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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Unexpected Outage

Today, the internet broke in my class.  Not the whole internet, but the website for our reading program.  Luckily, I noticed the problem early.  While the kids were doing independent reading, I tried to hop on the site so I could look at something.  I got an error message and discovered that the entire site was down.  I grabbed a kid’s iPad to see if it was just on my computer (which has happened), but, nope.  Whole thing.  Down for everyone.

The problem is, Friday we use that website to take our comprehension, grammar, vocabulary, and phonics tests.  And we were ready for this test.  We’d read Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type this week and analyzed the heck out of it. It was easy because the story is awesome and all the kids loved it and wanted to read it over and over.  In grammar we learned compound sentences, and they were whizzes at combining shorter sentences into compound sentences.  I ever remembered (at the at minute) that the program did something shifty and taught that a compound sentences was two sentences combined with the joining words and, or, and but, but TESTED and, but, or, and so.  So I made worksheets to review the skill using the word “so” as well.  We were ready.

But had no way to test.

So, I pulled my teacher pants up and improvised.  We took our spelling test, and then did our close reader in the morning.   In the extra time we had, we practiced for the Christmas program that’s coming up fast.  That got us through the morning.  During math, we started learning how to subtract 2-digit numbers using manipulatives, which is about when the migraine from hell struck.  I couldn’t turn my head, I felt like I was going to throw up, it was all very bad.  So, I tightened my teacher belt on my teacher pants, popped a migraine pill and continued on.

Then, during lunch, I faced a dilemma.  The website was back up and working.  I could test after lunch.  But I’d planned to do our Thanksgiving turkeys, which I’ve done every year I’ve taught second grade.  Sure, it’s gotten a little less elaborate.  I used to do them out of construction paper, and spent any free time during conference week cutting out all the pieces.  This year, I photocopied some papers I got off of TPT.  Still, the concept is the same: the body of the turkey says “I am thankful for” and then they have 6 feathers to write 6 things they are thankful for.  They’d then get to color them, and I’d planned to stick them onto the door to replace our monsters.

So.  The dilemma.  Did I test or did I create?

Reader, I tested.  They’re going to be gone a week.  Ideally, they’d remember everything when they came back, but they won’t.  And I won’t have time to test.  Plus, headache.  It was easier to get them on the iPads and run around the room helping them than doing turkeys (well, maybe; some of the kids still need a lot of support to navigate the tests).  But, I have my grades.  And the turkeys will keep.  There’s no law that says I can’t do thankful turkeys after Thanksgiving.

Also, every exciting, our book orders came today!  I’ve been telling them all month that it would arrive after Thanksgiving, but I checked at lunch, and it was there!  Here’s my haul:

I’m still trying to build up my collection of seasonal read alouds , so I got How to Catch an Elf and the Ninjabread Man (although the second one might not be Christmas themed; I have to check).  The rest were free books from Scholastic.  I love that they send free books, I just wish those books were better suited for my class.  They are just way advanced for my little second graders.

So, now I’ve got a week off.  My lesson plans are mostly done, just have to finalize some social studies plans and then do my Power Points for ELA.  I am so ready for this week.  I get to see my family and do fun things.  It will be all good. And, most important, I’ve survived another parent conference week.

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Close Call

Today, I almost did my first home visit.  A home visit is when you go to a student’s house and meet with their parents there.  I’ve never done it before, never had to do it.  But, this round of conferences, I was having trouble with two parents  Both missed their conferences on the same day and I couldn’t get a hold of them.  I finally got one and rescheduled, but then they forgot again.  Luckily, I caught them this morning, rescheduled and it all went well.

But the other…

No matter what number I called, I couldn’t get any answer.  I left messages and nothing. I’ve tried to contact this parent before with no success, but this time it was different.  So, I went to the principal who sighed and asked if I was available today to do a home visit.  And, because apparently it’s my word of the year, I said “yes”.  Even though I’d really, really rather not.  I mean, I’m awkward enough meeting with parents in my own room, but to actually go to someone’s house, unannounced, and hold a conference there (with the principal and maybe the Family Support Advocate)?  It’s kind of like my worst nightmare.

Luckily, the parent felt the same way.  The Family Support Advocate got hold of them and they showed up.  Of course, I was running about ten minutes behind, but they stuck around and we got the conference done.  Thank God.

Is it any wonder I’ve had migraines all week?  The stress, man, it’s killing me.

So.  I have one conference left.  One more day of teaching and then Thanksgiving break.  I am so ready for this.

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Explain How You Got the Answer

Part of the Common Core standards is getting kids to explain their thinking and reasoning.  In math, we ask them to explain how they got the answer.  We just did double digit addition, and my class and I went over how they should answer questions where they were asked to explain how the arrived at their answer.  Ideally, they’d write that they first added the ones, they regrouped ten ones as a ten and then added all the tens.  We did this both orally and in written form during our chapter on adding.  As usual, some kids got it and explained their thinking really clearly.  And then, there were the others.

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Don’t know why it’s posting sideways, but “I solved the problem by yoosing my minde.”

 

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something about a number sentence and then “I counted on my finger and got 60 pages.”  Clearly, this kid has been hiding fingers from me.

 

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“I kanont in my head”  (I count in my head).

Clearly, I also need to be hitting spelling harder.  Although, at this point, I’m not sure what I can do to convince the hold-outs that use is spelled with a ‘u’ and a magic e.  I’ve got most of the class convinced, but there’s a stubborn few who are pretty sure it really starts with ‘y’.  After all, the word “you’ starts with a y, why wouldn’t use?

Got stood up by two parents today.  Yet another reason I hate conferences (the first being that I hate talking to people and anything resembling a social situation, even in a professional capacity, gives me sever anxiety.) Wish me luck on getting hold of them.

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I Need an Attitude Adjustment

I hate parent conferences.  HAAAATE them.  And I don’t know why.  Parents don’t come in and yell at me.  They aren’t mean.  I always put things in positive ways and give advice how to help their students at home.  Everyone seems to go away happy.

But I don’t want to do them.

Part of it is the stress of waiting.  Waiting for parents to show up.  Waiting to see if everyone is going to show up.  Waiting for a translator to come so I can talk to parents who don’t speak English.  Waiting waiting waiting.  And then the frantic calling people who don’t show up to try to reschedule.  It doesn’t happen much, but it did happen today and I have a feeling it’ll happen at least once more, because I never heard back from one parent.  So, it’s not the conferences so much that I hate, it’s the stress around the conferences.

It’s okay, though.  It’s two weeks out of the year.  Twenty-four meetings, five days.  I can do this.  And the light at the end of the tunnel?  Thanksgiving break.

Four more days.

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Don’t Say Yes Until I’m Finished Thinking

The Maker’s Fair is over.  Yay!!  It went pretty well.  Only two people showed up to my table, and it looked lonely and quiet compared to some of the other tables.  I was jealous of the table that got to build a little house to be blown down by the Big Bad Hairdryer.  And the table that built Ferris wheels looked like they had a lot of fun, too.  But our participants were very creative with the toy monsters they built and seemed to have fun, so that was good. I built a toy monster, too, but mine wasn’t as creative as theirs were.  Ah, well.  That’s okay.

 

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The point is it’s over, I don’t have to worry about it any more, and now I’ll have free time back.

Except for two things.  The first is there’s another fair in spring, which has been explained as being closer to a science fair where we’ll put together a board and a kit on an experiment and display it.  And, for some reason, we’ll bring 3 kids from our class to this fair.  I’m not sure why yet, and I’m not looking forward to it.

And, the second is I somehow ended up on another district committee today.  I’m not exactly sure how it happened.  Around 2:25, I get a call from the office.  It’s a secretary saying that the principal wanted to know if I would go to a meeting at the district office today, from 2 – 3, to talk about pacing guides and assessments.  And I think I was so confused because it was already 2:25, that I just said yes.  Which is not what I want to do because I have zero desire to be on the committee that writes the benchmarks for ELA.  I just… I don’t want to.  But, somehow, I’m now on the committee.  So, for the rest of the year, I’ll be periodically meeting with women much more motivated and committed to this than I am to create the tests.

So, the bright side is I’ll have a say in what we do and how we test.  I’ll get some extra money.  It’ll look good on a resume, etc., etc.  But, man, I need to think before I say yes next time.

Still, at least I was able to say why I didn’t use what we’re currently using as our benchmarks on our report cards.  Because, realistically, some students should be able to pass the given test.  Some will fail, some will perform below average, some average, and some above.  But, last year and then beginning this year, that’s not what happened.  My low kids failed.  My medium kids failed.  And my high kids failed.  That’s not a fair or accurate gauge of my student’s ability.  The weekly assessments?  Those come out as expected.  Some kids do well, some not so well, but I can see who understood the lesson/skill and who didn’t.  So that’s what I used on the report cards because that’s a more accurate assessment of their abilities.  And I was able to state that case in this meeting, because some of the teachers were like, “I give the test and everyone fails and that’s what goes on the report cards,” and that’s just wrong.

So, with this committee, I’ll get my say.  And, I that’s a good thing.

And, finally, in my, “This is why I’m not Sherlock Holmes,” moment, after the meeting, I rushed back to school to make my copies for next week.  I rush around the room, closing everything up, and then I glanced at the clock.

Which, for the entire week, had never been set back an hour.  And I never noticed.  And that is why I am not Sherlock Holmes.

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