Well, that was anti-climatic

Look, it’s not like I wanted to have a bunch of people in my room observing me teach math.  It’s not like I enjoy district walk-throughs and the pressure of wanting to be worth remembering and thought of as doing a great job.  In fact, I was dreading certain members of the administration walking in because they make me incredibly nervous and they always seem to walk into my room and I automatically tense up.

But.  I changed my schedule.  I prepared my kids.  I even changed my schedule within the schedule, because we usually start math with timed tests (which, I know are controversial, but we have to give a grade on students ability to add fluently within 20, and timed tests are how the district decided to do it) and I thought that wouldn’t be interesting to observe.  I decided to start with a number talk on making ten to add three addends.  It had the additional benefit of being what our actual lesson was about and we’d done one on the same concept on Friday, so the kids knew the routine.  The admins were supposed to come in right at 8:30 so, at 8:30 there were were, gathered on the carpet (I moved a table last week so I could have carpet space for number talks), talking about math.

No one came in.

I extended the talk.  We talked about number bonds.  We used math vocabulary.  We discussed strategy.

Nothing.

So, we go back to our desks and take out the book.  The first page was just adding numbers to warm up, so they did it quickly.  The next page was the lesson, which they were prepped for because of the number talk.  We did the first two together.  I had them do the next one on their own.  The room was silent.

In walks an admin.  He stays for two minutes, during which time I say one thing, the kids say nothing, and silent, independent work is done.  Then, the admin left.  That was it.

And it’s not like I was doing anything wrong, but I wasn’t doing anything interesting or spectacular either.  I wanted to impress someone, and I didn’t get to.  So now I’m sad.  *sniff*

In lighter news, it cracks me up how easy it is to absolutely shock little kids.  They think anything is a swear word.  Last year, thought I was going to get in trouble because one of my kids said that I had said the “sh’ word.  She told someone at her table, and I freaked because I honestly couldn’t remember what I might have said to make her think that.  I was 99% sure I hadn’t said it, but there was that 1% of doubt.  Until I remembered what I had said, which was “shoot.”  And, I’m sorry, maybe some parents don’t want their kids saying it, but it’s not a swear word.  It’s a euphemism and I can use it.

That brings us to today.  I was reading ‘The One and Only Ivan” and one of the human characters said something like, “What the heck is that?”

You would have thought I’d dropped the f-bomb.  They gasped, the blushed, they covered their mouths in shock.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone had fainted.  They were so aghast that anyone –let alone the teachers–could say that word.

Just wait until I read a book that uses the word stupid.  I bet I’ll have some fainters then.

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Topsy Turvy Day

Tomorrow, the district administration is doing a walk-through of our school.  They might be doing all the schools and starting with ours; I’m not sure.  They are coming through to observe us teaching math from 8:05-10:00.  The problem?  Most of us don’t teach math until after first recess.  I don’t get to it until 10:30.

“No problem!” administration says.  “Just flip flop your schedule and teach math in the morning.”

And I love change so much.  *sigh*  I just hope I remember.  I keep reminding myself, I’ve already changed my schedule cards so math is first, but I have this horrible feeling that I’ll get into the morning routine and then just naturally follow my schedule and forget about math.  Maybe I’ll write a note on my hand or something.

Barnes and Noble is having Educator Appreciation this week, so I went yesterday.  First, I went to Renaissance Faire and had a good time.  Then, I changed out of my costume in the parking lot and drove Barnes and Noble.  Like I said before, I live a half hour away from the nearest Barnes and Noble; since I was already up in the area, I figured it’d be silly not to go, even though I was covered in faire dirt and exhausted.

I was underwhelmed by the options for the most part.  There were a few free posters (which I forgot to get) and a raffle (that I hope I win), but otherwise… meh.  I did get these:

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I’m excited that the Cars book and Sleepy Dog are below first grade reading level, because I have quite a few students reading at those levels and only a few books. This will add to that collection.

I didn’t buy more for the class because I have Scholastic Book Orders due on Friday, and will be buying from them.  Scholastic is cheaper and usually gives free books for every so much you spend.  Better to buy from them, even with my educator discount from B&N.

I did also get the the first Magnus Chase book by Rick Riordan.  Well, the first and the third.  B&N was having a special where if you bought the third book, you got any other Rick Riordan book 1/2 off.  I’ve been meaning to read Magnus Chase for awhile, so this seemed like the opportunity to start.

I am exhausted today.  This is why I go to Ren Faire on Saturday.  I need a day to recover.  And then back to the grind tomorrow.

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Read Alouds

In the craziness of my daily schedule, the thing I miss the most is being able to read aloud to my students.  When I first started teaching, I had 15 minutes a day to read out loud.  I did it every day after lunch.  Now, I’m lucky if I get 5 minutes.  This week, I think I got 5 minutes total.  I’m reading The One and Only Ivan to my kids, but this week I read Room on the Broom because I thought it’d be a nice change for the season and I thought I’d have time to read on other days.  I didn’t.  And the worst thing is, the kids don’t miss it because it’s not a consistent part of the routine and they don’t know to miss it (and, possibly, the book I’m reading might be beyond their grasp.  At least right now.  I might have been too ambitious).

I don’t remember my 1-3 grade teacher reading out loud to us, although she must have, at least some time.  But when I got to fourth grade, it was routine.  I remember almost every book my 4-5 grade teacher read.  The Magician’s Nephew; Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe ( in that order).  I remember her looking for Turkish Delight for us to try, but she never found it (I do remember the first time I had Turkish Delight; it was rose flavored.  I liked it, but wouldn’t betray anyone for it).  She read 21 Balloons and By the Great Horned Spoon and Five Children and It (which was unfortunate, because the bullies in class immediately started calling one of the kids in class “It”).  There were many more books she read (Detectives in Togas, which I read to my first class, and Greek Slave Boy, which I found again after many years of searching). She read Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, which I loved to much, I wrote and illustrated a sequel for her.  Those read alouds were important to me, and I’m sad I can’t give that to my students.

I remember my first class. I taught sixth grade and decided to read Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.  I’d read it before and therefore thought I was prepared to get through the whole book.

I wasn’t.

One day, I was reading along and getting to the emotional climax of the story when, suddenly, to my horror, I realized I wasn’t going to make it.  My throat was closing and my eyes were burning and, yup.  I was going to cry. And it wasn’t going to be pretty.  My kids hadn’t realized what was happening in the story yet, so there I was, getting choked up, and they had no idea why.  It was embarrassing.

But not quite as embarrassing as the first time I cried in front of a class.  I was subbing and the class was difficult.  Not horrible, but it’d been a rough day.  The teacher had left me a book about Hiroshima to read for the kids, and they were really into it, so I kept reading.  I was fine, I was fine, I was fine and then, quite abruptly, I was not fine in any sense of the word.  I just started crying so hard because of the horrors I was reading.  I’d never heard a class as quiet as that class.  It was silent.

They were much better the rest of the day.

It’s important to read aloud to kids.  It helps build vocabulary and understanding of language.  It stimulates imagination, improves literacy skills.  And it’s fun.  It’s comforting and low stress.  It’s a shame that reading aloud is not a priority for my district.  I’m desperately trying to carve out five minutes a day and will continue to do so.  It’s just going to have to take a little bit of imagination.

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Do Or Do Not, There is No Try

I’m a lot like Luke Skywalker.  I whine and complain and think everything can’t be done.  I fight against what I’m supposed to do and dream about what I should be doing instead.  I have an idealized version on the world in my head, and when reality doesn’t meet with my expectation, my impulse is to give up.  But, like Luke Skywalker, I usually don’t give up and, eventually, am able to change my point of view.

What I’m trying to say is, I’ve had a nap, some pizza, and my headache has gone from “stabbing pain” to “annoyance”, so I’m ready to change my point of view on the Maker’s Fair.

The truth is, despite loving to get up on stage and act my little heart out, I’m have a lot of anxiety when it comes to performing as myself in front of adults.  Which is what the Maker’s Fair will be: me, in front of a bunch of strangers, teaching.  I do not like this idea.  I will be so nervous, I will want to throw up.

But…

I won’t be that bad.  The lesson is about 10% teaching, 90% exploration.  The book it’s linked to is Too Many Toys by David Shannon. A boy has too many toys all over the place and his mother wants him to get rid of some.  The boy explains why he can’t get rid of the toys.  In the end, he agrees he has too many, but he can’t get rid of the best toy: a spaceship he made out of the box the toys were kept in.

The lesson first asks students to describe the properties of the boy’s toys (soft, fuzzy, hard, smooth, etc).  Then, at the end, they are tasked with making their own toy.  They are given a list of materials and their costs, specifications (the toy has to have fuzzy and smooth parts, it can’t be more than 30 cm high, etc), and they must plan their toy to before they begin.  Most of the lesson is building the toy.  I did that part last year with my students, and the toys turned out really well:

Plus, with adults, I won’t have meltdowns when things don’t go right, like I had with the kids.  (Speaking of meltdowns, remind me one day to tell you about the marshmallow towers.  That was a day).

So, while a part of me still hopes my lesson won’t be picked, I’m going to reframe the narrative as something positive.  It’ll be a good opportunity to show off and it will go well.

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This Deal is Getting Worse All the Time

So, last month my principal begged for a teacher to sign up for the Next Generation Science Standards district committee.  She needed two teachers to volunteer and no one had.  Finally, she said she’d add $40 dollars to our supply budget if we went.  So, because of that and because she’s new and I want her to think well of me, I said yes.

I should have read the fine print, man.

First, we had to write a science lesson that was linked to a piece of children’s literature.  Luckily, I didn’t have to do much.  I found the book, found the lesson, but the actual writing was done by my partner teacher.  All I did was add the literacy link part, which was easy.

Now I find out if our lesson is chosen, we’ll be presenting/teaching the lesson to teachers from all around the area at the Makers Fair.  And, we have to supply the materials for an indeterminate amount of teachers.  We won’t have to pay for it, but our district doesn’t do reimbursements.  So… they’ll just figure out later how we’ll get the money for these supplies.  And, of course, our lessons is really supply heavy because that’s the way I roll.

I should have asked more questions about what I was signing up for.  Fingers crossed that my lesson doesn’t get picked.

Tomorrow was supposed to be my crazy day.  In the morning, my class was going to be taking a nation-wide computer test.  In the afternoon, the school counselor was coming in to teach an anti-bullying lesson.  Then, in the late afternoon, it’s Fun Friday.  I’m not good with craziness, but I’ve had a week to get used to the insane schedule and was mentally prepared.

And now it’s all coming apart.  My class roster hasn’t been uploaded or processed to the computer.  The counselor has been absent all week.  Fun Friday is still on, so that’s good.  But now, instead of a fast, easy day of not having to teach much, I’m going to have to scramble about to make sure I have enough to do.  I know that the number one rule of teaching is you have to be flexible, but I’m not very good at that.  I mean, I’m flexible, but it throws me for a loop.  But I know I’ve got plenty of stuff to do.  I’ll be fine.

 

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Kids are Resilient

That’s what the math trainer reminded me today, and she was right.  Yesterday was a mess, the kids experienced something frustrating, but it’s a new day today and they’re fine.  One bad lesson won’t kill them.

Math training went well today, and not just because I got a hug and a reminder I’m a good teacher at the end of it.  For once, we’re getting really valuable training that we can take back to the class and use.  Not only was the teacher talk part valuable, but she demonstrated a number talk and a math lesson with my class and it went really well.

We brought my class into the meeting room since I don’t have a place on the carpet for the kids to gather (I wish I did, but there’s just no room!).  She showed them some cards with dots on them and have them say how many they saw and how they knew (which we’ve done in class, so they were familiar with the routine).  Then, they did an activity where they used snap cubes to count how many pockets they collectively had.  It was so great to see them working together, using math vocabulary, and being eager to solve math problems.  They went from working with a partner to count how many pockets they both had, to deciding they could count by tens to discover how many all 23 students had, to making ten trains and counting them.  Then, they wrote a word problem (we thought we had 80 pockets.  We had 124 pockets.  How many more pockets did we have?) and solving that word problem in different ways.  We haven’t even touched on two or three digit subtraction, but they were able to use mental strategies to figure out how many more pockets they had.  It was awesome!

Tomorrow, we do RTI again.  I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do.  I found out the other two second grade classes didn’t do RTI as such yesterday.  One didn’t have their aide show up, and the other said she wasn’t going to do RTI until it was done right (next week), so had her aide work with a child on something while she did science.  I could do that, or I could let my higher kids do the spelling game (I think they’d like having to race against the clock to spell a word) while the other groups do the learning games.  I don’t have to pull a group like I normally would, just make sure everyone is working on something educational.  So, we’ll see.  Whatever I do, I won’t beat myself up if it doesn’t go well. It’s a snapshot of messiness out of a day of good teaching.  It won’t kill anyone.

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Playing Bunco in the Library

So, if you don’t know, Bunco is a dice game where you try to roll certain numbers.  In each set, there’s six rounds.  You have five dice and, first round, try to roll as many ones as possible.  Second round, you try for twos.  Third round, threes and so on.  It’s easy, fast, and can be fun.  But, inevitably, when you’re trying to roll ones, you keep getting twos.  Then, the second you switch to twos, you get a bunch of ones.  It’s so frustrating.

This is what going to the library at my school is like.  At the beginning of the year, each student takes a computerized test and is assigned a reading level based on what they can read independently.  Then, they check out books at that reading level, take tests on them, and, theoretically, as they become better readers, move up levels.

So, let’s say a student is a 2.1.  They go to the library and look for books labeled 2.1.  Sounds easy.  But, the books are shelved by alphabetical order, not levels (as they should be), so you’re looking for a needle in a haystack.  And, inevitably, while I’m looking for 2.1, I find 2.3, 1.5, 3.0s and then, the moment I switch to a new student who is looking for another level, BAM!  Nothing but 2.1 books. Bunco.

RTI went about as I expected it to today.  Part of the problem is that I’m just not assertive enough to direct people to do what I want.  I need to work on this, but this is why I don’t want people in my room.  I’m not good at it.

I’d decided that I’d give the aide a subsection of my “low” group to work on spelling.  The plan had been to give him the higher lows while the lower lows worked on basic CVC words on Spelling City on the iPads.  However, Spelling City wasn’t loading their word list, so I switched so the lower lows worked with the aide while the higher ones did our weekly spelling list on the iPads.  I got divided, got the iPads out and… SpellingCity just wasn’t working, period.  I guess it needs to be updated or something.  So, okay, higher lows go to ABC Mouse and Epic, lower lows work with the aide, medium group does rhyming words and vowel sounds, and high group with me.

Here’s the next problem with our RTI model.  Our aides are not trained in education.  They are hired as recess supervisors and then take a test to become instructional aids.  I don’t know what’s on the test, I don’t what the educational requirements for the position, I don’t know nothing.  All I know is they are not really trained to give remedial instruction to struggling kids.  But I was told to give them the group they’d be working with on Tuesdays, so that’s what I did.

Last night, I made letter tiles for the kids to build words with.  The plan was for the aide to go through the spelling list with them and have the kids make the words with the letter tiles.  I knew it would be difficult, but I thought it would be better to give them manipulatives than have them do it on white boards.  At least it would be  more engaging.

The aide timed them.  He only gave them 20 seconds to build each word, which was basically impossible for these kids.  I didn’t realize he was doing it at first and by the time I realized what he was doing, I was so overwhelmed with the noise and trying to manage everything, I didn’t say anything.  I know I should have, but I didn’t.  I failed and I have to live with that.

I don’t understand why it was done this way.  Why did he have to stay in the class instead of pulling them out?  I don’t get it.  Not that it would have been better for the kids to be pulled out, but things wouldn’t have been so chaotic.  It’s just… I felt like I was drowning.

And tomorrow, I’m out in the morning for math training.  Yay.  Can you feel my enthusiasm?

I did get my Alice in Wonderland poster hung.  It looks good doesn’t it?

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“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

But until then…

So.  RTI.  Stands for “Response to Intervention”, which basically is a fancy way of saying group your kids into ability levels, target their weaknesses, and give them small group instruction based on those weaknesses.  Sounds good, right?  Only, somehow, it just doesn’t work.  At least in my district, in my school, in my classroom it doesn’t.  And I don’t know what to do.  We keep asking for training on how to do effective intervention, and we keep not getting it.  We keep being told to do it the same way we’re doing it, without seeing results, without knowing what to do.  Last year, I focused on test taking strategies for my kids, but this year I can’t do that because A) it didn’t work and B) we’re giving tests differently, which means different strategies.  And I don’t know what those strategies are yet.

We had an hour meeting today on all the stuff we’re doing this week, and by the end, I just wanted to cry.  It’s too much.  We’re starting RTI, but not really because in ‘real’ RTI, a group gets pulled out by a instructional aid while we do activities with the other two groups.  Only, for some reason, we’re  not doing that this week and aide is pushing in.  And I hate, hate, hate people pushing into my classroom.  It makes me nervous and frustrated and I don’t know what to do with them.  I wish we were just starting.  Just pull them out, let them get to know the rules and procedures that way.  But I don’t get a say, so…

So, we’re starting RTI.  And then, on Wednesday, after already losing a day to professional development and therefore being behind on my weekly lessons, I get to go to another training in the morning.  This training was originally scheduled for the 18th, which was still not ideal since I’m going to be out the next two days, but at least I was mentally prepared.  But now, I’ve got to do sub plans tomorrow and hope and pray it all comes together.

And then, on Friday, I’m the lucky second grade teacher who gets to do CPAA testing first.  This is a computer based test that we have to take 3 times a year.  My students have not been in the computer lab yet, so they don’t know what computer is theirs (and I don’t know what computers work) or the rules or the procedures or anything.  Plus, as of two hours ago, my current class isn’t even registered in the system.  So the tech department has four days to get that done.  And, I’m not 100% sure of my password.  I know the one to get into my account, but I don’t know if it’s the same one to get the kids into the test.

Also on Friday, the counselor is coming in to teach a lesson on anti-bullying and paint rocks, so that’s another hour of teaching I’m losing.  It works out that I won’t be able to do weekly tests, because it gives me more freedom to delve into the material and such, but it’s just so much to happen at once.

And we’re expected to start science in all of this.  Science, where each lesson takes 30 minutes to an hour.  I’ve lost PE, which is not good because kids need PE.  I’ll just have to keep throwing in Go Noodle breaks throughout the day to make up my minutes.  Or something.

*tears hair out and screams*

Okay, that’s better.  Here’s my Halloween display now:

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And here’s my Alice in Wonderland poster from Lithographs:

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I can’t wait to hang it tomorrow.

Okay.  So I know what the aide will be doing with his group tomorrow.  I know what the other two groups will be doing.  I’ve got all my PowerPoints done and ready to go.  I’m good.  It’s time to stop feeling weepy over everything that needs to be done and start doing.  Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” so I just need to remember that tomorrow it won’t seem as impossible as it does today.

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School Without Children

Or, as most people call them, professional development days.  I have one tomorrow, and I’m a  little nervous,  to say the least.  Not nervous like I’m afraid that something will go wrong, but, well, I guess suspicious is more the right word.  See, my district loves scheduling full day PDs for half a day, so we don’t get the full benefit of whatever we’re being presented.  And, sure enough, tomorrow we have the morning for PD on our new science program, StemScopes, and then the afternoon to work with our team on planning.  Both are great things to have.  But, if given a choice, I’d rather be given a whole day on the science program and then planning another day.  We had half a day on StemScopes last year and, through no fault of the presenter, who did her best, it sucked.  We needed the full day.  And I bet anything that tomorrows PD is supposed to be a full day, but the district only paid for half.

I hope I’m wrong.  It’d be a nice surprise.

Also, I swear I’m going to stop buying things for the classroom (except for things I really need) but I saw these at Target and thought they were too cute:

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They’ll go next to the banner that says ‘Happy Halloween’ above my desk.  And that’s it for decorating.

Also exciting, my Alice in Wonderland poster from Lithographs arrived.  However, I wasn’t home when the mail carrier tried to deliver it (I missed her by about two minutes), so now I have to go the post office to pick it up.  Lucky I have this horrible cough and can’t swim so I can pick it up Monday.  See, everything works out for a reason.  Isn’t life wonderful. 🙂

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“That’s damn right”

Disclaimer: I don’t like it when people shout things out at  movies or plays, unless you’re supposed to (or it’s a kid who doesn’t know any better).  I mean, you’re there to enjoy the professionals and, even if they aren’t that good, chances are, you ain’t as funny as you think you are.  And it’s especially disrespectful if it’s a live performance because being on stage is hard, y’all, and having to keep in character when something unexpected happens isn’t fun.

That being said…

(spoilers for The Little Mermaid stage musical to follow)

So Ariel gets her voice back and her father gives her legs and swims her up to the surface.  Eric is so happy, he gets down on one knee and asks Triton if he can marry Ariel.  And then, miracle of miracles, Triton said, “I believe my daughter can speak for herself.” (! 🙂 🙂 🙂 !)

And someone in the audience said, very loudly, “That’s damn right.”  Which, yes, see above disclaimer, but… yeah.  It’s damn right she can speak for herself.  So, yeah.  That made it fun.  Or, funny, at least.

I liked the play.  It wasn’t transcendent like Lion King (if that’s the right word), but it was a lot of fun.  I liked how they expanded on Eric and his relationship with Ariel was sweet.  I really enjoyed it.

And, on my way home, I stopped at Barnes and Noble.  The plan was a) renew my educator card, b) get something to read and c) maybe get a game.  I did the first two, but decided to hold off on the game (even though I’ve got someone coming over Friday to play games.  But I’ll check Target).  I didn’t mean to get books for the classroom, because I’ve got book orders due soon and I’m buying from that, but…

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I’ve read The Hallo-Wiener before and it’s cute.  I read Room on the Broom at the store, and it was adorable.  And How to Catch a Monster was only $7.99 if you bought a children’s book, and I was already doing that.  How can you pass on getting a $17 hardback book for eight bucks?  How?  Besides, I need to increase my holiday read aloud collection because right now I have… nothing.  I’ve got hundreds of books for the kids to read, but nothing I really have set aside to read to them (Except Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.)  So, this year, I am building my collection of all holiday books.  It’s my mission.

Also, as you may have guessed from the tail in the above picture, the second I put the books down to take their pictures, this happened:

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For those not in the know, that is my cat, Cobbler.  He owns everything on the floor. It’s the rule.

 

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