Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beautiful!

We had a wicked weird rainstorm blow through around dinner. I swear I was waiting for the tornado sirens to come on. It was messed up.

Afterward, there was this piece of beauty.


It's even more special because it's a double rainbow. It was a perfect way to end today. Just perfect.


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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why does change have to be "bad"?

We had grade level planning again after school today. Once again, I am just boggled at how much my colleagues are trying to dumb down the curriculum! I like Reading Street. Yes, it can be challenging for them, but that's the idea! They are going to be out in the real world and no one is going to wait for them or dumb things down!

I just truly sit there nodding and smiling and when push comes to shove, I teach my kids the way I know is right. I was talking to Mrs. A after school today and told her about this (she was in my position last year) and she could truly sympathize. Don't get me wrong, I like my colleagues. A lot. However, I am with Mrs. A in thinking that one of my colleagues has an ESL endorsement -- she should know better than to do the things they are doing! I have 9 official ESL kids in my class and two who I strongly suspect have severe learning disabilities and they aren't lost or struggling and I am teaching the true curriculum. The problem is they had Houghton Mifflin forever and they got comfortable with it so the change is killing them. I personally HATED Houghton Mifflin and I really see how my kiddos are making gains with Reading Street so far.


Today they asked me if I was doing stations 3 days a week (which is what they are doing) and I said no, I was doing 5. Their jaws about hit the floor. They both have student teachers. I have me. And I'm getting it all in. I am MAKING it work (and I'm teaching science and social studies -- they aren't!). I don't gripe about how hard it is or how I think it's boring for the kids -- we just do it. And they feed off of me. If I act like it's fun so do they. I mentioned that I would not be able to meet with all of my groups if I didn't do stations over 5 days. One of my rotations is SSR so the children have SSR during stations and during the afternoon. The more reading the better, I say! And I still manage to get 20-30 minutes of science or social studies in 4 days a week. I'm really not sure how they both have student teachers and aren't getting everything in like me when I'm on my own. It's weird.

I am embracing the change. I like it. The kids are enjoying the stations and the change in instruction. I am LOVING my group time. It is something I have never really been able to do and do well and I enjoy that quiet small group time to really target where my kiddos are. And they come to me ready to work which is great. We just have to work on the chatting with the rest of them. I don't care if they talk but their noise level is super loud and then I can't hear my group and that's a problem. They haven't mastered the whisper yet. We're getting there. 

I am getting very strict with my expectations. The minute I find a friend not paying attention or not on task, it's a clip down on our chart. It means quite a few kiddos made it down the chart today. They have to learn that it is for their own good. Being focused and engaged in learning is NOT optional. Too many of them will just sit and do absolutely nothing if you let them. Too bad for them they're in my class because it won't fly with me at all. And they'll really straighten up when the iPods come to school and they don't get to use them if they don't do their work and are always getting taken to task for not paying attention.



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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good Day!

Today was great! I was very pleased to find that my students did not drive the sub insane yesterday afternoon. She even said she would be happy to come back sometime. That is always a bonus. Not so much at Current School because truly, the kids there are generally really good, but at Former School, being gone was akin to getting a leg removed. It was pretty bad.

I was also very pleased to discover that my iPods were delivered! I wrote a grant through Donor's Choose (seriously I have gotten at least $2,500 worth of awesomeness from them in the last two school years!) and there  were a few snafu's once it was funded but in the end we got 2 iPod touches (4th gen) and an Otterbox Defender case. I just ordered another case for the 2nd iPod. The kids think I am the coolest teacher ever. I did point out that *I* didn't buy these but they still think I am fabulous. I love it! I brought them home and downloaded iTunes and all of my Everyday Math apps synced automatically which is great. There is even a free program that can track your iPod if you lose it or it gets stolen. I think that rocks!


Overall today was very good. We had some trouble during our stations -- those kids just LOVE to chat! I felt like a jerk but I made them all go back to their desks. I have to get them to understand that they MUST work quietly so my groups can be productive in the 12-14 minutes I get with them. I am super proud of my low group because they worked hard yesterday and today. My ELL cutie who is in that group just cracks me up. It's him and two other kids (both of whom I strongly suspect have some kind of LD) and when ELL cutie gets something right, his face splits into this HUGE grin. I can't wait to track his growth this year -- he's going to go far, I'm sure.


At lunch I was eating with my team and the topic of National Board came up. One of my colleagues asked me why I would do National Board....um, why not?? I guess she attempted it years ago and didn't make it. Well, sorry to toot my horn but I WILL make it. I am already seeing how my kidlets are growing moreso than theirs because I'm not dumbing down anything. Whatever. I refuse to be negative. Every day is a gift and I plan to enjoy it. Every challenge has a lesson and I plan to learn from those too. I just do my best to avoid people who are negative because I don't have time for that crap in my life anymore. If you can't be happy for me and wish me well, then honestly, just smile and keep your mouth shut, you know?

I'm astounded that tomorrow is already Wednesday! We're planning tomorrow after school and I am hopeful to do like I did last week and get all of my copies and whatnot done Thursday morning so I can go home work free this weekend again. I don't mind staying until 5:30 or 6 on Friday if it means not having to bring work home!


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Monday, September 26, 2011

Subs

My students had their first real sub today. Meaning I was not in the room or in the next room while the sub was there. I have to admit I'm a bit nervous. Many of them are super chatty and it was a rainy-ish kind of day (although it rained then stopped and then rained again). I am hopeful that I return to school with a GOOD report of the afternoon. I have never liked having subs -- even good ones. It's so much work and often I end up putting out little fires when I return.

I made copies for the students' data notebooks before I went home. I made the packets and shoved them into my mailbox to deal with tomorrow. Our Home-School Coordinator brought me 30 3-ring binders that I requested. They don't all match but I don't care! We will use them as our Data Notebooks/Personal Training folders for MAP. I'm really excited about it because I am all about neat and organized and binders make that so nice and easy.


Despite having the afternoon off, I didn't get much done school-wise. I took The Oldest to lunch (she had no school for PD) and took Middle Child to an appointment. I didn't get much of anything done in between which is a bummer because I have plenty to do! Fortunately I found some energy somewhere and have gotten quite a bit done in the last 90 minutes. Another 15-20 and I should be able to call it a night feeling relatively good about what I got done. The days are flying by me. I'm amazed we're in our 4th week of school already. Standardized testing for 3-5 starts in just a couple of weeks. I don't envy that and I sure won't miss that test pressure this year either!  The longer I am with these small fries the more I might just want to stay there forever.


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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Short weekend!

I hate that my weekends feel so short. The last couple of weeks *have* been short because we've had big events that are full-day and that eats into the downtime and ability to relax. This weekend was the first since Labor Day that I have had two full days to do whatever I want. We also finally made it back up to our cabin (also haven't been there since Labor Day). For some reason I sleep a ton when I am there -- probably because it is away from everything and I can really and truly just relax. I'm not complaining, clearly my body needed that rest. We got there around 9:30 Friday night and were in bed by 11 and I slept until 10 (!!) then took a 3 hour  nap on Saturday afternoon and still slept a full 10 hours last night.


Friday was an amazing day in our class. I'm so glad we ended the week on a high note since Tuesday sucked so much. I have really, really worked hard this year to be positive and take each and every day as a new beginning. It sure helps, especially on those rougher days.

Friday we kicked major behind. We got so much done and the kids all got to enjoy a Community Grocery Store Glyph for Fun Friday. I'm  not sure where to put them up to show them off but I'll find somewhere. The kids loved how the glyphs told a story based on their answers. It was a freebie book I got from Scholastic when they had the dollar days and 10 freebies sale. I'm glad I picked it out because the kids loved it and we had fun. It made the hard start to the week worth it. I know we'll have up and down days and the key is to remember to just pick up and move on each day without dwelling on what has happened.

I stayed at school until almost 5 on Friday grading a huge pile of papers that had accumulated since Wednesday. I got my folders all stuffed and put together and except for the behavior reflections, they're set to go tomorrow. The behavior reflections only take me about 15 minutes to do for the whole class so that will be a snap first thing in the morning. I have two little things to copy in the morning also and we're good to go. It feels NICE to be a bit ahead and not feeling like I'm flying by the seat of my pants. It was even more important to be on top of things before I left Friday because I am out tomorrow afternoon since I have to take Middle Child to the doctor.

My sub is set to arrive tomorrow at noon. We'll have had lunch and be in the midst of a lesson by then so I don't plan to turn things over to my sub until 12:30. I am going to be making data notebooks for my students so I will spend a little time tomorrow copying for those after the sub takes over and plan to be gone from school by 1. I should be home by 1:30 and don't have to pick up Middle Child until 3 so I plan to get my station activities all made up during my time tomorrow. I plan to actually do the differentiated activities starting that next week because the students will have been working in their differentiated groups this week. Hopefully I can manage it all even though I'm on my own. I refuse to dumb anything down!!

I am hopeful that I can also get some more writing conferences in tomorrow while my students are working during writing. Their stamina is non-existent and it makes me sad. We have these "units of study" that allegedly promote rigorous writing but they don't -- the children spend about 40 minutes listening to the teacher drone on and maybe 5 minutes writing. It's lame! So I will actually make the lessons "mini" by taking out all of the stupid stuff they don't need (and won't remember!) and give the children time to just WRITE. In a 25 minute writing session many of them have 1-2 ideas down and it kills me. So that is something we are definitely going to be working on as well.

I have to start turning my mind toward my National Board entries. I am getting a lot of good ideas and info from the students by doing our conferencing based on their first writing tests. I plan to select 4-5 students and kind of watch their progress over the course of our first unit of study and then select writing pieces from based on progress and goals we've made (and hopefully attained!).

So much to do and so little time in which to do it!


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Thursday, September 22, 2011

I can smell Friday!

Today was the 13th day of school. Today was also the first time I actually sat down and ate lunch with my team. I feel bad because I don't want them to think that I'm all hoity toity and think I am better than them...but I also have had so much to do to get myself feeling like I'm not lost/behind. One of them commented that she was glad I joined them because they think I am working too hard. They both at least acknowledge that I'm entirely on my own and that's why it's taken me so long to feel like I know where I am and where I want to go.

I have to admit that planning last night was the best because I have a special this morning and I got the vast majority of my copying and such for next week done. Yay! I even copied my small group plans for next week. So happy about that! I'm sure there will be other things I realize I need to get ready but the big stuff is done. If I can get to work early again tomorrow, I should be able to get my Monday folders all set and I'll be golden for my work-free weekend! I am very much looking forward to that, especially with busting my behind recently trying to make sure I'm doing a good job for my kids.


We got our final intervention schedule today. They are going to postpone the start until Tuesday which is awesome because I am out Monday afternoon for an appointment with Middle Child. So I will just switch my day -- and we'll do our small group time in the morning so I can still meet with my groups and the sub can do math and social studies with them. Easy peasy. I have 7 kiddos going in the intervention groups (3 with one teacher, 4 with the other). That will put me at 18 kiddos left which means, in theory, I can do only 3 groups of 6. Now that I know which students are going in the pull out groups, I am going to redo my grouping schedule to be ready for next week. I am actually quite excited to get going with it!


After school today we had a short presentation by the Project Fit people from MSU. Former School was a Project Fit school and last year Current School was the "control" school. For letting them come in and work with our kids, every teacher got a set of freebies! Stickers, bookmarks and other things as "non-food" reward items; a set of nutrition cards with games and activities, a big Nutrition book written by a teacher that has great lessons in it and best of all a "Health Through Literacy" pack with lots of books geared toward healthy food and exercise. Inside is a Fit Bits kit. I love it! It will be great for those times when the kids have the wiggles and just need to get a little movement. I can't wait to share them with my class tomorrow.


I have some grading to do (ick!) tonight which I am avoiding! I'm enjoying a brownie instead (which is horrible after attending a NUTRITION session lol) and will try to get myself to finish the grading so I can put all of my folders together tomorrow and leave school by 4 at the latest tomorrow. Oh that would be so awesome (and well deserved)!

I can smell Friday!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Difference a Day Makes!

Today was a lot better than yesterday. We had a class meeting after our morning work and I kind of laid it on the line. I think most of them got it. It's going to take constant reinforcement, reminders and having them voice my expectations for it to stick. One thing I think has always served me well as a teacher is that I am 100% honest with my students -- I don't pull the wool over their eyes about anything. And I told them that I want to come to school HAPPY to see them each day and leave feeling PROUD of all of the work we did.  Yesterday was not that kind of day. I was sad because I felt like we just didn't get as much learning done as we could have. Maybe that sounds manipulative but I think they got it. Helping kids realize that you are a person with feelings too goes a long way toward building a good, strong community. The day went much better after our chat and I am hopeful that with enough reinforcement they'll continue to make strides. They are a good class, they are just immature and need me to push them to be their best.


My team finally met as a grade level to do planning for next week. Oh my. I'm not sure if it's because I have taught upper elementary so long but I was astounded at how much they were dumbing down the reading street curriculum. I don't dumb down ANYTHING. I am teaching it from the book AND we're getting through more of it than both of them and at least a bunch of it is sticking (I say that because they can repeat for me what things are that we've worked on in days past). They are not teaching science or social studies at all and I am....AND getting all of the reading in. I just don't get it. I kind of sat through our planning in disbelief. I didn't say much because I'm not going to rock the boat there....but I think they don't really give these kids enough credit for what they CAN do. I just smile and nod and will do my thing. I bet dollars to doughnuts that my kids will be more prepared for 3rd grade. Not that I think I am a better teacher than they are but I do think the program is developmentally appropriate and they just want to keep doing it how they always have. Times are a changing and that doesn't work anymore.


We finally got to practice stations the last two days. The kids were a bit chatty in the first round today but did much better with the 2nd one. I put all of the stations activities into a packet so they always have it at their seats. I'm really pleased with how it went. The activities are only meant to take about 15 minutes. I am going to try to do 3 rounds per day of 15 minutes each. Not because I want to do such a little amount of work but because I will have so many groups. If my intervention groups total up to 8-10 kids I can do less groups and more stations (or less groups but see them 4 days a week instead of only 3). Once I know my intervention groups I should be able to put that together for next week.

My colleagues are only planning to do stations 3 times a week. I am going to do them daily I think. They aren't going to know the difference! I really hope I can work it so that I can do 3 - 15 minute sessions a day because even if I work with all 5 of the groups I have tentatively put together, I can see them all 3 times a week. They told us we had to do Tier 2 during that pullout time but after doing some digging, Tier 2 is only for 5-15% of your class, not all of them. So I am going to try to work my time slot so that my kids who go to intervention get to do at least one station a day Monday - Thursday (the intervention days) and then catch the last two on Friday so they still get all 6. Then they aren't missing the review activities, just small group with me. I will definitely be posting about our adventures through the stations!!


I am feeling much, much better about everything today (and I didn't even need to cry to get there!). Since we planned today and I have math set for next week, I can make all of my copies tomorrow morning, spend my plan time getting things sorted and organized for next week and after school get my Monday folders ready to go. I am determined to leave school by 4:30 on Friday with no work in my hands. We are going to the cabin for the first time since Labor Day weekend and I plan to rest, relax and just enjoy!

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Honeymoon's Over!

This morning Mrs. CT told me that she misses me upstairs because some of her kids this year just aren't that likeable. Then she says, they need a little "Mrs. Sunny" in their lives. I thought it was cute. 

Today was a rough one. Wow. It's like all of the kids collectively lost their loving minds. My class was SO chatty today. I mean really if your biggest issue is talkative kids, you've got it good...but I am tired of feeling like a broken record and stopping and waiting for them to shut up so we can move on. I am going to pull them all for a class meeting tomorrow and we ARE going to nip this all in the bud. I feel like I'm being a huge bitch but I know I am not. It isn't mean to expect them to be quiet and work, especially not when I give them time to move around and play a bit. 

I have a little guy who has some issues to put it mildly. He has already destroyed a brand new reading book, he never does any work (it's amazing how well he reads because he does NOTHING in class) and today, he sat at his desk and ripped up pages from one of MY books. Oh hell no. I draw the line there. So his book box and his books are non-existent. I tolerate a lot of crap but that is something I won't tolerate. I did not contact dad today because I am just not in the mood to hear their excuses (when I told dad about the ruined reading book, he just kind of blew it off). I have talked with this child's first grade teacher, the speech path and referred him to our site-based counselor. Something is just off with this child and I hope we can figure it out and get him the help he needs. I felt like a jerk removing him from his seat after he destroyed my things and making him sit on the floor by the board because he wouldn't leave the child next to him alone either. But when I shared my concerns with our fabulous lit coaches, they were like "uh, no you are NOT mean, you did exactly what you should have done". I know I am going to end up writing a behavior report on this one because we have to have the documentation. I just don't know what to do with this child. I can't help someone who won't help themselves and he literally does nothing. 

I told The Husband tonight that by the end of the week, I'll probably just need to have a good cry. He doesn't understand. He doesn't get why crying would be helpful. It just lets it all out and then you can move on. I've dealt with my fair share of problem children, much worse than this one behaviorally. What's killing me is that I can't get him to DO anything and I don't know how to help him. It's only the 11th day and I just feel lost and unsure of what I can do to help this child and it's a harsh reality to face.


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Monday, September 19, 2011

Optimism

No one can ever say I don't go to the ends of the Earth for my class. Sometimes I just have to bitch--vent all of the injustice and then pull up my big girl pants and move on. After my post earlier, eating some dinner (and Ben and Jerry's if we're being completely honest), and taking a little time for my own kids, I hit the plan book. I really looked at what I could change without sacrificing my kiddos' education or my sanity.

I think I found a solution. It is going to require the kids to be on top of their game all the time (and me too). It might be ugly for awhile but it was all I could come up with. I am going to play with my idea a bit more and see what I can do...I hate feeling painted into a corner with a ton of demands on my time, especially when the powers that be then schedule crap without thinking of how hard I work to maintain this precious schedule.


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Overwhelmed

The start of each week usually leaves me feeling overwhelmed. I do not know how the "powers that be" expect me to teach everything I am supposed to teach and teach it WELL. Yeah, I could "cover" it all but then no one learns anything.

We're supposed to get LLI intervention support starting Monday which is great. What isn't great is to be told I'm supposed to do Tier 2 interventions during that same time. Right. On top of the stations and small groups. Yeah. Let's not forget I am on my own--I don't have a student teacher like my colleagues. And I'm new to the grade level. THERE JUST ISN'T ENOUGH TIME IN THE DAY!

I know it'll work out and be okay...but at this point I am NOT willing to give up teaching science and social studies. No way. I refuse to revamp my schedule AGAIN when the groups/stations should be enough. it bugs me that anyone NOT in my classroom working with my kids gets to dictate my schedule or how I should teach anything. I have a child reading 5 wpm on DIBELs and a child reading 112 wpm on DIBELs in ONE room, yet on top of already trying to balance an impossible schedule, I'm also supposed to do Tier 2. Not all of my kids will need more than the small group time because I can challenge them there. I just don't know what to do.

I feel frustrated, upset and lost. I feel like I can't do all of this and I know the kids will ultimately suffer no matter what. They will either lose content instruction or quality will suffer and neither is okay with me. The would never be okay with me.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oh Sunday...

I think I kind of hate Sunday nights. Because it means I have to go to work tomorrow. Don't get me wrong. I like my class and love being back in a routine but my weekends seem SO short recently. Probably because we've had busy Saturdays the last two weeks.

I did not get as much planning done as I would have liked this weekend but that is okay. If I can get myself back on a good morning schedule I can get a lot of my planning done in the next two mornings and we'll be golden. I know what we're working on this week, it's just a matter of getting it all written out and everything copied. At least my team "gets it" this year. They both have student teachers and I'm on my own and they ALWAYS ask me if I need anything because I don't have any help. I appreciate that they at least acknowledge that I'm on my own. Wasn't the case last year I can tell you that.

I rarely sit down at work -- I tend to wolf my lunch down and work to stay on top of things as well as work through recess. I know it won't be like this forever. Hopefully by the end of this week it'll be a lot calmer and I can actually sit and eat and relax a bit. I think I am in a good place right now -- I feel ready for this week save for a few things I HAVE to get done first thing in the morning. If I can get myself to work by 7 a.m., life should be just peachy this week because that will give me plenty of time to finish up the last minute things I can only do at work, get my copies made and be ready to greet my little friends at 8:20.

Hard to believe tomorrow is already the beginning of week 3! Unreal.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Happy Weekend!

I have been too busy to even think straight the last few days! I am entirely too glad that it is the weekend! Things at school are great -- very busy and exhausting though. I think I'm finally starting to find my way in 2nd grade again. I can honestly say that I love it. Love.It. The kids are cute, sweet and most of the time really want to please me. I have a very social class this year. They really like each other because they talk allllll the time! I would much rather have a chatty class than a rude one though...and honestly, every day is so much better than the previous ones. These kiddos are very quickly rising to my expectations and it is great. I am really reflecting too and thinking hard when something doesn't go how I thought -- was it my instruction, was it the kids or was it honestly just too hard for them at this point. We're all finding our way together and it feels fine.

I get hugs every day, the kids don't get snotty attitudes (yet!) and they LOVE when they get awards. We supposedly have this whole-school PBiS thing happening...well we're giving out the tickets but they aren't drawing names like they said they would. It is frustrating because the kids are asking me why they don't draw names. Almost every day this week we got a whole class ticket coming into the school in the morning because they are quiet, they are fast and they are being super stars. We're also one of the LAST classes to come in because of how our line up is. For these little 2nd graders to stand quietly that long and still make it up the stairs to our room quietly is pretty freaking awesome.

Because the office isn't following through on their end of the PBiS (which REALLY gets on my nerves -- if you're going to dangle a carrot, you damn well better GIVE the carrot when it's earned!), I have been keeping our end of the ticket stubs and putting the date on them. I think we have 5 or 6 right now. When we get up to 10 as a class, *I* will provide them with a special treat. Should I have to? No, but clearly the school isn't on top of it and I think that's crap. It takes 5 seconds to draw a freaking card out of the tub and read it at the end of the day! 


I'm super proud of my kids because twice we've had other teachers comment that they thought the class was third graders because they were doing [insert whatever they were doing well] SO well that they just couldn't possibly be only in 2nd grade. Despite a couple of bumps at the start of the year, my colleagues have been nothing but awesome to me. Mrs. CT told me that she really missed my data knowledge and technology know-how (and with Mrs. Resource moved to another school, she doesn't have the support she had last year). I was telling my new team this and one said "yeah well she's going to have to fight to get you back". It's good to feel wanted!!

We were crazy busy this week. We had 3 MAP tests, our DIBELs tests and Open House. I only had 8 families (of 25) show up which is the worst turnout I have ever had but a couple of key families came so that made it worth it for me. Due to all of the other stuff going on I had to bring some work home. I hate to do that because I am a firm believer that the weekends are my time BUT I always make concessions the first 2-3 weeks of the year because they tend to be some of the craziest when you change grades. I didn't really do anything with my pile today because I was tired, The Oldest had an invitational and I just wanted to be lazy! I will block out 3-4 hours tomorrow (probably while The Husband is watching football!) to get it all done and then I'll be set for the week. 

One of the biggest, scariest things I've discovered is how vastly different the abilities are in my class. I literally have children reading 4 words per minute on DIBELs and children reading over 90 already which is the end of 2nd grade benchmark. It's a bit daunting to look at some of those numbers and wonder how in hell I am going to get those kids where they need to go, or at least to show some real progress this year. I have most of my beginning of year reading data that I am going to pour over tomorrow and make my baseline reading groups -- they will change throughout the year of course but I really want to start ASAP getting some intervention going for my kids who are super low right now. I also really want to make sure that I challenge the 5-6 kiddos I have who are MILES ahead of the other children in the class. I hate that those are the kids who are often left out and I refuse to do that. 

I am taking a hard look at my schedule and our routines and will be making a couple of changes that I think will really help my students to do better and break our day up so they can maximize their learning. I miss big kids but I also am glad that I got to stay with my group because I really do like them a lot. They are helping me realize that I CAN be successful in 2nd grade and we're having fun while learning. That makes a huge difference!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sometimes Girls just gotta have FUN!

I try hard not to talk about my personal life a lot on this blog because I have other places for that. Occassionally, real life sneaks in here though and that's okay. I am a person after all and there is more to me than being "The Caffeinated Teacher".

Today I had TWO different parents contact my principal before school ever started. One claimed I made fun of her child and the other was upset about some tardies. While I completely understood the parent who thought I made fun of her kid going above my head, the other one was kind of annoying. The school policy is that if the children are not in line, outside, by the 2nd bell, they are tardy. Last year my class lined up at the door so it was much easier to see who was coming in late. This year my class lines up all the way on the basketball court so I take my clipboard with me and mark my attendance on it so I can see right then if anyone is coming up after the last bell. The first couple of days of school it was taking kids longer to get to the line because of the breakfast kersnuffle and whatnot. So I talked with this mom, she was super nice, we got it sorted out and went on our way. I did tell her, oh-so-politely, that she could always call the school and ask for me and they would give her my voicemail which I would get and could return her call. It's faster than going to my principal that's for sure.

The other parent is raising a drama queen. I did not make fun of her child. Why would I do that? I mean honestly. I get that mom wanted clarification and she wasn't rude to me or anything but seriously. So I documented it all of course and wrote down that I called both of these parents back and got to the bottom of the issue. Then to CMA, I emailed updates about both of them to my principal so no one can say I didn't do my job.

Parents are often my least favorite part of teaching. Often they can be the best advocate you have -- but sometimes they are so stupid and lame too. Funny I never had parent issues when I taught 4th and 5th grade. Only the small fries. 

So I left work today by 4 (the kiddos leave at 3:10) and since The Husband was working late, I took all of the girls and myself to the nail salon. I will never admit how much I spent there (because it is an absurd amount of money) but now I have beautiful, super soft hands and super cute and soft fun feet!



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Monday, September 12, 2011

MAP and Blue Moon??

Well the good news is, my students didn't throw a huge fuss about MAP testing at 8:30 this morning! I did warn them last week that we would be testing first thing on Monday. I'm not sure how many actually remembered. I had three little friends absent today, all girls. I've had an abundance of boys the last three school years and missing three girls made it feel even MORE boy-crazy in my room today. Fortunately my boys this year are stinkin' cuties so it's okay.

When my students take the MAP, I always go around and write down their tentative scores because it just helps me kind of see where they are. I've never done the primary test before (we're SUPPOSED to take the 2-5 version but our district has dumbed it down despite saying we're all about academic rigor--whatever) so it's a little different. They have 4 tests: two reading and two math whereas last year we only had one of each. I assume comprehension is tomorrow since it was the only part I didn't see on the test results today.

Anyway I wrote down their RIT numbers and the Lexile score that came up. I have a beginning of the year 2nd grader whose lexile score is 632-782!!!! That's a mid-4th grade level. Holy bananas! NWEA released new "norms" as of 2011 and if I figured things out correctly, 8 of my students already exceed the start of the year average. That is excellent news because last year I did not have one SINGLE CHILD who was at the benchmark number at the start of the year. It was super discouraging. It's nice to know that some of my friends already have a head start....and several aren't too far behind that number either. It'll definitely be interesting to see their mid-year and end-of-year progress considering where some of them have started!



Additionally, our new Betta fish was very well received by the kids. They were coming up with some super silly names for her, a few of which I had to nix completely because the poor fish would hate us if I let people call her that. In the end the kids voted and decided to name her Blue Moon. I get the blue part since that's what color she is but I am not sure at all where they got "moon" from. You'd have thought I gave them a million dollars when I said the Star of the Week gets to sit at that table with Blue Moon for their week and help take care of her. 2nd graders are so easy to please!!


I stayed at school until about 5 today, taking full advantage of no staff meeting or PLC and got some filing done and everything prepped for tomorrow. We're taking the second half of the MAP reading test, then the children have recess and go to gym and they are dismissed from gym on Tuesdays. It's pretty awesome. With the recess break I get about 65 minutes to do my thing. We have Open House on Thursday so you can believe that time will be well spent!

I still need to do some arranging and rearranging in my room. Not of furniture and such but of my own things. I just can't seem to get my things into a system that keeps me from feeling like I have stuff laying everywhere. I'm not digging it. Mostly because I just haven't had time to sit down and organize and get things how I would like them to be. Since I am 100% ready for the day tomorrow that may well be what I do during my plan time in the morning because I know that my classroom runs sooooo much more smoothly when I feel organized and with it.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Surprise

Today I took my girls to the pet store where they promptly picked out two little mice, a black one and a white one (Snowball and Shadow), plus a house and all of that good stuff. The Oldest bought herself a gerbil (Sandy) with her babysitting money from this summer.

I have been wanting to have a class pet for a few years but could never really decide what I wanted that wouldn't require too much maintenance. Everyone always suggests frogs but I prefer the cartoon/stuffed variety to the real ones! 

I was searching online earlier today and found a site that said Betta Fish are actually great for the classroom because their tanks don't require filters and as long as they are in a tank alone they are pretty calm and docile. So I did a little more searching and found that a lot of people have them in their classrooms and love them. I even found a cute little tank kit specifically made for Betta Fish that has a divider in case you want two fish (but then the tank is super small so I opted to get one fish and leave the divider out).

I am going to let my students vote on a name for her.

She's blue and black. I read somewhere today too that the blue ones tend to live longer. As long as it doesn't croak on us during the year and traumatize my class for life, we should be good!

And just for fun, here's a picture of Snowball and Shadow after they wore their cute little selves out playing:


The students are going to be so excited tomorrow :) 
We're MAP testing first thing in the morning (Ugh!) so this hopefully will be a nice pick-me-up for them. I don't know a single child who doesn't love fish.

Super Short Weekend!

My weekend felt super, super short because yesterday I got up at 5:30 (on a Saturday!) to head to the MSU/FAU game as a chaperone with my school. We are very, very blessed at that school because we have a TON of sponsors and community partners who really try to give our students help to have a great educational experience. I love that. (And it is definitely something that none of the other schools I have worked at have had.) 

This week was pretty crazy overall. I love, love, love my new class and I'm so glad that I decided to be positive about 2nd grade. It's different for sure, but I'm having fun with them and that makes a big difference. We have a lot to do to get these kiddos ready for third grade and standardized tests but I'm confident we can get (most of them) there. A few I do already worry that I am not going to be able to really help much because they're so far behind. BUT then I remember why I do what I do. I am there to help children and I am fortunate to work at a school with a ton of resources so I'm going to do everything I can to get my kids the help they need.

It always amazes me how big the gap of achievement can be in one classroom. I have many children reading at a BR level (beginning reader) but I have a child with a lexile of 500+! You can definitely tell who reads at home and who doesn't. It's sad. I told my friends that even if they just read for 10 minutes a day at home that they'd be doing themselves a favor. Many don't eat breakfast at school so I said well while you're waiting for mom/dad/older sibling to walk you to school, you could read a book. They think I am a genius because they never thought of that. It's probably the biggest thing I realize that I do like about 2nd grade -- the kids ARE impressionable and if you make something sound SUPER IMPORTANT most of them are going to try to do it because they want the teacher to be happy.

We are a PBiS school and we have building wide behavior posters that help to reinforce and remind the children what the behavior expectations are. We also have them in the classroom. I knew I would be getting children from the split so I purposely waited until Thursday to do our class poster with the children. We are the STARs (Safe, Take Responsibilty, Awesome Attitude and Respectful) so that is what is on all of our posters. We were talking about what it meant to "Take Responsibility" and one of my little friends said "that means if you are gone, we have to be really good so you aren't sad when you come back to school!" Love it!

I was worried Tuesday/Wednesday that I just couldn't do this. I just could NOT effectively teach 2nd grade. I was in over my head. The kids were going to suffer....but every day has gotten easier. Every.Single.Day. AND on Friday, when I have recess duty in the afternoon, my class was following the third graders in. One of my teaching partners was on the stairs waiting for her class to come in with her student teacher. When I rounded the corner with the middle of my class, her jaw dropped and she said "Oh my Gosh, is this your class?!" and I said yes, it was. She said she thought they were still the third graders because they were so quiet. I must've beamed the rest of the afternoon! I feel like I'm being a big meany to the children but when I really stop and think about it, I'm not saying mean things or treating them badly. I just have high expectations. And I have to say they are really rising up to meeting them! 

I'm so proud of them and of myself. I didn't give up, I didn't go home crying that I hate my job....because I don't. Even last spring, although the change surprised me, I knew it was time for me to stretch my wings a bit. I can be effective even with younger friends. And they love me. They follow me around at recess when I have duty, they share with me things from their home lives and they draw me pictures. It makes me realize how lucky I am to be a teacher and get to touch lives like this.

This week I had four former students from last year come up to give me a hug when they were picking up younger brothers/sisters at school. They have all said that they're glad I was hard on them because middle school isn't so bad after all. That makes me feel good. I am so proud of those kids. They worked hard and I am lucky I got to be a little part of their lives. Yesterday one of my former students was at school while kids were being dropped off for our trip and he told me they put him in advanced math because of his MAP scores in my class. I was thrilled because he is a smart kid who just needs a little confidence in himself. He also told me that my biggest trouble maker already got suspended (the first day). Very sad.

Last night I took my own girls out to dinner after my long trip since I felt like I haven't been able to spend a ton of time with them this week with the start of school. The Oldest was asking me something about how many kids I have....and I added up all of the students I've taught since I had my first classroom (not counting the children I had as a student teacher) and including this year's class, I've had 177 students so far. That's a lot of children in only 6 years. If I count the kids I worked with during my field work, that I spent more than 12 weeks with, it's over 250. To know that I have touched lives in each of those classrooms is touching, humbling and overwhelming all at once. I haven't liked all of my students and they haven't all liked me...but we've worked well together and gotten things done. I think I can say I have failed very few kids (and most of the ones that I have it's more their parents' lack of support than because I didn't know how to do my job).

While some days I definitely wonder why I teach when politicians make it out like we're all a bunch of overpaid babysitters -- when I look out at my kids and look back at the impact that I hope I've had, I know that I couldn't do anything else with my life. Being a teacher is in my blood. And I'm proud of that.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Plugging on

I am still a 2nd grade teacher. I am 100% okay with this. While I would have been very okay with moving back up to 5th grade, I thought long and hard about it last night. I was really thinking that since I hadn't heard anything from Mrs. Principal last night, we probably weren't going to make the switch. I prayed about it before I went to sleep. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Everything. There are bumps in the road for a reason [not that I consider this a bump].

I felt like if it was meant to be, I'd go back to 5th. But this morning we all talked and she told me she hadn't heard back and we just couldn't wait any more. I totally understood. And I have to admit that part of me really felt anxious about the whole bit. Was I really going to be able to move my room and get set up all over again? And could I truly and honestly leave my little friends? I'm perfectly okay with how things worked out. 

Each day gets a bit easier with my little friends. They are very quickly rising to my high expectations. I have a couple of kids who are SOOOO low. I already worry about how far I am going to be able to take those children. I know it has only been three days but wow...they are l-o-w and it's scary.

I realized tonight that it's been three days and I haven't even taken their pictures yet! We've been so busy getting routines and procedure in place and jumping right into curriculum. I feel terrible about that. So that's on my list for tomorrow morning for sure! Especially now that I have my new friends from the split class. Two girls and two boys. They are sweet and you'd never know that they hadn't been with us all week. A few of my little friends are SUPER chatty and I get on them for it. I do feel like a big jerk but I already see the difference in their behavior so I know that we'll be okay in the end. 


Middle Child had a therapy appointment after school today and as I was waiting in the lobby for her, I was going through some student work. We've been reviewing short vowel sounds this week in our Reading Street curriculum and today we FINALLY had a chance to practice one of our stations because we actually got through everything else and had time left. The station was using the sound spelling cards to review the vowel sounds and then write a word with that vowel sound, then draw a picture of it. It was quite easy for most of them once we practiced a few words together but it also showed me really quickly who is far, far behind.

I love that pig! Sooo cute!

Note the spelling of "fence". ♥ it!

The elephant's nose cracks me up! I have some little artists!

The igloo and umbrella were popular choices. And this kiddo also used "fence" (and didn't sit by the other child who did which I found interesting).

And then there is this little guy...this was all I got in 20 minutes. He is LOST and it's obvious. Makes the case for why we should NOT socially promote children.


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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And so it goes

There are days I wonder why I teach in my district. Because they are MESSED UP. And that is putting it mildly.

We found out that Mrs. 2/3 Split was not going to be a split anymore. We all knew that LAST SPRING, the numbers just did not make sense. What shocked us all, however, was to find out that she's being put in 5TH GRADE (we all thought for sure it would be 1st). I volunteered to go back to 5th because she has an early childhood endorsement and I know the 5th grade curriculum. No word on whether or not they are going to let us change even though the kids are changing classrooms TOMORROW. I have a feeling since they didn't tell us before the end of the day that they are going to say no. I will be super pissed if they tell me tomorrow MORNING that I am changing because that's B.S. (I would still do it but I wouldn't like it!)

They are messing up numbers though and one of my colleagues will have 27, I will have 26 and one will only have 22! I got ANOTHER kid who just registered....yet one of my colleagues only had 19. Why was this child given to me?! Not that it really matters but damn it, I don't have a spot for a 25th and 26th kid without rearranging my entire seating. 


THEN I heard after school that they are doing the same crap they did with Miss New Teacher last year. Only 20 kids going to the new classroom and then that teacher gets all of the new kids--and you KNOW what kind of kids move in mid-year. They should have just made them all 25 and shared the wealth. So stupid. And I feel horrible for Mrs. 2/3 Split because I KNOW she does not want to be teaching 5th grade. I don't see why it is a big deal to switch us -- we never should have been moved in the first freaking place!!

So I came home today just feeling disheartened and wondering what the &%#$ the "powers that be" are thinking in what they do sometimes. I gotta tell you though that this afternoon, after knowing there was a slight possibility of switching back to 5th, I looked out at my young friends and wondered if I could really leave them. Even though they make me want to crawl under a rock -- not because they're bad but because they're sooooooo slow and needy -- I like them for the most part. And one of my boys told me today that "this is the best class ever!" which made me feel good since I feel like I'm not doing anything right.

Additionally, Mrs. E, one of my colleagues told me that I was a wonderful person to volunteer to go back up to 5th so that Mrs. 2/3 didn't have to make that huge change. Everyone has been telling me how great I am with my kids and that makes me feel good because I feel like I"m being a big jerk. I guess my expectations are just super high and I have to really work to help bridge that for my little guys.

My head hurts :(

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Whew!

So I made it through the first day of my adventure in 2nd grade! Astoundingly, I brought home only one thing that will take me less than 10 minutes to do and except for a couple of copies tomorrow morning, I am set for tomorrow! Not bad considering how unprepared I felt last night and this morning.

I got to school at 7 am which I am not a fan of (but usually make exceptions at this time of the year) and got my copies done before heading to my room and getting my big ole cart unpacked, everything sorted, put away and ready for the day. I was very impressed with myself ;)

Then a helper/parent at our school says "oh you have my niece so-and-so" and I was like "oh who is it?" and she tells me and then goes on to tell me that this child stabbed a kid in the eye with a pair of scissors in kindergarten...um, thanks?! WHY would you tell a person that? Second of all, it was two years ago...why bring it up? (And for the record, she was a peach all day!)

I did have about 5 fifth graders ask me why I wasn't teaching 5th grade this year because they wanted to be in my class. Score! But I have to admit when I heard that those two classes were at 36 and 39 kids, I'm glad I'm not. They don't even have room to breathe in there :/

Today I learned the fine lesson of over planning. Wow. I didn't get those kiddos through even HALF of what I had planned for today between the assembly, behavior stuff and all of that. Next year, no matter what, I am NOT starting Reading Street on day 1. Those poor kids probably think I am the meanest person ever. They were so tired and it was just a lot of "teacher talk" today and that's hard after a summer off! Most of my kid lets are really awesome though. I had all but one show and then after recess, one of the aides came up to get one of the boys and said he wouldn't be back. Considering already on day one, he was getting on my nerves, I was not sad to see him go! After school she told me he left to go to a charter and the mean side of me inwardly laughed and wondered how many days it'd be before he's back because they kicked him out (and no I'm not knocking charters, my kids go to one--but they DON'T have to keep everyone who walks in the door like we do).

After school we had a brief meeting and I was miffed to find my "team" had a really fun activity they did for the week with their classes that they never bothered to tell me about. Awesome. Not that I'm surprised, I was warned. I just do what's right for my kids and I guarantee that my kids will be better off because I don't waste a lot of time on cutesy stuff when we've got learning to do. Don't get me wrong, I am all for fun when it's warranted but I've taught on the other end of this spectrum and if my kids aren't reading at level, I am not going to waste time on stuff that doesn't help them learn!


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Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

This is another long stretch where I kind of feel like I fell off the face of the earth! So much going on, so many things to do and blogging is just not a priority (and the fact that I don't have internet service at my cabin....and barely cell service on my phone!).

This long weekend was WAY TOO SHORT! There were so many things I have needed/wanted to do and I just couldn't fit it all in. I did a lot of stuff on Friday since my kids were at my mom's until 3 p.m. We headed up to our cabin after The Husband got home and I was determined not to be dragging a ton of stuff up there to work on. So pushing it to the max was essential on Friday. Fortunately I got a lot done and only had to bring up one thing to finish. I spent a lot of time sleeping and just relaxing with my family while we were up north. Sadly I can't go back for two weeks because next weekend I am chaperoning a trip for school and the weekend after that The Oldest has an invitational for band. Boo! Our cabin is only about 90 minutes away so fortunately we don't have to close it up over Labor Day...we'll probably wait until late October, although if it stays as cold as it was this morning, maybe earlier (seriously Michigan weather is messed up -- it was 90+ Friday when we left and 48 this morning when we got up!).

I have a couple of things I do want to finish up tonight but I'm not sure I'll get them all done. We were rushed right out of school on Thursday so I don't really have copies and whatnot ready for the week and I HATE feeling unprepared like that. So I am going to print out an original of all of the things I think I am going to need for Reading Street and just make my copies before I ever get up to my classroom tomorrow! I would have loved just a couple more hours at school on Thursday but oh well.

I think this year Wednesdays are going to be my late night. Most years I pick one day a week to stay until 5:30 or 6 to catch up on things and make my copies for the following week. It's nice to keep it to ONE day instead of feeling like you have to live at school every night. I think my teammates and I are going to try to do our planning on Wednesdays as well so that will work out nice too since I have a special on Thursday mornings. I know once things get going and the initial feeling of "um, what am I doing exactly?!" fade, everything will be a-okay.

I made up a quick seating chart for my kiddos when I got home today. I'm not sure if other districts do this but we have "grouping cards" where the previous teacher can provide insight for each child plus it lists test scores and other information that are important to know. I added the students' lexile scores from last spring's MAP test and their home addresses/phone numbers to mine since I keep them in the students' files in case I need them. It's MUCH easier for me to look through that one sheet of paper than find time to dig through their CA-60s. Personally, I am of the mind to give the children a fresh start. I try not to judge too much based on what I've heard simply because sometimes they are one way for one teacher and a completely different child for the next teacher. I based my seating chart on some kiddos that I was told to "keep an eye on" as well as their lexile scores from the spring so I don't have all low readers at one table, etc. I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of kiddos whose lexile scores as of the end of 1st grade were equivalent to an end of 2nd-beginning of 3rd grade level. One was described as a behavior problem but my first instinct would be that the kiddo was probably bored if he was reading that high in 1st grade already. I was very strategic in spacing my super high readers throughout the room. Hopefully if they can feel a bit like a "leader" at their table, behavior issues will be minimal. Not that I'm worried. My clip chart and behavior bingo are likely to knock the socks right off most any of them because my daily bingo drawings will be for some pretty cool stuff (more on that later).

I am up WAY past my bedtime as I started this post hours ago, then got distracted with dinner, baths, stories, etc and helping my kidlets get ready for their big days tomorrow. I am officially a mama of a junior, a 4th grader and a 3rd grader! Where does the time go?!

For everyone starting this week, here's to a smooth and easy start to the year!

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Finally (almost) Friday!

It kind of feels like everyone in the blogosphere has started school but me. I know it isn't true but it sure feels that way!

Today was our classroom day. I had visions of staying until about 6 so I could take my time this afternoon after people started trickling out to finish up without as much distraction (so we're a very SOCIAL group at my school....sue us *wink*). But then at like 2:30 they announce that we have to be out by 4:45! Soooooo not in my plans guys!

Unfortunately for me, it just meant I had to scramble to get last minute things done and make a few quick copies before I left. Then I brought a rolling cart full of crap home to do. I did not want to bring it home...but I did. If I use my time wisely tomorrow, I can get it all done by noon and get ready for my long weekend work-free. I don't have much to do yet because I did get a bunch done tonight before we went to a late dinner. I'm going to have The Husband get me up hen he gets ready for work so I can jump right in and maximize my time.

Hard to believe summer really is over!

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