing touches on things and be really ready to go for that first day.

The teaching staff are required to be at school next week Monday - Thursday with meetings those first three days (ewwww!) and Thursday to do whatever in our rooms. I know now, however, that I can really spend that Thursday perfecting last minute things and making copies for that first week. I am so, so happy that I have gotten as much done as I have. Some friends who were laughing at my summer preparations earlier are now seeing the wisdom in it.

Additionally, when The Youngest and I arrived today, our specials schedule was on the table between mine and Mrs. Cooperating Teacher's rooms. I must've really been a good girl or sucked up to the right person because one of my specials times is at the very end of the day! Basically, I will pick them up from that special and they'll go right to lockers/clean up time and then it's dismissal. I had that same time frame two years ago and it was soooo awesome. I'm really glad I have it again. I also have a special on Friday morning, first thing, which is really awesome too because I can definitely utilize that time to make my copies and everything for the following week, thus eliminating my need to do my one late night a week that I used to do. I'll have to be really organized and on top of things but I am very happy with it. Definitely glad I decided to go in today after all!

Finally, Mrs. Cooperating Teacher did locate a volume one teacher's edition for me for our math program so I can actually plan my math lessons for the first week. Now that I have a set schedule, I can really start to think about how I want to set up my class time. The first week it'll be messed up because of testing but after that, it should be perfect. I'm really excited about it!


I took some updated photos of my class before I left today. It looks so ready for the first day!

Back Bulletin Board -- our mailboxes ("Fan Mail") is here and on the bulletin board will be our puzzle that we create as a class the first day and the Star Student posters for the Student of the Week.

Updated picture of the library book basket labels -- a bit hard to see because the picture is small but I'm very happy with how they turned out.


A better picture of our meeting area where you can see some of the floor space for the kiddos. Above we added some conversation starters (it's a little hard to see in the picture but it says "Accountable Talk" and the bubbles provide ways the children can respond during discussion and in cooperative groups).

My finished Word Wall. I just could not get them to go straight, even using a ruler and finally decided no one was probably going to notice that it wasn't perfect except me! Above the job board to the left, you can see two of the "hand signals" signs I made (an idea I got from Littlest Learners).

A view of the "finished" seating. All of their books and supplies are on their desks. It doesn't look so crowded with the chairs down. I used little pails I got from the One Spot at Target last year as pencil/pen holders on the tables. I love how everything turned out!


Honestly, if I was a child, I would want to be in a classroom like this. I remember many of my elementary rooms being boring and bland looking...I would shine in a room this colorful and fun, with plenty of spots for the students to contribute and make the room their own. I really hope my students enjoy it as much as I do.

One thing I did notice again today while I was at school is that Mr. 4/5 Split seems to be increasingly negative. I really don't think he intends to be and its very likely he just wants me to be realistic about some things...but he was mentioning how if he knew he was going to be gone, he hides all of the good stuff because the kids wil just steal it, etc. Of course some children do have sticky fingers...but I also think that if you set up your expectations properly and work to build that mutual respect, it isn't going to happen as often. Former School was in one of the worst neighborhoods and I never had any children steal from me until last year (and I made the children feel so guilty by talking about how disappointed I was that I couldn't trust them, etc, that the items were returned before the day ended). I don't know. I do think I need to be cautious of some of my personal things but I can't lock up everything! I am going to put a better lock on the cabinet because it really doesn't lock worth anything (you could get it open if you jerked hard enough even with it locked).

I guess I would just rather focus on thinking the best of the children. Sure, I expect to have a couple who are going to try my patience every minute of every day (because there is always at least one in our district, always)....but mutual trust and respect goes a long way. We'll see I suppose.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Almost ready!

This is one thing I ended up dealing with today:


The youngest fell down the concrete steps this afternoon and this was the result. Lots of crying, some antiseptic and a big bandage later and everything is okay.


I also was able to get a lot of work done for my classroom from home, not just today but also yesterday. I bought some Avery self-laminating sheets (which are my new favorite thing -- SO easy to use, much cheaper and doesn't generate as much waste) and spent some time today finishing up my book basket labels and some other signage for my classroom. The Oldest and the Youngest both helped me to tear out bulletin board letters for some classroom displays and The Oldest tolerated sharpening 6 boxes of pencils (144 total) for me today. I'm amazed she lasted that long before she started to complain how boring it was!

Probably the most exciting thing is that I have sketched out some tentative plans for my first week of school. I'm sure they'll change multiple times between now and the first day but I have them written down, I have a plan and I feel good. Mrs. Cooperating Teacher and I agreed on Monday to wait until the 13th to start our Houghton Mifflin reading series because of the MAP testing we're doing that first week. By the 13th, most of our initial assessing should be done with the exception of a district baseline writing test. This means we should have a relatively normal schedule in place that second week so it'll be much easier to get going on that curriculum and work on our test prep too.

I've interspersed some community building activities (including read alouds and discussions of some of my favorite books that are also great for lessons and the children love them) in with starting our math program right away and some reading test prep plus getting our writing workshop off to a good start. I have not placed any time in there for my specials so I KNOW things are going to get moved/shifted around but I am very happy and pleased with the time I've been able to allot at this point to procedures/routines/expectations and community building while also getting them right back into the saddle with learning.

After my quick trip to New School on Tuesday to show the kiddos around, I was sure I wouldn't go back before Monday. But I am so inspired by everything I have been able to accomplish over the last two days from home that I think The Youngest and I are going to head in for a few hours tomorrow. I am only taking one with me because The Oldest and The Youngest tend to fight if I'm not around and The Middle Child will be a saint for her big sister while I am at work. That way I can work without paying anyone and know that the house will still be in tact when I get home!

I may take some updated pictures tomorrow in my classroom once I get some of my displays up. I can barely contain my excitement for this year!

I won't complain then!!

Today a teacher friend who is at another school in my district, whom I was a long-term sub for when she had her daughter in the fall of 2007 before I got hired full time, showed some pictures of her classroom on FaceBook. Her school is open-concept so the two 5th grades and 1 4th grade are in a big open pod and they just have "wall dividers" to separate the classroom space. She's moved it around a bit since the last time I was there but when I saw the pictures the first thing I marveled at were the number of desks.

So I asked her about it. She has 29 children on her list right now and they have a waiting list (it's a specialty school). So I chuckled and said that I won't complain if I end up with 30 then. We're both in Title 1 schools and it makes it so difficult to get down to what those children need when your class sizes are that big. I've always been on the lucky side, I suppose. Last year was the biggest class I'd ever had, with 26. Most of the time, I've had an average of 22. 3-7 extra bodies, especially at the 4th/5th grade level do make a huge difference!

It is what it is though. Budgets are insane and districts are running in the red (which I find to be ludicrous) so class sizes go up. The economy here is one of the worst in the nation too so that doesn't help either.

Seeing a fellow 5th grade teacher, despite being on the opposite side of town from me, have such a big class too at least makes me feel better that it is spread throughout the city and not just concentrated where I am. Bring on the big numbers.....at least I have a job, right? *wink*

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Family + School = Blessings

Every time I have changed schools as a teacher (which is actually a lot if you really think about it), I always make sure at some point to take The Oldest and The Littles in to my school. I feel it is especially important now that The Littles are both in school that they see where Mom spends her days when I am not with them.

I took the girls down to New School today because I knew it would be relatively quiet there today so I could show them around without really bothering anyone. Our school has 3 floors with K-1 on the bottom, 2-3 in the middle and 4-5 on the top. Also on the middle floor is the library/computer lab and the art room. Our art studio is awesome. It's off to the side on its own and is all glassed in, plus there is an outdoor area that the art teacher can take the children out on to do drawings or other things. It's really pretty neat and the girls thought it was the coolest thing.

I grabbed a couple of things I had forgotten in my room and printed off a couple of things that are only available on the intranet at work. The girls thought my room was really cool and did the obligatory "ooohing" and "aaahing". It's always so funny to see their reactions when they see my classrooms because they've all been so different!

I plan to hang around the house most of the rest of the week. I definitely have enough to keep myself busy for school and at some point I need to clean out my closet (yuck!) so I can donate old clothes to Goodwill and then go buy more clothes to fill that closet back up! The countdown is on and I'm really, really looking forward to jumping in with both feet and getting the year going.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Positives

I spent today at school. We were supposed to have a meeting from 8:30 - 2:30 (with a "working lunch") for our grade level with one of the resource teachers and the RtI/Tech person (who was one of the reading coaches last year.

I was there early so I can bring in a few other things and Mrs. Cooperating Teacher got there by 8:20. Mr. 4/5 Split moseyed in at 8:45 and Mrs. Technology didn't get there until 9:20! Needless to say, I got some things done in my classroom. I wasn't planning on having that time but I took advantage of it. Our 6 hours of collaboration ended up being more like 2 1/2, maybe 3 (but I think 3 is a long-shot). Whatever, I got a lot done and I am grateful that I did have that time!! I got my word wall cards set up, set out all of the students supplies (texts and workbooks) on their desk spaces and arranged the pencil pails on their desks. Doesn't seem like much but it's less I have to do later so I am definitely glad I could sneak that stuff in unexpectedly today.

Some things are frustrating in terms of our planning just because there are so many unknowns at this time. None of us can change that, because we all would if we could, but I totally appreciate that all of these people listen to everyone's ideas and then we come to a consensus. It's great to really be part of a team! Since we're 98% sure that Mr. 4/5 Split is going to end up in a solid 4th grade (thus making the two 5th grade classes big *sigh*), Mrs. Cooperating Teacher asked me if I liked teaching science. I explained that my partner last year and I team taught it with me taking science and her taking social studies. Mrs. CT asked me if I was interested in doing that with her if we do end up the only two on our grade level. Even though I do like teaching social studies, it is NICE when you can collaborate and team-teach like that because a) it's one less subject to prepare and b) your students benefit from your expertise in that area you are doubling up on. Plus, I have to admit, the science kits in 5th grade are really FUN. We won't explore that more until after school starts and we have a better idea of what our grade level makeup will be, but I'm excited about that prospect. It'll allow us both to get to know all of the children in the grade instead of just our own kids.

Probably the weirdest thing is my math materials up and left. I have almost everything for the children but we can't find the TE for volume 1. If Mr. 4/5 Split becomes just a 4th grade, I can borrow his, but it's very odd that it seems to have disappeared. I'm a bit annoyed that when I put in a request for materials to my principal, her response indicated she hadn't even really read the email. Alas, in being positive, I realize that I did what I could, I know what my email stated and no one can say I didn't point out exactly what I need!!

My biggest goal for this year, I believe, is going to be trying to stay positive. In my district, it is SO easy to get bogged down by the political BS and the stupid things the people in suits decide that we just have to do. I'm going to try my best to roll with the punches this year and just take everything in...and then shut my door and teach how my heart tells me is right. I know more about those kids than the folks sitting in an office making upwards of $100k a year to make up extra junk for me to do....so I'll smile and nod when they tell me to do something and then shut my door and do my job how I was trained and how I know is right. When the kids benefit, everyone will win in the end anyway! :)

Why do we teach?

After reading the comments to my last post, I've had some thoughts tumbling around in my mind. I truly believe that some day, I will be so set in how I've done something (whatever that something is), that I'll feel resistant to changing it. This certainly isn't my goal, but I do think it is inevitable. We're all close-minded in at least one area of our professional lives, no matter what it is. Let me point out, yet again, that I truly do love and appreciate both of the colleagues I will work the closest with this year. I am not mad at them, I don't think they are bad teachers at all. In fact, I know they aren't bad at all.

Mr. 4/5 Split and Mrs. Cooperating Teacher have worked together on-and-off for over 20 years. They know each other, respect each other and have a great relationship with each other. Mrs. CT is pretty open to new ideas and concepts. I remember when I student taught with her, she actually liked some of my ideas so much that she started to incorporate them into her teaching as well. It was truly a give-and-take kind of relationship and I believe we both benefitted from that. However, as I saw last week, there are areas in which they just feel like they can't help the children and it makes me wonder if they put in as much effort as they might need to for these kiddos.

As it is, the reason that the position I have was even up for grabs this year is because they did not have a certified ESL teacher at the 5th grade level last year. In fact, they haven't had an ESL certified teacher in 5th grade there in almost 2 years.  Even though they both have me seniority-wise by a really long time, if numbers were low, I wouldn't be moved because I do have that certification and neither of them do. My gut tells me that even though they have been trained in Sheltered English (SIOP) methods, they just don't know what I do when it comes to teaching Language Learners. They've both certainly worked with ELL students longer than I have, but neither of them have delved into the research behind what makes ELLs tick, what strategies really work for them and why certain methods are a waste of time (ie basal readers!). Granted, some things we can't go against the grain about (like that basal) but there are ways around it that still let you teach the mandated curriculum, but provide the scaffolding and bridge to the curriculum that the children need.

At Former School, one of my colleagues really got on my nerves once when she said something about how she didn't like that the ELL children "got all of the attention because they're the smart ones". My ELLs weren't all the smartest children in the class, but they were the most motivated. They worked the hardest. It isn't hard to appear really smart compared to a child who IS smart but never lifts a pencil or turns in any work. When you're compared to a rock, you're going to appear to be brilliant, no? (And being completely honest, a lot of my ELL children were very low, sometimes 2-3 grade levels behind in both math and reading, but they wanted to learn and they worked hard. That makes so much difference in their ability to actually achieve, especially if they are paired with a teacher who expects them to achieve.)

So it all comes back to one question: Why do we Teach? Certainly not for the "summers off", the amazing pay and the thanks we get from everyone! Do we teach because it allows us to have the same schedule as our own children? Because someone else told us that we should be a teacher and do something good with our lives?

I don't teach for any of these reasons. I teach because it is who I am. For many years, I did not pursue teaching, even though it is something I had wanted to do since I was 8 years old. It is why I am now 32 years old and am only into my 5th year of teaching. I had all of my children before I started teaching. I think, for me anyway, it makes me a better teacher because I've had life experience before I started working with other people's children. I've lived, made mistakes, grown up and learned. Some people start teaching immediately form undergrad at 22 or 23 years old and rock the house at it, which is awesome. For me, it just didn't work out like that.

I teach because I believe in children. I believe that even the worst behaved children can learn something if you can find what motivates them...or create something that motivates them. Help them find something to care about!

I teach because I want the best for the future. I want all of my daughters' teachers to treat their students like I treat mine. I treat them like I am their momma. If they do something bad, I am going to call them on it, sometimes in a not-so-nice-tone so they know that I am Dead.Serious. They need to understand boundaries but there is a fine line between being a huge, mean bitch and being a firm, strict teacher who truly cares about every child in that class, good, bad or otherwise.

I teach because my heart calls me to do it every day. I will never forget an interview I went on when I was still doing my undergrad. The principal was sharing her philosophy with me and I had to admit to her that she was literally making my heart sing because I felt the exact same way about teaching children. That philosophy has never changed.

I teach because the children in my district need someone who really and truly cares what happens to them in the future. A lot of our parents are awesome, but just as many should not have ever been allowed to have children. There are so many children who are neglected, abused and just downright ignored who then have to come to school and find a reason to learn. It's not an easy job to work in a Title 1 inner city school. But I do it because the children need me....and honestly, I need them.

I teach because I know even if I have to bust my behind a little more, the children (usually) will see my extra work and they, in turn, want to work harder. This isn't always true of course, there are always exceptions, but if you provide children with a real reason why they must know this, I've found I get much better results. This is even more true when I'm honest with them. For example, I have told my students before, when it is the truth, "You only need to know this in order to pass such-and-such on this test and then honestly, you will probably never use it again in your life". They appreciate that I'm not telling them they have to know just because someone else said so and that I'm honestly telling them some things we have to teach aren't really worth learning but we do it so we can move on to things that are interesting for us.

I teach because it is what I was called to do. I have zero doubt of that. I know I have made really poor choices in my past. I also know that I am atoning for those negative choices by doing God's work every single day. I am touching the lives of children through my heart, my passion for learning and the warmth I can provide for children who may not have that at home. I teach because my soul wouldn't be satisfied doing anything else.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Differences

It amazes me sometimes how different teachers can be. This is not bad most of the time. Actually, I think in many instances, it can be very good because you get multiple ways of looking at something and often teachers can grow by collaborating.

I did mention to Mrs. Cooperating Teacher this week while we were working in our rooms that I am planning to do a math workshop and rotate my math groups. I'm especially planning to do this now after they sent us a standardized test prep kit for our math program to incorporate into our lessons the first 6 weeks of school to prepare the children for the test by adding in the review. They want us to make sure we're teaching math for at least 80 minutes per day until the standardized testing is over. I was planning to teach it that long all year so we can do our rotations and my students can LEARN.

I was explaining my Multiplication Groups (which you can read about HERE) to Mrs. Cooperating Teacher and how I plan to incorporate that into my rotations. It IS time consuming at first until you figure out an assessment plan that works for you. I've done it two ways: setting aside time for children to bring me their pages to be corrected a couple of times per week (usually about 15 minutes in length) or having the children turn in their pages and I correct them and give them back the following day. It isn't as time consuming for me anymore because I've used this program for 3 years and have it down pat. But when I was explaining it to Mrs. CT, she was like "Sunny, you are creating a lot more work for yourself."

It got me to thinking. Don't get me wrong. I completely ♥ Mrs. CT and Mr. 4/5 Split. They are both awesome and I am truly blessed and happy to work with them. But they have both worked at New School for years and years and are a lot more set in their ways about things. I have to admit, it saddened me when I heard Mr. 4/5 Split say something about how the kids weren't going to achieve no matter what we did. I don't think he meant to sound so negative and cynical...and perhaps it is because I am still relatively young in the field (this year will be my 5th year teaching)...but I DO believe that these children can achieve. And I have seen my lowest students, the ones who everyone said would never do well, grow SO much and do SO well because my expectations were that they could.

It isn't like either of them told me I was wasting my time or not to do it, but it did sadden me a bit that Mrs. CT thought it sounded like too much work. Their standardized test scores are around 90% proficient in 3rd grade and down to about 55% in 5th grade. I am not a huge fan of Standardized Testing but even so, those results are appalling. I don't care how hard I have to work to motivate my students this year -- they ARE going to work their little tails off and they ARE going to take accountability for some of their learning. They have to understand that in middle school next year, they'll have 6-7 teachers who aren't always going to have the extra time to give them to help them achieve. They have to take that initiative.

If that means creating more work for myself so my students can and will achieve....well, so be it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Classroom Tour

Here are pictures of my 5th grade classroom for the 2010-2011 school year.

*Let me point out that you see a lot of bare walls because I am all about hanging up work that I do WITH children, even if that means making the same charts year after year. I want the children to have ownership over the room and therefore 90% of the wall space is dedicated to their learning.

View from the Classroom Door (there are so many chairs because I planned for 30 children)


This is to the immediate right from the door with the sink area. On the cabinets are our Thinking Map posters. We've been using them in our district for about 4 years. On the counter is the pencil area and some extra books that were in the room.


Shelving area. The black binders are district issued for writing (the top shelf has research stuff and the 2nd shelf has daily writing stuff). Storage along the top (some of those boxes are actually empty!), dictionaries on the second shelf from the top along with even more books left in the room, then the students' book boxes, some of my stuff and the shoeboxes of school supplies for each table.


Small group/Conferencing Area and Word Wall (which isn't up yet! I ran out of fun tak!)


Calendar/Job Chart -- aren't the little popcorn shapes adorable?!

White board/Tech Stand -- the tech stand houses a VCR/DVD player and the central computer to run the ELMO and projector.


Teacher desk area (and yes, that is a can of Diet Coke on my desk!!). I put it against the wall because I know I'll rarely ever sit there except before/after school. Plus I wanted to have something on this side of the room that was by the phone.


Window ledge with books that are being showcased to start the year (that's what the books on the cart are for also -- I am going to make a sign that says "Mrs. ______'s Favorites". You can also see my sub tub there. It has to be there because we're required to all have them on the ledge.


View of the classroom from the back corner by the tech cabinet.

Whole group/Small Group Teaching Area -- you can't really see but there is quite a bit of floor space for the children to sit on while we're working over here. This was the perfect corner because all of the children will be facing away from the door.

Classroom Library -- This isn't ideal because it's only one big cart...BUT I'm not going to complain too much since there are about 550 books on it! Above it I've put our genre posters. On the cart are the classroom behavior expectations -- we use these posters school wide.

Student Computer Area -- I plan to use a lot of the white space above it to put our anchor charts we create during reading/writing workshops

Back Bulletin Board/Mailboxes -- On the bulletin board will be placed examples of good student work and the red file crate will say "Fan Mail". The baskets next to it will be in/out boxes. Underneath the table are indoor recess games and recycling baskets.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Classroom Finale!

Seriously, how do classrooms get so gross when no one uses them for 3 months? I have already decided I hate the soap in the dispenser in my room. I may have to invest in some girly smelling soap for my personal use! My hands are so dry from washing the grime off multiple times throughout the day today.

I got an extraordinary amount of work done today. I'm very grateful for that. Aside from a few things here and there, my room is pretty much ready. If students started tomorrow, my room would be ready enough for that which is what I was going for.


We're meeting on Monday for some collaboration but then I can really take off the rest of next week if I so desire. Still waiting to hear on a specialist schedule and a final decision on the recess/lunch issues our grade was discussing yesterday but otherwise, I feel completely comfortable taking most of next week off. Of course I'll be there Monday to work with my team and I will stop in for a little while on Tuesday because I am going to bring my kids in to see my new school and classroom. Beyond that, I don't plan to go back in until August 30th when we start our official planning week.

After waiting so long to get in and get started, I have to admit, it feels fan-freaking-tastic to a) have all of that teachery stuff out of my house! and b) to have a classroom set up and ready for learning!

 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hello Exhaustion

Last night, I could not sleep. I do not know why. It may be because I was excited about today. I think it was my old friend, August insomnia paying me a visit because I was certainly TIRED, I just couldn't fall (and stay) asleep. I got about 3 hours worth and I am WIPED.

I did spend the day in my new school. Our secretary is really awesome which is nice. My last secretary was not a nice person and the secretary here is really very friendly and welcoming. It will be a nice change!

I didn't get as much done as I would have liked because I found out that they didn't allow Mr. 4/5 split to move anything after the last day of school last year and they put me in his room. I don't know why they didn't just put me across the hall (it wouldn't have made much difference!). A lot of his stuff was still in my room. He felt bad about it even though it wasn't his fault. So I helped him move some stuff and then went to lunch with a friend from out of town who called and was in the area.

We had an impromptu collaborative meeting this afternoon for about 2 hours. Apparently the schedule Mrs. Principal sent is all kinds of messed up. Our lunch will be 12:10 - 12:50 which makes for a VERY long morning. As an upper elementary floor we're debating doing a longer morning recess to break up those 4 hours and not having one in the afternoon since by the time the kids are done with lunch and recess, it'll be 1 and we pack up for the day at 3. We'll see how that works out.

I did at least get my desks arranged. I was warned to expect about 28 kiddos once all is said and done. I've planned for 30 so I won't complain unless it is more than that, even though it isn't ideal. At this point, I am counting my blessings that I have a job that I love and am working in my favorite school with my favorite people. It is truly like a dream job for me and I am lucky!

We're about to eat some yummy pizza and then I am going to take a bath (it's amazing how grimy a classroom gets over a summer, even when it isn't used!), pop a Melatonin so I can sleep tonight and turn in really early. Tomorrow is round 2 and I plan to be 95% DONE with my room before I leave it tomorrow.

I shall leave you with some "befores":

This is the view from the door looking into the classroom. It looks a lot bigger when all of the desks are stacked together (it doesn't look this big with seating for 30 children! *wink*) Mr. 4/5 Split totally let me keep that red chair. It is going to be in my meeting area. He rocks!


Immediate left of the door. You can see the student computers, a bulletin board and all of my stuff piled up! In the very back is the alcove area that connects my room with Mrs. Cooperating Teacher. For now our filing cabinets and some storage are in there. Once we get a feel for our kiddos, we may combine our class libraries and put those in there.


To the immediate right of the door is all of my storage areas. The only thing I miss about Former School is that all of the storage had cabinet doors. Here we have a few cabinets and then lots and lots of shelves (ugh!). But I will make due. A lot of the stuff piled up on that back counter is no longer there because it either was Mr. 4/5 Split's or it was common 5th grade material that we put in our shared space shown in the 2nd picture.


Much more to come tomorrow when (hopefully!) I am almost done with my room.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Scheduling

This probably makes me a huge nerd but one of my favorite things to do in regards to teaching is plan my daily schedule. I just love having an outline of what we're going to do each day. It's almost like one big ole evolving checklist of learning.

I haven't even been in my new school yet and I am already thinking I am in love with Mrs. Principal. She is SO much more organized than Former Principal to the effect that we've gotten field trip information (5th graders get a trip to the symphony each year paid for by our student foundation) and our bell schedule already. At Former School, it was often the DAY school started before we had a final schedule (the first year we opened the building, Former Principal announced mid-morning that the lunch schedule was changing).

We still don't have a specialist schedule but that's likely because the district has messed with the art/music scheduling so it probably isn't set in stone yet. The only thing I am unsure of is if they still have a 30 minute intervention schedule like they used to when I interned. I would imagine with RtI being so huge now, they probably do. That'll put a little crimp in my plans but whatever.

I decided to play with my schedule. I have two options (without considering specials/RtI interventions). I think I prefer the first one because I am all about getting the math done first thing in the morning. We have a morning recess too which I haven't had in the last 3 years so that took a little getting used to as I played with the times.

Here are the options I've come up with so far (again hugely tentative because I don't know specials schedule or RtI schedule, if any):
Option 1

8:20 School Begins
8:20 – 8:30 Lockers/Unpacking
8:30 – 8:45 Homework Review
8:45 – 9:50 Math
9:55 – 10:10 Recess
10:15 – 11:30 Writing Workshop (4-5 conferences)
11:30 – 12:10 Lunch
12:10 – 12:50 Read Aloud/SSR (2-3 conferences)
12:50 – 1:20 Working with Words
1:20 – 1:50 H.M. Reading
1:55 – 2:10 Recess
2:15 – 3:00 Science/Social Studies (M-Th) / PAT (Fri)
3:00 – 3:09 Clean up / Lockers
3:09 – Dismissal

I love this one because I can provide homework review time for sure AND have a super long writing time which will allow me the mini-lesson time (and many of the units we do are really "maxi" lessons) and then still give the children 45 minutes to work and/or conference with me or a peer. It would allow me to get at LEAST 4 blended conferences done during that time and possibly 5 if we're really on the ball which would be awesome if I have a huge class.

Option 2
8:20 School Begins

8:20 – 8:30 Lockers/Unpacking
8:30 – 9:15 Writing Workshop (3 conferences)
9:15 – 9:50 Working with Words
9:55 – 10:10 Recess
10:15 – 10:45 H.M. Reading
10:45 – 11:30 Read Aloud/SSR (2-3 conferences)
11:30 – 12:10 Lunch
12:15 – 12:30 Homework Review
12:30 – 1:50 Math
1:55 – 2:10 Recess
2:15 – 3:00 Science/SS (M-Th) / PAT (Fri)
3:00 – 3:09 Clean up/Lockers
3:09 – Dismissal

This one isn't my favorite but definitely workable. I'm sure if we DO have that 30 minute RtI intervention time, it's gonna come out of Science/SS in some way :( I know they really emphasize SS in 5th grade because they take the SS standardized test in 6th. I honestly think, in some ways, they won't care at all if we don't teach science in 5th grade because of the other demands, which is really a shame!


Of course, once I get a specials schedule, these both might be blown all to bits if my schedule is weird! It doesn't matter. I like the processing of planning it out. I had my first real school dreams last night and they were very weird. Every time I have dreamed about teaching at New School, there are some bizarre circumstances (like Mrs. Cooperating Teacher and I teaching in a KITCHEN and as in last night's, discovering we were sharing one teeny tiny classroom -- considering there are no "teeny tiny" classrooms in our new school, it was kind of funny). 

I'm excited to go in tomorrow and really see my space and "play" in there! The Husband was helping me do some sorting and consolidating in the barn last night where I've stacked everything that needs to go. I am happy to say that I was able to consolidate quite a bit so hopefully I can get everything into my truck in one load because I really don't want to make two trips!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oh, Boy

I jumped on the VistaPrint bandwagon and now I think I might sorely regret it.

It's SO addicting and fun!

I did a small order at first because I just wanted to see how things came out and everything. My order hasn't arrived but it shipped way earlier than I thought it would and should arrive on Thursday. Everyone I know who uses it says the products are really good quality too. Of course once I made an order they sent me an email with other free stuff that wasn't normally offered so I got suckered in! I still didn't order a ton but I'm really excited about this.

First Order: Total cost $8.61
Stamp for papers without names..seriously my biggest pet peeve by 4th/5th grade when they've been writing their names on papers in school for YEARS. I got this idea from someone else's creations and liked the whole slogan and star because it'll match my Hollywood Theme.


250 Business Cards -- They'll hold my contact information for parents (of which I have obviously covered up here!). I think these alone were worth the shipping charges because you can't even buy business card paper and print them yourself for cheaper than this.


100 postcards -- This is an idea I saw someone else use (I think it was Sneaker Teacher but I'm too lazy to go check!). When I was an intern at New School, we did not schedule our conferences, rather we had open conference times in the gym and parents came at their convenience. It wasn't as hectic as it sounds. In fact, I think we got more parents to come due to that flexibility. At any rate, since I don't know if they still do that, I thought this format would be great because I can either include a specific day/time if they now schedule them or the open times/days if they still do it like before.


Second Order: Total cost $9.92


Small car magnet -- The principal who hired me full time in my district taught me and my class this once when he was doing something in our room (not because the kids were bad but just because he thought they might like it). I LOVED it and have used it since. It's really fun when I pick them up from a special class or after lunch/recess when its a bit less structured because they get in line and I say "not ready position" and they wiggle and jiggle for a few seconds to get it out and then I say "Ready Position" and *snap* they're in a perfect line standing at attention like little soldiers. It's so fun to watch how seriously they take it! This will hang on our white board and we'll learn it to start the year.


25 small magnets -- I ordered this blank because then I can write students names on them with a vis-a-vis marker and reuse them. They'll go on the board and be used for attendance and graphing activities. A former colleague used little magnets like this as part of her behavior management.


1 pad personalized Sticky Notes -- I just couldn't resist because they are adorable!


And just so you know, my shipping costs are low because I choose the super slow shipping. I put my first order in last week and it shipped already even with the super slow option (which they say will take 21 days). So definitely worth being a little more patient to save a few more dollars!


I also bought some return address labels for personal use but because of the design I chose, I can't share them because there is no way to give justice to the design without revealing my home address and all of the names of everyone in my family. So not gonna happen, you know? :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Banking Good Karma

Awhile ago when I was talking to my therapist about all of the things I was doing to get ready for my classroom this year, she mentioned to me that I was banking good karma for being so selfless in regards to these children. She said it is definitely going to come back around on me, in a good way, for all I have done and continue to do for these children.

I realized today whilst out shopping with my kiddos that this is true. I hadn't planned on a super big class and it looks possible that I might get one. So instead of fretting about it, I purchased a few extra supplies today at Walmart that will ensure I have enough things for 30 children. It literally cost me less than $15 because everything else I have already and have plenty extra of. I feel better knowing that even if I do end up with a really big group to start the year that everyone will have what they need. I'm not huge on sending home supply lists because I know that many of our families genuinely can not afford them, even when the supplies aren't that expensive. Sure some of the families donate supplies and things and  that is great...but we have 99% of our students receiving free lunch in my new school AND they have a sack suppers program where many of these children receive a sack lunch type of meal to take home with them to make sure they get dinner at night. It's really kind of sad.

I awoke in the middle of the night due to The Husband's super loud snoring (he'd probably not be very happy with me if he knew I just put that out there for the world to see!) and laid in bed trying to fall back to sleep. Inevitably when this happens, my mind tends toward thinking about school. I realized I even have hard back folders I can use as homework folders this year because I never got them out last year and they are practically brand new. I have 30 of those too.

I feel much better now. No, I wasn't originally prepared for a huge class but honestly...I'm not that panicked. I will be sad if I get kiddos at the beginning who then have to move to another class because that always stinks but I am going to work my butt off to ensure that I have an AMAZING year with these kids. I've been doing so much reflecting as we get closer and closer to the start of the year...and it amazes me how awesome my first week was last year and then the crap hit the fan big time and the rest of the year was so hard until I just couldn't do it anymore and left. I never, ever want to feel like that again. I am hopeful that by "banking good karma" (I do like that phrase), and with all of the reflection and growth I have done, everything will pay off in the end and I will be able to build better community with my class this year and really and truly get down to what matters: teaching children and preparing them for middle school.

I honestly think I might burst at the seams with anticipation before Thursday!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Class Size

I was hoping this year to send home a welcome letter to my new students. I figured since we were able to access our building just over two weeks before the first student day, I would be able to do this. I emailed Mrs. Principal to see if this would be okay with her and she said she loved the idea but cautioned me that with the closing of ABC school, whose students were slated to either come to our school or another neighborhood school, our class lists were going to be very high to begin with because they had had very few families actually confirm if they were going to attend our school or not. (Typically with a closure, they set new attendance boundaries which define which school is the student's attendance area  but since the school is newly closed, they offered the families the choice of attending our school or the other one.)

My mind has been kind of spinning since she said "very large" and "class size" in the same sentence. I only planned for 24 kids and I really don't want to go buy any more supplies (not that it would be much more than what I already have). Although I did remember that at the beginning of last school year I had a class list of 27 and only 18 children that first week of school. By the 2nd week, I had a whopping 20. So since this is a huge transition time, it is unwise to panic, even if my class list shows something like 34 because until bodies actually show up, there is no guarantee on anything.

It makes me wonder if most of these families will choose to go to the other school (which ironically was my 2nd-5th choice in particular jobs of the 10 I bid on) because it is a) bigger and b) closer to the school that was closed. Those two were only about 2 miles apart where our school is 4-5 miles away from it. So we might have a bit more bussing this year too if we get a lot of kids from over there because it is a long walk!

Probably the best news is, according to our contract (which I looked up), we are not to have more than 27 students per class in grades 3-6 and if we do, the district either has to assign us a paraprofessional, somehow balance the classrooms (creating splits or hiring a teacher if needed) or provide sub services so the teacher has more planning time. So while I still didn't plan for 27 it is nice to know that I can feasibly spend about $8 more and still have everything I need for even a larger class if it becomes absolutely necessary.

It's probably the hardest part of this kind of transition -- no one is sure where everyone will go so both schools are likely to have children on their lists that won't show up and/or get students who aren't on their lists but made the choice to attend that school over the other one. It's going to be kind of crazy.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Testing, Testing Oh My!

As teachers, we know that we are in an age of testing, testing and more testing. Yesterday, Mrs. Cooperating Teacher forwarded me all of the beginning of the year information for the upcoming year. Included in all of these documents was the assessment calendar for this year. My head is already spinning at the thought of all of this. Of course, when I stop and take a deep breath, I realize that it always looks so much worse on paper than it really turns out to be but it is a bit overwhelming to see it all at once.

Our first student day is Tuesday, September 7. Unlike many states, our standardized testing happens in the fall based upon the previous year's learning (yes, after a summer off....no idea whose brilliant plan that was). At any rate, this means we're already under the crunch from the start of the year to be sure these kiddos are prepared for those tests. I feel really bad for them because many of these children don't have parents at home who ever make them pick up a book (and in fairness, many of our ELL families have parents who are illiterate in English so its hard for them to help their child read in English if they can't read it either). Once the standardized testing is over, the rest of the year is so much better because we never even get test results until March at the earliest (last year it was April and the high school results didn't come out until two weeks before school ended, so entirely pointless in terms of being able to help students who need it).

Just in September we have the following district-wide assessments:
1. NWEA/MAP testing window from 9/7-9/30 -- My class only has to take the reading and math sections so despite that huge window, because they piloted the program last year and now all students should have taken the test at least once (unless they are brand new to the district), we should be able to get away with having one session for math and one session for reading so it won't completely disrupt our lives.

2. Writing Prompt from 9/13-9/17 -- this is a district-wide thing they have done for the past 6 years or so. Our standardized test used to test ALL grades 3-8 in writing but now only 4th and 7th grades take the writing test. They haven't changed this part though. It is "graded" just like the standardized test so we make the kids suffer through it practice it 3 times per year. It usually takes 2 days to administer this test.

3. Fluency testing from 9/13-9/24 -- depending on the school we either use a huge fluency kit which measures everything (vocab, speed, rate of accuracy, fluent reading and comprehension) or DIBELs which only measures how fast you can read accurately (word calling as I like to call it). I know my school used to use the former but now because of another initiative we're part of, I believe we use the latter.

Nothing like saying "welcome back to school, here's a bunch of tests!" Although I have to admit that I have been known to administer a spelling screener and a math screener the first two days of school so I know without a shadow of a doubt where every child is at the start of the year.With the introduction of the MAP test now and getting results within just a couple of days, I may be able to nix my math screener. I won't nix my spelling screener though because I use it to group children for Words Their Way spelling sorts.

It is terrible to admit that I wish I had at least two weeks with my class without having to worry about assessments?! Yes, I think beginning-of-year assessments are vital and important. But when they are piled on one right after the other like this, and with prep for the upcoming state test, it feels like we're gyping the kids on a chance to get used to being back in school after sitting home for 12 weeks.

The Amazingness Award

When I rolled myself out of bed today (finally!), and checked email on my phone, I was delighted to discover that someone else thinks I am amazing. :D (Mrs. Former Principal used to tease me relentlessly because I would always praise my good work and she'd say something along the lines of "you like to toot your own horn, don't you?!")

The Rules:
A. Thank the person who gave you the award
B. Share 7 things about yourself
C. Pass the award on to 15 other bloggers


A. Thank the person who gave you the award

My surprise email came from Underground Teacher who wanted to let me know I had been included in her award section. Thanks so much U.T.! Sometimes we all need someone else to tell us we are kind of amazing.

B. Share 7 things about yourself

1. I am seriously useless without caffeine in the morning. Normally this comes in the form of Diet Coke because I am not a coffee person at all. My students are always so much better off when I've had the chance to suck down some caffeine before they arrive to school.

2. I am the youngest child in my family. My mom never hid the fact that I wasn't really wanted (mind she never said "unplanned" she said "unwanted"). I believe that part of the reason I wanted to be a teacher so much is to ensure children whose parents have said similar things to them had someone in their lives who DID want them.

3. People are often amazed when they figure out my age and The Oldest's age. You can almost see the math calculations happening in their head. Yes, I had my first child when I was in high school (the end of 10th grade to be exact) and no, she doesn't share a father with The Littles. I am not embarrassed about it at all. Mothering her as a single teen mom helped shape me into who I am today.

4. I secretly really do want to take over the world. Everyone would be required to drink Diet Coke as their caffeine source. Everyone would also be required to bow down and worship me. ;)

5. I love to read. I would rather read than watch TV any day of the week. Often I have 3-4 books going at the same time. I read chick lit, suspense, romance, you name it. The Husband thinks I'm crazy but I'm not the one who gets geeked over reading about the universe like he does.

6. I really don't mind that I don't have any sons. It's almost easier having 3 of the same gender, especially since The Littles are so close in age (13 months apart). I think that I serve as more than a surrogate momma to the at-risk boys who come into my classroom each year. One year, I served on the Child Study team and actually cried when we talked about one of my students who was having a lot of behavioral issues because I KNEW that if that child was pulled out of his crap home and lived with two parents who were firm in their discipline but also generous with their love and praise, he would shine. He was my "project" for that year and he made amazing leaps. I would like to think I helped with that.

7. Whenever people ask me how many children I have, I always add my student count to my 3 before answering. For example, last year I had 26 students so I would answer "29". People sometimes look at me strangely and I vaguely explain I'm a teacher. I am most pleased when students grow so comfortable with me that they accidentally call me mom. That, to me, is the epitome of when you've really bonded with a student.

C. Pass the award on to 15 other bloggers

Books that Heal Kids
Sneaker Teacher
Littlest Learners
Ginger Snaps
Look at my happy rainbow!
My journey through teaching
Bluebird's classroom
coffeyhouse
Confessions
Once Upon a Time in 1st Grade
Opener of Doors
Pigtailed Teacher
The Cornerstone
Teacher Stuff: Tales from a 1st Grade Teacher
It's Not All Flowers and Sausages

Friday, August 13, 2010

Do you think they have a "School Supplies Anonymous"??

Really, I am out of control. But I love it!

Today after picking up one of The Littles from her Jumpstart summer school program, we ran errands. Boring, right? Bank, pharmacy and lunch (which isn't boring really). I've had my super fabulous spending cash burning a hole in my pocket since LAST week even though THIS week is pay week. I found this fabulous easel one of our local stores. I couldn't get it off my mind. Being that I teach big kids, I don't get an easel with my room. Last year, I kinda sorta stole one from an empty room across the hall. That room had been used more or less as storage from the time we opened the building in August 2008 and the easel had been an extra from down on the K-1 floor that wasn't being used. So I took it for use in my room. And use it we did!

People often chuckle when I tell them that yes, indeed, I made my 4th grade students join me in a circle on the floor to do some whole group teaching and for class meeting. I don't think it is that weird but some of my upper grade colleagues think it is. Everything I've read about literacy recently (Daily 5, CAFE book, Mentor Texts, and on and on) talks about having the children meet in a comfortable place on the floor for whole group mini-lessons before setting them off to work. And I really think that the "big kids" don't even think twice about it unless you make a big deal about it. I think my 4th graders liked it because I wasn't too embarassed to still do an older version of the "circle time" many of them enjoyed in the younger grades. Plus then I know everyone is with me because they are all within just a few feet of me.

When I saw this easel, I couldn't get it out of my mind. I wanted it so bad because I am 99% sure I won't have one at New School. It was $24.99 which isn't much compared to the easels I have seen in teacher magazines. This one is perfect because I can store stuff underneath it in tubs and crates for when I am working with math groups or whatnot. Plus it is double sided. Maybe a little "young" for my big kid classroom but it's a perfect height for me to sit in a small chair and write on it.

I think it just might've been the best $25 I've spent this summer!


Great News!

I am finally going to be able to get access to my classroom next week. Not until Thursday which kind of stinks but it's better than having to wait until the 23rd! Mrs. Cooperating Teacher and I talked yesterday and she is the one who told me. I was wondering why I've heard nothing at all. Apparently Mrs. Principal sent out a back-to-school newsletter but she sent it to my work email which I can't access at this point. So Mrs. Cooperating Teacher said she would forward it to me sometime today. Then hopefully I"ll be a little more "in the know" about what's happening for the start of school. It would be even better if the specials schedule was included in there so I can start planning my classroom schedule too.

When I was a student teacher there, they had a 15 minute morning recess, 40 minute lunch and 15 minute afternoon recess. This used to be normal across the district but as standardized testing pressure has loomed, a lot of schools have nixed the morning recess. In Former School, we nixed it and it didn't bother me much except we never ended up getting our breaks then. When we had enough paraprofessional staff, it wasn't an issue. But last year we lost two of them and only had one left and one person can't cover 6 classes at the same time!

While part of me liked having that longer block of instruction without interruption, I also know that with the bigger kids having that movement break in the morning and getting some fresh air helps them to stay focused until lunch. I'm really not sure if they still have that same schedule but part of me hopes that they do. Plus, it'll allow me a chance to use the bathroom more than just at lunch!! What a treat that will be!

I am so excited to finally have a day to look forward to getting in my classroom. I can't wait! Mrs. Cooperating Teacher admitted to me yesterday that she's dying to get back in there too. I'm glad it isn't just me. I just know this year is going to be a million times better than last year because I won't have all of the extra responsibilities and will be able to just focus on my classroom and being an awesome teacher.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Friendship

Last night, my good friend T took me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday and to reward me for helping her edit/revise some papers this summer for a graduate class. It was so much fun to get out of the house and talk teacher with someone who understands! [The Husband, bless his heart, is trying to show enthusiasm but when I start talking teacher, inevitably the poor man's eyes glaze over.]

T was at Former School with me last year as a long term sub for awhile. We both had very rough classes and not a lot of support so we formed a quick friendship and I'm glad to say we're still friends despite no longer working together. I told her last night that the best thing to come from last year was my friendship with her! She even invited me to come help her set up her new classroom some time next week. For a teacher who is bored to death and hasn't yet gotten access to her own class, this was music to my ears! She will be teaching a 3rd/4th split class and the teacher in her room before her retired and left everything. It's a big mess and she's feeling overwhelmed. I'm happy to help, that stuff makes me giddy!

I had walked down to meet her for dinner and she drove me home, then made the mistake of asking to see all of my teachery goodness. I warned her! She was really impressed with all of my little projects I've done which is going to allow me to set up my room uber quick because the little stuff that takes forever is pretty much all done. I only have one more lamination project to finish, which I will do today, and then I have to fix and create my calendar header board and that's it for those projects.

I'm so excited to go down and help her in her room and hopefully get access to MY room next week too. I've heard a lot of rumors and they are playing musical principals right now so I'm not even sure Mrs. Principal will still be our principal (I hope she is though because even though I've heard she's tough, I want to work for a principal who holds everyone to the same standard!). I plan to call the school next week and ask the secretary when we can get in. Secretaries reported back yesterday so hopefully I can at least SEE my room some time next week.



One of my former colleagues mentioned on Facebook yesterday to watch the news because she was going to be on TV. Since we have so few year-round schools in our area, they usually make the news the first day of school (which for them was yesterday). I wasn't home to watch it since I was out enjoying cocktails with T but I caught it online and they showed my old classroom with the new teacher in it. I can't even tell you how WEIRD it was to see MY room with someone else's stuff in there (I was, until now, the only teacher that had been in that room because the school was brand new). I truly hope that with the new principal in place (who seems awesome) and some new staff that those kids turn it around there. They lost 4 teachers from last year because none of them wanted to return to the BS. The new principal seems like she's a no-nonsense kind of lady so I hope she is consistent and is the key to getting that school back on track.