Thursday, March 28, 2013

Revolution in Room 311!

The university we get our student teachers from (my Alma Mater) has student teachers complete a unit plan during their tenure with their cooperating teacher. It's the biggest, longest unit that the student teacher executes and plans all on their own. My student teacher is a social studies major so we agreed that she would do the American Revolution for her unit.

She only has two weeks left after Spring Break so we've spent a lot of time the last couple of days catching up on her unit (ie two days full of social studies!). Today was Revolution Day. A few weeks ago she called me and ran some ideas by me for the unit which I thought were awesome. Last night I was thinking about what her plans were for today and told her this morning that *I* needed to be the so-called bad guy...because if SHE imposed the taxes/fees/fines and then SHE led the just wouldn't make as much sense to them.

So we started it yesterday by giving them classroom cash for being in ready position, answering questions correctly, etc. I also told them if they had $20 left by the end of today that I wouldn't give them homework over Spring Break. Today we really laid it on thick. I started charging them $5 in classroom cash for a piece of paper, to be able to use the restroom (unless it was obviously an emergency), to get a sharpened pencil. They were like "what the heck?" After lunch, I REALLY pushed the point that some of my students probably thought I had lost my mind!
I laid it on so thick. I charged them for being in the classroom; for giggling, they got a fine;  I just made up stuff and started charging them for it. The look on their faces was priceless. They were like "W.T.F??" At one point I said "that's it! If you have money left, give it to me!  You have to do what I say because this is my world!" I pseudo yelled at them for looking at me and they were SO scared of me, wondering what the heck happened.

I had their wad of classroom cash and said "The Queen is going shopping!" and left the room. During the two-three minutes I was out, my student teacher told the kids that they had to rebel against me. I wasn't being fair and they didn't have to take it anymore! I came back in and they all stood up and it was fabulous! They said "NO, YOU CAN'T MAKE US DO THIS STUFF!" (And believe me I had really laid it on, telling them they had to do 3 hours of homework every night written in their blood and then come to my house on Sundays and clean up the dog doo in the yard--I never cracked as smile whatsoever so some of them thought I was dead serious.)

I did step in after that, even though it wasn't planned, to help push the point home for them. Of course I would never make them do the things I had said, and of course I wouldn't charge them classroom cash for having hair, breathing the same air as I did and for looking at me. One of my girls hit the nail on the head when I asked the class why they thought I would be so dramatic and do that. She said "you really wanted us to know how they felt". Bingo!

So they wrote a declaration of independence against their "Queen". It was beautiful. Several of them said that while they were really scared at first because I was SO convincing, they were really glad we did this lesson because now they really understood why the colonists didn't want the King to be in charge of them. I also pointed out that the King didn't even live in the colonies. Some of them had forgotten that and were really surprised. So I said "think about how you would have felt if Mrs. A or Mrs. O [our two neighbor teachers] had come over here and imposed the rules that I did? Would you have been okay with it or not?" They all said no because those teachers didn't know them and it wouldn't be fair. 

They got SO much out of this lesson and I'm so glad we did it. As it stands, when we come back from Spring Break, I will have a treat for my whole class for letting me "be mean" to them. I didn't tell them I would give them a treat because I think it will mean so much more if I just surprise them with it when we come back and let them know that I truly do care about them all and would never treat them that way normally. It was really fabulous because when they wrote their declaration, they listed lots of reasons WHY a teacher wouldn't be allowed to do those kinds of things so when they looked at part of the real declaration, they were able to see the correlation between their declaration and the real one.



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Being Right Isn't Always Satisfying

This morning I got an email from one of my 3rd grade colleagues. She had some questions for me about one of my cherubs from last year. I popped down to talk to her since it's often easier to discuss those things in person rather than through email.

Sadly I was not surprised to hear that this student is actually the lowest in her class. She isn't dumb by any means. She is, however, very spoiled and her mom never liked me. So everything wrong with anything last year was clearly my fault. Mom never took responsibility for helping her child and following the suggestions that I made for improvement. The biggest concern I had (that her 3rd grade teacher now has) is her ADHD. Mom told me she didn't want to put her child on meds. That is totally fine and understandable. As a mom of a special needs child, I totally get that. I really do.

However, my advice to her (in November 2011 mind you) was to at least get an evaluation. It doesn't mean you have to drug your child. It does mean, however, that we have documentation and can then implement other strategies to help the child in school. A year and a half later, she is now the lowest performing student in her classroom AFTER three entire years of intervention support. 

I had to just shake my head a little when I talked with her current teacher. I tried to warn someone who had taught big kids and then went down to little kids, I totally knew where this would end up. I know what they need to know to be able to get up to 4th and 5th grade and be successful....sadly this child didn't have it. She COULD. I have no doubt of that. But she's mom's little princess and an only child and totally allowed to rule the roost. 

It's so sad. This parent actually called the parent hotline on me last year (never before or since in my career have I had that happen). She just didn't like me. Not that I care because I'm not there to be your friend or your child's friend. It's a bonus if we get along but definitely not a requirement in my eyes. Not by a long shot. Now her child is even farther behind because mom just wouldn't listen to me and now her daughter is at risk of getting up to 4th next year and being two years behind. It's quite tragic actually. She has so much potential and just can't do what she needs to do because she's so distracted.

It makes me really upset. I busted my butt and documented like crazy because I knew this parent would always try to find some way to "catch me" (and she did but sadly for her I was always able to prove that I had done exactly what I said I would do). Now her child is suffering because she just refuses to face reality. 

Usually I relish in being right. I find my inner ten year old and mentally stick out my tongue and chant in my head "neener neener neener" a situation like this, however, there is no satisfaction in being right. I knew this child would struggle and suffer because mom didn't want to see and admit to the truth and now she's at huge risk of coming up to 4th next year being 100% not ready. 

Even though I know I did everything I could possibly do to help that child, I feel like I failed her because she is STILL struggling. Deep down I know it isn't my fault. I still have all of my documentation on that kid. I kept it all...just in case. Now I'm glad I did because her current teacher can pull it out if needed and say "clearly this was an issue all of last year too now what are you going to do about it mom??"

Our principal even said we're going to to get the mom to come to the student success team meeting and hear it from multiple people that there is a problem because clearly coming from me and coming from her current teacher--people who spend 6 hours a day with that child for 175 days a year!!--aren't getting through. It's sad.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

(Almost) Spring Fever!

I need to remember this when I get upset with my Kidlets this week for being unmotivated! I TOTALLY have Spring fever even though it is only about 30 degrees here! I'm SO ready for shorts, t-shirts and flip flops (which I do wear to school)!

I should have spent my weekend planning ahead and getting things done for these last four days...but I didn't. I didn't do ANYTHING really productive. I finally finished my taxes and that was about as productive as I got! :)

Friday night we went out to dinner for the first time in two months. I haven't been able to do that on my diet but since I got the all clear to eat veggies/salad, I begged and pleaded with the hubby to go out so I could feel slightly normal. I don't eat with my family that often anymore because of what they can eat and what I can't. So that was nice. Afterward The Oldest and I went shopping for her prom dress. We found a super cute dress with really cute shoes for under $75! Love! I also found myself a cutie patootie workout outfit in a MEDIUM (which I haven't worn in longer than I want to admit) so that was really fun.

Yesterday I bought myself some new runners for my workouts. Cost a pretty penny but totally worth it. My first workout with them will be tomorrow morning before work!  

I spent most of today being a horrible teacher and not grading, not planning, not really doing anything at all except hanging with my girls and playing games. Nothing wrong with that, right? I totally have my plans for this week set anyway--just need to make copies tomorrow morning. I am SO.NOT.WORRIED.ABOUT.IT.

I am going to have to grit my teeth and keep smiling this week because I know *I* am so done and ready for a break so I know the kiddos will be as well. I just have to put my productive face on and keep them moving!!

I'm really excited about the last persuasive writing we will be doing because we're going to write about why others should use The Walking Classroom. That's the best persuasive essay I could think of and it's SO relevant to the kiddos.

Four more days folks!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Blurred Vision

It's officially spring...not that Michigan got the message. The past two days we've had snow and temps in the 30s. Not impressed Mother Nature!

I also took the past two days off as personal time. Not because it was officially spring and I thought I'd be sporting shorts or anything (although last year at this time, it was 80 degrees...) but just so I could stop and think straight for a moment. A month from tomorrow, I say goodbye to my sidekick (ie my student teacher). I will probably cry like a baby when she leaves. Not because of her awesomeness (although she IS awesome) but because suddenly I will be back to my shortened time frame for teaching again and I fear that my kids just aren't going to have the same quality of learning as their counterparts. I also feel bitter that I have 30 students now in two grades...and my colleagues on both sides of me only have 24 or 25. It's wrong. Not that I would want to lose my 5th graders at this point...but I also know that my 5th grade friends are so getting the short end of the stick and I can't help but feel extremely bitter about that for them. With my student teacher there, she takes one grade for math while I have the other and we do the same for reading. So they are getting DOUBLE the learning they were getting before.

The last two months of the school year, however, we're on our own. It's a jagged pill for me to swallow. Especially when I was told that we may have several splits next year (due to some school closings and reopenings nearby) and that they suddenly decided they should be smarter about how they place children into a split. I nearly spit nails when I heard about that. Are you kidding me? So it didn't matter this year? Why?? Because you were so sure that the split wouldn't remain one? Well it did...and for some of these kids, they will learn no matter what kind of environment they are in because they are just lovers of learning (in fact, one of them emailed me yesterday because she knew I wouldn't see her until Friday to let me know that she got into her 1st choice middle school--that's the kind of kid she is; she couldn't wait to tell me). But some of them were SO screwed being put into a split class because they need extra help and haven't gotten it as much as they might have in a class with only one grade.

I got my 30th kid yesterday when I wasn't there. I learned about it Tuesday and I was stark raving mad due to the injustice of having SO many students in a split when my colleagues have 5 fewer (and have the nerve to try to compare their class to mine). I refused to just teach one grade--I have such a range of needs in my class that it wouldn't be fair to only teach 4th or only teach 5th grade. It's why I volunteered to take the split when I found out we would have one. My colleagues have as much as admitted to me that they wouldn't teach two grades. I find that wrong on so many levels. My class deserves to learn the curriculum for the grade they are in.

So tonight, my vision has become blurred. I spent my day off getting ahead. Knowing my sidekick won't be around forever, I more or less used today as a personal work-at-home day. I got 4 weeks ahead in planning for math for both grades. This weekend I will do the same for our main reading stories. Next week, as my student teacher wraps up her "in control" time, I will plan ahead for our interventions with my new task card system. I realized tonight that the 4th grade social studies curriculum is all about regions. The 4th grade research unit is on a state...we were told this year we can modify it to be on a region instead. So I am going to double dip: I will switch to 4th grade social studies (we've been focused on 5th grade since they have a standardized test in social studies in 6th grade) and we'll hit so much of that for their research paper too. 5th grade's research unit is on the solar system; we are finishing up the 4th grade Sun Moon and Stars unit right now but lucky me, there is also a 5th grade science unit for the solar we're shifting gears. I am going to double dip these subjects the best I can so that my students can complete their research units but also be exposed to the content learning that they need. 

My brain is fried and I am tired as ever despite a day of so-called rest. Alas, I will kill myself making things as right as I can for these children. It isn't their fault they were poorly placed in a split classroom (when I say poorly placed I mean I have two CI students in my class as well as children who are performing 3-4 grade levels ABOVE their grade--which makes it practically impossible to meet all of their needs when you teach a dual curriculum the way I am supposed to). I will do the best I can with what I have and damn the consequences. If anyone says a word to me about my data (you know--the only thing that proves if I'm a good teacher *please note my sarcasm*) at the end of the year, I will raise the roof. I have binders and binders of proof that I have met the standards as best as I can and have pushed, prodded and cajoled my students toward understanding.

No one else in my school would have done it the way I have. They have as much as said that. So while my data may not be will be real and honest. It will be full of my blood, sweat and tears in trying to do what's right for these kids. 

And I am just crazy enough to volunteer to do it again next year if it comes to that knowing full well none of my colleagues would. It makes me sad to say that because I work with amazing people. I really do...however, when push comes to shove, isn't it supposed to be about the children? It isn't about how I feel or you feel or anyone else feels. It's about whether or not you tapped every single resource at your disposal to do what was best for the kids in your care.

Despite my faults, not one single person can say I haven't done just that.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Five for Friday!

I'm finally jumping on the bandwagon with the Five for Friday! No pictures for me because I'm too lazy on this Friday night to upload them from my camera! :)

1. We were on TV on Thursday! -- A local news channel came and videotaped my class and I using our WalkKits from The Walking Classroom. It was so awesome and we had a total blast! The reporter was amazing and I even got to be the camera girl for a moment. My students and I watched the broadcast in class (from the news website) and they said "we're famous!" :)

2. I'm basking in my 2:28 minutes of fame! Laura, the fabulous developer of the WalkKits, emailed me and asked me to be her first featured teacher in her new newsletter. Totally flattered! If there is something worth being "famous" for, it is definitely bringing exercise into my little minions' lives :)

3. Scoot, scoot, scoot! -- I have read about Scoot so much but have never had time to really use it in my class due to balancing a dual curriculum. Today my student teacher and I split kids up and those with late or missing work worked on that and the rest of us played Scoot. It was so much fun and they begged me to let them do it again next week. They were working on math problems and didn't want to stop. What could be better??

4. Task Card Love! -- I have been making task cards for reading with our leveled readers to make our intervention time more student-led and give the children the chance to get some of their talking out. They partner read the book and then ask each other discussion questions. It's been going really well. I was super sick on Tuesday so I wasn't 100% prepared like I usually am to begin our story on Wednesday. I quickly whipped up a task card for the main story and included some vocabulary at the top and my 4th graders BEGGED ME to keep using the task cards! They really enjoyed them. Perhaps because it is new and different but their excitement is contagious and I gladly made them another one to use for the other story we've been working with!

5. Vacation! So jealous of everyone who had Spring Break this week. Whew! Two weeks to go. It's yucky and cold here in Michigan (last year at this time we had 80 degree days!) and I am itching to bust out flip flops and shorter skirts! I've lost about 20 lbs on my plan so far and I can't wait to bare my toes and enjoy the sunshine!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Walking Classroom Fabulocity!

It isn't a secret to anyone who knows me at all how much I absolutely LOVE The Walking Classroom.

Today I stayed home because I had an itchy scratchy throat and just did not feel well. Imagine my utter amazement when I checked my work email to discover that a local news station wants to interview me and a few of my students about the Walking Classroom and feature us on the morning news!

Holy cow! I am going to have my 5 seconds of fame after all! It is totally unexpected but very cool! It will likely be taped Thursday since we had to switch scheduling tomorrow due to some testing but I am beyond excited about it. Not really because I want to be on TV but because of the exposure that my school and district will get from this.

So awesome!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Shamrock Fun

I feel like we are so academic this year and it saddens me. School used to be fun! It was easier to have fun when only balancing one grade level too--time is just so tight this year.

But Friday I decided to rebel! When I taught with Mrs. CT we did shamrock characters. So I decided we were going to do that this year and hang them up in the hall.

I have the students a shamrock template and they traced and cut out their shamrock. Then they had the task of turning it into a character and writing a story about their character. We got a lot of dogs and a few butterflies but one of my 5th graders made one I'd never seen before and it was so awesome!

I never would have seen a duck in this but how creative and clever!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, March 2, 2013


What a crazy past few weeks! Blogging is so taking a back seat to everything else in life. The other day one of my colleagues joked as we were leaving at 5 "why are we still here?? We have student teachers!" Although, in my class, I'm still teaching because of my dual grade. My student teacher will never "truly"  be in full control because that would overwhelm her too much as she still learns. She will teach everything except the 4th reading and 5th math. Believe me its still plenty for her to handle.
You'd think I wouldn't be so tired, so hard pressed for time and so out of it with her there...but I am. I even forgot my hair appointment this week, which I NEVER forget! I'm definitely looking forward to spring break in a few weeks. My student teacher will be "in control" the whole month of March then we go on Spring Break and then we have to prepare for her to be done. That is going to be a bummer because we have been able to give so much more time to reading and math with her teaching one grade and me teaching the other.
This week one of my colleagues showed me a website where someone made task cards to go with the 5th grade Reading Street leveled readers (of course there is no such thing for 4th grade--d'oh!). So I am on a mission to make my least for the next few stories for the 4th grade. I LOVE how they are set up and think it will really help my kiddos to get into a better discussion without as much help from me. So that's next up on my To Do list (along with everything else!).
March will be National Board month. I haven't worked on it which is terrible. I'm only redoing one entry because I only need 0.375 of a point to make certification. I have all of my evidence, I just have to write the paper...which I have been putting off like whoa. I just don't want to do it.
We're also planning to head to West Virginia for Spring Break. Does that seem like a weird place to go for Spring Break?? It's because we're going to see The Oldest's college. She got a scholarship to a private school there and we can't pass up that kind of money. We want to see the school too of course but we thought it would be good for Middle Child to see where her big sister will be when she's no longer home so she isn't anxious and worried about her. The Youngest probably could care less but of course she'll be tagging along for the ride too.
I can see Spring on the horizon if I stand on my tip-toes! :)