Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Details / Giveaway reminder

My book isn't supposed to be eligible for purchase until July 4 but it is listed as "in stock" at Amazon and people are able to buy it. So feel free if you don't want to wait. I went ahead and uploaded my Kindle version as well. It's $6.99 for Kindle and Prime members can borrow for free from the Kindle Owners Lending Library!

Don't forget about my giveaway! A hard copy to 5 lucky readers! Click here to enter!!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer School Updates

I'm bummed because I posted about summer school using Blog Press last week and just realized it never posted. This is only bad because I have to try to remember what I wrote! *wink*

We have some pretty tough kiddos in the building I'm at. Today on my way in, I got cussed out by an 8th grader for asking him to go in the breakfast door instead of the main entrance. When I told the principal-in-charge, she said "Oh...well, it's a shame how these kids are brought up."

Um, why don't you DO something about it?! If the regular principal had been there, that kid would have been sent home. Period. It's people like the substitute principal, and their tolerance for that sort of thing, that has allowed these kids to think they can talk to adults like that. If I had ever talked to an adult like that (heck if I had ever sworn like that), my stepdad would have beat me black and blue. No joke.

I am not advocating for beating children but it is so sad to me that these young people think it is okay to treat anyone, let alone adults, the way that they do. One of the other teachers tried to blame it on young parents--I put a cabash on that. Sorry but I had The Oldest when I was sixteen and she wouldn't dare talk to anyone like that because there would be huge consequences. Age isn't the issue--it's being a parent and teaching your children manners that matters.

At any rate, for the most part, I have been enjoying working with the sixth graders. The ones who are there to make up credits are probably not going to make them up because they don't want to work, they just complain and they generally make it difficult for anyone else to work. It is beyond frustrating. I wish there was a way to get them to understand that they aren't hurting ME, only themselves. I have often said to former 5th graders I had, who have had crap attitudes about school, that they are going to pay me whether or not these kids learn and I'd much rather get paid because they did!

One boy, who early last week I feared wasn't going to make it, really turned it around. He didn't finish an in-class assignment and I made him take it home for homework. He didnt return it. So I kind of got on him about it but said if he turned it in the next day, I wouldn't count it late. And he had a kiddo bring it to me the next morning (we have two 90 minute blocks and he is in the second one). I thought that was pretty awesome that he got it together and followed through.

We have a 40 minute reading time in between the two blocks (and sadly we're reading the most boring book imaginable, chosen by the principal). I take a small group outside to read each day as a reward (for sticking with the boring book haha!). This kiddo did so well toward the middle and end of last week that he got to come outside on Thursday, the same day he had turned in his homework. He made a beeline for a private spot and I went over and talked to him for a few minutes. I told him I was proud of him for turning in his work and following through on what I had asked him to do.

Sixth graders aren't that tough when you get them one-on-one. They want to think they are, but they are really big teddy bears. I hope that perhaps I can make a little bit of an impression on some of these kids. A few of the girls have huge attitudes which is unbelievable at the ripe old age of 12! They think they have to be bad-ass and don't realize their futures are a stake here. One girl bragged to me that her GPA is only a 0.86! After I picked my mouth up off the floor, I said, "how do you ever plan to make it in high school if you don't care now??"

That's probably what reminds me that I want to stay at the elementary level during the year. The apathy would probably kill me after only a semester. It's so sad.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Giveaway!!!

I am so excited to announce that my book, The Phoenix Rising: A Survivor's Story will be available for purchase on July 4, 2012!! This book has been a long time coming as I finally face my demons and tell my story.

Description: A story of trials and redemption. The Phoenix Rising follows a young woman from childhood through adulthood as she faces emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather and emotional neglect from a distant mother. Join her on her journey toward survival as she proves again and again that you can either crumble or rise from the ashes like a Phoenix and  live on.

The book will be available for purchase at and Barnes&Nobles starting July 4 for $14.99 (likely to be $12.99 with their on-site discounts). The Kindle version will be available for $7.99 at Amazon. BUT you can win a free copy right here at The Caffeinated Teacher! Enter to win below.

5 winners will be chosen and announced by July 5th! 


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Week 1 Down & Book!

Sometimes you just have to write a blog post about two completely unrelated things!!

I'm amazed that week one of summer school is over. It FLEW! I wondered if I would hate working since I'm so used to being off work during the summer, but I don't mind it. As mentioned previously, every day is a bit easier. We've had new kids trickle in daily and I sure hope they put a stop to that after this week because it's way too hard to try to catch those kids up to what we've been doing.

We were very excited to finally be able to access Write Source and I planned for the kids to spend today working on a short assignment. Not one kid was able to log-in! Eeek! I'm not sure what happened with the passwords but it was kind of a mess for awhile. Fortunately I have learned over the years to always have a backup! I made myself a student account so I could at least show the kids what they will see when it finally works. Our data person spent the last two days doing nothing but working on Write Source (which I'm sure she just loved doing--hello boring!) and finally we seem to be set. I logged in as a few of my kids to make sure it's working. I'm crossing my fingers that Monday we can (finally!) hit the ground running!

* * * *

In other super exciting news, my book is just about ready to be released. I let about 30 people have an unedited Kindle copy (not released to the public) and got great feedback and was able to make some small revisions based on that. I'm shooting for a publication date of July 4 since that is Independence Day and this book celebrates MY independence. I did not publish it under my own name--I just made one up. I decided it was wise to be a bit discrete. Not for me--I could care less about that--but for my own kids.

Here's my cover:

I ran into a small snag with my printer because the cover's text seemed to disappear once the file was uploaded. I'm not sure how that happened! I have to call them tomorrow to get that straightened out. It'd be kind of ridiculous to buy a book with only a picture on the cover and no text! (The Phoenix picture is there, my logo and the bar code all showed up but none of the text did for some weird reason.) Once that gets fixed, I can officially approve the proof and they will begin to print it for release on July 4! 

Once I get my publisher's copies, I will also be giving away 5 copies right here on my lil ole blog! Stay tuned!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Raccoon came to Summer School!

I am quite enjoying summer school. If I could teach from 8-12 and get paid the way I am now, I would do it always! I ♥ it! I still have the afternoon to do whatever but I get to teach in the morning and it's great. I am enjoying it a lot.

It's been a bit bumpy because everything is supposed to be online (we're using Moodle and Write Source) but the laptops we have are terrible! They keep crashing or not working. So we've had to make due as best as possible. That wouldn't be so bad if our ELMOs were actually working but they aren't either! Figures that we have a technology-based summer school and the technology decides to one-up us! *wink*

We haven't been able to use Write Source because somehow when we got set up, we were set up as students instead of teachers. Haha! You can't assign work to students if you are set up as a student! I think the person who did it was probably in a hurry and just not paying attention. We've had some laughs over it. The data person at our school spent all morning getting it to work so we can hopefully use it tomorrow (if those darn laptops want to work!) and we were laughing about how they said "no paper-pencil stuff" but the technology doesn't work so we haven't had a choice. Good ole [my district]!

My team for 6th grade has the regular 6th grade math and science teachers, myself teaching ELA and a sub teaching social studies. He's never taught on his own and you can tell. He's good, don't get me wrong, but he asks questions that just make me know he's still new at it. It's cute. He's very nice too and it's good for some of the kids to have a male figure there. Miss G, the math teacher, and I would get along awesomely if we taught together normally. We may even share a brain! (Scary!) We were talking yesterday and one of the kids says to her, "Mrs. ---- is mean because of [whatever it was]" and Miss G says, "AWESOME!" and high-fived me. Caught that kiddo by surprise I'm sure!

It isn't that we strive to be mean of course. We want the kids to care and to learn. What I've found with this summer program is that the principal says, if the kids are messing around, they leave. Period. We don't have time for their mess. And since our program isn't only remediation (any kid who wanted to come was invited to come), we have grant money for field trips and/or guest speakers. It's pretty awesome since that usually isn't allowed because the programs are for remediation. If kids aren't following the rules or get kicked out of class, they don't get to go on the trips. We've got some real fun ones up our sleeves too and some of the kids, when I told them they could miss the trips if they are disrespectful or whatever, have straightened right up. They realize it's a privilege to be able to go.

I will say I am glad I am not teaching 7th or 8th this summer because I probably would have quit already. They are horrible. One of the push-in resource teachers who floats between me and the 7th grade said the 7th graders are being absolutely crazy. But she also pointed out that these kids have been allowed to get away with everything until the principal they have now came. So the 6th graders aren't so bad because they know better (there are some but most tow the line) but the older kids haven't seemed to get that message yet. It is so sad that kids that young can have such a negative attitude. The resource teacher said she hates leaving my room to go to the 7th grade group because I have control and my co-teacher has control but the other teachers don't (I think they are both subs but I'm not sure). It is sad.

Something cute happened during our whole school reading time (oh and that book we have to read? It talks about condoms and sex and all kinds of lovely stuff that 12 year olds probably shouldn't be reading--but what do I know?!). The whole school went outside yesterday to read and it was a disaster--kids weren't reading. They were messing around. So the sixth grade team decided that any kids who weren't reading had to stay inside for that time today. If they can get it together, they can be outside. They picked me as the teacher to be outside with the kids today. We went out the side door that is right outside our bank of classrooms and there are trees and such so it's quite shady. When we went out there, amongst the trees was a raccoon! Right out in daylight, it was just moseying along until it saw the kids and then it ran away. It was cute! Probably not very old either. One of the boys turned to me and said, "If it attacks me, Mrs. ----, sorry but Imma have to kick it". I couldn't help but laugh at their 12 year old reaction.

Tomorrow is already the end of week one! Unbelievable!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Halfway there!

Today we were chatting and realized we're halfway through the first week of summer school! It's been kind of a weird week so far. A bit disorganized because kids who were scheduled to come to summer school didn't and some who weren't scheduled did. 

We originally had 57 kids on our list between my co-teacher and myself! Today, when all was said and done, I believe that we have maybe 28 or 30 total. It's not too bad. The worst part is, all of the technology seems to be having issues throughout the school. Considering that the social studies/ELA stuff is all supposed to basically be's been a bit of an issue! We aren't teachers for nothing. We make due with what we have and go with it.

We had about six kids come today in our second group that weren't there yesterday and some of them likely won't make it to the end of the program. The principal is really awesome about putting kids out who can't handle it. He even told them, "if you aren't here to work, you can go home". I ♥ that. Obviously during the normal year that's not so good (unless really necessary) but in summer school with such a short time, you can't keep kids in the classroom who are just trying to ruin it for others.

I have several kiddos from my school that are in my blocks. One of my girls from fifth grade was gone yesterday but made it today and one of the boys tried to be all up in my face and I set him straight. I heard this little lady (one of my personal favorites) say to the gal next to her, "Yep, that's Mrs. ---- alright!" Ha!

I am bummed because our Write Source stuff doesn't seem to be accessible right now either. I don't want to do paper-pencil type of stuff all the time. That's BORING. And we heard that it is basically what schools have done in the past. They have just given the kids packets of work and let them have at it. If the kids did the work (or pretended to do the work), they passed. That is soooo wrong. I understand why the principal at this school said no way, we aren't doing that. I think I could totally work for this man in real life. I sent the same sassy young lady down to the office both yesterday and today and he wouldn't allow her to come back to class. Considering that she failed her classes the last semester, you'd think she'd clean up her attitude so she could pass. She just doesn't care. 

I will never understand how you can be twelve years old and just not care that much. It's sad. It solidifies for me why I teach elementary school--I do like middle schoolers, "big kids", but at least at the elementary level, it feels more like you can still save them. I give major kudos to the teachers at this school. Our push-in resource teacher told us that the 7th and 8th grade groups are having a tough time already. I'm glad I got sixth grade then because I would quit. No job is worth that crap. Been there, done that.

One of the reasons I've been so absent is because I have been finishing my book! I have spent the weekend and every spare moment I've had so far this week editing it and having lots of friends read it to catch typos and errors I missed. It is all set and ready to upload to my printer! I decided to use a pen name to protect the privacy of my own kids...and because I sort of diss my district a bit, in a round-about way and thought it best to not put my name on it while I work there. It isn't anything they could really fire me over but its enough that I'd rather be cautious.

My proof copy should be coming my way soon and then I can officially put it out for publication. So exciting!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Whisperer

I am reading "The Book Whisperer". It's been a quick read and I am enjoying it. It solidifies for me that the whole "everyone reads this book I picked out" by the principal is SO wrong. I want to raise hell about it but I'm not sure that will help me or the kids. It is so wrong. I am tempted to photocopy a few key pages of this book and slip them on the principal's desk.

I had to laugh when we were at our set up day...TEN of my kids from last year are on 6th grade honor roll and then the reading specialist says "these kids come to us unprepared from elementary school". Clearly not my kids!!

I'm not sure I will be able to bite my tongue about this book thing for the next six weeks.

I found out our ELA coordinator is retiring and I covet her job big time...except I want to be in the classroom, not behind a desk.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Weird Week!

What a crazy week it has been!! And it's only Wednesday. I'm a little scared to see what happens next! *wink*

Monday I was supposed to have surgery to deal with an issue I've been having a super hard time with the past couple of years. Unfortunately, the surgery was not successful so I'm back at square one. At some point while I was under, I bit my tongue really, really hard turning it black and blue and leaving huge owies on it. Not exactly fun when you need to talk and chew! 

I've had some summer school training meetings this week. I was excited to learn I will have 6th graders! I was very excited during our meetings today when I heard that we would have a built in SSR block so we can really get the kids reading since that is a huge issue we have--they just don't read. I got an updated copy of our schedule, which is supposed to be a co-teaching situation...and we aren't co-teaching. We have one course of materials to share and we're not teaching it together. Does that make sense to you? Me either.

It gets better. We have a huge block of time in between our first classes that I assumed would be the SSR time. Then I hear that the principal decided we would all read the same book during that time and that the books are WELL above the heads of these kids. Stop.Right.There.

SSR means they choose what they want to read! Not what we tell them to read. Oh I have all kinds of issues with this. No, no, no. All research shows that kids make progress in reading when they read what THEY want to read about. So I talked to our ELA curriculum coordinator. We go way back. My first class had her last class of kindergartners in it. So she knows me very well. I said that I would find out what the deal is tomorrow but that I absolutely will not participate in that. It is not appropriate and it's the exact opposite of what I have had drilled into my head for the last seven years that I have been in the district.

I am crossing my fingers that by the time I leave my meetings tomorrow I won't feel like I'm on a spinning wheel with no way to get off. I don't do disorganization very well and this kind of thing is the absolute worst. No one is perfect of course but this stuff should have been all planned out, given a green light by the curriculum people and THEN given to us. Sounds like some of the principals are just doing whatever they want. That's wrong. Summer school is for kids who didn't pass the first time around--we don't have time to waste having them read a book they could care less about for 40 minutes every day!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

You never stop learning....

Isn't that something we say to our students ad nauseum?!  Most years that I have taught, I have sent my students home with some sort of summer packet to help them make sure they don't lazy around all summer. This year it simply consisted of a reading and a math facts log. They never believe me when I tell them I read all the time--often several books at once.

Awhile ago, I wrote about my Summer Reading list. I took a picture of those books and showed them to my class on the last day. Some of my voracious readers weren't surprised because they read all the time too! But some of my very reluctant readers were amazed that yes, I really am going to read all those books (reread in some cases).

Yesterday was officially the first day of Summer Vacation. It was beautiful! Hot but beautiful. I sat outside for awhile with my girls, lazing in my Adirondack chair, reading Guided Math. I found a blank composition book in my teaching stash in the loft of my garage and decided to use it to keep some notes and ideas in.

Since I am reading Guided Math right now, it is the focus of the notes I have taken so far. I really like the idea of "Math Stretches" and wrote myself little snippets of what each kind is so I don't have to drag the book around with me all the time.

Once I finished reading that section, I had some questions and thoughts about how I would implement this into my 4/5 split next year. Even though everyone wants to speculate that it won't stay a split, there is no way to tell. Most of the time, they are dead on accurate in their projections so it isn't unlikely that it will stay one (and as I've mentioned a million times, last year we had a split with only 4 fifth graders in it until December!). I am planning on having a split, which means I need to absolutely MAXIMIZE the time that I have with my students so they are not behind the other classes.

I have mentioned before what a fan of DDI I am. We have mostly focused on literacy. Well, it has worked for the most part because our school's growth, except for one grade, has exceeded the district's overall growth for the last two years! So I am turning my focus now to math. That's what "Target Tabs" comes from, the DDI material. I am thinking about using the math stretches as a Target Tab warmup that the students do independently and then we meet in our Math Huddle and they have a chance to share and discuss.

My biggest concern about that is that 30 minutes for all of that when you teach a split grade is a LOT. We are already so pressed for time in being able to teach content areas and I don't want to sacrifice anything because of it. 

Despite literally just getting out of school, I feel like it is important for me to explore these ideas now, as my brain is still in school mode (thanks Summer School!) so I can be as prepared as possible for the fall and help ensure that all of my kiddos get the support they need.

One of the other books I am reading is Number Sense Routines. It is really geared for grades K-3 (I bought it before I learned I would move back up to 4/5) but our students have such low number sense that I figured it was still worth reading. When I looked at the 28 students that I am set to have in the fall, 71% of them have "Number Sense" as their lowest area on the MAP math test!! So it is absolutely vital to me that I spend as much time as I need to on making some changes in how I teach math--even if that means using my math curriculum as a supplement rather than a core.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bittersweet End

Yesterday was the last day of school. The students only had a half day. I made a DVD slideshow for my class with all of the pictures I took this year (well over 200 which I couldn't believe) and set it to music. It ended up being about 20 minutes long. I selected the songs "Forever Young" by Rod Stewart, "Play On" by Carrie Underwood, "Halfway There" by Big Time Rush, "More than a Band" by Lemonade Mouth and "Graduation (Friends Forever)" by Vitamin C as the background music. It actually brought tears to my eyes to see our year in that slideshow. I will miss these kids so much--even the little stinkers who would make me want to pull out my hair trying to get them to try, to care, to put in some effort! Sadly the DVD burner wasn't being nice so I didn't get to burn each student their copy. I was so bummed. I promised to mail them to the kids once I get them all done...then I forgot to have Mrs. Secretary print me their addresses (we can't access contact information from home which is a bummer). So I will email Mrs. Secretary and beg her to print me a list and let me stop in to pick it up after summer school next week so I can send those DVDs home. The students kept telling me how cool I was that I made that DVD (little do they know it was a nice software program that made it pretty easy for me to do!).

Mrs. CT decided this week that she was, in fact, going to retire. She wanted to kind of "go quietly" but she MAKES that school. So we did a song with all of the 2nd and 3rd floor students this morning outside of her room. Afterward the students had an early recess (only 4th-5th has morning recess usually, the K-3 crowd has theirs in the afternoon). Since my school is in such a low-income area and most of our students get free lunch, we always serve sack lunch before they go home on half days. I almost wish they would let us send the lunches home with them because breakfast ends at 8:10 and they're eating lunch on those rare half days by 10:30! It's kind of crazy. I sent home a box of animal or graham crackers with each one of my students that were left over from the donations we get from Spartan Stores. As they ate lunch, I let them watch a little bit of "The Sword in the Stone" which they had been watching in music class because of all of the songs (I ♥ Merlin!).

Before I knew it, it was almost time to send my kiddos home for the last time as second graders. We lined them up and started dismissing and several of my students turned back around and wrapped me up in the biggest hugs and said they were going to miss me. Aww. If that doesn't make you tear up, nothing will! I said, "Are you sure you'll miss me? I'd think you'd be cheering to be done with school." Several of them said, "No, no because you made sure our brains were BIG for 3rd grade." ♥ One thing I learned about 2nd graders is that they are parrots. They do start to repeat you so when you talk about trying to make their brains big or you repeat words like "schema" over and over, they really do get it and use it. I am so grateful that I taught 2nd this year for several reasons:

a) I think it was really, really helpful for me to experience it again as I worked on National Board since so much of my experience is on the "higher end" of the age range of my certificate
b) I learned that these kiddos really and truly do look up to you and if you can make their lives a bit happier and easier, you've done something right (I hate to say it, but so many of our students have downright crappy home lives and sometimes that makes it hard because you want to take them home with you)
c) I will get to see them in the halls again for the next few years--the only big negative about teaching 5th grade is that when they leave, that's it. A lot of the time it means you lose contact with them as they move on and you can't see how they are doing.

(I am secretly hoping by working at our middle school this summer I might see a few of my kiddos from last year and get updates on how some of the other kiddos did--generally the ones with younger siblings come back around but once they don't have a sibling there anymore, a lot of them don't come back to visit because they get busy, etc.)

We had a nice staff lunch to celebrate the end of the year and we presented Mrs. CT with a beautiful engraved picture frame that put into words how much she has meant to us all. It will be very weird to be there without her. We haven't always seen eye-to-eye one hundred percent of the time but that's what made us good together, I think. She told me many times this year that she missed my ideas and outlook on certain things. I am going to be so sad not to have her next door to me. At our staff party, since I'm the Social Committee, I presented the gift and said, "I don't know how many of you know but Mrs. CT was my cooperating teacher and now that she won't be here, I feel like I've lost my most valuable resource." Truly, my first year on my own, when I had my first split, she sent me materials and guidance so I could help those children who had been robbed of an education for several months. I hope she is able to at least come around in some capacity because she is an amazing teacher and I will miss her.

One thing I really, really ♥ about my principal is that if we are done the last day, she let's us leave. I have worked for principals who made you stay until 3:30 or whatever your contract end time was. I was feeling kind of lonely on my floor as the day went on when EVERYONE was gone by around 2:30. No one else from my floor is  moving rooms or changing grades so they could stack everything on their shelves and cover stuff with sheets or paper and be done. After awhile I was feeling kind of jealous when I was the only one left!

The Oldest came to work with me on Friday since she finished up exams on Thursday. I know she didn't want to come because it was her first day of summer but I needed her help since I can't go in on Monday due to my surgery. She helped me out a lot. I felt bad because while I had already packed up a lot before Friday, there was so much still to do and it felt like it took a million years.

You never realize how GROSS a classroom gets after 10 months of "living" in there! As I moved things, I found dust bunnies and more in places I never would have expected to find them. We washed our hands so many times! We got smart though and moved all of my things back up to my new "old" room (yes I will be back in my room from the first year I was there!). Now I don't have to move anything in August except to bring my "big kid books" back from my house. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, but it's done and The Oldest was a huge help. I would probably have been at work until 8 p.m. if she hadn't been there! *wink*

I don't have much time to dwell on the end of the year though. I got my summer school schedule and am set to finish my training/prepping next week before summer school begins on the 18th. I am not sure yet what grade I have (I wasn't able to go to the first meeting because it was in the middle of my school day) but I found out that each core teacher has four sections and they are 35 minutes long. There are a couple common times when you're paired with another content teacher (ie Social Studies/ELA and Math/Science). I don't know what happens during those times yet but I'm interested see how short the class periods are. I have a feeling it is going to very much be a "bang for your buck" kind of program--you've got to make the most of every single minute you have since it's so short.

I'm excited though. I get to spend my first actual day of summer vacation (Monday) at the hospital. I have to be there at 5:30 a.m. I think that might be a crime! :)  I figure I don't have to work on Fridays so I can sleep in on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and call it good. Best part about summer school is I only work until just after noon and then I can still go to the beach with my girls every single day if I want to because I'll be home by 1.


Friday, June 8, 2012

I LOVE Hate Mail!

As I was working on updating my class website tonight to reflect summer (I use ThistleGirls EZChange templates--which are, well, easy--and like to update to her fun "Surf's Up" theme in June since it shows cute kids on the beach). I stopped for a few minutes to blog stalk, email, etc.

And I got some hate mail. First of all, if you are going to be rude, at least have the balls to put your name on it. Second of all, I love it when people bash others anonymously--means you touched a nerve with them (read: they are one of those perfect people who judge the rest of us).

Some of the fun stuff:

you are a disgrace to the teaching profession...all you do is whine...and you call this an educational blog...what a joke! you are a mean spirited, cold hearted individual...and i thank god that you were never a teacher to any of my children. 

In the spirit of being that mean spirited and cold hearted individual that you claim I am, if you are going to bash me, could you at least use proper writing skills? You claim to be a teacher so you should probably write like one. My 10 year old types better than you do and she's dyslexic! 

I really like this one:

really? where do you teach? unbelievably nasty and unkind! and people agree with you? again, so glad i don't work with teachers like you! 

(Again with the blasted lack of capitalization!) This was in response to my post about making student's be accountable for their own learning yesterday. I think that this "Anonymous" person is feeling a little upset that I am honest. It isn't being mean to expect a 7 or 8 year old child to work hard. What do you do honey? Do your students' work for them? Hold their hands? Well good for you and your la-di-dah self. When you work in a poverty stricken school where 99% of your students get free lunch and their parents are on welfare, THEN you can tell me I am mean spirited for wanting these children to succeed and have a good life.

This actually made my night. I needed a good dose of laughter!! :)


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Keeping it Real

Most teachers understand a child well after meeting his/her family. I have a student this year whose brother was in Mrs. CT's class last year. I knew most of her kids well.

The little brother, at age 8, doesn't give a lick about school. It drives me crazy when kids that young are so blasé. They learn it somewhere!

5th grade promotion was today. We as a 2nd grade team got smart and planned an afternoon at the park so we'd avoid the hubbub. When we returned some kids left with older siblings. This particular boy's brother came to get him early (not sure why since it wasn't Big Brother's promotion) and I told him about Little Brother's appalling behavior at the park and how he simply doesn't care about school. Big Brother is kind of smiling and then chuckling through this and finally I said, "It isn't funny--he will fail next year because he doesn't care and you think it's funny."

I think Big Brother finally got it!! Not everything is a joke. It is sad when you can look out at your class and know who will succeed and who won't based on their second grade effort.

Yet it will be MY fault when this kid doesn't pass the MEAP in the fall. I think we should give our tests at years don't pass, then you don't pass!! Put some accountability on these kids for once.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Training, Schmaining!

Most people became teachers because they love kids. A huge perk is that you aren't sitting in an office all day and you're not stuck in meetings all day. I don't know too many teachers who enjoy meetings.

I like training and meetings if they are useful, but let's be honest. They usually aren't.

Today after school I had a training for the writing program that we will use in summer school. It is online based. I am not sure if that means we'll use the entire program online, if the kids will have books, etc. I don't even know what grade I am teaching yet. But I was interested in the training to get a glimpse at some of what I would be teaching/facilitating.

The training started at 3:30. I don't get out of school until 3:10. We aren't really supposed to leave until at least 3:20 so we can ensure all students are safely where they need to be. I was walking out right at 3:20 because I needed to travel a bit to get to the site where the training was.

The actual training didn't even get underway until 4:30!!  We sat there for an hour as they tried to figure out how to set up the system, get people into the system, etc. It was painful. I have done staff development before and I would have been mortified to be that unorganized and unprepared. They didn't have the logins or anything so we couldn't even get in and utilize the system to get used to how it works so we can be at least a little familiar with it before we have to start teaching with it. I do not do disorganized and unprepared. I was not a happy lady.

The only good thing is at the end the trainer, who I'm sure felt like a heel, gave us a code to get a free 30 day trial of the program so that we can play with it as a demo before we get our login information. The cool thing about that is, even though this isn't the program we use for writing for our elementary kids, I have access to the fourth and fifth grade materials also and you can print to your heart's content. You better believe that I will be printing out the editing stuff because it's way better than what we have access to right now. 

I will definitely learn the program more by playing with the demo than what I learned in that "training". Crazy!

Tomorrow is CA-60 day after school. Ick! I am planning to finish up grading our mock MEAP tests in the morning and we have an extra music in the afternoon so I can really get going on my room. Mrs. 4th Grade who is moving down to my room suggested that I just pack my stuff into my portable cabinets and move the cabinets themselves upstairs to my new/old room and then swap them into her old room so she can move her current stuff. Brilliant! It will be a LOT less packing because I can just load up those cabinets and off I go.

Bound and determined to be OUTTA THERE by 4 on Friday! I signed up to have my CA-60s checked on Thursday morning during my music special and my room checked out at 1 on Friday. Doesn't mean I'll be DONE by 1 but my principal is awesome and lets us leave when we're done. Getting out early would be fabulous!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer School + Summer Reading

I think I understand why I have never offered to teach summer school before. What a pain! I got an email this morning that said I needed to come to an "informational meeting" on Wednesday afternoon. Um...I still have students until 11:20 on Friday. So how can I come to a meeting in the middle of the day? I told my principal and she called them and said "Nope, she isn't coming because we don't have half days all week like you do". Haha!

I have training after school tomorrow and then next week. Although since we have part of our training tomorrow, it means only a day and a half of training next week, starting at noon on Tuesday. That will be fabulous since I am having surgery on Monday! I can at least sleep in a bit after that.

Summer school is so easy though--the lessons are given to you and most of the content is done on the computer so very little "grading". It's pretty cushy for $25/hour!

I will be doing lots and lots of reading this summer! Although I will do some pleasure reading here and there, I will be spending a lot of time doing professional reading. 

I am joining the book study for the Daily 5 and CAFE book over at We Read, We Blog, We Teach. I have read both, several times, but I figure since this year will really be my first attempt at implementing it, and with a split no-less, that it will be good to do the book study.

Also up on my docket are: 

I love the concept of treating math like you treat guided reading. I have done rotation style math workshops before but I want to do it WELL and incorporate math conferences now that I have my Confer app.

I have already started reading this one and I am in love! Even though it says it is for K-3, our students are so low in their number sense that I am definitely going to tweak some of these strategies and implement them next year, whether I stay a split or not!

I am really excited about this one. It basically uses the 7 reading comprehension strategies and relates them to math. Our math scores TANKED at our school this year and we just can't figure out WHY. I am determined that it won't happen again for my kiddos next year.

Last up is this one in my favorite area--writing. I LOVE to write but I hate teaching it for the most part. Partly because we never are given adequate time to set it up and party because the kids HATE writing because we focus too much on prompting them. So I am going to break the norm and use this guide for the first month of school. It's a 20 day plan to really set up the workshop.  I think this will nicely complement my Daily 5 implementation because I do plan to have a separate writing workshop (because of the required writing we have to teach) but will have a "Work on Writing" component of my Daily 5 rotation.

I am absolutely beyond excited about the math stuff. I hated math as a kid because I didn't "get it". Now as a teacher I do get it but it's harder to help my students get it and I want to make sure they go to middle school with a head full of math knowledge.

Speaking of full heads...I took Friday off to spend with The Oldest for her birthday. One of our interventionists had my class on Friday for me. When I got to work this morning there was a stack of cards she had the kids made telling me how awesome I am. It was SO sweet. A lot of the kids wrote things like "thank you for making my brain bigger". Aww. ♥


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Countdown is ON

I have four and a half days left as a 2nd grade teacher! I am so beyond excited to be going back upstairs to the "Big Kid Floor"! My principal actually gave me back my old classroom so it'll literally be like returning home. I don't have a ton of time to plan right now because I will be teaching summer school and getting my book ready to be published.

The good news is, I am bound and determined to do Daily 5 in my classroom this year, especially with a split grade. Splits are so odd in our school but we definitely have the numbers to justify it. I have already been playing around a little with a schedule so that I can do justice to my groups. I also want to implement a real Guided Math or Math Daily 5 also. I figure it is the only way I am going to be able to get through both curriculums and provide my students with an equal education to their peers.

Tomorrow after school we have our last staff meeting where we talk about placing students for next year. That should be interesting. I want them to stack me up -- 14 or 15 of each grade so my colleagues will be lower and can get new kids as they come. We shall see if it works out like that or not.

I plan to stay until about 6 most days, except Tuesday as I have a summer school training right after school, so that I can pack up my room. The only bummer about changing grades again is that I have to literally pack up every.little.thing. Bah! Since I know who is coming into my room after me, I am being very strategic in organizing the second grade materials so that they are ready for her. I have so much stuff that I will need to bring home or figure out where to store. I also have upper grade stuff I am going to need to bring back to school...but I won't be doing that until the fall. No sense in moving it in now to just have to move it again later!

I had an amazingly productive weekend at my cabin. I have all but the last three chapters of my musings written. I'm currently editing what I already have and will be piecing the last parts together over the next week or so. It's super exciting!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy Friday!

It has been a crazy week in my so-called-life. It's hard to stay focused on stuff when the world is crumbling around you!

All the crap in my life that has been driving me insane since February finally came to a head this week. I cried (big, snotty tears...ew!), I sent the most important text ever and finally, just like that, a confession. And it's over. My burden is gone and I can finally, finally move on in my life. It's a blessing!

It also provides LOTS of stuff for my book! (Sorry for the crappy resolution--took a pic of the screen!)

My publishing company is all set and I am hopeful to be ready to have this baby on the market by mid-July. I will most likely give away 5 advanced copies here on the blog too. Stay tuned for that announcement!

Despite the drama in my life, I have been busy with school. We had field day this week and it was fun. We tried to keep the morning as academic as possible and the afternoons are more lax because they are SO done. I have been giving my class a practice MEAP so they don't freak out when they see it in the fall. Yesterday we did "Advice to future second graders" notes and it was adorable the kinds of things they said: make sure you think because your teacher won't think for you, be a (name of school) Star, do homework so you can be smart, etc. So cute!

I told my kiddos that I would be teaching 4th and 5th grade next year. One of the girls got a puzzled look on her face and said, "At the same time?? How can you do that?!" Very, very carefully my sweet! :)

I have been doing some prepping. Mrs. Principal swears it will end up a solid grade but I don't trust it. We had a split with only 4 fifth graders until December last year so I am not holding my breath about it changing to a straight 5th. Mrs. CT is definitely retiring so that means we'll likely have two new teachers (4th and 5th). Should be interesting. I am planning to do Daily 5 for sure because I feel like that will be the easiest way to ensure I am teaching all of the areas I need to for Reading Street without sacrificing anything. I'm excited because I want to do a split justice this time.

Today is The Oldest's 17th birthday! I took the day off. She has school this morning. I will pick her up and we'll do lunch and hang out. My little ladies and I are spending the weekend at the cabin. Excited for that too, then we're in the home stretch! Just 4.5 more student days! (Not that I get a on June 11 and summer school training the 12th-14th and summer school starts the 18th!)

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