Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Circle of Life

It seems as though whenever things seem to be sailing along pretty easily....life decides it just has to slap you in the face. You know, to ensure you know who is in charge.


A very dear friend of mine, whom I have known online only since 2001, has a 3 year old son who is currently fighting for his life. Sarah and I met at BabyCenter.com when we were both pregnant with our 2001 babies (her daughter Caroline is 5 days younger than Middle Child). Sarah is a saint. There is no other way to describe her. I am constantly amazed at the resilience of this remarkable woman and her positive outlook even when things are not going well. Her son Cooper had transplant surgery in April and now they are finally home in Houston after many months of being away from her husband and other children. Sadly, however, Cooper is not doing very well. He is currently in severe rejection and I dread the day I go online to discover that his young body just stopped fighting. He has always been a fighter, from day one. Despite never having met this family in person, they feel like my family. I care about them so much and I am so sad when I realize that Cooper's days may be numbered. I hope that I am wrong. I know Sarah and Kevin hope that too. Please pray for this amazing family that Cooper, once again, amazes us all and pulls through this latest crisis.


In addition, I found out last night that my grandmother is back in the hospital. They think her kidneys are failing. She collapsed in the bathroom on Friday and didn't want to go to the hospital. The family is taking this as she is giving up -- she just wants to go and be with J who passed away in a fire accident about 7 years ago. He was her youngest and she was always the closest with him. When I heard, I couldn't stop the emotional outburst. I cried. I had to stave off a panic attack. Grandma is 78. She has lived a good life and lived to see her children grow, her grandchildren grow and enjoy the company of many greatgrandbabies. My mom is petrified that if I go see Grandma in the hospital, it'll be one more trauma to set me off. So I declined going today. I will wait until Monday -- when I get past my daughter's birthday and Halloween tomorrow, when my brain has had some time to adjust to the idea that this could really be it...and if it isn't, that the time is probably coming sooner rather than later.


My dad was the one who told me grandma might not leave the hospital alive this time. He and grandma do not get along. There has always been animosity there. While there are certainly things my grandma has done that I do not agree with, I also recognize that she is my grandma and I love her. I am not ready to say goodbye (are we ever really ready?). My dad, upon realizing how upset I became hearing that she is worse than they originally thought, reminded me that this is part of life. People life, people die. It happens every day. I know this. However, it doesn't mean I have to like it. I'm just not ready to say goodbye.


Hold the ones you love close because you just never know when they aren't going to be there for you to hold them anymore.

Friday, October 29, 2010

TGIF!!

I almost feel guilty that I am glad it is Friday. I love my job and all but holy man...I am overwhelmed by paperwork, paperwork and you-guessed-it, more paperwork!

The Husband has to go out of town this week and I'm kind of nervous about that. My parents are taking the kiddos for the next two nights before Trick-or-Treat on Sunday so I am going to take advantage and get my report cards finished this weekend while it's quiet here. That in and of itself should allow me to have a lot less stress on me come Tuesday when I have all afternoon to putz around my room and do whatever.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A "aaaaahhh" (like the golden light shining down from above) moment

Grades are due next week Tuesday. We have 1/2 records and 1/2 PD that day so teachers can input grades. Fortunately two years ago they changed it so we can enter grades from home which makes my life so much nicer!

I am busting butt this week grading Reader's Notebooks. Some of my students don't use them and their reading is suffering big time (as well as their grades). Some are using them faithfully and - not surprisingly - are doing AMAZING with their reading.

With our standardized testing and everything, my ability to meet with the kiddos for conferences and help them along with their notebooks has been sporadic at best. Some have taken advantage of this and not used their notebook because they thought I wouldn't check. Clearly, many were very shocked today when I collected a bunch of them to bring home to grade.

I was reading through one of the notebooks just now. This is from one of my ELLs who is a sweet, quiet girl. Every entry from the month of October, she has ended her letter with telling me how great I am, how I am the best teacher for her and how this reading work is helping her to be a better reader. It is so powerful to see that she realizes that she is absolutely in charge of her own success. I kind of got goosebumps as I read those entries. This is a child I can absolutely see being the future President. She has a lot going against her (language barrier, etc) but she works her butt off, tries hard and wants to succeed.

That in and of itself, I have no doubt, is what will ensure she does succeed.

Holy Tornado Watch Batman

Yesterday was crazy. We had a tornado watch but still had school and the kids were inside all day. We had a practice drill right after school started so everyone would know where the proper place to go was (our school has tons of glass so it's kind of crazy where everyone has to be). Then at 10:50, the tornado sirens went off and we had to have the real thing. There was a tornado spotted in the next county as well as about 25 miles north of where my school is. The kids did pretty well with it but of course it messed up the entire day. They cancelled the watch at about 11:30 and no sooner than we had trudged back up to the 3rd floor, the sirens went off again and we had to go back downstairs. We hadn't even made it to our room. The kids were not impressed that second time.

My class, Mrs. Cooperating Teacher's class and Mr. 4/5 Split's classes all seek shelter in the long hallway by the kitchen area. They had to have the doors shut and with about 90 children, anywhere from 8-12 adults at any given time and the heat from the kitchen, the heat sensors went off so not only were we in the midst of a tornado evacuation but the fire alarm went off as well. Can't tell you how fun it was to sit in that enclosed hallway with all those children while the super loud fire alarm blared in our ears for 5 minutes!


Today, thankfully, was so much calmer! I had what we termed at Former School as a "key absence". In other words this is a child who causes so much trouble in the classroom on a day-to-day basis that when they are gone, everyone else kind of subconsciously breathes a sigh of relief and the day is really awesome. While I certainly have other kiddos besides this one who can be challenging, I noticed that with the 29 other children there and him gone...everyone else was much better. The tension level was down. It never ceases to amaze me how one small child can impact the dynamics of a classroom in such a negative way. It's sad really.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A day full of "Are you kidding me?!"

First of all, I feel a million times better than I did on Saturday. From Saturday at 10:30 a.m. until Sunday at 10:30 a.m., I slept about 17 hours. I was clearly exhausted and needed to fight whatever bug I was dealing with. Fortunately yesterday I felt better, still a little weak but better and today I felt more or less normal. I can't stress how important that was since my outside duty day is Monday and there is nothing worse than having duty when you feel like crap.


I got to work before the crack of dawn this morning (6:40 - ugh!) to try to get ahead on things since I had to leave by 3:30 both Thursday and Friday last week. Wouldn't you know the friggin copy machine was down. And since I have Monday duty, I couldn't sneak them in during break because I had duty. I had to try to sneak in during lunch and therefore used up part of my lunch because we only have 1 copy machine for 25 teachers AND the office. The secretary was running 540 copies of notes for conferences which are 3 weeks away...after knowing the copier was down this morning when we were wanting to use it. Grrr.


Then one of my students got busted big time for faking an injury -- he came to school with crutches and had some people all up in arms about his "injury" (even a mom who acts like a 10 year old herself). It all came to a head at recess because he said something that caught the office folks as odd so they called mom and found out he "borrowed" (ie stole) the crutches from her house and was faking. This ends up as a behavior referral and this is his 4th of the year which means a suspension...and honestly I am about to have a happy dance because this kid is such a pain in the behind. He is one of those kids you wish would just move already because you really can't help those who don't want to be helped.


Later today another kiddo flat out told me, without sarcasm or attitude that he just doesn't care about school. How do you become so apathetic at the ripe ole age of 10? Mom and dad are clueless. I had one of our workers call (he speaks Spanish whereas I don't) and mom came up but I don't think she had a clue what I was saying. Her son is failing everything, says he just doesn't care and thinks I"m going to just let him go to 6th grade and I flat out told mom NOPE, not just passing him, sorry. I know the district will promote him, but I won't....no one is coming back on me and saying I just pass kids. No way. I am honestly just floored at how blase he was about it. He's definitely a kid you know will go nowhere in life because he just really doesn't care!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The title of this blog could be changed to....

The Sick Teacher.


Yesterday morning I did not feel well. At all. I had a headache, body aches and just generally felt like someone had run me over with a bus. The Husband says, "just call in to work". Riiiight. Because that's just as easy as snapping your fingers, right? Nope. Have to make sub plans and blah blah. No thank you (yes I have a sub tub but have had zero time to make copies of the lesson masters in it!)

With the full moon and the end of our standardized testing, this week has not been the most fun. My normally awesome students were bouncing off walls, on my everlast freaking nerves and generally just being pains in my big ass.

Then I called to a meeting 15 minutes before school ended for a child study. Are you kidding? The biggest issue with this kid is that he is lazy. LAZY. He was in the mentor program for 2 years and made no gains whatsoever. I pride myself on knowing my kids -- he is fully capable, he just doesn't care because he knows they'll pass him anyway! I have really come down on him this year so far and he knows I mean business. I bet anything his scores will go up because I told him *I* wasn't just putting him in 6th grade (where, finally, if he doesn't pass his classes, he won't just be promoted to the next grade). I was so pissed to have that meeting at the end of the day and have them coming at me like it's my fault this kid is behind. You can't make a kid care and I know that he can do the work. I know he can. And I am going to prove them all wrong when I MAKE him do the work (or there goes your recesses bucko) and he starts to do better.

I got back to my classroom, after the sub had dismissed them and the floor was trashed. I was so pissed. I NEVER let them leave the room looking like that. I just packed up and went home. I was tired, felt like crap and just didn't even want to deal with it anymore.



All day today I have increasingly felt worse. I was okay this morning but The Oldest had her last band invitational today and wouldn't you know, it was rainy and icky. Sitting outside in the rain when you already don't feel well is not a good plan. But since it was the last one we really wanted to see their final performance. Once I got home, I went right to bed. I got up briefly to pick The Oldest up after she got back to school but otherwise was in bed from about 3:30 until almost 8:30. My body just aches and I've had a headache that won't quit.

I need to get better ASAP. I have so much to do for school stuff. I need to get ahead since The Husband is going to be out of town November 1 - 5 and I'll be on my own with the three kids. I want to get as much done this week as I can so that I am not feeling any extra pressure or stress that week he is gone because it'll be busy enough with a staff meeting, Middle Child's Birthday, an eye appointment and therapy. Not to mention the day-to-day craziness of being a teacher.

My head spins thinking about it and I realize that I just need to rest up as much as possible this weekend so that I am prepared for the next two weeks.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Oh Boy

I had a former student from last year send me a private message on FaceBook. He said you are dum for living us.

And honestly, I had to choke back my gales of laughter. Living us? I mean come on.


In all honesty, this was one of the worst offenders from my class last year. It amazes me how many times the naughties from that class have tried to contact me on FB (to which I always ignore -- that is a line I will never cross). Plus, this one was super mad at me when I left and I think this is his way of trying to make me feel bad. I don't. The children in that school -- many of them anyway -- have serious issues and frankly I am glad I am no longer a part of that mess.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sometimes

Sometimes it is hard to be a "real" teacher with someone you student taught with. Mostly because I still feel like she scrutinizes me sometimes. She's so used to things being done her way that sometimes she questions how I do it. I'm not real worried about it (she isn't evaluating me after all) but it is kind of annoying.

As an example, we have an "uninterrupted" literacy time from 10:35 to 12:10. This is the time slot directly after recess until lunch. I love this because we get started with curriculum at 8:30, have recess at 10:15, literacy from that time above, then lunch until 12:50 and then from 1-3 it's another learning block. It is split up PERFECTLY for me.

We are about to start a unit of study for writing that the district put together. At Former School, I was part of the writing initiative so I piloted these units and they aren't amazing...but they do have merit. And I know after being a part of that group that it's okay if I put my own spin on them and make them my own as long as I follow the majority of the lesson as provided (it's big on mentor texts which I love). Anyway today we were planning for next week which is when we plan to start the new writing unit. Mrs. Cooperating Teacher said that she just doesn't know how I can possibly teach both writing and reading in that 90 minute block. She does working with words, fluency and reading in there. I do writing and reading and have never had trouble staying on focus. We do writing first from 10:40 (by the time we get upstairs) until I feel like the kids are ready to move on. Sometimes that is as late as 11:30 and that is fine. Then we transition to reading. We still get everything done and I don't feel like I am slighting my kids in the least. And they are learning and making gains.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason she feels so crunched there is because she takes the 5th graders from the split during that time so she has 34 kids. Those 4 extra bodies make a huge difference.


I don't doubt my ability to help my students at all, especially not now that we've implemented some things to help us maximize our MAP data. I have put the ball in my student's court: YOU are responsible for your learning and YOU are the one they are going to come after if YOU aren't passing. They aren't going to come after me (not entirely true but the kids don't know that!).


Next week, for two days out of the week, 7 of my students will be working with either Mrs. Resource or Mrs. Reading Teacher for part of our literacy time. I will only have 23 students in my class (sad when '23' can be coupled with the word 'only'). 23! I am going to be in heaven...it'll be like having a normal class size for 40 minutes a day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why yes, I *am* Fabulous!

Whenever I seem really down lately, something happens to perk me right back up. Yesterday I was a bit bummed because U of Ph decided I wasn't their ideal candidate (as my good friend yelled "their loss honey!").

Today at recess I went downstairs to check my mailbox in the office. I had an envelope. When I saw the return address, I had to smile. It was from my sub from last week. She included a Thank You card for making her feel so welcomed and for taking care of things when she had her fall down the stairs. She also included a letter that she had sent to Mrs. Principal. I was very flattered to read what she had to say about me and at the risk of being accused of bragging, I decided to include it here:

I was a guest teacher for Mrs. Sunny's 5th grade class last Thursday, October 14. Mrs. Sunny was the first teacher I had met on October 14. She welcomed me immediately and wished me a very pleasant day. It was apparent to me as I entered her room, looked around at the impeccably clean and orderly room, and read her detailed and typed plans for me, that she was very well organized, had high expectations for her students and had prepared well in advance for that day. Mrs. Sunny was actually in the building collaborating with other professionals for future lessons/instruction for the children. So, if it became necessary for her to assist me, she had offered to help in any way should that become necessary. Because of her thoroughness in preparing materials and notes for me and due to the outstanding cooperation of her fine students, she could continue her meeting/planning day without interruption. The 5th graders in Mrs. Sunny's class were exceptionally well behaved, willing to assist me with any detail of the day, very kind to one another and me, and diligent in accomplishing their academic responsibilities. It was a pleasure to have been a guest teacher at Name of School.
Now, if that doesn't rock the socks off someone who had The.Worst.Year.Ever. last year, I don't know what will. I was so flattered at everything she said. I was also kind of grateful that she sent this to Mrs. Principal simply because this is someone on the outside-looking-in to see the effort I put in to make my room a fabulous place to learn. She is definitely #1 on my favorite sub list!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Updated Room

After getting some disappointing news today that my qualifications don't exactly match what they want with the online teaching position I applied for, I decided to make myself feel better. Rather than buy a pound of chocolate, I decided to take updated pictures of my room that we've "lived in" for about 7 weeks now. It did make me feel better and was a much healthier choice!

View of our door. This was a writing we did on voice. The students practiced adding voice to two inanimate objects. We decided one would be super sweet and one would have an attitude. The writings were so good I had to display them where I knew they would be looked at.

Still outside our room, this displays my name so any visitors know whose class this is. The blue pocket chart lets folks know where we are (art, music, lunch, etc) and the white paper is a schedule we're required to post.

View of all 30 (!!) desks from the door.

Sink area. This hasn't changed much. Our "Personal Training" folders for MAP and turn in box are here.

Our math groups posters. Some of the kiddos are FLYING through these groups!

Book boxes, supply boxes and all of Mrs. Sunny's teachery stuff!

Conference area -- the conference schedule is in the red pocket chart. The stuff to the right of the table is MAP stuff for a new program we are starting (so usually not there all messy). My word wall was moved up a bit so the kids could see the words over the easel.

Meeting Area -- I had to move it to the front of the classroom to accommodate 30 full-time kids and 4 others who come for math. I actually think I like it better up here because when I meet with small groups, if I sit in my red chair, I can still scan and keep an eye on everyone else.


Focus Wall Area -- this is where all of my small group teaching happens. I also do some whole group teaching here with our reading series. The big blank chart usually houses our vocab for the week (it's a testing week, which is why it is blank). The chart with all the white cards identifies our math groups and the small blue pocket charts under the board have our math focus wall (it's turned around due to testing requirements).

This is a gander at my messy teacher area. (I honestly never realized how messy it looks until I took this picture LOL). Really it is only the bulletin board that is kind of busy. Everything I need at hand ends up over here somewhere.

My desk area. I faced my desk to the wall because I don't spend much time here during the day. I actually kind of like my cozy little corner. I have a little lamp on the tech stand so some mornings I keep the big lights off and work with just that lamp. It is very relaxing!

Anchor/Criteria charts we've done together. I always tell the kiddos these are not just wall paper! We refer to them constantly. These happen to be all literacy related.

Window ledge -- in about it's 4th installment. I keep changing this area based on our needs. I went ahead and got out my big mailboxes which just seem easier for the kids to manage. So this became our "fan mail" area. It is working out quite well. Also on the window is a math anchor chart to remind them of divisibility rules.

Back corner -- this used to be my meeting area but I couldn't justify taking up all that space when I have 30 friends! So our Accountable Talk bubbles stayed, I moved the calendar and job chart here and turned the glass wall into a display for student work (these are about to come down but they are math graphs we made that make animals).

Library area and my frog curtain to block the bump out (conference/meeting room for Mrs. Cooperating Teacher and I) from view. That allows her TA to work in there without bothering me or my class. You can also see our behavior ladder on the far right.

Computer area -- on the right is our "Read Around the World" map and tally log. I stole this idea from Middle Child's teachers. The children travel 20 miles for every minute they read. It's quite motivating for them and they love to check their progress. The colored cards are part of our Nifty Thrifty Fifty words (the sign identifying it fell down). The red pocket chart houses overflow mail for my 4 friends that I take during math from another class and learning center folders.


It amazes me how much my room has changed since August when I first posted a class tour. It feels much different being lived in now but I love it. The kids and I both have  made our marks on the room and that feels really awesome.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wait....what?

For quite awhile now I have had the interest in teaching writing at the college level. Honestly I think it would be a blast to teach introductory writing courses to college freshman. Perhaps because I love writing so much. At any rate, I have kept my eyes peeled for open positions in the various schools around me that would allow me to keep my current job but still teach part-time in a college setting.

University of Phoenix has a pretty decent program. I took a class through them once because it was impossible to get into at my own university and I needed the credits for my ESL endorsement. Despite people saying they are a diploma factory, I know that I personally put a lot of work into that online course and got a lot out of it. The idea of teaching college classes in an online format is appealing because a) it wouldn't interfere with my regular job and b) I could facilitate the class in my pajamas if I really wanted/needed to!

I noticed  yesterday that U of Ph had a writing position open for their online program and sent an inquiry. I got an email this afternoon inviting me to forward my resume and get the ball rolling. I was talking to  The Husband and the first thing out of his mouth wasn't "well, good luck" or "cool" or anything positive.

Instead it was "you aren't going to overdo it again and have another nervous breakdown are you?"

Call me crazy (pun intended) but I was quite offended by that statement. I did not have a nervous breakdown. I just needed to get away from a crappy situation which I have and am a million times better because of. Yes, I have now had issues with anxiety and depression. But I do not think that I lost it completely. It bothered me to think that The Husband doesn't think I know how to set a boundary know. As it stands, I spend at least 20 hours a week online anyway doing nothing...so spending that kind of time and getting paid would be cake. Cake!

Maybe I am being overly sensitive but I thought that statement was rather harsh. I know that this is something I want and something that I can excel at without a) sacrificing my own personal time b) neglecting my family or c) neglecting my full-time job obligations. I guess we'll see what comes of it so I can prove him wrong.

Friday, October 15, 2010

TGIF!

Golly but I love my job this year...but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate my down time on the weekends! I am so excited to have a bit of time off to relax and rejuvenate for next week. We're onto week two of our standardized testing and then we can really jump in with both feet and get this school year really going.

I have been elected the data queen in our grade. Actually, I volunteered because no one else stepped up to do it and it isn't all that hard. Plus, the nerdy part of me actually doesn't mind crunching the data that much. I think I like it so much because it warms my heart when I can see real progress from the kids and feel like, despite having a million bodies in my room (or so it seems), that there is real learning going on in there.

I spent much of my Friday night (because I am a huge dork apparently), crunching data so I don't have to spend any more of my weekend doing it. At our September benchmark for DIBELs, only 12 kids in our entire grade were actually performing at the expected grade level. Ouch! I was pleased to note, however, that in looking through our progress monitoring for October, 22 kiddos were benchmarked and several had moved from intensive to benchmark in just a month! That feels really, really good and makes me feel like maybe I can make this work despite the less-than-ideal situation with a huge group.



Today was pretty awesome. My kids were talkative but a) its Friday and b) they got their Token Tub reward and that just hyped them up even more. A few kiddos went home with a parent note because they just irriated me to no end toward the end of the day. Otherwise though...this week was really good. I am so hopeful that next week is just as good. It is going to be very busy! I have a meeting after school Monday, then I have to rush home to be able to attend The Oldest's conference at the high school (they only have it one night which I think is ridiculous). Thursday and Friday I have to rush away from school right away because I have appointments at 4. Should make things slightly crazy to say the least.

But it's okay. Everything will work out and be just fine. I plan to spend a lot of time this weekend just relaxing. My new front loading washer and dryer are coming tomorrow (which I can't wait for!) and I have a few errands to run. Mostly, I plan to spend this weekend reading, being with my own kiddos and catching up on Hell's Kitchen which is the only show that I have to see. Have a great and relaxing one everyone!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What a week!

Just from this week:

  • One of my kiddo's aunt was beaten to death by her boyfriend
  • A student lost a tooth during our standardized testing
  • The kiddos filled their Token Tub
  • We had our first sub who was FAB-U-LOUS and the children did an excellent job with her
  • Some moron from the lunch crew wiped up a mess on the stairs with a wet mop and didn't leave a sign...and my sub fell down the stairs!
  • Despite the setback of the sub's accident (she is wonderful because she didn't want to leave the kids to go to the hospital -- she wanted to stay with them because she said they were the best 5th grade class she'd ever been with!), my students were so caring toward her when she fell which shows that the compassion training I am trying to do with them is working

And it's only Thursday. It's been a fabulous week but I am so ready to relax this weekend!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Hump Day!

Wow. Today was such a great day for me. It started with an 8 a.m. meeting with Mrs. Principal to go over my professional goals for the year. Since I am not tenured yet, I have to do the long version. I'm not that panicked about it honestly. I've never had too much issue with doing them. She gave me the paperwork last week and we set up a time to meet through email.

I get there and she was talking with our reading tutor coordinator who stepped aside to let me in and Mrs. Principal says "tell Mrs. Secretary that if she hears any screaming or pounding, not to call 911". Obviously she was totally joking but I have to admit that it was kind of nice to see that she does have a sense of humor. As more time goes on, I feel so horrible for her and everything they ask these principals to do. Then she has to be the messenger to us and sometimes get a lot of flack for it. At any rate, the meeting went well. We have to have 5 goals and I did one on my math workshop, one on my behavior ladder, one on my blended conferences, one with the NWEA/MAP stuff that we are putting together tomorrow and the last one is directly related to one of the initiatives we've had in the district for the last few years. She was really happy with them all. She also gave me some good suggestions for places to go and people to ask for any help or guidance I might need with some of those things. It was very productive and I left her office feeling GOOD. Such a nice change to have positive interactions with a principal!


We had day two of our standardized testing today and the kiddos did so well sticking with it. It was much shorter than yesterday's. Mrs. Reading Teacher was in helping to proctor again for a little while and when we finished the second part of today's test, she offered to take the testing materials down with her since they have to be locked up and everything. She complimented my class on how well they had stuck with the test, didn't get themselves overwhelmed and just kept going and doing their best. Whenever my students get a compliment from another teacher, they earn tokens in our class tub. Well when I put a handful in from this compliment, we discovered the tub was FULL. It never once got even close to being full last year (I don't think the kids ever got it past the halfway point). This was such a big deal for them. They were so happy and proud of themselves. One of my students said "wow, and we've only been in school for like a month!" It was quite funny.

It had rained during the testing this morning (complete with thunder and lightening which was kind of distracting for the kids) so they were inside at recess and at lunch. But they kept it together this afternoon and I didn't have to get on them much at all, which was really surprising a) after a full morning of testing and b) after being inside all day. During our break this morning, when the students were having a snack, one of the kids asked me what I was going to be for Halloween and I said I didn't know. But I did tell them that we saw Ketchup and Mustard costumes at the store and that maybe The Littles could be those and our dog could be a hot dog. They laughed and said that would be cool and then The Oldest could be french fries and I could be a can of Diet Coke haha! I told The Husband this and he said "they really know you huh?" I had to giggle.


I stayed a bit after school today and got some paperwork done. I brought home their science notebooks to do a notebook check just because I didn't want to have to rush to do them in the morning. So far I have been very pleased with how well they have kept up with them. I also wanted to perfect my plans for next week. I have a full day sub tomorrow even though I will be in the building (in fact, I'll be right outside my classroom!). I plan to still arrive at 7 so I can finish up a few things (filing and such that I can't do at home) and prepare the classroom for the sub. The sub plans are all set to go, I just want to change the daily agenda and things since the kiddos are so used to it being up and know to look for it.

I am so hopeful that they do a good job tomorrow with their first sub. I have found in the past that it is hard for some kids to keep it together with a sub. This year, really, it is only 3 kids I need to worry about. And I warned them all that if I heard any commotion in the classroom, since I'll be right outside, or find out that anyone was goofing around, they will not be able to participate in our classroom reward for filling our token bucket. That threat was more for the three boys I have who just don't think they have to follow the rules. The three of them are some of the most annoying kids I've ever had.


I refused, however, to let their immaturity ruin my good day. The Oldest even mentioned to me tonight as we were making dinner how nice it was to see me come home from my job happy and bubbly again. I have to admit, it is really nice!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

And they just get crazier....

Wow. I heard something today that just made my head spin.

We spent pretty much the entire morning on our standardized testing. It was one LONG test. Holy cow. Mrs. Reading Teacher offered to help proctor my class. It isn't that she felt like I couldn't do it, but she feels like I am the odd one out because I don't have a TA/Student teacher to help monitor the class. We had a testing session from about 8:50 - 10ish, then the children had a restroom break and recess. After recess we had a snack for them and started the second part of the test at 11. The first part was SO long. I felt really bad for two of my ELL kids who just didn't have the stamina to keep going with that big test. I sure hope they did okay because they were feeling stressed and I hate that.

First thing this morning, after announcing our schedule for the day, I sent the children off to use the restroom before we started since they can't get up and leave during the test. Mrs. Reading Teacher commented that she really liked my manner with the children. She said I don't talk down to them, I just talk to them like they are people and she got the sense that they really respond well to me. This is a great compliment for two reasons a) it reaffirms that I freaking rule (*wink*) and b) I'm sure she'll report back to Mrs. Principal about what she sees in my classroom because she's in such a leadership role in our school. I do really enjoy my students this year and I think that shines through in my interactions with them.


During lunch, however, I heard the most preposterous thing I have ever heard. One of the fourth grade teachers was telling us that yesterday when Mrs. Principal and Mrs. Coach were doing some informal walk throughs), they were flabbergasted to find that her students were doing coloring on a math sheet. Apparently Mrs. Principal's boss (whom we all refer to as the Wicked Witch...because she is not a nice person, at all), would have a hairy canary if she saw any of us having children color because "your students are too low to be allowed to color". Even if it is for math. It gets better. Apparently, in schools like ours that are on the priority list, even 1st grade teachers are told their students are not allowed to color.

What? Are you serious? That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard in my life. Of course, this woman was fired from being a principal in our district but now is in charge of all of the principals. So clearly she is an incompetent moron yet she's going to tell me how to do my job. I think what bothers me the most is that she is also in charge of the ELL department....and the SIOP training they've had people go to states that you should allow students to color and/or draw to show what they have learned. Can anyone say "contradiction"?

Then this teacher said that Mrs. Principal told her that this higher up person actually stopped a teacher, in the middle of a lesson, to chastise something she wasn't doing right. I have to say, she better not ever do that to me...because I will gladly lose my job to tell that woman that a) I am trying to teach here and b) don't interrupt me. I can't even imagine having the gall to do that to someone. As Mr. 4/5 split put it so eloquently, this woman must've had a really bad childhood.


I am not going to change how I am teaching. I know that what I do with my students makes them better readers, better writers and overall better students. If the Wicked Witch thinks she can do better, I'll be happy to stand aside and let her....but she wouldn't accomplish anything because the children wouldn't respond to someone who was so cold and absolutely unfeeling.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Efficiency

This week, we start our dreaded standardized testing. I hate standardized testing. I almost feel like, in the 5 weeks we have been in school, all we have done is test, test and test! It's beyond ridiculous. Along with our standardized testing this week, we are supposed to progress monitor our kiddos in DIBELs and the new DAZE part of the DIBELs. I was seriously wondering how the heck I was going to get all of that done with the testing going on this week.

Thank goodness for Mrs. Resource. She offered to help me Progress Monitor my kiddos this week so it would get done. She started pulling them around 9 this morning and I helped for a bit after recess (we borrowed a neighboring student teaching to babysit my class for a little while). We got my entire 30 student class done before 11:30. It was quite wonderful actually. I spent a few minutes at lunch inputting that data. We have a shared drive at our school that we upload our data to which is kind of nice. All but one of my students went UP on their fluency (the one who went down a bit is my lowest ELL student so this wasn't surprising or discouraging)...and many of the children made great gains with their retell. It made me feel good since I often feel like I just can't do it all for 30 kids and do it well.

As I took my children down to lunch today, I was going to turn in the DAZE test that I gave this morning. I did it with my class and the 4 fifth graders that I take from the split for math. I knew it would be a pain for him to do it with those kids separately so since I was doing it today anyway, I just decided to do it while they were there with me. Mrs. Reading Teacher was coming up the stairs as we were going down, so she turned around and walked with us and asked me if I needed any help with my progress monitoring. She seemed really surprised when I told her I was done. I said that Mrs. Resource offered to help me since I don't have a student teacher and would've had to do it all myself. Mrs. Reading Teacher was so happy that Mrs. Resource stepped up to help me. Then she asked me about the DAZE and I said "oh, I have them here, done and ready to turn in".

She was so funny about it. She said "Oh my goodness, Mrs. Sunny, you are just SO efficient!" I laughed and said it was more like get it out of my hair so I can concentrate on our testing this week!


I really hate proctoring our standardized testing. I hate how it makes the kiddos feel nervous and such. Plus I just don't like the pressure I feel is on ME even though I've barely had 4-5 weeks to get these kids ready. I am confident that most of my kiddos will do okay though. I think the science part will be the worst....but their reading and math scores should (hopefully) be okay. I will cross my fingers. We usually don't get the results until March/April, which is way too late to do anything with the information anyway. I heard today that last year the results were in by mid-November but the state didn't release them until March and our district then held on to them another month. How stupid is that?? Instead of giving us the data so we could, oh I dunno, use it and help these children where they are weak, they just held on to them for months and months. (And do we really have to wonder then why education seems to be on a downward spiral?!)


Probably the only really good thing about the testing this week is that tomorrow will be the easiest teaching day of my life. I am proctoring the test all morning with our recess break in the middle of the two sessions. After lunch I will teach a 40 minute working with words session, then we'll have read aloud/SSR and the kiddos will go to art. It'll be a real hard day for sure! *wink*


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Changes

I always know it will be a good year when I am making changes and reorganizing my classroom environment after about 4-6 weeks of school. My new friend came yesterday and so far seems okay except that they seem to think that school starts at 10. Today he missed the entire math lesson. Not so good.

We rearranged our seating for what seems like the millionth time since school started but I am much happier with it. Since I moved my meeting area to the front, the groups of 6 is much easier to deal with. Since the standardized testing starts next week, I decided we needed to be back in groups where I can put up small dividers at each seat while they are testing and be done with it.

The kiddos are pretty good natured about the seating changes. I think they have realized that I move things when I feel like what we currently have isn't working. I also made a few changes to our library area so I could put all of the books together in one area. It looks much better now and there is room for more books. I like that.  Plus now the window area is free again. I am going to go ahead and make a CAFE board and put it on the window with the DDI quick shots tubs underneath on the sill. I think it will look really good and be much more functional.

I hope to take some updated pictures of my room by next week and share them. My room definitely looks more "lived in" now :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lows and Highs

Today was the weirdest day I have ever had as a teacher, I think. It was just bizarre. We met as a grade level before school to do some planning for next week since our standardized testing starts. Then I got called to the office to meet with a parent. She was upset that her daughter is being bullied and whatnot. She even mentioned how this "only" happens to this child in our district. Now, I think her daughter is a great kid. She's funny, she's helpful and she's sweet. She's also one of my highest kids and I do like her a lot personally. However, she isn't little miss innocent either. She has been witnessed by other teachers to be an instigator in some ways.

But I listened to the parent's concern, talked to the student and assured mom I would get to the bottom of it with the boy in question (who was allegedly putting his fist up to this girl and calling her nasty names -- I have no way to prove he did or didn't but I do have to investigate it). So when I went out to get the children, I pulled this boy aside and asked him about it. Notice that I said "asked", not "accused". He told on himself by saying "I never did that to [name of student]" when I never mentioned her name. When I told him that he was going to be suspended from being our hall monitor for today until I got to the bottom of the situation, he flew off the handle and said "I didn't F---ING do anything!" in front of about 45 witnesses. Priceless.

So I sent him to the office and took the rest of my class upstairs. Mrs. Resource was wonderful and watched my students for a moment so that I could go down and deal with Mr. Foul Mouth. Mrs. Principal was fabulous when I met with her about it. I said this is one thing I will not tolerate from a student and she said she completely agreed and would suspend him if that's what I wanted. I can't tell you what a shock that was! Last year I would have been told how I needed to learn to "make a connection" with the student. Whatever! I can put up with a lot...being cussed at by a 10/11 year old is not one of them. In the end, we went with a warning and a drop in level on our school-wide system but I can't describe how nice it was to know that I had her support there. I even mentioned that I take care of my business and that if I'm going to come to her with that kind of stuff, it is because it is something I just can't tolerate. I think she appreciated my honesty but also that I know how to set my own boundaries about this.


After I got back upstairs to my class, thanking Mrs. Resource profusely because I made her late for her first group, I addressed the whole class because they were all there and heard what this student said (half the 4th/5th graders did!) and mentioned that if any of them EVER thought I would take that lightly to think again. It was interesting how many of them told me that if their parent found out they swore like that, they'd probably get soap in their mouth. My girls would! I know kids swear with their friends and such but to swear AT me....not going to happen.

They must've realized I meant business this morning because they were perfect all morning. It was kind of glorious actually. I even had a chance to slip into the hall and hang up some work while they were writing. They were dead silent in the room, even with the new kiddo, working. It was quite blissful.

We did a writing lesson last week on voice and learning how to use it by giving a personality to an inanimate object. It is a lesson idea I got from Trait Based Mini-Lessons. I have used it every year since I student taught and I love it. The children have so much fun with it. I put the best ones out in the hall on our door and the students were so proud. Are they the best writing ever? No, but the voice is definitely there which is what I was going for.

And to top today off, at one point in class, I was talking to the students about the rotations we are going to be starting for reading after the standardized tests are over. I mentioned to them that I had some grants out there waiting for funding for materials and I was hopeful we'd get them funded soon in order to get the ball rolling with our rotations. The kids were excited about that when I told them about the grants. After school I got an email that one of my proposals (they are both at Donor's Choose), received a $300 donation from one person! I couldn't believe it! And the other one has less than $100 to go. I am so excited to see how long it takes to get the rest of the funding because I think the kiddos will LOVE these materials and it will make such a difference for me in terms of how much I feel like I can help my ever-growing class!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And then there were 30...make that 34.

I was informed this afternoon I a getting a 30th student tomorrow. That means during math, I'll have 34 students.

When I heard this, all I honestly wanted to do was put my head down and cry. The sad news is, this isn't even the worst of it. I know people with 42 8th graders in one class (I can't even imagine!). How can this district continue to squeeze us in like sardines and then DEMAND amazingly perfect benchmark results?? Riiiight.

I was talking to Mrs. Literacy Coach this afternoon and just let it out that I felt overwhelmed, frustrated and seriously doubtful of my ability to do the best job I can with that many students. She was so wonderful and said "Sunny, first of all you haven't been complaining at all because I would've heard about it and you're doing SO well. The fact that you're unhappy about this suggests that you're a fabulous teacher." It made me feel a little better and I did have to chuckle and say that I do think I'm pretty fabulous but I'm ONE person. I can't work a miracle! Not with kiddos who came to me as 5th graders reading at a first grade level. If I had 15 or 17 kiddos that low, hell yeah I could rock it with getting them to benchmark. With 30?!

My head spins to even think of it.

I'm so sad :(

Monday, October 4, 2010

Oh the stress!

This morning, Mrs. Resource asked me if I was interested in taking a half day with her and Mrs. Cooperating Teacher so that we could do some planning regarding our MAP tests and the new program we got to help us use the data. My initial reaction was a big fat NO. I'm not ready to have a sub yet this year. No, no, no!

Mrs. Resource sensed my hesitation, big time, because she back-tracked and said 'well you don't have to join us, we could just fill you in if you're really not comfortable'. I didn't want to appear to be a complete basketcase but I have to admit, I am having massive anxiety about having a sub. Even just for a half day. Why? Because having a sub last year meant hell on Earth. My students last year came to me with a reputation for being absolutely ruthless with subs (we'd had subs walk out before lunch before because that group was so nutty with subs). Usually if I was out for anything -- which was a lot last year with meetings and crap -- it took me at least two days to get them back in order and on track. It was awful.

So yeah. I have a little anxiety about that. Especially because we tend to get less-than-stellar subs in our district. Firstly because the naughty children are the ones the subs remember and they tell their friends who tell their friends and so on to avoid XYZ school at all costs. I know that in the few months that I was a daily sub, it was the same for me. If I had a super tough class, I would avoid that class or teacher if at all possible (sometimes even the school depending on the support I did or didn't receive from the staff when there were issues). I think a big problem is, our district is the only one who doesn't require that you be certified to sub. So we get people who think teaching is just "so easy" and have no idea what they are doing coming into the classrooms.

I know many of my former colleagues have always just left busy work when they are out. Personally, I am of the idea that I can't afford to lose a full day of learning because I have to be out. I just can't. We have so much pressure on us as it is that I can't afford to pull out some BS busy work just to keep the kids occupied while I'm gone. Won't happen! That's another thing...if you get a crappy sub, that hard work of putting together a day of quality learning in your absence was just wasted.


I'm not happy about this but at the same time, I realize that I need to be at that meeting, otherwise decisions are going to be made without my input and that isn't going to make me happy at all. AT ALL. I feel almost like my placement there is a big of a rocking the boat thing because I do challenge their thinking a little and I don't think that is bad. Mrs. CT constantly says to me that she doesn't know how I get through everything in the time I have....firstly I'm used to huge blocks of instructional time because I have had that for 4 years! Secondly, I realize what these kiddos need and we get to it. I'm not saying she doesn't know what she's doing...but I do think that she sometimes is so stuck on what she's always done that she isn't willing to push the envelope a bit.

At any rate, as I type my first sub note for 2010-2011, my heart is beating a little fast which is kind of crazy! It will work out and be okay. I do have a good group this year. It is just the unknowns and the scariness of it that is bothering me. I want my class to be good and successful this year and there are just some things I can't trust someone else to do with them...because I know they won't do it like I would.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sleep

Last year when I was still at Former School, we always did a Secret Santa type thing during the holidays. Being the sarcastic cat that I am, on the line that said "hobbies", I wrote "sleeping". So my secret santa bought me pajamas. I actually adore them.

One of my mantras last year became that my goal was to be home, in pjs, by 4:30 each day. Obviously it didn't always happen but I would usually change into my soft pjs within 15 minutes of being home, whenever that might be. I also often spent entire weekends in pjs unless I had to go somewhere.

My therapist told me last spring that that is a sign of depression. Depressed people sit around in pjs and feel exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed. So after that, since I was no longer at Former School, I made it a point to get dressed every day. Occassionally, on the weekends I would still spend part of (or most of) a day in pjs, just relaxing.

Yesterday whilst out shopping with The Youngest, I found some super soft fleece sweatpants for $6 each. So I bought a couple pair figuring they would be perfect for lounging but they aren't technically pjs so it's fair game...right?


It isn't a secret I have felt overwhelmed recently. I thank my stars every day for the medication my doctor put me on in February because I honestly don't think I could make it right now without it. I can definitely tell when it's close to time to take it because I feel different (in a bad way) without it. Teaching is a stressful job and while I have an amazing class, for the most part, this year, I do still feel a lot of pressure from the idiots that run our district to do this/that and the other thing PERFECTLY and get every kid to benchmark (which sorry when they are in 5th grade and at a 1st grade level...I'm fabulous but I'm not a miracle worker!).

I slept about 12 hours Friday night which is pretty typical for me. I go to bed early and sleep until I'm ready to get up and The Husband is really awesome with it since he knows I put in many hours outside of my contract time in order to do the best I can for my students. But after that I took a 3 hour nap yesterday afternoon and slept 12 hours last night. I never do that. So something is definitely up. I think it has something to do with another medication the nurse prac put me on and I am going to get ahold of them because this is not going to work for me. I feel unproductive when I sleep that much (because you can't do much when you sleep all day!) and I don't like feeling like that.

I am enjoying my job this year and I don't want anything else to take away from that. If that means ceasing some medication for a bit then that is what I am going to have to do. While I do like sleep, I don't want to sleep my life away!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Oh Friday, I ♥ you!

I left work today at 3:40 (kiddos dismiss at 3:10) after a quick parent meeting with nothing in my hands. I didn't bring home a darn thing to grade, plan or do! It doesn't mean I won't do any school work this weekend (I can plan my writing in about 30 minutes from home) but I didn't bring any paperwork home. Considering I probably will only spend about 30 minutes of this whole weekend doing any planning...that's good.

I'm tired. So much is going on at work (good things) and I feel overwhelmed. Our standardized tests are just around the corner and I feel a lot of pressure from the morons who run my district (many of whom have never been in a classroom except as a student) to be THE BEST. As if I have time to do some of these certain things when it's just me. I don't. I decided today that I just needed some down time this weekend.

I realized before that I'm not doing ANY extra work this year and not in grad school and I can't believe that I actually did all that stuff!! I feel overwhelmed and overworked now and I'm NOT doing any of those jobs. It's crazy. Makes me really realize my depression/anxiety was a long time coming.


Tonight is the homecoming game in town and tomorrow I plan to spend 90% of my day in pjs watching TV!! I can't even remember the last time I actually watched TV in the last two weeks except for watching Time Bandits with my kids last weekend. I deserve to be lazy and just enjoy  my weekend for once.