Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Reading

Even though I am pretty determined to close up my year on June 10 (aka the kiddos' last day) and put school far from my mind as long as possible this summer....I do have quite a list of books I want to read this summer. Some are teachery and some are just plain fun. A good balance I think.


Since we were told yesterday that our offer was accepted on the Fabulous Up North Cabin (complete with all of the existing furniture except one cabinet!), I can definitely envision myself taking some of this reading up north with me while I veg on the beach!

Teachery
+Daily 5 (a re-read) (need to reread for a workshop in August)
+Awakened by Angela Watson (when it's published!)

Pure Pleasure
+See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit (seriously I got this for a penny!)





"But it FEELS like Monday...."

Starting the week on a Tuesday is kind of fun. The kids all totally love the extra day at home but feel like I've hit them square in the eyes with a "messed up schedule". If I had a nickel for every time I reminded the kids that no, the schedule isn't wrong, it's Tuesday today...well I'd probably be able to at least buy myself a fountain beverage.

I took my sweet time getting to school this morning. Knowing that I was likely going to be observed today and not really feeling much in the mood to do anything, I lolly-gagged and didn't leave the house until The Husband and The Littles did (7:20ish). I am usually at work by then! Oops.

Fortunately, I had planned way ahead last week and had everything done for today except the copies I needed. That took all of about 5 seconds to get together so we were good to go. Observation went okay as far as I can tell. We'll have our post-conference later this week. I just hope she doesn't plan to have it after school Thursday because I have an IEP that I can't miss or reschedule.

Mrs. RTI, who is moving up to my spot next year, told me again that she wishes they would just let me stay in 5th grade. I think she is a bit nervous about all of the kiddos we expect in 5th but also working with Mrs. CT who tends to be controlling and a bit of a tattletale. I guess Mrs. Principal told her that once that information goes downtown (to central office), it can't be changed unless layoffs happen or someone changes buildings voluntarily. I did not know that before so that's good to know. I'm glad to know that means I CAN play for 2nd grade and not have to worry about the rug coming out from under me over the summer. I feel bad for Mrs. RTI because I know she has a lot going on personally and doesn't want to take ESL classes this summer....but I didn't ask to be moved and she makes me feel bad when she brings it up over and over. I was just as shocked as everyone else about the changes but I'm over that shock. I'm excited about a fresh start and being able to really find my way with the small fries. In some ways I wish school would just end already so I don't have to hear about it anymore!

Only 8 days to go!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Planning Revisited

I don't like sounding like a snob, although sometimes I think I do. Totally inadvertently, I assure you!

I reread my Summer Not-So-To-Do List post and realized I sounded kind of snotty. Or that I think I am amazing because I don't have to spend my summer planning for next year. [I do think I am amazing, but not for that reason *wink*]

As such, let's clarify, shall we?

I am not going to spend my summer doing school-related things because the Former Me, the one who worked at Former School, was a big time go-getter. I was constantly busy, constantly saying "yes" to help everyone and as such, piled waaaay too much on the proverbial plate. I have come to realize that is one of the big reasons I ended up where I was: unhappy with my job, unhappy with my life, suffering from massive depression and anxiety with a mix of PTSD thrown in for good measure.

Do I like being busy? I don't think so. I've learned there is a difference between "busy" and "productive" and I'd much rather be productive. I don't necessarily want to be productive during the summer. I used to cram my summer vacation with planning, arranging, organizing and more. Then school would roll around and I'd wonder why I didn't feel rested. 

So this year, I am determined to take a summer vacation. That means relaxing, sitting on the beach with my kiddos, hopefully enjoying the new cabin (still waiting on acceptance of our offer), reading and not having deadlines or other pressing things weighing me down. I took a big hit in this area before and while I was on my leave last year, I had to force myself to learn to slow down and just enjoy each day for what it is.

So I'm not dissing those of you with massive To Do lists. My Former Self would have a big one too! But this year, I really, really don't want to do anything related to my job before August (again the only exception will be that Reading Street training at the end of July). I am cramming my last two weeks of school with organizing and getting things ready to transition to 2nd grade so having 3 weeks in August to plan and prepare should be plenty of time.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wow

As I was going through my reader and browsing through what I've missed recently in bloggy-land....I am astounded at the massive To Do lists many teachers have for their summer vacations. Seriously, just check some of them out.

Wow. Lots of ambitious teachers out there! :)

My summer to do list is very, very short. It's so short, I didn't even bother to link it up.

1) [Hopefully] spend lots of time in my new cabin!
2) Not even THINK about school-related anything until August 8th! [This is the day my 3.5 day Service Learning Workshop begins -- the ONLY exception will be July 27 when I have a half-day mandatory training for our new reading program.]


I will be flowering, reading, relaxing, helping my dyslexic daughter learn to read and just RELAXING! In a way, it's really cool that all those teachers want to tweak and change things and make themselves better. More power to them. Really.

But for me...I just want to relax. I just want to get away from the busy-ness of what my school-life is like right now and just breathe. I realized last year when I took my leave how very important that downtime is for me. And I will give it to myself. I am even thinking of putting off my second Speed Spanish class until August because I just want a break from it all once school ends on June 10 and my enrichment classes wind down on June 25th.

I can already picture myself with some fruity cocktails and my fabulous Kindle relaxing in my cabin (or better yet at the accompanying beach!) and not having another care in the world. I will leave all of the To Do lists for everyone else :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Shopping Spree

Who doesn't love shopping??

Mrs. CT kind of teased me the other day that I had bought the Fun Flaps books because there is always the slight chance that I won't be in 2nd grade. I'm not worried about it. Mrs. Principal told me if I did not get laid off that I would be in 2nd grade. So that's what I am planning on.

At any rate, I was shopping at Really Good Stuff (my 2nd favorite online store aside from Amazon)last night due to their TGIF deal. I searched through their outlet area and picked up a few games for really good deals (about $3.99 each!)

Anecdotal Assessments Notebook -- I like the idea of a slim notebook to house all of my notes on my students. Especially with the smaller fries when there are still some developmental differences in what they are able to do.

Compound Word Dominoes -- this is a big one that we work on in 1st and 2nd grade.

R-controlled Vowel Dominoes -- I know many of my upper grade ELL kiddos struggle with these vowels so I thought this game would be perfect for the little guys (and it was $4 so even if it sucks, it didn't cost much).

Fast Flips Addition and Subtraction games -- I think these are adorable! Especially at the beginning of the year in 2nd grade, they need review with their addition and subtraction facts and this will be a fun way for them to practice.

Short Vowels Bingo -- who doesn't love Bingo on a Friday afternoon?? And since this is educational, it serves two purposes (fun AND learning).

Short vowel Dominoes Game

Blend and Digraph Dominoes



I am really pleased with all of these new games. Especially because from my experience with small fries before, if you make something seem really fun, even on indoor recess days the kids will beg to play these types of games.




My biggest purchase this weekend? The fabulous summer cabin we put an offer on this evening! We offered the asking price (contingent on appraisal/inspection) if they included all of the major furnishings. That would save us a lot of money from buying our own furniture for it. I can't wait to see what the seller says! (The official offer will be presented to the seller tomorrow. Can't wait!)

Friday, May 27, 2011

TGIF!

Man, oh man, thank goodness for Friday!

My three pain-in-the-butt boys are on my last nerve. I have taken to just putting them in the hallway and going on with my day. To say I am done with their bullshit is an understatement! My other kids are trying their best to keep it together these last days and The Three Stooges, as I have come to refer to them in my head, are not helping. I wish I could suspend the three of them for the duration! They don't deserve to do ANY of the fun things we have planned the last week of school.


We have PE on Fridays. Our PE teacher splits his time between our school and another one. My class is the only one he sees at our school on Friday. We got completely gyped out of about 3 of our PE classes this year. So he asked me today if it was okay with me if he "gave back" that time by having MY class help with the K-2 Field Day. He said I would then have that time to myself. Why yes, they can help!!! I was so grateful for that, especially since I have to pack up my room and everything. Very cool.

This morning Mrs. CT told me that since I know for sure that I am not being laid off/moved, I should ask Mrs. Principal to keep me at 5th. Its like now that she knows I'm not sad about changing grades and that she's going to have Mrs. RTI (who is good but is very sickly and can't handle a lot of things) as a partner, she suddenly is all nice to me. Makes me kind of laugh. You should've been nicer to me all year. I am not going to ask her to put me back in 5th. With that incoming group? No way Jose! 

Also laughed because we had a data meeting and the girl from the district was all "you should have your 5th grade train the other staff on blah blah" because we kicked butt at it. We had the best gains in the whole school on the MAP. I just mentally rolled my eyes and thought, yeah, we kicked ass on this test and getting our kiddos where they needed to be and our reward is for you to split us up. Makes SO much sense. [end sarcasm] Sheesh.



I am so looking forward to the three day weekend! We're looking at the cabin tomorrow and I can't wait. I plan to do the catch-up school work that I brought home on Sunday but otherwise I am not TOUCHING anything for school! I am going to get going on my lessons for my two online enrichment classes and practice my espanol but otherwise, I plan to do a lot of relaxing and more relaxing!

Have a safe long weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Breathe that sigh of relief!

The smartest thing I have done for myself this year is to take today off as a mental health day.

I didn't even offer to get up and help The Husband get The Littles around for school (they are 8 and 9 so it isn't that hard to get them around). I just stayed in bed. It was very stormy and rainy around my neck of Michigan this morning so I just stayed huddled down in my bed and it was fabulous. I slept later than I have in a very long time and I don't regret it at all. It was wonderful to be home just doing my thing (which in this case was apparently sleeping) without anyone else around.

Mrs. CT emailed me and said my kiddos were doing a great job with the sub and she hoped I was okay. I didn't tell a lot of people that I was taking today off. Sometimes you just need to go. I'm glad my class seemed to be doing okay without me. I feel bad that I felt like I needed a break from them but when I get overwhelmed, I get anxious and it has been a long time since I have had a panic attack and if taking a day off will stop one from coming then so be it! We're on the downswing now -- just tomorrow and Friday and a long weekend ahead. So it's all good!


I am taking an enrichment course right now to help me write a business plan. I believe I have mentioned before that I plan to open a Teacher Store in my area, hopefully next summer (2012). This class has been great so far and for our last assignment, our instructor wanted us to write our vision and mission statements. I had a kick out of doing that today. It is great to feel like you are going somewhere with your dreams. I can't wait to really get the ball rolling with it all and see where it takes me.

I am also taking a Speed Spanish course (enrichment style) and I find that I am so much more laid-back when I know I don't have to pass a zillion tests and that this class isn't going to affect a GPA or anything. We've learned a TON in just three lessons so far. I'm getting a lot more out of it than I did any of my other Spanish classes. Hopefully by the end of summer, I'll be well on my way to being able to speak to my students' parents with minimal help from translators.


We're definitely on a countdown. Just 10 1/2 days left with kiddos and 11 full days until I am on vacation! I can't wait, honestly. It has been a really great year for me and hopefully for my class. Especially after last year's class from Hell and all of the extra crap that went with that -- this has been a great year of healing and learning for me but I am ready to be done. I know that I can't really take them any farther than I already have. Those that care are doing great and will do great in middle school too. Those who didn't care in September, still don't care and they will be lost souls in middle school. This is the first year that I will not be recommending retention for anyone. One of my boys who is pretty low has it in his brain, I know he does. He just has a major language barrier since the ONLY time that child speaks English is at school. I wish I could keep him with me forever and help him so he doesn't get discouraged and not keep pushing himself to do well. I also have one that sadly, I know he will never be able to do anything with his life except a job where he does the same thing over and over. That poor child is SO low and it breaks my heart.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mental Health

I can not believe that today is only Tuesday. The students have been absolutely freaking crazy the last two days! They definitely have "summer-itis"! 

Every day at my school, teachers pass each other in the hall and just exchange THE LOOK (the "oh my GAWD, is it June 10 yet?!" look). I told The Husband today that this is what I miss most about the year-round schedule Former School was on. They are off this week. Then next week they have a 3-day week, then a 4-day week, and a 3-day week and are on summer break. The kids just don't get that "I don't care" attitude (well the ones who don't have it anyway!) because they aren't exhausted and just plain drained.

I can only imagine what things would be like if we did our standardized testing in May like most states.


Due to my absolute lack of patience, I decided to feign sick and take tomorrow off. I just need a day to myself! Plus I can get a few work-related things done and so it won't be a total waste. (Lord knows I won't get any of that stuff done if I am at school!)



In unrelated, exciting news, it appears I am going to be a-okay to get a mortgage preapproval so we can buy a cottage. We plan to see the one I found over the weekend on Saturday and I am really excited. I just have a feeling it is the only one we'll look at. It is exactly like how we bought this house. We weren't really looking, we just looked out of curiosity but then found something we liked, bid and got it. I got a letter in the mail from the bank telling me my credit rating is really amazing (thanks student loan payoff!) and since the mortgage amount would be so little (since it's for a summer cabin, not a year-round house), I should not have any trouble qualifying for it.

I am going to visit the bank tomorrow on my mental health day as well so hopefully something good will happen with that. It would RULE to have a super fun cabin to summer at. We don't really travel much with three kiddos so it would be the perfect summer getaway for us. Love it!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Summer!

The Husband and I are enjoying our kid-free weekend at the moment. Although I am sure I am enjoying it more than he is because he's mowing the grass and I am not!

Anyway at breakfast this morning we started talking about our "pinky promise" to buy ourselves a summer cabin after we paid off my student loans. Well, we did that two years ago and it is awesome not having that debt hanging over our heads. We talked about how we would honestly prefer to pay cash (a la Dave Ramsey) but since there are a ton of foreclosures and whatnot in Michigan, it might be smarter to just get a small loan and buy something now.

Thanks to google, I already found a super cute little 2 bedroom cottage with lake/beach access and it is SUPER cheap. Cheap enough that I kind of just want to say "where do I sign??"

I am currently daydreaming out how flippin' awesome it would be to spend half of my summer vacation there by the beach! It's a short enough drive from our house that we could go there every weekend after The Husband gets out of work. It would be so fun!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Phonics Fun

Today I put in my last Scholastic Book Order of the year. Since I know I am going down to 2nd grade for next year, I have been scouting out books and other things for my new group of kiddos. I have about 300 books for them to read which is about half of my library (which I'm sure I'll add a lot more to over the next school year) so that is good. I am always on the lookout for fun activities or games that I can incorporate into Academic Free Choice Fridays (because I would get yelled at if I dared to call it "Fun Friday").

As I was looking through the 2-3rd grade book orders online, I found Fun Flaps (known to us "older folk" as cootie catchers). I got a two book set: one for phonics and one for word families. I can definitely see these helping my ELL kiddos with their writing and they are SO CUTE. 

What interested me in them so much is that our new Reading Street series has learning centers built right into the program. This would be a super fun center to help the kids learn and use their phonics skills. If I am able to successfully adapt Daily 5 into the new program, this would be a super easy to set up Word Work station to have as well. What kiddos don't like playing with cootie catchers?!

TGIF

It feels like it has been a year since I posted last but it's only been 3 days. This has been a weird week.

We had our final benchmark writing tests this week. In the past we've done four per year and this year we only had to do three. Trust me when I say we were all really happy about that. The tests are modeled after the writing portion of the MEAP. Since the MEAP now only has writing in grades 4 and 7, it seems dumb to push these prompts on kindergartners and any other grades that don't have to worry about that test. Alas we do what we are told and try not to grumble about it too much.

They have to be scored as a grade level so we plowed through them on Thursday morning and finished them Thursday after school. Do you know how freaking boring it is to sit and read through 64 writing prompts? I think I would have rather given birth to an elephant. What a snoozer! Fortunately most of the writing scores went up so that's good. When the kids don't get a ton of time to just write it really reflects on these kinds of assessments though. We give them too much scripted writing to do so they hate to write because it isn't fun. Yet another thing I am looking forward to in 2nd grade -- they don't have as many writing units as we do so you can *gasp* teach writing authentically so the kids might actually enjoy it. What a concept!


Today Mrs. CT told me she got her hands on a preview set of the Reading Street Program. She let me take a peek after school. It's the fifth grade set of course but man, oh man. I am dying to get my hands on a 2nd grade set! Seriously EVERYTHING is there: standards, groupings, setting up the kiddos so you have 3 days in the anthology and two days off level in readers. If it's that good at 5th grade, I can only imagine how good the younger grades must be. I just really hope I don't have to wait until August to get my hands on a 2nd grade kit. I am a big time planner and waiting that long will KILL me!


One of my serious pains-in-the-behind is on my ever last nerve. I called his dad and told him that his son was NOT coming on our end-of-year field trip due to his continued misbehavior. Dad was up in arms but realizes that I'm done with his child. I as much as said we've been talking about this same behavior since SEPTEMBER. It is not an academic trip and sorry but your child is NOT coming. This trip is for children who have made positive choices this year and he isn't one of them. Yesterday he got written up for "red necking" someone (hitting them hard across the back of the neck). Today while in the detention room at recess he threw an eraser at a kid and then lied about it.

The secretary sends an email about how he's so scared at school and doesn't feel safe because two other boys are picking on him yada yada. He fed her a line of bull and she ate it right up. I immediately responded, and cc'd Mrs. Principal and said "um, no. He isn't even outside EVER except first thing in the morning so there is no way these boys are picking on him because they aren't in our class and they never have contact with each other". Mrs. Principal knows all about it and emailed back and said she totally agreed with me -- he is making his own kind of trouble. He says the wrong things to the wrong kids and then they retaliate and the brat can't take it. I also sent another email to Mrs. Principal and said I am DONE with this one and I am not going to tolerate his misbehavior anymore. Every infraction will be a write up and she backed me on that as well.


It's been such a long and weird week that I came home with nothing. Nothing! I have no lesson plans for next week or anything but I didn't bring anything home. [Okay, I do know what I'm teaching on Monday but aside from that....who knows!] I refuse to feel bad. I need some downtime, especially at this time of the year. And also because I am taking two online enrichment courses right now too. I want to be able to focus some of my time on them, rather than work work work all the time.

I am taking a Speed Spanish course and a course to help me write a business plan for the teacher store I would like to open in 2012. I want to focus on that stuff on my own time instead of work for my job since it has eaten up the last 9 1/2 months of my life. Yes I love teaching but at this point in the year, I need a break sometimes!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Daily 5 Revisited

The other day when I talked to Mrs. Soon-to-Be 2/3 Split, she told me that the other two second grade teachers wanted nothing to do with Daily 5 or even trying it. Since I now know that she may well be trying to stir up trouble, I asked both of the other second grade teachers, separately, how they felt about Daily 5. One said she had heard of it but they hadn't really tried to implement it because of so many other things going on. The other said she'd never even heard of it. I had mentioned it to both of them and said I really wanted to try it and explained it is just like balanced literacy (our district mandate) but more differentiated.

I also mentioned that there is a training coming up right after school lets out on Daily 5 that I really wanted to attend. However, I didn't want to spend my money if this wasn't something we could really use. My biggest issue has always been that we are required to use the basal. Since we're getting a new reading program this coming year, it's hard to know how Daily 5 could be integrated. I have no doubt it CAN be but since I don't know all of the components of the program, it's really hard to say. But I would like to give it a shot.

So I mention this to both of these teachers separately, after hearing from Mrs. Soon-to-Be 2/3 Split how they won't take any of her ideas or listen to anything she suggests. Guess what? Both of them, completely independently of each other, said to go ahead and go to the training and bring back my ideas about it and they're more than willing to see if we can incorporate them into our day. That certainly doesn't sound like a team who are all for themselves and forget anyone else. I even told Mrs. Grant Writer that I am a go-getter and that I tend to be kind of bossy when I get a great idea and just to tell me to shut up and get over myself if needed. She laughed and said "Don't worry, we will put you in your place if we feel we need to!"

Sadly, the more time goes on, I really feel like our split teacher is trying to drive a wedge before things even get rolling. Sorry but I am not playing that game at all. It's bull crap and we're all adults. We don't have to wear our hair in braids, make friendship bracelets and sing songs together but we do have to work together and get along. Especially if we are trying to foster that kind of camaraderie in the students!

I am excited that they both at least were willing to hear any ideas that may come out of me attending the workshop. I'm actually quite excited because I definitely think that we can really turn up where the kiddos are in terms of their reading if we incorporate more differentiation and working with all of the kiddos at their levels.


In the same vein, today I went  down to the Scholastic Warehouse Sale after school. I got 41 books for my soon-to-be new little friends! I am really pleased with what I was able to pick up. I got a lot  more books than I thought I would and I saved $25 since I spent so much. I even got some nice hardcover books at 50% of the price! Overall, I spent an average of $2.50 a book and you just can't beat that with a stick!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reason # 2104098 not to listen to rumors

This morning, Mrs. Grant Writer (who gets her nickname from the fact that she is literally the QUEEN of writing grants!) and I met up at the copy machine. She is one of the 2nd grade teachers I will be working with. She asked me how my weekend was and we were chatting a few minutes. 

Then she said that she knew I was hearing a lot of rumors and to please not listen to them all. I thought she meant about layoffs and/or teachers getting moved into other positions. Turns out, she told me that she overheard Mrs. Soon-to-Be 2/3 Split bad mouthing her and the other 2nd grade teacher the other day. I felt horrible. *I* did not say anything bad about either of these teachers because a) I genuinely like them both and b) they have never done anything to me to make me want to bad mouth them. Mrs. Grant Writer said it upset her that she heard Mrs. Soon-to-Be 2/3 Split saying those things because there are two sides to every story and that in reality, the team has tried to give Mrs. Soon-to-Be 2/3 Split everything they have done (she said they so much as handed her a year's worth of lesson plans -- HELLO, hand 'em over! -- and she refused them).

It makes me sad that there is animosity on the team and lucky me I get to join it. Oy! BUT I told Mrs. Grant Writer that a) I am a big girl and I do not base my judgments of others on what someone else tells me and b) I WANT to work on their team. I meant that from the bottom of my heart.


I thought about this all day. We had a 2 hour flex meeting after school and I pulled Mrs. Grant Writer aside and said I had felt bad all day about it. She told me not to because she knew that it wasn't me saying anything and that she just hoped if I ever felt "unheard" that I would be honest with them. Clearly she doesn't know me that well because I am quite blunt most of the time!

It kind of makes me angry to think that perhaps Mrs. Soon-to-Be 2/3 Split is trying to poison me against the other two teachers. Sunny doesn't play like that. At all.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A bunch of randomness

Every Sunday now, I get kind of depressed. Because it means Monday is just around the corner and that means work.

I love teaching and all but this time of year is just rough. Especially because for the last two years, I taught on the modified calendar which meant I'd have had a week off in February, two weeks for Spring Break and a week off coming up here at the end of May. Alas, being on the traditional calendar, I don't get that (although I do get out earlier and start later so it balances out).


I spent some time in the loft this weekend digging through the teaching resources I left up there after The Cleanse of 2010 last spring. Interestingly enough, I found some second grade resources I forgot that I had. That's always fun to find. I also found my old treasure box I had when I taught small fries. So those will travel back to school with me before school lets out....side note: last year they made the teachers be ready to close out on the last day of school because they had summer school in our building. I am hopeful that we get at LEAST one day after school lets out so I can move my stuff to my new classroom (it'll for sure be on the 2nd floor since that is where 2nd-3rd are). I don't want someone else moving my stuff. Call me weird, but I like doing that stuff myself.

I know that I am going to have to haul home some of my big kid books...because while *some* of my 2nd grade friends might read really well, the chances of them being ready for some of the 4th-5th grade books I have are slim. Thus I will pack those up and bring them home with me.

Speaking of books, I am going to the Scholastic Warehouse Sale Tuesday after school. It's not close to me by any stretch of the imagination BUT my location has a "build a box" feature which means I can stuff as much as possible into a box and it'll only cost me $25. That's music to my ears and worth the trip because I definitely need more books for the small fries. I went through my book inventory [pretty thankful I had the thought to MAKE a book inventory a few years ago!] and I do have almost 350 books for the small fries, but I want more. I like giving the students a huge variety of books and since I've only taught 2nd grade once, most of my books are geared for the bigger kiddos.


Another thing I really am looking forward to for 2nd grade is their stuff is easier to grade! I have put off grading some things this week and I HAVE to get them done today so they're ready for progress reports and Monday folders. It takes so long to grade 5th grade stuff. I won't miss that!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The countdown is SO on...

Today was rough. Not just because it is Friday the 13th, but because I'm at the end of my rope with 3 particular male students who act the same way they have since September. My other students are really awesome and I love them. These three boys, I can honestly say, I will not miss them come June 11! Hey, no one can ever say that I'm not honest!

One of them should be medicated and isn't. Dad refuses to medicate his child or admit that his child is ADHD. If there ever was a textbook case, this child is it. I have banned him from recess for the rest of the year because he picks fights with other kids or instigates fights between other kids and then tries to play like he is innocent. Since his dad refuses to acknowledge that his child is tormenting others and being a royal brat, I refuse to let the child have recess for the rest of the year (he can NOT handle the unstructured time) and I also refuse to let him come on our end-of-the-year trip. I'm sorry but if you can't figure out how to behave at school, there is no way I am taking you out in public!

The second child is medicated when it is convenient for his parent. I can't go into a lot of detail but basically this child should not be allowed to live where he does. CPS is a joke. They do nothing. So the child does not take his medication and thus acts like a complete fool. We have PE on Friday mornings first thing. Literally I pick them up at 8:20, they go to gym at 8:30. I pick them up again at 9:20. It's really quite perfect. We hadn't even made it upstairs and I was so sick of this child already that I dropped him off in a kindergarten class. Bless that teacher! I think she knew looking at my face that I might strangle this child if he was in my sight for another five seconds. He is another one who absolutely will not be allowed on that trip. No, it isn't his fault that he is a colossal pain in the behind when he isn't on his meds, but it also isn't my other students' fault and I am not taking him out in public to act a fool and embarrass the rest of us.


I am ready for the end. The laziness and downright crap work I get from some of these kiddos drives me crazy. They are so babied that they don't think they have to work. It really just makes me look forward to the small fries -- because even though I know that there will be lazy kids there too, most of them still like school and want to please the teacher. Not all, but most. I am actually looking forward to that because I'm tired of having to be such a jerk all the time and I feel bad for my good kids who have to hear it!



In other news, I got confirmation yesterday from the HR guru that I will not be laid off and I will be at Current School next year. It was proof I needed that Mrs. Principal doesn't know what she is talking about. I have been trying to tell her but she only hears what she wants to hear. Whatever. I got this in writing (which is why I ALWAYS email instead of calling!) and resisted the urge to wave it in Mrs. Principal's face that I am right and she isn't.  So unless something weird happens with staffing, I should be teaching 2nd grade. It isn't impossible that she might move me to 3rd because of a retirement but I don't think she will.

I dug through some of my 2nd grade resources from the barn loft tonight. The Husband laughed about it a bit as I carried one tote into the house. The good news is, I already have so much stuff at school that if I DO go down to 2nd, that is the only new tote I have to bring in which is nice. I am not going to bring any of it to work yet, I just want to go through some of it so I already know what I have in terms of resources before I buy anything else.


At this point in the evening I am wishing that The Husband would be super nice and go buy me some chocolate ice cream but I'm afraid to even ask hehe

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reasons to be Happy about 2nd Grade

  • I can "redeem myself" -- I have often felt really bad about the 3/4 year I spent in 2nd grade. I did not like it because of the mess I was given. I'm sure that had I started in September with those students and been able to lay down the law from day one, things would have been 100% better. I really am excited to get a "do over".
  • No MEAP testing! -- 2nd grade does not partake in the state standardized test so that means I can *gasp* teach curriculum from the get-go without having to worry about test prep. Bonus!
  • A grade-level partner who is on the same page -- Mrs. soon-to-be 2/3 Split had emailed me about getting together to chat. We had a few minutes to chat after school today and I discovered we are SO on the same page: Daily 5, Clear Expectations, etc. She told me that some CRAP that has been done to her this year by the other two teachers and how the teachers on that floor don't make their kids follow rules. Well I do and she will so we're going to be peas in a pod. I am excited about it!
  • Froggy theme! -- One of my 5th grade boys was just going "oh my gosh" over and over when I was talking to the girls about all of the frog stuff I have for second grade. That child just has NO idea just how obsessed I am!
  • No Reproductive Health lessons! -- Nuff said!
  • Cute little guys like this:




Plus, Mrs. soon-to-be 2/3 Split told me that *if* they were going to transfer me because there are too many ESL teachers on our staff, they would have already sent me an involuntary transfer letter. So the more I hear, the more it sounds like I am right that I'll be 100% safe to stay at Current School. After talking with Mrs. 2/3, I am REALLY excited for next year. I am not going to plan anything or buy anything new for 2nd grade until I know for sure...but it is looking more and more certain. Everything happens for a reason and I know there is a reason for this change. A lot of my colleagues say they are impressed with my attitude about it. I really can't help but see it as a blessing since working with Mrs. CT was not what I thought it would be and putting me on this team, with someone that so clearly has the same teaching philosophy as myself, is really a favor that I feel Mrs. Principal did me (well that and I won't have 40+ students). 

Life is good and I am blessed. I can't ask for more.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm not upset!

I guess people at work at expecting me to be upset about the grade level change. Surprised? Yes. Angry? No.

Why be angry about something you can't change? I am confident that I will still be at Current School next year. As much as people say "oh you'll be laid off", I have contract language to prove that I won't be. I also do not believe that they will force us to go down to only 1 ESL staff per grade level because if that was the case, they would have moved staff two years ago when they did the big layoff and they did not. I think a bunch of people think they know what they are talking about and none of them have a clue. It's frustrating and quite irritating actually.

Not to mention that I am feeling exceptionally crabby because my period is a week late and I am having the cramps and bloating and such but nothing else (not that I want it). But my hormones are out of whack and I'm just D-O-N-E. Tired of the drama at work and people's speculation, tired of people assuming I would be upset or mad or anything else about the grade level change. I honestly thought way back in January that Mrs. Principal was going to split up Mrs. CT and myself. Don't ask me how I knew or why I thought that. I just did. I had a feeling and I was right. Plus, as mean as Mrs. CT has been to me this year with her backstabbing and whatnot, I can't help but think that Mrs. Principal did me a favor by changing my grade level (and ensuring I won't have 40+ students!).

I'm not mad. I'm actually kind of excited. Truth be told, the 2nd grade ESL position was on my list of bids last year, it was just way down the list. I took the 5th over the 2nd because I wanted to work with Mrs. CT. I had it in the back of my mind, however, to try 2nd again since it was such a disaster last time.


I am not going to run out and buy anything new or do any planning until I know for sure I am staying in 2nd grade (we have a retirement that hasn't officially been announced so it's not unlikely that I wouldn't end up moved up to her spot). I kind of hope I stay in 2nd though. A break from the big standardized test, a team that really is collaborative AND Mrs. 2/3 split, who is a solid 2 this year, emailed me and asked me if we could chat about teaching together next year. I sure hope both of us keep the spots we were assigned but I do wonder if she'll get moved to a 1st because they're set to have SO MANY kiddos.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Whoa (take 2)!

I have no idea where my post of before went! I did it on my phone so it's probably lost it cyberspace. Good to know my title and labels showed up though *eye roll*


ANYWAY.....

This afternoon Mrs. CT comes into my room after school and says "are you holding out on me?!" to which I replied "Um, what?!" 

She repeated the question and thus so did I. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. So then she asked me if I had checked my email and I said no. So we looked at it. There was a staffing assignment list for next school year.

And Sunny is listed as being a 2nd grade teacher.

Huh?!

So with no notice or anything, apparently I am changing three grade levels. I decided not to be too ticked about it when I saw that there will only be 2 fifth grade classes. Considering there are 82 students in 4th grade right now....if you know your math, that is 41 kids each. No.Thank.You.

I don't know how that is even going to be legal. It seems to me like it would be a fire hazard. As it is, our current kindergarten classes have 104 students in them collectively (4 classes). They are planning, on books right now, to only have 3 1st grades. Again, if you know how to do your math, that's about 34/35 kids in each class, not counting any children who move into the district.

Yes, they are insane. They put a split at 2/3 which is stupid. We need a split either in K/1 or 4/5. With the current 1st and 2nd grade numbers, the solid 2 and 3 classes would have 27 each. Not ideal but definitely better than 35! They could keep the K/1 classes smaller by adding a split there and DEFINITELY keep the 5th grade smaller by adding another class. They are idiots. So what will happen is, they will keep them high forever and then in, say, December again hire another teacher when it should have been done eons ago. (No, there isn't anyone in my district's CO who has a brain.)

So trust me when I say, I will GLADLY go down to 2nd grade where I may have only 24-27 kids rather than 35 or 42! Mrs. Principal said I will probably get laid off, yada yada. So I did what any smart lady does and read my contract when I got home....where it very clearly states that ESL certified staff in an ESL required position will not get laid off. And since my building is what they consider to be a language center, are allowed to have more than 1 certified ESL staff member per grade (again per that pesky little contract) so I am not worried one bit about being laid off or moved [although I do acknowledge that a move to another building could still happen].

I was just talking to my mom to tell her about the change and she was upset. I am not. I told her that I figure this means there is work for me to do in 2nd grade. I really hated 2nd grade last time I taught it. I know that is because I was hired mid-year and was given all of the naughty children the other teachers didn't want. So it was not ideal at all. It will make such a huge difference when I am there from day 1 and can set the tone with the same students.

I am not going to start planning anything until I know for sure that I will stay at my school and in 2nd grade...but I should know by the end of June because that's when the layoffs are set to happen. In the mean time I will let my brain work in the background about all of the fun things I can do in a grade where I don't have to worry about the stupid standardized tests!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Economics

At the start of this school year, Mrs. CT and I switched classes for science and social studies. It went okay but she clearly has not really ever taught science from a FOSS kit before. She was under the delusion that you could teach a kit in just a couple of weeks, even if you only had the students for 60 minutes a week. Um, no. Considering that each investigation is at least 2 parts long (sometimes 3), and there are multiple investigations in each kit...it takes a good 6 weeks to fully teach a kit, and longer when you only get an hour a week.

During the time that we still switched, she did an Economics unit with the students. They liked it but I bet anything that if I gave them a test on Econ terms tomorrow, they would be clueless. There was no long-term retention of the information because it was a short, quick unit and that was it.

It has really pushed me toward thinking about a classroom economy system. There are many websites out there that have information about how teachers have adapted this for their rooms: Leaping into 5th Grade has a lot of great printables (even "Frog Bucks"!) and information on how they use this system, Beth Newingham is the queen of the classroom economy, she even has a unit on classroom economy available at Scholastic.com, Mrs. Gold has a bit more simplified economy for her 3rd graders.


I really think that in addition to our school-wide leveling system for behavior, that a Classroom Economy would help to keep my students more accountable for their own behavior. I am really not a fan of the leveling system because the good students never go anywhere, they just stay at the top. I don't think that is very fair or effective in praising their good efforts. So I like the economy idea because students who do exhibit perfect behavior will be able to earn bonus bucks and things of that nature.

Taking a page from Mrs. Newingham's economy program, I decided to use a Debits/Credits System. We have a unit in our math program about debits and credits so I thought this would fit right in perfectly. I went to VistaPrint and ordered these:

They're simple but get the job done. Students will earn credits for doing the right thing and will earn debits when they aren't doing the right thing. This, I think, will be especially useful for those kiddos who don't like to do homework. They'll suffer fines for that in the form of their classroom cash and that will make a big impact when they can't purchase the things they need from the classroom store.

I'm really excited to continue to look at the systems other teachers have put together as I put my own economy system together for next year. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Momma ALWAYS knows!

Today I had the day off so that The Husband and I could go to Middle Child's post-neuropsych test feedback appointment. I have seriously been anxiously awaiting this day because I wanted validation that I wasn't insane in terms of knowing what was best for my child. I do have a Master's degree in English after all!

At any rate, we had Middle Child evaluated for Asperger Syndrome, dyslexia, anxiety and ADD/ADHD. I knew that I was going to get validation at least in some areas.

The end result? 3 out of 4. I seriously wanted to jump up and down, then run to Middle Child's school and shout 'BOO-YAH! TOLD YOU!"

Middle Child has a reading disorder with patterns of dysphonetic dyslexia (meaning she has zero phonics skills), Social anxiety disorder and ADHD NOS (not otherwise specified). Her ADHD is much like what I've been reading in You mean I'm not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?! in that her "hyperactivity" manifests itself as talking really really fast. I am really glad that Middle Child's therapist recommended that book to me because I honestly didn't know that hyperactivity could manifest in other ways besides being, well, hyper.

We left the appointment early enough that we were able to pick up The Littles from school and so I marched right in and gave the paper to her social worker. Also saw her teachers outside and told them that I was RIGHT. We saw Middle Child's 1st grade teacher outside too and I also told her about it. She was so glad for us because way back when Middle Child was in 1st grade, is when I first started noticing the dyslexic patterns. She makes a lot of the same mistakes my ELL kiddos were making at that time but she only knows one language! 

While no parent wants their child to have a label (or multiple labels in this case!), it goes without saying that I feel 100% validated in being RIGHT. It's really just too bad that the former Speech Path no longer works there because it would have given me great pleasure to rub this tidbit in her face. Nope, I'm not bitter at all that my child has missed out on two years of intervention because they didn't want to listen to what I knew.

So the lesson of the day is, Momma ALWAYS knows!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gas

Surprise!

So today was my Friday at work and I'm super glad. It's just been a long weird week (and Mrs. Principal told me after school that some child was humping her door today. Just wow).

At any rate, around 2:20 or so, Mrs. Nurse's Aide called my room and said she had a 1800Flowers delivery for me. I said "you do not!" but she insisted. Mrs. Resource babysat my class and I went down to the office and sure enough! I was thinking The Husband got sneaky and sent me flowers for Teacher Appreciation/Mother's Day. 

Gorgeous!

There was no name on the card which totally makes me think of the 90s movie Bed of Roses (oh Christian Slater...). I texted The Husband and asked him if he sent me flowers. He texted back and said "Nope..?" So then I texted my mom asking if maybe they did it (even though I know darn well they could hardly afford to splurge like this right now) and she said no also. So I have no idea. I can't honestly imagine in my 98% free and reduced lunch school that any of my students' parents would splurge on a bouquet that easily cost upwards of $60.

So it's a total mystery. I wish I knew who sent them just so I could thank them for making my day! Clearly it is someone who knows me and what I like...because my favorite colors are all represented.

Well, whomever did it, I owe them big time because seriously, this made my whole week!

Buckling those beauties in for safety!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jekyll and Hyde

I am pretty blunt. (You did know that, right?) I usually say what I think and don't hold back much. I've learned in my short almost-33 years that life is way too short to beat around the bush. Say what you mean, mean what you say and move on. 

Earlier this year, there were some stupid, childish things happening with Mrs. CT. It really saddened and upset me because I always thought she was my advocate and had my back. What's really weird is that lately, she has been SO nice to me. I mean, it's kind of scary. I'm almost waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For example, she had a manifestation meeting for one of her special ed students and had a sub on Monday morning. She said to me "we can have Mr. Sub go out for your recess duty if you'd rather take a break". It was awesome and generous but I have to admit I was leery about it too.

Then today during lunch we were talking about student teachers and placements and things. I requested a half time helper (called a TA at our local university) but final word hasn't come out yet. Mrs. CT told me at lunch that the coordinator had emailed her (Mrs. CT is the go-between for our school) and asked if some people who wanted TAs would be willing to take special education student teachers instead. At our university (also my alma mater), if you are a sped major, you do two full years in the College of Education. A TA semester in gen-ed, a TA semester in special education and then the same process for student teaching. Mrs. CT said she was waiting to hear who the teachers are that the coordinator was asking about but that she was going to request I get someone.

I hate to be a cynic but really? After everything, I can't help but wonder if she's just losing her mind, doesn't remember the bad things she did or doesn't realize I know and therefore is now being sweet as a peach to me. It's just weird. I would love nothing more than to have our relationship go back to what it was...being able to go to her for things and have her be a mentor to me and learn from each other. I just don't get this Jekyll and Hyde behavior. It's so weird.



And in other completely unrelated news, the student from yesterday, who called me a fatass bitch, apologized to me this morning, told me his dad threatened him within an inch of his life and he's grounded for the rest of the school year. I had to point out to him that no one messes with Mrs. Sunny because it's gonna come back on ya!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Those Days

There are some days that you literally leave school asking yourself if the events of the day really just happened to you. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, the answer is a big fat YES.

Today we took our MAP math tests. We had the test slot just before lunch. I love that slot the best because usually the class before us gets done early and then we can take a bit of extra time. The math test has 52 questions. It's always nice to be able to take a bit more time on that.

As the students were finishing and I would go around to get them out of the test, I wrote down their tentative scores (they say tentative because overnight as they are uploaded to the database, the system might go "oops, this kid's test answers are all over so they have to do it again -- even though I have never had that happen). I was very impressed, again, at how well the kiddos were doing. Some kids were around 218-220ish in their score which is REALLY good (220 is the median range for the end of 5th grade). Considering where these kids started, it made me feel really happy to know that my hard work -- and theirs -- hasn't been totally in vain.


With my group this year, one thing I have noticed is that if there is a slight change in schedule, or we do testing, they have a super hard time coming back from that. So one particular student, who is usually really polite and respectful to me, would not stop talking. I was about at the end of my rope in frustration. So finally, when I couldn't take it anymore and had caught him talking for like the 5th time, I said something to him and he got really snotty and said "I'm not doing anything" [I love that excuse...because apparently it means I am not only seeing but also hearing things!]. I invited him to take a chill out in the hall.

As he left the class, he called me a fatass bitch and tried to slam the door (which doesn't work when its on those slow-close thingys). Whatever, I just kept teaching my class. At the end of the day though, as the children were preparing to get ready to go home, they were at lockers and many came up to me and said that this child was slamming lockers and saying he was going to kill me, etc. Am I scared of this child? Not in the slightest. But I was really looking forward to going out and telling his mom what he said.

She always knows that if I walk out with him, its not going to be anything good. When I told her what he'd said and done, she was not a happy camper. Then he slammed the car door and you could see him griping to his brothers (presumably about what a fatass bitch I am and how much he'd like to kill me) and mom turned to me and said "well he's not helping his case if he wants me to believe him over you". I mentioned to mom that if I really wanted to, because he threatened me, I could get him expelled or at the very least suspended for the rest of the year. Normally this child is very nice and polite so I'm not sure what his deal was today but holy cow.

As I left to go back into the building, one of the 4th grade kids stopped me and asked me if I was going to be in his class next year. I just smiled and said I had no idea because what if I taught 1st grade next year [I would quit first!]? I told his teacher about it and she was like "oh Lord"...he tends to be a naughty one. I almost wanted to ask him if he was SURE he wanted Mrs. Sunny because she isn't nearly as nice as Mrs. 4th Grade.  Not that I'm really mean but I am pretty strict and she has a soft heart. It doesn't mesh well with a lot of these kiddos.

And to top off that lovely end to the day, as I was leaving, Mrs. Reading Coach and I were walking out together and we were talking about next year. This is the ONLY year that I have taught that we've gotten to May and not been given a clue about where we stand for next year. I have no idea why Mrs. Principal is being so secretive about it. Its wrong because job postings come out next week and people should know if they have to look for positions due to displacements or whatever. We have long figured that they'll eliminate Miss New Teacher's position and go back to 2 solid 4ths, 2 solid 5ths and a 4/5 split. Mrs. Reading Coach told me that she'd heard in one of the projections they were only going to have 2 5ths. I just stared at her for a few minutes and then pointed out that would put Mrs. CT and I both at 42/43 kids not including any newcomers. We could barely fit 34 in our classes at the start of this year. I can't imagine that they are going to get away with not having a split!! That would be insane!


I'm pretty glad that our testing is over so perhaps things will be normal tomorrow....whatever normal is! 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Oh yes we did!

Today my students took their final reading MAP test of the year. Mrs. RtI told me that the district is really looking at growth from fall to spring. That was good to hear because I knew that it was unlikely that we wouldn't have any kids who backslid a little from January since they had freaking amazing growth from September to January.

I had all but 6 students exceed their year-long goal. Those 6 students were pretty darn close (within 2 points each). I am really pleased and impressed, especially since it seems like so many of the students seem to have "checked out" over the last few weeks since Spring Break. We take the math test tomorrow and I am hopeful that we'll have that good of results again.

As I was getting the students out of the tests, I wrote down their tentative numbers and would ask each one, after praising their overall growth "so, who's the best teacher ever?" and they would smile and say "you are" and then I'd say "and who is the best student ever?!" and they'd get this huge grin and go "me?" like they weren't sure.

Even big kids need a little reassurance every now and then. I ♥ these kids.