Sunday, April 28, 2013

From Full Moon to Happy Place

Whoa...what.a.week. I truly never believed in the full moon until I was a teacher and never moreso than at my current school. Wow. The kids' hair is being pulled to tight or something. By Friday, I was a real grouchy bear and couldn't wait for the day to end! 

It's weird too because Monday was fabulous. We led an Earth Day project to clean out our front garden area at school and help pick up trash on the playground, around the perimeter of our school. It was actually quite awesome. It was a gorgeous day and the kids were both excited by the project and appalled by the amount of trash we had collected in just 45 minutes. I reminded them that this is their neighborhood...its their job to help educate others not to litter, etc. 

Tuesday the horror began. They were just "off" from their usual selves. Wednesday was a nightmare. A colleague's dad was in the hospital and her sub was a no-show. So I called my student teacher and asked her to come in early for me (she was to be there in the afternoon anyway) so I was my colleague and my student teacher was me. Colleague's class is "that class". You know, the class no one wants because some of those kids are just downright hard to be around because they are so negative, just don't care and cause endless trouble. They were absolutely amazing for me...and my class was horrible. I mean HORRIBLE. My poor student teacher text me that night and said that she didn't know what had changed and why they were so rotten to her. Come to find out that it was a full moon. Not that it excused their behavior but it sure explained it.

Thursday they were supremely chatty and I was going to lose my mind. By Friday, I was just ready for the week to end. Sadly on Friday we found out we are set to lose 5 teachers plus a reading coach, so 6 colleagues total, because they projected so many kids would leave to go to the school that is reopening. Unfortunately, we all know that all of those kids won't leave (because we have A-MAZ-ING resources in our school to help our families that the other school doesn't have and no one is really going to want to give that up) so we're going to lose a good chunk of our fabulous staff AND we'll end up with 40 kids in a class at the start of the year because they won't all leave and we won't have enough teachers. I am likely going to get to stay because I am the only person on my floor with ESL certification and that is likely what will save my hide...but there are people who have been there forever who might get moved because they don't have the certification and that's wrong. Because then when they realize we can't fit 40 kids into a classroom (I have 30 now and we don't have the room we need-- I don't know where I'd put 10 more kids), they'll hire someone late and we'll have to move kids around and it's just wrong. It is SO wrong.

So Friday at 3:09, I dismissed my class for the weekend, chatted with a few colleagues in front of the school as students were picked up, made my way back up to my room, LEFT EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO DO, grabbed my purse and went home. For once, I was not going to dwell on this stuff all weekend. No. I needed some ME time, some family time, some time to not think about what could happen in the next few weeks.

Saturday morning we headed up to my Happy Place. I never want to leave here. Ever. It's quiet, its peaceful and I don't have to worry about the fate of my job, or my colleague's jobs, when I am here. I can just breathe. Relax. Take a load off, literally.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bittersweet End

Yesterday was my student teacher's last full day in our class. It was a very bittersweet day. I have enjoyed teaching again these last couple weeks as I've taken back over but she has been such a presence in our room that it will feel empty without her there.

I remember when I was done student teaching. I went back a few weeks later to see the kids and one of my girls had said to me "it's been lonely without you". I know my kids will feel that way about our sidekick too--a couple of girls cried because I made sure to immerse her in everything. From day one I made her a co-teacher so she never felt left out or unwanted. It was tough helping her pack up because she has become like a little sister to me. The little sister I never had.

I bought her two books I knew she'd love--Total Participation Techniques and Whole Brain Teaching. She was already reading through WBT and making hi-lites. :) She got me a gift certificate to my favorite pizza place since I have been devouring their salads like a crazy lady!

I helped her pack up her car, sent her off with a hug and went back up to my empty-feeling room. I moved our desks so I can use both and it's like an L-shape. I had to do this so I didn't have to stare across at her empty desk on Monday (and also so I can utilize our book shelf easier for my class). I have to do a little seat rearranging on Monday morning but that won't take long.

I told her, quite honestly, how much I have enjoyed being a part of her journey. I also honestly said I don't know if I want another student teacher because how could I not compare them?? I'd of course take someone if they got assigned to me but I can't help but know that I likely got very lucky with J. We meshed SO well and I find it hard to believe I'd ever get anyone who I meshed with that well again.

Maybe I will be surprised and it will happen again. At this point, I am not assigned anyone for the fall but I got J assigned to me two days before winter break so its not impossible that I might have someone.

I am definitely going to love following my "little sister" in her journey to having her own classroom.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, April 12, 2013

Finally Friday, Science and Laughing!

Wow, what a week!! It flew yet dragged haha!

We had indoor recess ALL.WEEK.LONG. We were dying. The kids needed to be outside. We needed them to be outside. My class and I cha-cha'd down the hallway at lunch today when it wasn't raining and therefore they could go outside for lunch recess (sadly for our K-3 counterparts, it started raining again before their afternoon recess so they were stuck inside again).

It has been awesome teaching again. I really didn't realize how much I missed being engaged in learning with my little friends. I would totally take a student teacher again, but I am loving being with my class almost full-time again. 

We rocked and rolled this week too. We have been working on the first part of the 5th grade space unit. The first section is about the Inner and Outer Planets. We are piloting a new Techbook from Discovery education. I really like it because it has a lot of short, very well done videos on the subject area and then it has online tasks the kids can use and do (which I haven't used because we don't have the computer ability at the moment) and lots of other things to make it really engaging but also help the kids engage with informational text and close reading as dictated by the Common Core. 

This week since we just started this unit, I decided to do something a bit different and teach the kids how to take notes. We watched four short videos on Monday and then I had them watch them again on Wednesday when I was gone and my student teacher subbed for me. This turned out to be a great idea because the kids go so much more out of watching the videos a second time and checking their notes. I simply made a chart for the solar system objects we were going to be studying with space for their notes and a page with each of our six essential questions for this part of the unit written so that the kids had room to write notes as they found the answers to each question. It was quite brilliant actually. The videos are so good (and lets be honest, space is fascinating to study--it's one of my favorite units to teach!) They were so enthralled with the videos the first time, I wasn't sure they had enough information written down. So since I knew I'd be out Wednesday, I had them watch them again. They got a lot more note-taking done with that second watch. Whew! We also did some close reads relating to the unit and today during library three of my boys were devouring the space books in the library. Be.Still.My.Heart. ♥

I've spent a lot of time laughing with my kiddos this week too. That is no easy feat with 9 out of 10 recesses being INSIDE and everyone going stir crazy. I had a great meeting on Tuesday afternoon and today had my second person of the week tell me how awesome I am for advocating so fiercely for my students. I had a third person tell me that I was absolutely right when I mentioned how frustrating it is to KILL yourself for a child and to give the parents every opportunity to help that kid succeed and THEY drop the ball. At this point, it kills me to say, but I have to wash  my hands of the situation. It's so sad and so frustrating but I have to tell myself that I did everything I was supposed to do and could do and the parents never follow through, don't take suggestions and refuse to admit that their child just isn't wired the same as their other two. It hurts my heart so much....yet I refuse to believe that I failed this child or this family. I can only do so much...and man is it helpful when someone else reinforces that for you--that yes you DID do everything you were supposed to do (and more!) and to no avail. It's probably the hardest part of working in the inner city. 

Even though sometimes I am cynical and sometimes I feel really downhearted about where I have chosen to build my career, I am still young enough to be idealistic. I am still young enough to believe I can change the world. I WILL change the world. One little fourth or fifth grader at a time. By golly, I will.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Manic Monday??

I think most of us were dreading school this morning. It is so tough to go back to school after a break. I had my dreaded "back to school dream" over the weekend so I was ready (it was more like a nightmare in which the secretary announced I now had 33 kids in my split and I said "okay and I quit").

The day amazingly went by SO fast! I couldn't believe it when it was 3:10 and time to send my students home. We have music on Mondays. It is between recess and our intervention block. It rained like whoa all morning (at one point it was raining so hard, I had to ask my students to please stop staring out the window--we're on the 3rd floor so we could definitely hear it coming down!) and we had inside recess which usually makes the day go by so slow. Nope. After music, one of my girls said "Mrs., is it really intervention time?" I said that it was and she shook her head and said, "Man today is flying by!" :) Touche my darling!

Even though we're more or less supposed to gradually take back over from our student teachers, I took everything except social studies back today. This was mostly because we finished up a bunch of units right before break and it just made sense for me to plan from the beginning of them and take over. My student teacher is more or less acting as my TA  now which is fine with me. 

We had a super busy day and I truly was so amazed when the day was done. I gave the kiddos a few "back from break" announcements and then we jumped right into our weekly vocabulary for reading street. I have used Laura Candler's vocabulary foldable for awhile now and one of my colleagues made an awesome directions sheet to go with it that we're now using. My kiddos tend to do things just to do them...not always caring about the quality of their was. So I went through it step by step with them and showed them exactly how I wanted them to use them. 

We did our Fresh Reads and my 4th graders had the joy of telling me that I gave them the wrong one! ha! I blamed it on Monday morning (and the line at the copy machine)! :) After that we jumped right into science and started our new unit on the Planets in the Solar System. It never ceases to amaze me that I have two grades yet manage to do the Walking Classroom AND teach science and social studies...yet my colleagues can't seem to find time to teach the content areas. Anyway, I digress. We are piloting a new science Techbook through Discovery Education and I LOVE the videos and reading passages they have. The videos are fascinating and very short so they keep the kids' attention. A lot is packed into that short amount of viewing too. I am teaching my kiddos to take notes because our last big unit in writing is research and they have to know how to take notes. They did a pretty good job for the first round.

After recess we worked on our paragraph of the week and headed to music before jumping into interventions. I have been using my task cards and I totally LOVE them. It makes it so much easier to balance all of my groups and still feel like my kids are getting some good reading time. It isn't so much "instructional" as it is discussion based and partner reading but the kids enjoy it and I feel like the discussion is really benefiting them. I will defend that choice to the end of the Earth if I have to. 

After lunch it was time to jump back into my dual math role. It has been a long time since I've had to do both math lessons. I made a list for the kids of what they needed to do while they weren't working with me. It was brilliant and they ALL did what they were supposed to do by following that list. I didn't have to stop even once during my teaching to remind the other grade to be quiet and do their work. It was lovely! We're working with percents in fourth grade and fractions still in 5th grade. My 4th graders really got into the percents part as they came up with ways that we might use percents.  One girl even said that she thought stores might use percents to decide how much money to pay their employees. I thought that was a pretty brilliant answer.

Then my sidekick jumped into her social studies lesson and I sat down for the first time all day. Wow! No wonder it went fast! We were just cruising! 

I love days like this when everything seems to click together, the kids are engaged, I'm having fun and so are they. I've loved having a student teacher (she really is awesome) but today also showed me how much I missed teaching my whole class. As much as some of them make me want to throttle them sometimes, I do love them all and want them to be happy at school.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Oh Spring Break!

I would like this week to never end, please. I haven't done much outside because it still isn't too warm (although we're supposed to finally have a warmup) but man has it been nice to just relax!

I brought home a TON of school-related stuff because my big plan was to spend a day or two "getting ahead" since my sidekick (student teacher) is done in a couple of weeks. I've done a little...very little. I got my grading done and finished report cards (at 10:48 on Tuesday night--they were due at 11:59 p.m. ha!), have planned math ahead through the whole month of April for both of my grades and have been planning our Walking Classroom podcasts...otherwise, yeah...I got nothing.

I WILL do it just means that Sunday night is probably not going to be so fun ;)  No, I won't wait that long. Fortunately once I get going with something, I get into it and I get a lot's getting started that is the issue.

I have enjoyed this time off though. My girls unexpectedly went to my mother's house Tuesday and won't be back until this afternoon. It wasn't planned because originally we were going to head to W. Virginia to see The Oldest's college but that got postponed until June. When she asked, I said sure since the girls don't go there that often and my neice is there on spring break also. So it's been quiet. Perfect time to catch up on all of that work right??

BAHAHAHA. Nope. I've relaxed. I've read, I've played games, I've done NOTHING PRODUCTIVE and it feels amazing.

Yesterday was a "Me" kind of day. I went shopping for some new-to-me clothes at Goodwill to relieve the "saggy butt" issue I have with my pants because I've lost 30 lbs and thus my pants no longer fit me. I found a gorgeous green and brown dress that I had to have. It fits but it's a tad bit tight. I bought it anyway because 10 lbs from now, I'll be rocking that dress.

Then I had my nails done and got my first pedicure of 2013. Oh Heaven. 

So while I've done very little teaching related this break so far, I've enjoyed myself. That's what matters, right?

How's YOUR break going? (Or for those who already had theirs previously, how was it?)


Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I'm linking up for this month's Currently! I'm a bit slow on it so I'll probably be number 5 million but that's okay. Better late than never!


There is literally no one else in my house right next except me, the dogs and Middle Child's hamsters. It's eerie silent but I LOVE it! It's very rare!

Loving being on Spring Break! Wasn't sure we'd make it but we did and here we are. Trying not to think about the fact that tomorrow is already Wednesday. Boo!

Yep...should be working on that National Board retake entry...but I'm procrastinating big time. Maybe by Friday I'll have it done. (Stop laughing. I'm serious. Sort of.)

One of my colleagues left her boyfriend and their fur kids here in Michigan where it hasn't quite figured out its spring and went to visit friends in Florida for spring break....and she keeps posting pictures of the gorgeous beach on FaceBook...and I want to kick her because I'm SO jealous. Next year I may just have to leave the kids with the Hubby and go with her!

I need a mani/pedi bad. It's supposed to FINALLY start acting like Spring around here and I am dying to show off my toes in flip flops and sandals...but not before I let Peter and Tina work their magic on my feet. My nails need a fill too. They are pretty but growing out and are becoming annoying.

My advice is to take care of yourself. Schedule the time if you must. I know it is hard. I am the person who always put myself dead last on my own priority list. No more. I HAVE to make a conscious effort every day to take time that is just for me. I'm happier and healthier for it too. My weight loss wouldn't be possible if I hadn't finally put my foot down and told myself that I was important too and I needed to act like it!