Monday, January 31, 2011

Um, have you BEEN in my class this unit??

I really am starting to H-A-T-E Everyday Math. I've never minded it before.

This year, I hate it. I'm not sure if my students this year are all just completely inept at math or what but holy man.

I'm thinking perhaps subconsciously I left my file tote at school Friday so I didn't have to face these tests. I mean SERIOUSLY. They can't follow a simple direction that says "Write three equivalent fractions". Some gave me 1, some gave me percents and some gave me decimals. Considering this is the first question on the test, it's just not good.

The more I grade the more I wonder if I have been alone in my classroom teaching. I mean, really? AND they got to use a reference folder to help them and they STILL don't get it.

ARGH!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Procrastination

Whenever I do bring work home over a weekend, I never touch it until Sunday. Then I stress and wonder why I waited...yet I always do. Why are teachers so fickle?


Today's task is only so daunting because I left my science/social studies notes at school accidentally and thus can't map out the week's plans for those subjects. And secondly, I decided it was high time to change up my reading program. I love the idea of Daily 5 and whatnot but I'm just not sure how that would work with our requirement to use a basal which I hate (although the district has promised -- many times now -- that no matter what, we'll have a new reading program next  year...it's still going to be a basal but it's not going to be 10 years old which should help).

Anyway so I was doing some perusing at my favorite place Amazon.com and was viewing "Practice with Purpose". Realizing I could probably get it at the bookstore which has a teacher discount and save myself a hassle of waiting 3 days to get it in my hands, I could get it today. So I did. And only spend $2 more to have it in my hands now. I know this is not something I am going to be able to throw together overnight but I also know that I need to change things up in my reading program to accommodate my kids who have made HUGE gains and help the kiddos who are still SO far behind.

So I shall be spending some time this week reading through it and slowly integrating the work stations. I am thinking that I will be able to do this for my Working with Words block and my Guided Reading and that'll be about an hour a day which should (hopefully) work. I just know that I have been unhappy with my reading instruction all year because I truly HATE the basal...and it makes it too easy to get lazy and just follow the plan in the book, which obviously does not help all kiddos. So it's time to change that up to help my kids and help me feel like I'm getting to the lower kids who need more intervention.

[Side rant: when you've got kids in FIFTH GRADE who are reading at a 1st/2nd grade level and  you have a para for 30  minutes a day during SOCIAL STUDIES...how is that helpful?? Why is it that we are more or less threatened with the notion that we BETTER show achievement for ALL kids when they get all the way up to us and can't read?! What is wrong with our society that it is seen as OKAY to just keep passing children who clearly need more intervention and support?!]

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Retail Therapy

Like most ladies, I love to shop. Specifically I really like to shop online, in my pajamas!

Since I'm still sort of in a funk, I did a bit of online retail therapy today.

Really Good Stuff always has weekend We-Treats where you get 20% off certain products. This weekend they have pocket chart items on sale. So I ordered one of these:

We're required to list our daily objectives and I have a write-on/wipe off chart from RGS but it gets really icky quickly and this will be easier because I can just laminate a few blank sentence strips and use those over and over with less of a icky build-up on them.

And since we've got a Poetry Unit coming up, I bought one of these because I think it is adorable and will be a fun way to display our finished work.


Plus I made a final payment on my Old Navy card and bought myself some adorable kitty checks since I have like 4 checks left. I got them at VistaPrint because you can get stuff so cheap there (although the shipping is outrageous). I only ordered 25 because I write so few checks -- I've had this account for 5 1/2 years and I am still on the original set. But they are cute and I had some cash to blow so I did.

Amazing how spending money makes you feel better.


Friday, January 28, 2011

A New Day

I felt like a Miss Cranky Pants all day today and had kind of a short fuse today. I didn't scream at my kiddos or anything but I feel like I wasn't very nice to them (repercussions of yesterday's emotional episode). We had an activity with the local university but the professor didn't have any helpers so what should have been a really fun activity for my kids (and me) turned out to be a huge headache for me. I lost my patience with the kiddos a couple of times and I feel bad about it now. I am going to be honest with them on Monday and say I was having a bad day and apologize if it seemed like I was being overly harsh because that's not fair to them. We'll wipe the slate clean with a new week and go from there. I'm sure they don't think it is a big deal at all but I feel like I owe it to them to keep it real because they deserve that.

Another reason our project became a huge headache is because we are drilled to be academic, academic, academic all the time. So if anything remotely fun happens outside of say art or PE, the kiddos don't know how to handle it. Isn't that sad? Once I realized that was a big part of the reason I was so frustrated today, I knew I had to apologize to my class. I wasn't screaming at them or anything but my patience wasn't what it usually is and it totally wasn't their fault.



We took our math MAP test today and all but 2 of my kiddos showed growth. I was really happy about that. Two went down (big time, like 8 and 10 points). I'm upset by that because they're both resource kiddos and I feel like we've jumped through hoops for them and to see them go backward is discouraging (although one of my resource kids made a HUGE jump so that made me feel a bit better since this kiddo has more or less flatlined recently). Next week sometime, without announcing it to them beforehand, we're going to have a pizza party or something to celebrate their hard work because they felt SO much pressure on these tests and they need to be rewarded for making me and themselves look good!


A really good thing that happened today was after school, Mrs. Cooperating Teacher, who was in a school improvement meeting all day, told me that Mrs. Principal asked her to be Miss New Teacher's mentor (required by the state that they have a mentor for 3 years). She said she wanted that title to be MINE because if you go to the meetings, it's a paid position and she said "Sunny has already been mentoring Miss New Teacher, without anyone even asking her to, she jumped right in to help her because that's the kind of teacher she is". I really appreciated those compliments and the other things she said. Unfortunately the mentor has to be tenured which I am not so Mrs. CT said she would agree to be listed as the mentor but if any money is paid out, she wants it to go to me. I thought that was so sweet of her. It made me feel really good. We all got an email from Mrs. Principal telling us that it has to be Mrs. CT and whatnot but she also said she really appreciates how we've all stepped in to help each other and be supportive. It's nice to work on a real team and feel like you're making a positive impact, not just for the kids but for the adults too.


So in the end, yesterday was crap and today was a bit better. I'll have to weekend to get myself back together and start fresh with my kiddos Monday. I know that once the testing pressure is behind us, things will go back to normal -- or as close to normal as you can get as an elementary teacher!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Today, I feel sad :(

I must be having a moment because really, I'd like nothing more than to put my head down and cry at the moment (thank you Depression -- appreciate it).

Today was shit from the word go. We meet as a grade level on Thursday mornings. Toward the end of our meeting today I got a page from the principal. So I call her office and she informs me that Psycho Momma is coming up to school Hot-to-Trot because her daughter yet again went home telling Momma stories that she never bothered to tell anyone else at school about (namely me). So Momma is ticked at me for something I didn't even know about. Thank goodness Mrs. Principal knows me better than that crap and she was totally on  my side...but we also agreed that we are sick and tired of this child going home and telling her mom crap that either usually isn't true or is blown out of proportion (because it's AMAZING how the story changes when I'm there because I don't buy into her BS like her mom does and she knows it).

Then I had to confront another kid who has been cussing at girls and saying really inappropriate things. So that's how my day started out. It just set the tone. The kids were good and everything and we had a pretty decent day but I was cranky and on edge from starting the day that way. Things went okay until about 3 o'clock.

Miss New Teacher doesn't yet have a set of social studies texts. We only had one classroom set anyway so Mrs. Cooperating Teacher and I split them and have our kids partner read with them. I offered to let Miss New Teacher's kids use ours in the afternoon since I am teaching SS in the morning. Her kids came to bring them back to our room this afternoon and my kids were organizing them so I could put them away. They came to me in a mad rush, really upset because there was writing on two of the books and they discovered some ripped pages. I was LIVID because a) these books are MY responsibility and I KNOW my kids didn't do it (because I check the books daily as I put them up on the shelf) and b) we let them borrow them so they didn't get more behind in curriculum and that's how they repaid us. I was SUPER pissed. She felt bad but it wasn't her fault -- these are 5th graders and they know better!

To end this fabulous day, I had to walk a kid out to his mom's vehicle and inform her of the  negative things her child is choosing to do in school. She wasn't happy and I don't blame her. I hate getting kids in trouble but it was necessary. It made me feel like a big ball of poo poo though.


And if all that wasn't enough to make a day horrible, The Husband and I did our taxes tonight and we have to pay both Federal and State this year because of my leave of absence and disability pay (they don't take federal or state taxes out). The Husband informed me that it was FINE because he put away money in case we had to pay but it was just the last straw. I feel really sad and bad and I don't like it at all.

The only upside is, it has been at least 2 1/2 months, maybe even 3, since the last time I had a depressive episode that left me feeling so bad.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It was the gum!

I am so happy to say that my students ROCKED that MAP test today! We had our testing between recess and lunch. Mrs.  RTI called me and said the lab was ready if we wanted to come a few minutes early. Of course we did! So the kiddos stuck their gum in their mouths, we talked about how we promised to take care of it, blah blah and off we went.

Because we were a bit early and our lunch doesn't start until 12:10, we actually had a bit more than an hour for testing which was awesome. Each student's report from the fall provided a "target RIT' for them to meet at the next testing. So I put those individual numbers on small sticky notes for the  kiddos and told them to put that number in their brains -- this was the number they wanted to see when the finished test screen came up. I will never again underestimate the power of positive thinking. I told those kids SO MANY TIMES over the last couple of weeks, and really pushed that on them yesterday and today before the test that they were smart and yes they could do this!

Of my 23 friends, 15 of them exceeded that target number I gave them! Some by only a point or two but who cares! The look on their little faces when they saw those numbers above the number I gave them was priceless. I wish I could've captured them for posterity because it was so awesome to see their joy and their pride. Of my special ed kiddos, all of them went up and 4 of them also exceeded their targets. This is really awesome and I am definitely thinking we need to be partying to celebrate this awesome accomplishment.

In addition, I had a young man who transferred from the school that closed last year. I LOVE this child, he is really sweet, loves to learn, is polite and definitely the son I never had. He's just awesome. When he came to us in September, he could barely write in English. So he got zeros on his assessments and things because they have to be in English (even if I could read Spanish, based on how the scoring works, they'd've still been zeros). Well, this friend of mine went from a 0 on his writing assessment to a 3 (out of 4) and on his MAP test, he improved 40 RIT points! That's unheard of. My jaw nearly dropped on the floor. The smile on that child's face when I showed him his former score to his new one was the epitome of the reason why I can't leave my district. For all it's faults, helping a child like him making such an amazing growth, in only half a year no less, was amazing. On top of that, his lexile range was "BR" (beginning reader) in September and now is up over 560...that is a tremendous growth to make. My non-ESL kids aren't making that kind of growth.

I was SO proud of him that I asked him if he minded if I shared his success with the class. I didn't want to do it without his permission because I didn't want to embarrass him but he knows I would never purposely do something like that to make a kid feel bad so he said okay. The entire class clapped and cheered for this boy when I shared the news with them. I wanted to cry at their compassion and understanding of how big of a deal that was for this friend of ours.

I am one darn lucky teacher to have these amazing children in my class and in my life. They have taught me so much about myself as a teacher, about why I needed to leave my last classroom and how good things come to those who wait (good karma as my therapist would say).

I went down and told Mrs. Principal about our preliminary results and said "see, it was the gum!" and she just laughed and said "whatever works, let's keep doing it!"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yes, my face is pink!

Apparently our Persuasive Letters were better than I thought. Mrs. Principal has been bragging about them to other teachers in our school! That makes me feel really good. Especially because our 2nd round of MAP testing starts tomorrow and I am paranoid that they are going to go backward like last year.

Every 1st and 3rd Monday we have contracted meetings -- the 1st one is actually a staff meeting and the 3rd one is for grade level collaboration (ie data). Last Monday was 3rd Monday and we were off for MLK so we all agreed to have it today instead.

Mrs. Principal, Mrs. Literacy Coach and Mrs. RTI joined our grade level for part of our time. And Mrs. Principal said at least twice how great the letters were and how impressed she was with their writing. Go me!

I was starting to feel a bit embarrassed by how much they gushed! But at least I know that I'm doing something good with these kiddos. Tomorrow they get to chew gum for the MAP and hopefully it'll help them relax enough to do their best!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Some Parents...Seriously

Apparently, as I was massively enjoying my Personal Day on Wednesday, some things were going down at work with two of my boys. Both of these boys are resource and both have...issues. One is very sweet and does well, but is LD and struggles to read/write (and that makes it hard for him because he knows he's low and he hates turning in work). The other is just....well, he has issues.

I guess sometime on Tuesday, Mr. Massive Issues' mom posted on Facebook that she was leaving her husband and her two sons to go live with her 23 year old boyfriend. This mom is way weird. She creeps me out big time. She coddles that boy SO much (to the extent that she does his homework) and she sits with him in the breakfast room. He's 11! So when I heard about this Thursday after returning to work, I first wondered how she would just cut and run when she babies this boy the way she does (I mean, really sometimes I want to check to see if the cord has been cut -- that's how much she babies this child). On top of that, she had the nerve to leave me a message at school asking me to let Mr. Massive Issues know that even though she isn't with his dad anymore, she loves him (the child) and will see him soon, blah blah. I deleted that message and didn't tell him she had called. Sorry but this child is already struggling sooo much with her just up and leaving that I can only imagine it would have caused a huge meltdown if he realized she had called and he didn't get to talk to her. I was really pissed that she was trying to bring me into the midst of their drama. Um, no. On top of that, she left these boys with their alcoholic father who can barely fend for himself, let alone take care of them. Lord have Mercy, this is one that Mrs. Resource and I are working hard to get someone else involved with because it is just a hot mess. There is no other way to describe it.


My other boy, Mr. Quiet and Shy, is new to our school this year. He is LD and very sweet. I like him a lot. Recently, however, he has been missing school like crazy. (15 days in the last two months!) Turns out, his parents' divorce was just final and he's been struggling with that for a long time. He has depression which breaks my heart because I know how hard it has been for me to deal with and I'm in my 30s! He's just a kid. At any rate, Mrs. Resource had his IEP on Wednesday afternoon. She had forgotten that I had taken that day off but said she was going to hold it anyway because we're pretty much on the same page with where we think our young friend is. He is GREAT with math (although he struggles with some of the directions because he can't read well) and has done very well until the last couple of months when he's really flatlined and the absences are sky-rocketing.

Turns out that dad is now living with someone else and moved this woman and her children into the neighboorhood so they all go to our school also. Mr. Quiet and Shy is NOT taking this well because  his dad more or less ignores him and when he does give him attention, he dismisses the struggles the child has. Basically he says that depression doesn't exist, there is no way the child is depressed or has learning issues and it's the mom's fault for not being a better parent.

Um, what? So this child is hurting. Big time. And I feel bad for him and his mom who is clearly trying to do the best she can by this boy. Yesterday, Mrs. Resource told me that mom came up again and they all had a chat with Mrs. Principal about what's been going on and Mrs. Principal said she hated to say this because we love Mr. Quiet and Shy (and she wasn't lying -- everyone does love him), but she wondered if moving him to another school where he didn't have to see his dad's girlfriends kids there would be better. I would be so sad if this kiddo moved to another school BUT I also want to see him succeed. He has it in his brain -- he does. He's SO smart, he just can't decode words and get them to come out right in his mind. He reminds me so much of Middle Child because she is the same way -- math is her strong point and she can memorize science/social studies information like there is no tomorrow but words are hard for her.


I think Mr. Quiet & Shy's mom should be given a medal. Clearly the woman has been through a lot and is trying to provide her son (and older children) with a better life. I think Mr. Massive Issues' mom should be kicked in the behind and have her parental rights completely revoked because she clearly doesn't understand the damage she is doing.

Why are parents today so....???

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Power of Persuasion

One of our 5th grade writing expectations is for the students to practice writing a persuasive letter or essay. This is often a hard thing for children of this age to do because they don't see a reason behind it.

So for this group, I turned it around. We talked a lot about things that we might want to change. When we first started the assignment, we came up with three possible scenarios we could try to convince someone to change. One was getting me to assign less homework (not that I really assign much), one was getting the school board to reinstate full-year art/music (we get art half a year, then music half a year...it's majorly lame) and the last one was getting our principal to let us put a pop/candy machine in the school for the students. Clearly I knew the last one would never happen but it was a fun idea for the kids.

Interestingly enough, that last one sparked a discussion about gum at school. We've banned gum at school because of the messes (gum on the floor, in sinks, etc). The kiddos were talking about how they wanted to be able to chew gum during big tests because it makes them relax and be able to concentrate on the test better. So we decided to make our final letters to our principal asking her to let our class have gum for the MAP test and any big tests I give in the room.

We worked on them last week and on Friday, we wrote our final letters and I put them in her  mailbox before I went home. She was out on Tuesday and I was out yesterday but she stopped in to my room yesterday and told the kiddos that she'd read their letters to her boys and they all voted to see if the kiddos had really managed to be persuasive. And because they took the time to write the letters as well as set standards if they were granted their request, she said yes.

It was great. They were so excited to tell me this morning when I saw them. It was the best kind of teachable moment because the kids realized if they really wanted something, they just had to be able to provide reasons WHY they wanted it. Plus last week Mrs. Principal had stopped into our room while we were working and we gave her a bit of heads up about it and it was perfect -- she jumped right into the lesson and ran with it.

I loved that. She also emailed me later and said it made her miss teaching SO much. That made me feel really great. I'm so proud of those kids. Plus, she told me later today that we are the ONLY class who asked for that privilege so no one else but us gets to do it. The kids and I talked about that too and I said we had to make sure that we didn't abuse it or we'd lose it.

I really love my job!



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I love you

Sometimes we just need to say to ourselves, "I love you".

And today, love myself I did. The Husband, understanding why I took this day for myself when I knew no one else was going to be around, said he would get the kiddos around by himself this morning. You have no idea how rare that is. He takes them to school every day but I get up with them, get their breakfast, have them get dressed, etc. So when he offered to let me sleep in, I totally jumped on it.

It was wonderful! I was awake of course because getting an 8 and 9 year old around in the morning is not a quiet task by any means but I was able to stay in bed and go back to sleep. I slept in later than I thought I would but I had ZERO guilt about it. It was great!

Spent some time online after I got up, just messing around doing nothing really. Then I decided I needed to get on with my day. It was late enough by then that I could skip a "breakfast" and just go right to lunch. I took myself to Wendy's. I never go there because it's far away and kind of expensive but it was worth treating myself. Totally unhealthy but it was yummy! Caffeine FTW!

Then I took myself off to Target and bought some new sheets and a comforter for my room. Doesn't sound like much but our dog has taken to getting on our bed if we don't shut the door and he chews on the sheets sometimes (yes, he is annoying). Thus it was time to buy some nice, new sheets for the bed. It took me awhile to find some that I liked because I am not a fan of bright white sheets. I finally settled on a set that I liked and then for good measure bought another backup set of nice sheets.

After that it was a stop at the nail salon. Amazingly, I was the only person there when I walked in. That never happens. The gal was really great and I love my nails. I often do them myself from a box but I like these because they don't feel fake. And she kept telling me how baby-soft my hands were so that was kind of fun.

I got done at the nail salon early enough that I had some time to stop in the bookstore. I spent an hour leisurely perusing the bookstore because I could. It was pretty nice to not have someone with me asking me every 2 minutes if I was almost done. I almost didn't buy anything because most of my books these days are on my Kindle but I found a 50% off mini-calendar for my desk at school and a new Lisa Gardner book that was 25% off too.

To complete my afternoon of pampering, I stopped and visited with my friends Ben & Jerry who will be making a nice visit to my house this evening after dinner.

This day honestly could not have been any better!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We RAWKED it!

Today was the utmost in productivity. It was fabulous. The Oldest ended up with a snow day (SOO unfair!) but the rest of us had school. At first, I couldn't understand it. Then I went outside. It was so deep, the poor dog barely had room to squat to go without getting his backside stuck in the snow (to which The Husband, being male and therefore a species I will never understand asked me if he left butt marks in the snow....really, who thinks of weird stuff like that besides guys?!).

I had the best day. We got through some math, social studies, word study, writing and reading AND cleaned/moved our desks all before lunch! And didn't skimp on anything. We were rocking the curriculum today for sure.

We were inside at lunch so I put in a video since it seems to be the only way to really keep them under control. Afterward we did our read aloud and silent reading time, then more math and they got ready to go to their last art of the year (our district switched to half-year art/half-year music this year). One of the kiddos looked up from math when I announced it was time to clean up and said "MAN, where did today go?!"

It was great! Plus I had already made my sub note for tomorrow and everything so I just had to make a few copies and do some organizational type things and I was good to go. I'm SO glad I took tomorrow off. It is going to be lovely. I'm going to pamper myself and get my nails done, maybe a haircut and definitely lunch out.

I always tell my students if I know I'm going to be out. I know many teachers don't but I feel like I owe them that courtesy. Anyway I had told them a week or so ago that I was taking a class this semester because we were talking about pushing yourself to your potential and all of that. One of the kids asked me if I was going to be gone tomorrow because of my new class starting. One of the other kids piped up with "nah, she's probably going to stay home in pjs and drink her Diet Coke!"

It's almost scary how well those kids know me! ;)

Monday, January 17, 2011

To Do Lists

I don't know many teachers who aren't fans of To Do Lists. There are some, but they are few and far between.

I ♥ To Do Lists. I swear they are what got me through college and grad school! I had the joy of having today off (thank you super multi-cultural school district!) while my kids had school. Was I sad about that? Nope! I made myself a big ole To Do list and set about tackling it. Strike throughs indicate what I've finished up.

  • Input Report Cards
  • Grade the last ITTs
  • Grade Writing Prompts
  • Input all grades into Engrade
  • Finish Math Folders
  • Web updates (spec. curriculum)
  • Tracking Anxiety sheet for Middle Child
  • Neuropsych forms filled out
  • Make intervention lessons for Betty
  • Number the Stars Literature Unit (optional)

The math folders, psych forms and interventions will be finished up before 8 p.m. tonight without much issue. I'm pretty pleased with myself actually. It was a bit of a bumpy start but I was able to get everything that had to be done finished already so that is really awesome. Middle Child had an appointment with her counselor at 2:30 today so I had to pick her up early from school and knew I'd be waiting for a bit in the waiting room. So I brought my trusty Cascading File Tote with me and finished grading prompts while I was there. It was perfect and her counselor kind of chuckled and said I was definitely a teacher *wink*


This means I can go in tomorrow able to get things around for the rest of the week, and spend some time making copies and such for interventions, fluency practice and math homework. It's NICE to feel caught up (although I'm sure by this time tomorrow night I won't feel caught up anymore!). I was mentioning to a fellow teacher friend of mine how I need more days like this in my schedule -- a day to just sit at home alone and work at my pace. I got a lot more done than I would have if I was at school today.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Books

I finished up The Hunger Games triology last night. Clearly this is a series I would never recommend to my students because of their age (and to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't let The Oldest read it either if she was only in 7th or 8th grade) but I loved it. I was hooked from the word go and honestly it's been awhile since that has happened for me.

The last book was a lot slower than the first two but I was satisfied with the ending...happy even because as time went on, I felt like the other guy was kind of a jerk and I was glad Katniss didn't end up with him. He didn't seem to have her best interests at heart at all. It was all about the war for him.


In the end, I know some people in the Amazon reviews have mentioned they are distrubed that this is a book being geared toward upper middle schoolers and I would be hesitant there as well but I would let The Oldest read it now that she's in high school because I feel like she would be able to appreciate the themes in it more than she could have in middle school.

I can only hope that "The Girl Who...." series rocks my socks just as much because they're up next on my list after I finish the book I'm currently on.



I wish I could get my students this excited and hooked on reading!

Um...what??

Sometimes I just really don't understand some parents. I really don't. I have a young lady this year who is very bright but her mother is the kind of parent I just can't understand. What boggles me is that her mother acts like the most ghetto person ever (regardless of the color of her skin). I understand that she wants what is best for her child and strives to make sure her child is safe and protected in school. I totally get that because I'm the same way.

But since the beginning of the year, she complains about the stupidest things. This year we went with silent hallway expectations and on one of the first days, we had to go back down the stairs and walk back up because my class was so incredibly loud. This mom threw a fit saying it wasn't fair that her child had to do it because of a "few" (of course indicating that her daughter would never be talking when she shouldn't be). Once when Mrs. Cooperating Teacher was doing standardized testing review with my class, they were horrible. Just rude, disrespectful and not cooperating. So she took their recess and I backed her up. Mom threw a fit saying it wasn't fair to make everyone suffer because a few kids were being rude (again indicating that her child would never do anything wrong).

I've had parents like this before and mostly can get them to see reason to a point where I'm not getting notes and cranky phone calls all the time. This mom is something else though. Her daughter ordered an MP3 player from the Scholastic Book Club and her mom constantly gripes that it doesn't work. It works fine for me -- I can charge it and use it anytime she brings it in. I have to honestly wonder if it isn't user error because it makes zero sense that it would work for me but they're having so much trouble with it. So mom sends in a nasty note saying she wanted to return it and get her money back because it was a big headache. What made the note nasty was what she wrote on the bottom "just because it works for you doesn't mean it works for us".

Well, your attitude isn't going to get you much help sweetpea.


So fast forward to yesterday morning. Mrs. Principal left me a voicemail asking if I knew anything about a lunch incident with this young lady because mom had called and was so furious in he rmessage that Mrs. Principal could barely understand what she was saying. The kiddos were inside the gym in the morning so I stopped to chat with her about it a moment and said I hadn't heard anything but I would ask the child about it. When I did ask the young lady, she was very vague and couldn't really give me a big reason why her mom would call and be so mad. So I sent Mrs. Principal an email letting her know what I had found out and to let me know if I could be of other help.

Later I found out that mom called the district hotline to complain because the secretary came out of the office and yelled at the kids to "shut up". First of all, the child didn't mention that to me at all and second of all, I find it hard to believe. Mrs. Secretary is busy in that office, she doesn't have time to come out and yell at anyone first of all and second of all, Mrs. Principal is right within that vicinity -- she would have heard it. So we're both scratching our heads trying to figure out what the heck is going on. I'm kind of pissed because I feel like Mrs. Principal is being targeted for whatever reason by our district "powers that be" and this is just one more thing for them to get on her about -- when it probably didn't even happen.

There are things Mrs. Principal has done that I don't agree with but I also understand that's her job. She can't please everyone all the time. But when push comes to shove, she's always had my back and she supports our needs. That is definitely more than I can say for former principals I've had. It bothers me that she is catching the blame for what the child said was a minor incident and the mother is blowing up into some huge issue.

I just don't get it. What has become of our society that instead of sitting down like a rational person, getting all sides of the story and trying to figure out what really happened (and if the child is lying which clearly she is lying to someone here)....we just fly off the handle and go above everyone else and complain? And why is it that the district doesn't contact these parents and first and foremost say "have you addressed this with the school? No, well you need to and then we'll intervene if needed".

I'm literally just scratching my head over this because it makes no sense. I told Mrs. Principal I would ask this young lady again exactly what she said to her mom because obviously mom is really pissed and it's about way more than what the child told myself and Mrs. Principal had happened. I'm not sure anything will come of it other than mom getting furious with me but I refuse to stand by and let innocent people be taken to the carpet for something so minor that it barely warrants attention at all.

Do parents today not understand that when they step in to solve every single miniscule problem for their child that they are also creating a completely dependent person who is going to be unable to function in a regular society?!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Parents as Partners

Last year, it was a usual thing for me to come home from work so exhausted that I literally could've fallen asleep in my dinner. Much of this was, of course, emotional exhaustion from an abusive classroom situation and some of it was physical exhaustion from just being overworked.

This year that hasn't really been an issue which is such a nice change. Today, however, I did come home so mentally and physically exhausted that I fear I have been kind of a crab (sorry hunny!). The most obnoxious student I have has been exhibiting worse and worse behavior since we returned from break: mouthing off to the lunch aides, swearing at me under his breath when he thinks I can't hear and so on. Monday he mouthed off to two of the lunch ladies who are volunteers, they don't even get paid, and I'd had it. I put a call in to dad and after school today he came in.

Times like that make me hate being a teacher. The upside was, this father definitely realized that I was not the problem. I have had many experiences where it was my fault for whatever the child had done wrong. Dad was floored that I had called because of the two notes I'd sent home telling him how great his son's behavior was. My mouth nearly hit the floor and I said I hadn't sent home any notes. I'm sure by the astonished look on my face, dad knew I wasn't lying about that. The longer we were there, the more I was glad I wasn't going home in that young man's shoes. I would have never had the balls to fake a good note home from my teacher at that age.

The father was really supportive (we've definitely met like this before) and said that until the child turns around his behavior, he isn't doing any extracurricular. I felt kind of bad for him at first, but then I had to stop myself and think about how much crap I have put up with from that child that I haven't even burdened dad with because I can handle my classroom. It's just when it gets to the point that I want to kick this kid's behind that I have to get dad behind me. I hate making those kind of calls and things but man...I know this kid is going to be screwed in middle school. They won't put up with a smidgen of what I do and I think his dad realizes that.

I told this child that one of my professors in college told me that I was one of the only white people he had ever met who was truly color-blind. I don't look at people and see their skin color -- I see their personality and the worth they put out there for the world. I also said that one of the main reasons that I work in our district is because I love that diversity and I know those kids need me. I did something I have never done before. I gave this father my home and cell numbers in case he needed to get in touch with me about anything. Dad turned to the son at that point and said "don't you EVER say that Mrs. Sunny doesn't care about you or doesn't like you -- if she didn't, we wouldn't be standing here. She's just let you fail. She wouldn't be giving me her phone numbers so I can bother her on HER time."

It was a pretty powerful conversation. I meant everything I said. I don't like much of what our district does but I'm there for the kids -- even the ones like this young man who drive me up the wall on a continual basis. I'm just glad that this dad was supportive and on my side with it. I've had way too much experience with parents whose children are perfect saints in their eyes and couldn't have ever possibly done anything wrong.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Where's my snow?

As I read around the blogosphere, I can't help but be insanely jealous of those out there who are getting snow days lately. We haven't had any this year so far and I'm not a happy girl about it. I ♥ me some snow days! My first official contract year, we had 2 days off in a row because the windchill was -25 which is pretty crazy. The second day, I actually went to school and did some work because I was bored!

My district doesn't often cancel school. I swear they keep the kids in school so they can feed them. As mean as that sounds, it makes me mad. One time last year, we had a blizzard that kept most areas schools closed for 3 days in a row...but we had school. And I was driving over 30 minutes one way to get to work and often it was taking me 60 to get there those days. On the third day, after having had school but not having enough attendance (which means it was a snow day anyway), I'd had enough and called in the last day. My administrator wasn't happy but I wasn't going to put myself at risk again when my own kids were home.

We actually haven't had a ton of snow so far. Not as much as usual, which probably means March will be a bear.


In reality, I know that snow days often equal a big pain in the behind. We get backed up on things and it can be a nightmare (but our standardized testing is done in October so we don't have that stuff looming over us once the snow flies). Today, after hearing for the millionth time how some friends of mine in other parts of the U.S. have snow days (again), I just couldn't take it. And I put in a personal day request. I have only been out of my building one school day so far this year and that was when my grandmother passed away on November 1. Otherwise, I've been in the building every day.

I decided it was high time to take a day to myself. We don't have school for MLK and next Friday is a half day for the kidlets so we can finish report cards (as if anyway waits until Friday afternoon to do them.....). I decided to make my already short week even shorter and asked for Wednesday off. I'm sure Mrs. Principal will okay it since I haven't asked for any time off all year.

And I am already daydreaming about how to spend that day. I'll take most of MLK to do my report cards so that by Wednesday, I'll be free and clear to do whatever I please. I think I foresee a day of lounging in pjs in my future.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Website Fun

I've had a class website since I started teaching. I've made sure it gets used in the last couple of years by linking everything the kids use in computer lab to the site (it entices them to use it from home too because they've already seen it).

Over the winter break, the fabulous Ashley at ThistleGirl Designs had a 50% off coupon good for anything on the site. Since The Husband is the best husband ever, he let me buy a membership with the coupon, even though it was the day before Christmas because it knocked it down to $40 and it's good for the lifetime of the site (she's been around 10 years so I'm not too worried...).

At any rate, recently she has created what she calls EZChange Templates. Basically you create your website with the first template, which is cute in and of itself, and then each month she releases a new template if you want to change it up. It's called EZChange because all that changes are the images -- all of the other content stays exactly how you left it. This is great for someone like me because I like to change the pictures and things frequently (I get bored easily) but changing all of the pages manually takes forever. So Ashley is really my new hero I think.

I spent some time over the last couple of days working on my site, changing some of the content to reflect my new daily schedule and whatnot but I also uploaded her newest EZChange Template. It's probably too baby-ish for my 5th graders but I LOVE them, they are adorable.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Partners

This was probably the weirdest week so far this year. The students had clearly been off a schedule because they were like limp little noodles Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday, however, they had definitely woken back up! Wednesday was a weird day. We had a lock down drill (right at lunch no less -- could they plan them at any worse time?) and another incident so things were just weird. Then on Thursday we had the sewage issue which thankfully they got taken care of so there wasn't even a hint of any issue by Friday morning.

All in all, however, the slow-start and then the weird middle made this week feel like it was about 10 days long instead of only 5. On Thursday mornings, the 5th grade team meets to plan and make sure we're on the same page and whatnot so we get there early and then end up wasting time as everyone gets together and blah blah. Finally we agreed to say we're meeting at 7 but start at 7:30 because then we have time to make sure our rooms are ready and everything before we begin our planning.

Mrs. Cooperating Teacher and I have been switching for science and social studies and I have liked that. It is one less subject I have to teach each week and I thought it was going well. However, she claimed that she wasn't able to teach social studies to both her class AND mine each week. I'm not sure why. We have the same amount of time in our classrooms (minute-wise) and I was fitting it all in. In the end we agreed that last week would be it and I'd start teaching social studies to my own class and she'll teach science to hers. I know for a fact that she WON'T teach science to her kids but in the end...I feel like all I can do is worry about what is good for my own students since I am accountable for their learning.

I found myself kind of irritated about the whole thing, actually. She told me at the beginning of the year that every time she has tried to do team teaching, it never works out because of the other teacher. Yet this year, I am more than willing to continue to switch but she doesn't want to. It wouldn't really work to switch with Miss New Teacher because  of the class sizes (she wouldn't have enough seats in her room for my kids and I refuse to travel with the science kits because there are SO many materials). It will work out because I was able to rearrange my entire daily schedule to accommodate this change and it is going to be just fine. I just hate how she makes it sound like it is everyone else, when what I am finding is most of the time it is actually her.


In all, I am so glad it is the weekend again. I needed a bit of time to regroup myself and get ready for my new schedule. I usually end up changing something in my schedule around mid-year because it's the perfect time to do so and the kids usually flow well with the change this time of year also. In some ways it will be VERY nice to only teach my own kids all day again. As I said, ultimately they are who I am accountable for and they are who I owe 100% to on a daily basis, not anyone else's kids. It just makes me sad because I would love, in a real team-teaching situation, to teach certain things to both (or all 3) groups and only have to worry about that subject. Easier planning and you get to know all of the kiddos.

I know Mrs. Cooperating Teacher will probably retire in a year or two and with some younger teachers in there, perhaps a real team-teaching situation can happen. I love her to death and she is great but there are definitely things I am noticing now that I'm not a total newbie that I don't want to be part of.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Well, this is a first....

Today they cancelled the after school program in our building and ordered the staff out by 3:30 (we dismiss at 3:10). The reason?

The toilets and sinks on the ground floor were spewing up raw sewage. Gross.


It's been snowing on and off really hard all day and someone suggested a snow day....one of my colleagues said maybe we'll get a S--t Day instead because of the sewage issue. That was funny but the situation isn't. Those poor K/1 teachers. Ew!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Forget Monday....

In comparison, getting up this morning and getting going was about 20 times harder than doing so on Monday. I was just DRAINED. I didn't even stay up that late (I made it until 10 which makes me sound so lame) yet I was d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g this morning.


We have computer lab first thing on Wednesday morning. We start at 8:20 and lab is supposed to start at 8:30 but after announcments and the usual hubbub of the morning, we aren't usually down there until about 8:40 (it's a "teacher directed" special so it doesn't matter if we're late or miss it). The kids are mandated to use Study Island which makes computer time more of a chore than anything else and I hate that for them. I usually have them do a short Study Island activity and then let them go onto some websites that have a lot of good information to help them practice in their MAP target area for the NWEA/MAP test.

Today I assigned two short quizzes: one on fractional parts since we've just started our unit on Fractions and one on narrative genre since that is a big area on the reading MAP test. Everyone passed the Fractions part. The lowest score was 80%. But only 4 out of the 21 kiddos I had during computer lab actually passed the narrative test. Oy! Considering the second testing window is just two weeks away and these kids did HORRIBLY in the second round test last school year, I'm nervous. How can they honestly NOT know that stuff?? I mean, really?!

On Wednesday and Thursday afternoons I have an interventionist who comes to my room for about an hour. Today I had her pull two small groups to work on the narrative stuff and she came in at the end of the day to tell me that she was appalled at how these kids couldn't tell her basic narrative stuff. I agreed -- how could they have forgotten all of that stuff?? So that's something I definitely need to drill into them over the next two weeks before that test.



I brought home a ton of work tonight even though I really just wanted to come home and do nothing. In fairness to myself, I did finish "The Hunger Games", play with my kids and enjoy my dinner before I looked at anything for school. I need to finish up lessons for next week and I should be good to go. It won't be hard, it's just finding the motivation to do them that is the problem at this moment. I'm ready to crawl into bed actually.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Whew!

I'm so glad that today is behind me! It was a good day, probably one of the best day-after-winter-break days I've ever had (I even got blessed with a "key absence" aka when a real irritating kiddo doesn't come). The kids were so tired this morning and our morning was relatively subdued. Our big joke is that they must put something special in the lunches because the kids are generally CRAZY after lunch (no matter what school you're in!). Today wasn't any different. They weren't bad, just clearly much more awake than they had been this morning.


I realized that our token tub was almost all the way full from before break so I told the kids that if they could provide correct answers to the Behavior Matrix review, I'd give them a token for each correct response. We filled that sucker by the end of the day! The kids were so excited and happy -- I cheated and tossed the last few in even though they hadn't really "earned" them because it was a great way to start the new year together and their excitement is contagious.


Miss New Teacher is feeling overwhelmed and lost because this was her first day being expected to actually teach curriculum (she spent her first three days with the kids doing getting-to-know-you activities since she got kiddos from 3 different rooms). She must've asked me at least 30 different questions today about how to do this, where to find that, etc. I don't mind helping her but it makes me sad that someone who student taught in this same district, in a 4/5 split, is so clueless about the curriculum. I know her co-op because I taught next door to her my first year teaching and she is kind of scatterbrained but to have a student teacher leave you not knowing how to do word walls and such which have been a requirement of the district since before *I* student taught 5 years ago annoys me.

Alas, I am helping her and just going with the flow. I was at work way later than I wanted to be today since I was helping Miss New Teacher. I am NOT going to stay late again this week (past 4) because I'm determined to stay ahead and not need to bring tons of crap home. The ultra relaxation I did over break showed me that I need and deserve that time to myself when I'm at home.


And now, I have to edit The Oldest's paper that is due tomorrow. Considering I found massive errors within the first 5 words, I am not looking forward to it. Once it is done, however, I can crawl into bed with The Hunger Games and read myself to sleep!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Sign of what's to come?

Earlier today a friend of mine told me that how you ring in 2011 is a sign of the year ahead. If that is the case, I will be doing a lot of giggling in 2011!

I have spent some time this evening on YouTube. I am a huge fan of 80s music which of course they now consider to be "retro" (that makes me sound SO much older than I am) and 90s country. Oooh, I was definitely a country girl in the 90s during my oft misspent youth. Gals like Taylor Swift were in diapers then and country music was MUSIC (not all depressed "my dog was run over" crap either).

Anyway while I'm whiling away my life wasting time enjoying these videos, The Husband comes downstairs and tells The Oldest she just has to come upstairs and see something. Apparently Lake Superior State University puts out a "banned word" list every year and they are raring to go for 2011. I didn't go watch the clip but I looked it up online and got quite a few giggles out of it (seriously, is there anything as deranged as a 32 year old schoolmarm -- as my dad so dearly refers to me -- giggling about words and how they are used??). So clearly if this is a sign of the year to come....I'm in good shape!


Here's some snippets from the site:
Banished Word: EPIC


More than one nominator says the use of 'epic' has become an epic annoyance.

"Standards for using 'epic' are so low, even 'awesome' is embarrassed".

Banished Word: FAIL


"what originally may have been a term for a stockbroker's default is now abused by today's youth as virtually any kind of 'failure.' Whether it is someone tripping, a car accident, a costumed character scaring the living daylights out a kid, or just a poor choice in fashion, these people drive me crazy thinking that anything that is a mistake is a 'fail.' They fail proper language!"
 
Banished Word: FACEBOOK / GOOGLE as verbs


"Facebook is a great, addicting website. Google is a great search engine. However, their use as verbs causes some deep problems. As bad as they are, the trend can only get worse, i.e. 'I'm going to Twitter a few people, then Yahoo the movie listings and maybe Amazon a book or two."

Welcome to the Best Year Ever!

In case you haven't figured it out by reading this blog and maybe checking out my Shelfari, I ♥ to read. Love.It.

Almost more than I love myself. (Kidding...kind of.)

Seriously though, I have always been a reader. My first experiences as a naive teacher-in-training, I could not fathom how the students in my classes didn't like to read (or *gasp* didn't have any books in their houses -- I really think that should be punishable by law, it's SO sad). After 6 years of working alongside children though, I realize this is a sad reality for many kids. I am the only teacher in my school who has over 600+ books in their class library (all of which belong to ME -- none provided by the school). Other kids see my library area and practically salivate at the possibility.

So when my parents gave me a $50 Amazon card for Christmas, I was in heaven. Heaven! I bought a beautiful bracelet I have been coveting for a long time that has the serenity prayer engraved on it and 7 books for my Kindle. I love my Kindle. It is probably the best present ever. Forget iPods, iPads and the like...that Kindle doesn't leave my side very often. I remember a few years ago scoffing at how could you possibly use an e-reader enough to  justify the expense...but oh man. I've definitely eaten those words!


I am excited to dig into the books I got with my gift card, one of which I already read (I read the whole thing today!):
Educating  Esme, expanded edition (finished)
The Hunger Games
Swallow
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl who Played with Fire
Easily Amused
The Sex Club (not what it sounds like -- I promise!)

Not to mention some of the freebies I've gotten recently that I can't wait to get into either:
House of Dark Shadows
Wish
Fireflies in December


I can't wait to get into these books, really. I see many cold winter days of snuggling up in a blanket and reading in my future. According to my Shelfari, I reaad 49 books last year...and considering that I didn't even start tracking my books until toward the end of April, it was probably more (and doesn't include the stuff I did for school either!).

A friend of mine recently wrote on FB how she made a goal to read 33 books this year and that was hard for her to finish. I didn't tell her how many I read because it wasn't hard for me and I didn't want her to virtually slap me silly! *wink*


So my Best Year Ever is definitely going to include lots and lots and LOTS of reading!

How about yours?