Let’s Just Keep Things A Normal As Possible

That was the plan.  Just go through this week, keeping things as on routine as possible and not succumb to per-vacation craziness.  And it was working!  It was going so well!

Until the earthquake drill.  My kids did a great job.  They ducked and covered and were quiet, gigging at a minimum.  There was a little bit of trouble lining up in number order, but we all got in there.  I had some trouble counting the kids because I’m missing so many (I’m down to 22 kids and 3 were absent today).  But, we go through it, got back to class, and got back to work.  But it was still a disruption.

Then there was a little kerfuffle when the school-wide Elf on the Shelf turned up in the library.  He took one of the tables and the kids were more interested in watching him hang from the ceiling than getting books, but we eventually got focused again.

And then there was the lock down after lunch.  That was… well, a little scary.  I’d had a kid go home at lunch, but I hadn’t yet called to confirm that’s where she’d gone.  And I turned the lights off, which means the kids lost all ability to see.  And I had an upper grader in my class.  Plus, the person I was supposed to text to check in with is out.  But I finally got my head together, texted the principal with my missing and extra student, reminded the kids they could see in the dark, and we got down to work.  Lock down was called off about fifteen minutes later and it was all good.

And then, after school, I was basically told I was going to be helping with a professional development session that may be happening when we come back from break.  I was so good at first.  I said no.  I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t feel qualified (which I’m not; I can teach, but I’d rather be at the PD on how to do intervention because I need training in it.  I haven’t had any).  At the end, however, the head whatever told me that the other teachers would run it and I could help.  And, God help me, I said yes because I felt cornered.  So, yeah.  Instead of getting training I was looking forward to, I may be helping do training.  *expletive*

Tomorrow is our short day.  The parent who was supposed to observe today may be coming tomorrow instead, since her student was sick today.  We’ll be reviewing and testing on iPads so we don’t have to do that on Thursday (which would suck).  And there’s only two more days with students until winter break!!

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The Countdown Begins

It’s the week before Christmas and I am in survival mode.  I will do anything to get through this week without going crazy.  For me, that means keeping things as normal as possible until the very last minute.  I mean, I know Thursday will be chaos.  We’ve got the school-wide sing-a-long in the morning which will get the kids nice and hyper, and then a party in the afternoon, which means they will ask me when the party is every five minutes (“IT’S A TWO!” I will not yell while tearing my hair out).

Today went well.  We caught up on ELA from last week and then counted up to solve subtraction problems.  Of course the book only gives them 4 practice problems on this skill.  Why bother with giving a reasonable amount of practice?  So I worked with the five who didn’t get the skill and had the rest work on their “Subtraction Mittens”, which is a subtraction page that they color and it’s mittens.  The subtraction problems are fairly easy (like 25-9), but I have two who cannot do them to save their lives.  They can’t count backwards, so, I made a page of tens frames for them to draw pictures and subtract:

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I ended up giving it to four kids. Two of them were able to use the and work independently.  One should have been able to work independently, but kept getting distracted.  The third… well, she can barely count, so I had to help her a lot.  We got so into the subtraction mittens that I didn’t notice it was lunch time until the bell rang.  Oops!

We also started out reindeer research project.  Or, I should say caribou, since that’s what they’re called in North America in the wild.  I doubt we’ll get very far on these since we won’t have time to write tomorrow, but that’s okay.  We can finish it after the break.

Finally, we went to Israel and learned about Hanukkah.  One of the suggestions in this unit is to set your class up like an airplane and play footage of a plane taking off, and I’d love to do that but we just don’t have time.  Next year.  But the kids really enjoyed learning about Hanukkah.  I showed them the menorah, the dreidel, and the gelt.  We talked about what Hanukkah meant and the traditions surrounding it.  They were very impressed by the eight nights of presents (of course).  What was really neat was during RTI one of the students from another class asked about the menorah and my student was like, “We were learning about Hanukkah.  That’s a menorah.”  So, they’re learning!

I also put up my reindeer from Friday.  The kids did such a good job with them:

We have all kinds of reindeer: reindeer with mustaches (above their noses), reindeer with sunglasses, and reindeer who decorated their antlers with lights.  Very cute.  I got the idea from Artventurous.  I have, in the past, done it as a paint project, but this year we ran into the time issue.  Crayon is fine, though; it allowed the students to be more creative.

So.  I have three more days with the students and one more day of staff development.  And tomorrow I have a parent coming into my class to observe their student.  This makes me nervous, but she asked and I didn’t feel I could stay no.  It’ll be fine; I know what I’m doing, they know what they’re doing… it’s all good.

Four more days.

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Dear Michaels and Target

(at least in my town)

F&%k you for not having anything Chanukuah.  Not one singe thing.  Nothing, nada, zilch.

Dear Party City

Thank you for having Chanukah stuff.  I got enough dreidels so kids can play in pairs (if we have time), candles (which I’ve been out of for over a year) and one bag of gelt.  I was going to get enough for everyone, but it’s all in different sizes and there weren’t enough bags to get one of each kid.  I just didn’t want to deal with kids being upset that their piece wasn’t as big as another kids.  So, one bag so they can see what it looks like.

I also got the kids gifts, which I normally don’t do, but I’m in the spirit this year.  I got them bubbles, bouncy balls, and winter themed pencils.  Still don’t know if I’ doing parent gifts; probably not since I a) don’t know what to do and b) don’t have time to make anything.  So… maybe next year.

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Another Hurdle Crossed

The Winter performance is done!!  It went really well.  We had a huge turn out; the entire space was packed.  That’s good because it’s always nice to see parents supporting their children, but it’s freaky when it’s time for dismissal and a thousand people rush the bleachers to get their kids.  But, all the kids made it home, pictures were taken, people were happy, and a good time was had by all.

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Don’t the flowers look great?  I’m thrilled at how well they turned out, mostly because I was so skeptical about the project to begin with.  It was very teacher driven where I had to trace all the patterns, but then the kids cut them out and put them together.  I thought it would take a lot longer than it did.  I mean, it took time to trace the patterns and then lace the flowers together and hang them up, but they looked so good, I don’t care.  It was worth it.

So, now that the winter performance is done, I’ll have time to teach again.  Which is good, because, man, I feel so behind.  We all do, but it’s hard.  I didn’t get to teach math at all last Tuesday, but that’s okay because the test isn’t due until January 18 (I think) and I’ll actually be done way before then.  And these kids are just little subtraction machines.  I’m still having them do the drawings, because, like I said before, the standard doesn’t say the have to use the algorithm, just that they use place value to subtract.  And every once in awhile, they forget to subtract the tens or something, but, overall, I can just give them the practice problems and let them loose.Today, we worked on math for an hour and a half because it was a long lesson with lots of practice problems.  Most of them did realy well while I worked with my low lows (who did very well until they got tired, so I released them to work on a easier subtraction/coloring worksheet).  A couple of them were doing the problems right, but had a little bit of trouble with socializing, so they fell way behind.  So, during the last half hour I pulled them to the back table to watch them while they worked.  And it all went well.

This morning was interesting, too.  Our tech rep came in and did a short lesson on coding with the kids.  The lesson was mostly showing them a video and then having them jump into the program.  Of course, this being technology, the first program they were going to do didn’t work because we didn’t have the app, but then I found Kodable and their linked worked.  They loved it.  They were so engaged in working out the puzzles and had so much fun.  So, I put in a tech request for the original app the tech teacher wanted to do and, if I can figure out how it works, I plan to have about a half hour of coding every other week.  It’s probably not enough, but it’s what I can do and that will have to be enough.

We also really started out Holidays Around the World min-unit today.  We put together our suitcases yesterday and read about Christmas in Australia, but today we really dug into the article and analyzed it.  I was afraid they’d get bored once we got to the reading and graphic organizer part, but they really were engaged in what we were doing.  I was so proud of them.  Of course, we got to the part to add our stamp to our passport and I found that I had copied the stamps wrong.  (It’s a photocopy of a stamp that they cut out and add to their passport.)  So, we’ll do that  Monday.  We did get to color the map to show where we went.  Monday, we travel to Israel to learn about Hanakkuah.  I a taking my menorah to school, but want to get a few more pieces of realia.  Hopefully I can find a dreidle somewhere and maybe some gelt.  And, bad Jew that I am, I don’t think I have any books on Chankuah.  I don’t know if I’ll find any of those.

Also on Monday, we start our animal research.  We’re doing group research on reindeer/caribou.  I ordered two books from Amazon and got one today.  We may not get to finish the project, but that’s okay because animal research is animal research and can be done after we come back from winter break. (five more days!)

Okay.  So, I am so glad this crazy week is over.  Next week will be crazy because it’s the week before Christmas, but I’m going to keep it as normal as possible and we’ll get though this.  And it’s only four days with the kids (and one day of staff development, ug).  But it’s going to be a great week. Have a good weekend all!

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Dear Former Students

If it’s been more than seven years since I’ve seen you, and you’ve grown a beard and pierced your face, chances are I a not going to remember you name.  I mean, with the crazy this week, I can barely remember this year’s students names right now.  I’m definitely 50/50 on last year’s students names.  So,  I’m so sorry.  Don’t make me guess.  Just tell me who you are.  Thanks.

In other news, the craziness ends tomorrow.  We have dress rehearsal in the morning and then the performance at night for parents.  And then we’re done!!  And all that’s left is the craziness of the week before vacation.  Which, this year, will mostly be doing stuff we were supposed to this week.  I did get this Holidays Around the World unit off TPT to do, but I’m  not sure I”m going to get to much of it.  I might actually start tomorrow instead of next week, like I’d planned, because a) I’m kind of excited for it and b) it almost doens’t make sense to do some of the stuff we missed this week if we can’t do it right.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

 

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Maybe It Doesn’t Stop Being Crazy

I’m beginning to think that this year just isn’t going to have a “normal” day.  I feel like whenever I sit down to write, all I can talk about how is how crazy everything is.  Take tomorrow for example.  The morning will be routine: ELA, recess, ELD, but then, it’ll get wonky.  Because we have library during out math time (typical Tuesday).  Normally, we do math after lunch, but tomorrow, we have practice for our winter performance, which takes about an hour.  Then, we have late recess, ten minutes of class time, and RTI.  So… twenty minutes of math tomorrow.

And I’m already a little behind because I’ve got some kids who just aren’t quite getting subtraction.  I’m leaning hard on them drawing pictures, because a) the standard for second grade is that they use place value to add and subtract, not use the standard algorithm and b) most of them don’t quite get what they’re doing when they’re doing the algorithm.  They need that picture to see it.  Which is fine, except the book is no  longer giving them space to draw, so they think they don’t have to anymore.  So, it’s a lot of me working with kids who flat out don’t get it and can’t do it alone while running around and telling those who can do it with a picture to draw the picture and try again.  And I only have twenty minutes tomorrow.  *grr*

In the meanwhile, my flowers got done today.

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Alas, I was not able to allow the kids to add glitter to their own flowers.  We just don’t have enough time.  Luckily, I also didn’t have to do it all myself after school.  I had a split class today of fourth graders.  The last half hour of school, they were done with their work and bored, so I asked them to do it for me.  My room still looks like Tinker Bell exploded, but it was not as bad as it could have been.  And they’re done.  Yay.

I just need to hold on through Thursday.  Then, we have our performance and things get a little less crazy.  Of course, next week will be the week before Christmas break, so “less crazy” is maybe too hopeful.  But I should have time to teach.

 

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Silly Kiddos

Yesterday we had rehearsal for our winter performance.  Eight classes jammed into our little multipurpose room, all singing and moving around.  After we were done, I crouched down to tie a couple kids shoes (which is a sign of how crazy the week it; I don’t usually tie shoes, but I am so over the kids tripping over them and tying their own shoes into knots).  When I was done, I stood up and got a rush of heat going through me.  So, I started fanning myself with both hands.
Cue 10 of my boys, all standing their, fanning themselves.  Little hands flapping in the air, wide eyes looking earnestly at me.

“What are you doing?” I asked.  “You’re not hot!”

“Yes, we are!”

Silly little kiddos.

In other news, we started working on decorations for the performance.  We made poinsettia flowers out of construction paper:

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They still need glitter in the middle (yay, glitter; my room will look like a fairy massacre), but they came out really well!

And now, the weekend.

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Easy Peasy… or was it?

There has to be a reason I’m so exhausted today.  But I barely got to teach.  Like, at all.  I did three math problems with the kids all day. That’s all.  The rest of it…

First thing is that today was my math coaching day.  Which is good, because I’ve been enjoying math coaching; I’m learning stuff that I can actually apply, which doesn’t always happen with training.  But, today was also the trimester awards assembly, which was scheduled for when I was supposed to be off campus at training.  Rather than have someone else present my awards, my principal arranged it so I could go to the training late.  So, I opened the class with the sub, took them to the assembly, got up and presented my awards, and then rushed to training.

Sadly, this meant I had to miss the fire drill.  My heart is broken.

I got back to school about five minutes before lunch, so we did one math problem together before packing up and heading off to lunch.  After lunch, we did a math talk and then it was time to practice for the winter performance.  After that, we just did AR and then went home.  That was it.

So, why do I feel like I’ve been running nonstop all day?  It makes no sense.

Part of it is I”m frustrated with this assessment committee I’m on.  I thought that we were going to sit down and revise the ELA assessments, starting with the next one we’re taking, so we have something uniform that everyone in the district would give for the rest of the year.  Instead, we spent an hour and a half on pacing for next year.  I tell you, I’m even less interested in creating pacing guides than I am revising tests, and I’m already pretty uninterested in that.  Then, the head of whatever it’s called this year came in to see how we’d done at the very end.  We spent the next half hour going over the work, plus a tangent on this great reading program that one teacher uses for RTI that she wants the district to adopt.  The head of whatever suggested that we put together an inservice for teachers to teach new teachers how to teach ELA and asked if I’d be interested in that.

Let me let you in on a secret: I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to ELA.  I started in fifth grade and got moved to second the year our district moved to Explicit Direct Instruction, which amounted to a bunch of scripted lessons by some company I don’t remember the name of anymore.  I struggle in ELA.  I’m okay at it; I’m great at teaching vocabulary, I’m getting better at high frequency words and phonics, but I’m not great.  I could use instruction in how to teach ELA from this teacher.  I definitely should not be teaching other teachers.  So, I am going to remember how to say no (or, rather, “oh hell no”) if asked this again.  Because… oh hell no.

Anyway.  That meeting left me feeling drained and frustrated.  And then there were a few more kicks in the gut today.  Not big ones, but just a bunch of little things that leave me nervous.  In short, I’m ready for a long winter’s nap.

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Trying to be Positive

Well, it’s back to school which means back to crazy.  Overall, it was a good day.  All the students (eventually) showed up.  They were well behaved and worked hard.

In math, we’re learning to subtract two digit numbers with regrouping.  We did some with manipulatives and then drew pictures.  They sort of got it.  They’re getting the regrouping part, mostly, but the actual subtracting isn’t quite there yet.  Part of the problem is the way the book phrases the problem (“subtract 9 from 21) which isn’t very visual.  Actually… I think that’s the main problem.  If it’d just give them the actual subtraction problem, they might be able to visualize what they’re supposed to do more easily.  But, whatever; we’re finishing the lesson tomorrow and then moving on to drawing pictures and writing down what we do mathematically.

The not positive part of the day happened at the end.  We had a committee meeting today.  I’m on PBIS, which stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports.  It’s our schoolwide positive intervention plan.  Sounds like it’d be a positive meeting, right?  Well, to quote Stefon from SNL, this meeting had everything: starting over from the beginning every time someone walked in, teachers shaming other teachers for their classroom management, getting way off topic and saying the same things over and over.  It was amazing.  Wait, did I say “amazing?”  I meant excruciating.  I mean, ultimately, we got stuff done and it was good, but getting there was just…

Yeah.

And that’s just setting up the rest of the week.  Tomorrow, I’ve got the ELA assessment committee, which means I get to go collaborate on writing our ELA tests, a task I am unenthusiastic about.  And then, on Wednesday, I’ve got math coaching at the same time as the school awards assembly.  So, I get to miss part of the coaching to present my awards, then rush to another school to get to math coaching late, and then go back to school to finish the day.  And then an IEP on Thursday.  To top it off, we’ve got the winter performance coming up next week, so part of instruction this week is taken up with rehearsals.  Which isn’t too bad, because I’m not going to have time to teach grammar on some days, which I’m glad because the grammar this week sucks.   The principal walked in on me struggling to teach this really bad lesson on rewriting compound sentences to make them more interesting; I was awkward and frustrated and had to define almost every word used in the example sentence.  It was bad.  So, yeah, not teaching it because we have to sing is fine.

But, it’s another element of crazy.

But it’ll be okay.  I’ll get through the week.  The kids will get through it, too, and then it’ll be two weeks until Christmas Break.  Yay!!

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Sometimes I write

I’m bored and have nothing to write about pertaining to school (because I’m on vacation!!!).  So, because I want to post something, here’s a bit from a novel I’ve been trying to write since forever.  It’s a retelling of my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast (because, and I say this with all sincerity, the world NEEDS more retellings.  I seem to have gone through them all and that makes me very sad).  So, read and let me know what you think:

 

Her name was Beauty, her father said.  The youngest of three daughters and the most pure-hearted of them al.  Where the elder girls begged the impoverished father to bring jewels and gowns for them, Beauty had merely asked for a rose.

The Beast looked forward to meeting a gil who valued flowers so.  Nature was one of his greatest consolations here.  Unlike his invisible servants, nature was there to be touched and smelled and experienced.  He’d spend years cultivating the gardens as best he could.  They were a little ragged, a little wild, but they were a riot of beautiful flowers and shrubs and trees.

At least she would like the rose garden.

“Where is she?” he demanded.  He rose from his place by the fire and paced.  “Is she tarrying on purpose?  She must have found the path by now.”

“She’ll be here,” the soothing voice of Mrs. Underwood sai off to the Beast’s left.  “Remember, she is coming to a life of imprisonment.  That’s not something one generally rushes off to.”

He felt a pang of conscience at that, but pushed it away.  “I will treat her as a guest.  She’ll have freedom…”

“The illusion of,” was the gentle correction.

He nodded in concession and forced himself to sit down.

The door trembled—a signal that someone was passing through it.  “She’s here,” Robert cried.  “She’s just come through the front gates.  Hurry!”

“I think I should stay here  Have her brought to me.  Firelight might be kinder…”

“No, master, for she sits poorly on her horse and is a sort of greyish white that tells me she won’t make it more than five steps.  We cannot help her, so you must go.”

He growled, but swept from the room.  Robert surely exaggerated. As a human, he’d always been prone to wild flights of fancy being turned invisible did nothing but increase his whimsy.

The Beast reached the courtyard just as the girl’s horse stopped at the steps of the castle.

The girl didn’t notice the Beast.  She was too busy struggling to dismount the horse.  She finally got a leg over and twisted until she law across the saddle on her belly.  Her short legs dangled several feet from the ground, and her hands were white-knuckled.

The Beast had just taken a step to help here when she let go of the saddle and fell into a heap on the dusty ground.

For a long moment, she sat there, head down, half hidden by the horse.  Then, one of the servants took the horse’s reigns and led it away.

The girl looked up just as the Beast took another step closer.

Her eyes widened and lips tightened.  She did not scream or panic or try to run.  She didn’t even stand.

As for her…

It wasn’t that there was no beauty to be found.  It was there, but buried underneath a death’s head.

Her skin was sickly grey, her eyes sunken with dark circles beneath them.  Her lips were parched.  Her hair was lank and dull.  Her arms were sticks and her collarbone stood out starkly underneath ashy skin.

This child was starving.

This was the merchant’s beloved daughter?  If this was how he treated her, how must the others fare?  Perhaps he should look on them and provide assistance if needed.

The pinched look of fear had disappeared from her face.  A look of peace had taken its place.

“Are you the Beast?”  Her voice was deepened and crackled with a cold.

“And you are Beauty.”

Her eyes cut away from his and she nodded.  A moment later, she coughed, deep and chest wracking.  When she was done, she climbed to her feet.

“Welcome to my home, Beauty.”  He bowed.

She looked surprised, but dipped into an uneven curtsy.  “I, um.  Thank you.”  She shivered violently, even though it was a temperate night.”

“We should go inside.  Will you take my arm?”

A look of wild fear crossed her face, but she nodded.  She stood still as he came to her side.  He offered his arm.

Hers was like a twig laying on his massive forearm.  He could feel heat radiating from her and it occurred to him that she wasn’t trembling from fear, but fever.

“Beauty,” he said, stepping forward.

She followed him.  Her foot touched the round, and her eyes rolled back in her head as she fainted dead away.

He caught her before she hit the ground.  His servants let out a cry and the dirt kicked up as they gathered around.

“What’s wrong with her?” Mrs. Underwood demanded.  “Is it fear?”

“No.  She is ill.  Gravely.”  He slid his arm under her knees and lifted her.  She lay like a feather, almost intangible she was so skinny.  “Bring water to her chambers.  Broth.  We must cool her down and get her to drink.”

Later, when she was well, he’d ask how she’d come to be in this state.  The merchant had been poor, yes, but not destitute  He’d spoken of his daughters as if they’d been comfortable.  One was even married to a famer; surely there was food enough.

This girl had not eaten well in months.  He suspected it would be a challenge to get her body to accept food.  But he must try.

He lay her on top of her bed.  The great satin comforter almost swallowed her.  He noticed the hem of her ragged dress was stiff with dirt.  There were holes in her shoes.  Her fingernails were black with grime.  Only her hair seemed to have been paid mind to, as if she’d taken special care to do it in practical braids.

“Step out of the room,” Mrs. Underwood said.  “I’ll get her out of those clothes and into a nightgown.”

“Should she wash?”

“I’ll take care of her.  Out.”

The Beast did as she said.  He closed the door behind him, all confusion.  After the merchant had left, Beast had used his magic to spy on the family.  He’d never gotten a good view of Beauty, but his impression of her had been different.  She’d been taller. Self-assured.  And health.  She and her sisters had been the pictures of health.

A tray carrying a pitcher and bowl floated past him and into the bedroom.  A moment later, tea and soup passed him by.  He watched, against wondering at the magic that could take something tangible, like the trays, and allow them to pass through walls in the hands of his servants.  A strange foresight of the magician who’d enchanted him.

The door trembled.  “She’s dressed, master,” Mrs. Underwood said.  “Clean and comfortable.  Well.  As comfortable as she can be.  She’s got a fever and a cough, and won’t stop moving her legs.”

“She need water and soup.”

“Are you…”

“Yes, I am.”  He opened the door and strode inside.

Beauty opened her eyes and immediately winced.  “It’s very bright,” she said, squinting.

The Beast went to the candles and blew them out, plunging the room into a twilight grey.

“You must eat something.”

She nodded and pushed herself up.  When a bowl of soup floated toward her, she flinched.  When it did nothing more than hang there, she reached for it.

The Beast caught the bowl before her trembling hands did.  “Sip.”  He brought the bowl to her mouth and tipped it.

She drank the soup.  Only a few sips before she pulled back, body convulsing.  She coughed a few times, gagged.  Tears rolled down her eyes.  Bu the soup stayed down.

“Have more.”

She shook her head, but leaned forward and drank some more.  Slowly, with many breaks and near things they got the soup down.

“I’m sorry,” she said when it was gone.  She lay back against the pillows eyelids heavy.  “You were probably hoping I was fatter.”

“What?” he said, flabbergasted.

“I’m a paltry meal.  All bones.  No flesh.  You’ll have to wait to eat me.  Until I fatten up.”

Ah.  Of course that was what she’d think.  No doubt her father had put the thought in her mind, fool that he was.

“I don’t intend to eat you.”

She frowned, eyes almost closed.  “But she said… I thought…”

“I may be a beast, but I don’t eat people.  If you were a deer, it would be different.”  He attempted a smile.

She was breathing evenly, near sleep.  But she muttered, “Then why…”

“Why are you here?”  He watched as the last bit of resistance fled and she fell asleep.

“Because I am lonely.”

***

 

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