WOW

Word of the Week, WOW for short, is a weekly activity that my students absolutely love. Once a week I give small groups of students a word to unscramble. Groups race each other to see who can unscramble the word and find the definition the fastest. The winning group reads me the word, definition and uses the word in a sentence. I write all of this information on a reusable poster at the front of the room.

Students attempt to use any of the WOW words in their writing, homework and classroom activities. Each time a WOW word is used that student receives a small sticker to place on an animal shape attached to the interactive bulletin board. Once his/her whole shape is covered he/she moves up to the next shape. The kids love accumulating little stickers. It works even better than candy and I don’t have to deal with the sugar high!

I choose the WOW words based on curriculum relevance and excitement level. Most words tend to be either adverbs or adjectives. The students are encouraged to use these more interesting words when writing. Why say “great” when you could say “wondrous”? Like most activities, it is hard to get every student excited. However, the ones that do choose to actively participate reap immediate benefits. It is also really nice for me to read stories with a more interesting vocabulary.

Noah's Ark!

I tell ya, we've had over 3 inches of rain here in the past 48 hours, and we're due for another storm in about an hour (according to the TV weatherman). I might as well build an ark! Living on a dirt road, it's like craziness around here! hehehe Hence, I have reached bum status this weekend. I left yesterday long enough to take the kiddo out that nominated me for the award. Then I came home and watched movies. Yep, bum status. Today, got up, went to church, came home, watched movies. It's been a spiffy weekend! Okay, so I paid bills yesterday and did laundry, but that's nothing. I could get used to bum status! :-)

I am speaking out at the college tomorrow. I am pumped. Nothing like speaking to the future educators of America. I get a kick out of it. I really do. I have wondered if one day I will teach on the college level. Anyway, I'm pumped.

Well, I have surfing to do. I hope all is well in your neck of the woods! God Bless! :-)

I can't believe I won!

So, I won. I can't believe I won.(I can't tell you how many times I have said that today!) Noone would get it unless you lived here. This shin-dig is a big deal here, and one I didn't expect to win. I mean, I really didn't expect to get it. And, I'm not just saying that to "toot" my own horn. Honestly! People have been up for it 6, 8, my friend Davey was up for it 10 times before he won it. Yeah, crazy, huh? Well, in our district, it's something you gotta see to believe.
I walked with my limp, in shoes that don't feel as comfortable as my tennis shoes (yes, I'm a jeans and t-shirt and tennis shoes kind of gal!) and walked up and gave a speech. (And I didn't fall! hehehe) Now, I can honestly say, this whole experience, took my breath away. I have always heard people use that expression, but I learned what I means last night. I got up to speak, and couldn't breathe. Literally. I spoke out, but it was in short phrases. Well, hey, it wasn't the oscars, or on National TV, so it was all good. Many said my speech was okay. One came up to me after the evneing ended and said my speech touched them. That helped. I imagine everyone has a moment they will always remember. Last night was one of those for me. Sitting here tonight thoguh, I kinda wish I had gone with "Thank You" and walked off. Ah well, I did my best.
My Friend Toolman, and other friend bakerywoman came. I was glad that they were there. They were with me in that moment I realized I won. I was thankful they were there. It made the night more special. Good friends are truly a gift from God....
Well, my roommate needs on here, so until later, BE BLESSED!
:-)

Nothing to see here, move along.

I'll be back next week.

Mean Girl Geography!!

Today, they asked me, seriously, if Amsterdam is in Canada and The Ukraine is in Japan. Now, foolishness aside, I know they want to know about Amsterdam because of, well, weed. But The Ukraine? What do they know about the region that they could possibly link to Japanese culture?

We eliminated Geography on the curriculum for what...Oklahoma History? Here's the quick version of Oklahoma History.

Land Run, displaced Native Americans, Trail of Tears, Alfalfa Bill Murray, Statehood, um...Trail of Tears, Wiley Post, Will Rogers, Red Diaper Babies, Dust Bowl, Woody Guthrie, Invention of shopping cart and parking meter, Maria Tallchief and the Cherokee Ballerinas, Rogers and Hammerstein, Tulsa Race Riots, Oil Boom, Oil Bust, Wilma Mankiller, Oklahoma City Bombing.*

...and that's more than you might get from the long course.

The upside came in a link from my Language Arts coordinator, it seems simple grammar can be taught to songbirds!

And if we can teach them to bubble an answer sheet, I plan to test them next year.

*Apologies are in order if I have missed a vital part of the history of our Great State.

Ms. Spring is a...............

GIRL! (It isn't a mystery, read on!)

Yep, welcome to the world of autistic students. I don't teach them in my classroom during the school day, but I do talk to them in the hallway often. (I really like these kids, they are intriguing and loveable in their own special way) Part of being autistic means your communication skills lack in some form or another. So, Harry, one of our many autistic kids, was taking swimming lessons at the Y while I was swimming. I didn't really expect him to say Hi, as he's pretty selective about who he talks to and when he talks to ya. However, his swimming teacher used to teach in my building, so she encourages these kids to talk to me. Anyway, Harry saw me before I saw him, and he kept waiting for Mrs. M to let him say HI. Finally, we met, and he saw me through his goggles, and he looked at me and said, "Hi, Ms. Spring. Ms. Spring is a girl!" Then he touched my hair. He's always had a thing about my hair and calling me a girl. He is a jewel. At the end of my swim, he couldn't let me leave without saying "Goodbye". I walked away smiling. It is cool to be in these kid's world. I love it!
Oh, I got good news yesterday! I got my contract for next year (Yippee!) and found out I will be teaching Summer School! Yeah, this is a very good thing, as I now have the car payment, and need the cash. I can do anything for 21 days, and actually, I really like Summer School. It's really laid back and fun. I am excited!
So, I sit here tonight, pondering tomorrow night. For the first time in my life, I'm a finalist for something at school. Well, not at school, in our district. This wouldn't bother me, as I was blessed back in November with a little something. However, tomorrow night, if I win, I have to make a speech. How do you do that? I mean, if I win, that doesn't mean I'm better than the other 1000 teachers in my district. It seems "Thank You" should suffice. And, I walk with the limp, and my leg tenses up when I'm in front of crowd, so everyone's gonna see this goofy gal with a limp walking weirder than usual. It's gonna be an interesting night, that's for sure.
When I was in eighth grade, I fell walking up to my choir concert in front of EVERYONE, parents and classmates. I just pray I don't have another "ba dump" moment!
I want the night to be memorable, but not like that! :-)
I'll keep ya posted. Have a blessed day!

The History Boys

Please oh please somebody go see this for me and tell me all about it and then make it come to Oklahoma City community theatre (stop hating, it exists and it's not bad).

Flavor Of Love

I am watching this kid as she observes her classmates reading Us and Cosmo after testing. They are drawing elaborate pictures with highlighters and she's looking at me as if to say, "Kids. Whattayagonnado?"

and I realize that Goth Lite is my favorite flavor of child.

So I'm Done. Now What?

It's done. Testing is over and the Sainted One stopped me in the hall today.


"How are you, Ms E? You look better, less stressed."

"I am, Sainted One.
It's sweet of you to notice that."

"You haven't looked like yourself and
I know testing is hard. I love you and I'm glad you're back."

I swear to God, this is really what she said. My self esteem is too low to make up an interaction like this. She is that. Freaking. Precious!!!

The Saint has figured it out. It's hard. If I've talked about one thing these last few weeks, it's how hard this is. But some of you have listened to me (in real life) and have added your ideas and so I have words for it now. I want your thoughts here, teacher or not.

So here it is; teaching and testing are hard because we have expectations of our schools that we aren't willing to match in our society.

My mission is to create literate, reflective, citizens who will participate in our society by (at least) earning a living and voting.

Do you have any idea how hard this is? Do you have any idea how few of my students have dictionaries at home? Do you realize how many of my kids only hear English at school? Do you know how many of my kids only eat school breakfast and lunch every day and nothing at home? Do you know how many of my students work 40+ hours a week? Do you know how that wars against my mission? And do you know that my school isn't one of the truly unfortunate ones? That we're quite lucky and that there is far, far worse?

You know this. You know this because you've clicked on this blog and so you have some interest and appreciation for what I say. In fact, you can read what I am saying which means you "get it" to some extent.

The theory behind No Child Left Behind is reasonable--in a vacuum. America, however, doesn't happen in one.

So we work toward this impossible dream. We reach more kids because we work harder than ever to support literacy and problem solving. But we won't get them all. Not with all those warring external forces.

That said, here's the question playing about in my head: what should we expect? Is it time for us to finally realize that our schools cannot fix all of these problems and lower our standards or is it time to require our society to step up to the expectations we have placed in our schools? I don't like either of these answers. I don't want to expect less than those literate, participating citizens and I don't want to legislate the home lives of our society. So what's the answer?

Let's talk about it. Give me your thoughts.

Ask and you shall receive.

Today I was out sick again and received the following email from my assistant: “The kids are doing much better today. Here is a note that one of our students wrote across the top of her compound word homework last night: “Miss H, this sheet of homework is to easy and I am not being challenged. from A (student) and S (her mom)!" Gotta love it right!” Yes, I see the inappropriate spelling of “to”. Can you guess where this is going?

This particular child received a supplemental homework packet from me two months ago. I have yet to see any completed work. She is not a student that ever goes beyond expectations. Her work is no longer than what is expected and I am often questioned about whether she needs to do what everyone else is doing. That always baffles me. Why would my instructions pertain to everyone but her? Most importantly, she is an only child whose parents find her wonderfully precocious. My assistant and I are tiered of precociousness being used as an excuse for laziness.

I may not have been able to grace the classroom with my presence today, but I was well enough to create a very beautiful Word document entitled A’s Homework Ideas. Using Word Art and textboxes A now has a great looking list of about 11 possible homework extension activities. I plan on mounting it on construction paper and laminating it tomorrow. Do you think I’ll be getting notes about how easy the homework is in the future?

There's No Testing This Kind Of Stuff

I have been in poorer schools than my present assignment. We don't get everything we want, but mostly we have what we need. I am given plenty of chances to write grants for extra stuff and have a few funding sources to tap when I have a new idea. I think I appreciate that more today having been in schools where there was no supply money or book funds or grant sources.

I am playing around on a site that helps potential donors choose a project in the public schools to support and will feature one every once in a while.

If you choose to search for a project on your own, I'd love it if you send word on the projects you choose to support. Here's the first one I am choosing...

Support students from the High School for Global Citizenship in Brooklyn as they raise funds for a summer trip to Heifer International's Learning Center in Perryville, Arkansas. Your donations will help pay for airfare to and from Arkansas. At the High School for Global Citizenship (www.hs-gc.org) students develop an "active awareness of the connections between our local experiences and the rest of the world." The trip to Heifer International's ranch will support the school's goals by helping the students grow as individuals and gain valuable insights into world hunger, sustainability, cooperation, and how to stay cool in June in Arkansas. Everyone will return to Brooklyn with important insights to share with family, members of the HSGC community, and people in the broader communities through which we are all linked.

Heifer International (www.heifer.org) is a non-profit relief organization dedicated to helping people living in hunger and poverty around the world achieve self-reliance through just and sustainable development. The participants from HSGC will spend the week gaining invaluable first-hand experience with the sources of their food by working with different animals representing Heifer's various international efforts and by helping with chores on the farm. They will learn what it is like to live as different groups of people around the world live through spending one of the nights in Heifer's Global Village immersion program. The week will be filled with other hands-on, fun, interactive activities that will broaden their minds and hopefully touch their hearts. This trip will provide a lifetime of experiences and memories as these students expand their horizons beyond Brooklyn and become caring, active, engaged contributors to our society and to the ever-shrinking world we live in.

There are twelve students and two adults participating in the trip. Your donations are vital for making this trip a possibility for all of them. Thank you very much for your help.

Fund my Registry at DonorsChoose

When the teacher's away...

I was home sick today and here is a list of the things that went wrong in my absence. My assistant called me on her way home.

1. Several boys were running around the science fair and knocked something over
2. One child offered to loan another money to buy a candle from the fundraiser and all of the other children began demanding money from him.
3. A student’s candle fell and broke. She blamed the little boy that is madly in love with her and was nowhere in the vicinity. His heart was broken.
4. Sensitive Teenager yelled at Sensible Girl for doing a bad job of being captain during athletics.
5. The P.E. coach was furious with the poor sportsmanship and will have them run laps next class.
6. 5 students complained of injuries or illness shortly after returning from P.E.
a. 2 of them eventually went home.
7. Fire Alarm Kid freaked out because he didn’t get enough sleep the night before and my assistant was worried he would go “Ape Shit” on her.
a. He just does a lot of screaming and jumping. This time he screamed at her and jumped on his spelling test because the kids behind him in line were being too noisy.
8. Sensible Girl had an asthma attack due to anxiety over what happened in P.E.

My students are always trying to earn tallies with good behavior. When they get 10 tallies we have a party or they get free play. Right now they have negative 6 tallies.

Tomorrow should be fun.

Have You Never Been Ghetto?*

*This, by the way, is a song parody longing to be written. Your ideas for lyrics are graciously accepted.

It started with a call from Scott. He wanted to know if I was that teacher who sent home that horrible list of words. Evidently, a child's grandmother (who he maintains is about 40 years old and had probably used some of those words herself) was incensed that her child was learning the origin of many of the popular hateful words and was talking to reporters (no link to the story can be found).

"Nope", I replied. "I'm too busy trying to suppress minority test scores to teach anything that noble. I thought about it, though. I even downloaded the lesson plan." It's worth noting that this particular lesson plan didn't have the racial slurs we most use so it was scrapped for more than one reason.

We went on to talk about how the restaurant I had invited some friends to visit was evidently the scene of a beat down Saturday night. When I drove by about 9:30, there were three fire trucks and five police cars. I still want to reschedule, it's great food and now it's an adventure.

Back home, it's laundry night in the apartment complex. While waiting for washers, I notice that signs have been posted for a day labor service and a bail bondsman. I make a mental note that it's time to move.

After a long wait, I load my clothes in and start across the parking lot when--are you ready? because it gets trashier soon--the tornado sirens blow! The reaction in the parking lot is priceless. One woman dashes into her apartment, while six others run out into the parking lot and just gawk at the sky. This is how you get to know your neighbors in Oklahoma apartments. Storm gawking. The group came to the consensus that there was nothing to worry about, but they'd all stay out "Hopin'", as they said "fer a funnel!".

I think that this summer, as I sit around the National Institute for Teaching Shakespeare, it's the stories like this I will tell that sum up my life.

Here Is A List Of Things That Are Good

Spring is painful. School activites are at full throttle, sinus and allergy evil float in the air ready to pounce, and summer feels close enough that I ought to be sleeping in. And now, enjoy a list of the things that get me through.


  • I have Humanities students who can articulately speak of this painting as a product of the Counter-Reformation



Image hosting by Photobucket

  • The damn testing ends Tuesday and my students and I will go back to being normal people who read interesting things in class and just enjoy them.
  • I am hearing back from one of my kids. He did model legislature in college and wants to help the kids next year--just wants to! Just came by one afternoon in April to tell me he will! And when I gave him a contact to volunteer for a real political campaign, I made his day back!
  • I leave Friday for Washington DC again. The competition my kids do has once again selected me to be their scholarship teacher, and this year I will go with none of these worries. It doesn't seem right or fair that I should go twice, but do you turn down a free trip? You do not. It'll be a good vacation after my weeks of testing hades.

shopping

So, today was really cool. I tell ya, it seemed as if there was a lot of drama this week, and it was great to come home to my parental unit's house and go shopping. Yep, I got spoiled rotten. It was cool. I don't come home much at all, so they were thrilled to have me home. The highlight though? Their pup, Rudy. My Dad got sick last summer and they got a dog off the internet site, "petfinder". Apparently Rudy was rescued from a very abusive background. He is such a hoot! He's a schnauzer, and is just a ball of hyperactivity. (He's helped pulled my Dad through a rough nine months, so it's really cool.) The cool part is, you can calm him down and he's trained to do a lot. Yep, doesn't take much for a teacher to be happy. A day without kiddos (this time of year, that is) and a puppy to play with. Life is okay...

Well, there's not much else to say. Have a terrific day. And, for all you fellow teachers out there, hang in there. Summer will be here before we know it! :-)

What?

A few times a years perspective parents sit in on a half-hour of class. This allows them to get a feel for both the school and classroom before committing their child to an academic career with us. It seems like a great idea for the parents, but it’s a little odd to have a handful of adults sitting at the back of the room while I teach vocabulary and reading.

During our observed lesson the other day we needed to discuss why the book we are reading says “Indians” and I say “Native Americans.” I went in to the whole, Columbus thinking he had reached the West Indies and thus dubbing the natives Indians, thing. They always think this is such a riot. “You mean he got lost?” they always ask. We also talked about what the word “native” means. So, being a Native American means you are originally from America.

As I finish the last sentence of my little lesson on political correctness, regarding Native Americans, Sneaky Man raises his hand.

“Yes Sneaky.”
“Ms. Teacher, you have to call Indians Native Americans because they will put a spell on you and curse you if you don’t.”

My jaw dropped. First, I had just spent ten minutes talking about why we use the term Native Americans. Second, there was a strange adult at the back of my room. What must she think?

“No, Sneaky. That is not why we say Native American. I just explained why we don’t use the term Indian. Can anyone tell Sneaky why we say Native American?”

Every hand shot in the air and to my relief the hand I called upon was attached to a child that had in fact been paying attention.

I was very happy when we got back to reading the book.

I think I can, I think I can

I’m having major blogging issues. I keep writing paragraphs and erasing them. Nothing seems good enough to post. What does that even mean? Good enough to post. Interesting enough, written with the appropriate word choice, who knows?

I was just trying to nap, but realized I feel too guilty for not posting to sleep. Maybe this little note will get me off the hook with me and I can move forward. Hopefully I can get back on track this week. I don’t know that I have it in me to post everyday, but I can certainly try for every other.

Thanks for being patient.

Where I Become Someone I Am Not Sure I Know

I recently said to a friend in reference to weekend plans,

"Yeah, just give me a call. The only things I have to do on Saturday is
laminate."


I spent the better part of college mocking people who said those sorts of things.

A whole week!

So, it occurred to me today that I hadn't posted in a week. It's weird, this time of year at work it seems as if you run 90 to nothing, the kids are awful, and you just keep thinking, okay, how many days left? Okay, perhaps you teach and you don't feel this, perhaps it's just me. :-)

Well, it was a pretty decent week. It had drama here and there, but it was okay. And, it ended with a trip to KC, so it was pretty cool. I do have the new car, and after a trip back to the dealership to get the car aligned (yeah, brand spankin' new, and I had to take it in already, I was bummed, okay, bummed and mad, I bought a new car to avoid car issues, figure that one out!) it's okay. And life, continues...

don't know

My heart just isn't in it anymore. I don't know what triggered my apathy. Maybe it was dissolving into tears in front of my class for no apparent reason.
Maybe it's the continual negative feedback from parents and students. Maybe it's all the teachers who think they know everything. Maybe it's not being treated like a professional. Maybe it's my upbringing - that no matter what I do it's not enough. That I'll always be a disappointment.

Good Gawd, I'm depressing!

A Study In Contrasts

Today, the news of my pending teacher nerd camp extravaganza was published in our District Board Highlights.

And I was seen pushing a shopping cart through the halls, muttering to myself.

You see, in response to the theory that children test better in their actual classrooms, our administration has decided to do just that! In the regular rooms, in with you! During your regular class time! At 2pm! And it's ninety degrees out!! And you don't get the traditional breakfast!!

We're not happy with this plan. It extends testing to three days rather than two (after we have enough trouble getting students to school for two days), and because of my classroom's proximity to the cafeteria, displaces my third hour.

So today, while my colleagues marveled at my summer in New England, I pushed a shopping cart. It sounded like this...

"Wow! Educat! Great news about your summer!...Um...why are you pushing a
shopping cart?"

"You're serious? I'm stunned you're not familiar with the research,
children test better in their own classrooms. And thank you, I'm very excited
about the summer."

...and then I would wheel away, muttering.



I believe I am keeping the shopping cart forever. It was in the copy room and no one uses it. It's very convenient and some of the kids have offered to pimp it out for me.

The Kind Of Post You'd Only Write When You're Giddy WIth Testing Being 1/3 Over

Over at A Shrewdness of Apes, her weekly Movie Madness Monday post involves a favorite of mine. I love this movie so much that just a couple of weeks ago I reworked its opening credits song to reflect my feelings about colleagues who fail to follow faculty dress code.

And yes, I know that's petty, but I want to wear jeans to school too and this woman's shorts were really really short!!!

Please bear in mind that I make no claim to singing ability.

And now, in homage to all those teachers who don't follow dress code or discipline their students and make it hard for the rest of us, I offer...

this is an audio post - click to play



They’re writing email notes
But not for me
Regarding our dress code…
Must not be me

When every Friday means
A day to wear my jeans,
I show it’s not for me

I’ll not enforce a rule
I will not keep
And my fe-male students
Look quite cheap

All my boys pants, they sag
To write them up’s a drag,
No, that rule’s not for me.

New Seats

My Queen Bees were at the same table for the first time today. It was pretty funny to watch what happened when they saw their new seats. TopBee looked at her seat, looked at NewBee’s seat, and threw her head around with some attitude, tossing a scornful look at NewBee.

NewBee approached my desk tentatively, “Ms. Teacher, I sit right there now.”

“You sure do. I get to have you by my desk this time. “

“Ya, that’s cool.” She walks away a few feet, turns around and comes back, “Ms. Teacher… TopBee is at my table.”

“Yes, I actually chose the new seats. You might be surprised by how well the two of you work together.”

“Ya, I guess,” was the uncertain final statement.

The girls did wonderfully today. Granted, I got the kids out of their seats a lot, but they didn’t call attention to themselves even once. It turned out I had to chastise NewBee and SensitiveTeen for giggling incessantly. That is certainly not a relationship I would have thought at all beneficial. Wouldn’t it be interesting if these two struck up a friendship? Since you are not in my room, I’ll go ahead and answer that for you. YES!! NewBee needs someone to really think she is fun.

Here’s hoping.

Testing And Brutal Crime Colors A Holiday

It has all nearly ruined me again.

Yesterday in church found me hearing a sermon about "The Amazing Images of the Resurrection". Geez louise, amazing?? Is the best you can do to use the most devalued word in the entire English language? After I have sweated out the week talking about synonyms for that Very. Same. Word. thatverysameword!?!?!

I wrote about sixty synonyms for amazing on my bulletin (which was actually a somewhat worshipful experience). I also spent the time pondering their choice to change "wretch" in Amazing Grace to "sinner". The connotative meaning is so much greater for wretch! Such a vivid word choice!

The writing test is tomorrow and we are 1/3 done with testing. I shall shut up soon.

We enjoyed a very swank Easter brunch, but that enjoyment was curbed pretty severely as my Granny spent the majority of the meal regaling the details of a gruesome local tragedy. At one point, I begged her to "please stop talking about the meat tenderizer when the meat course is on the way!!!".

Break Time

No, I’m not still pining away over the loss of Spring Break. I am referring to the break students need in the middle of a solid academic afternoon. The time when all of the eyes staring at you are clearly not processing a thing you are teaching. The moment when the kid, who has been trying desperately to pay attention, starts to fiddle with this pencil and squirm around. In my classroom, this is the time when we “stomp”.

What is “stomping”, you might ask? Everyone stands up behind his/her pushed in chair; we want as few obstacles as possible. Kids place feet hip distance apart with one in front of the other. As we jump up and switch legs, we count in unison. It really is quite a workout. Sometimes the kids move around the room while “stomping”. If things begin to get out of hand, we move right back to our seats. So, they’ve learned how to keep the fun at an indoor level.

I heard about this exercise years ago on a segment of 60 Minutes. The thrust of the piece was that kids are not active enough these days. They spend more time in front of the computer or television than they do outside running around. The action of “stomping” somehow encourages the development of good strong joints. One of the major issues with inactivity turns our to be week joints, go figure.

I tried it with the kids one day and now they ask for it all of the time. I even use it as bribe from time to time. “If you can finish the first 3 questions on page 87 we will "stomp" before math.” It doesn’t always work, but what does? If you ever need to “shake it up” a bit in the afternoon, take a minute or two and “stomp”!

The light at the end of the tunnel!

So, today I got the phone call, the one I had waited 2 weeks for...MY CAR IS IN! Yes, exactly 5 weeks ago today (not that I'm counting or anything) was my car wreck. And, today my new car came in! I am so pumped! I am like a little kid at Christmas! Now granted, I miss my old car, and if it were up to me, the wreck never would've happened and I'd still be driving Zippy. (Yes, I named my car, go figure!) However, since none of that is up to me, I am thankful for what I am about to receive! Yippee skippee! I have choir practice in the morning and then I'm headed to get the car! Praise the Lord! Yes, I am thankful for the car that my Grandpa loaned me. And, Old Brown has been good to me. Now for the new car! Yippee! I'm not excited or anything! :-)
This is perfect timing too, as I received my money for my other car yesterday. I tell ya, stuff is coming together. This has been one long, massive, learning experience. And, about 95% of it, I hope I never have to apply again. For example, if I went the rest of my life without having to know how to deal with an auto accident again, it would be just fine by me! I guess it's another "perspective" lesson in my book!
So, a day off, no kids, a day on the couch, a call that my car is in, and an evening on the couch. Pretty good day in my book! Tomorrow's gonna be even better!
By the way, any guesses on what color my new car is?

Girls, Girls, Girls

This year I have been cursed with dueling Queen Bees. The problem started in October and I’ve spoken to each girl’s parents twice in the last two days. It is April people, APRIL!! The girls are really cool kids. They are actually a couple of my favorites, even though I don’t have favorites. Unfortunately, each is determined to run my classroom to the absolute detriment of the other. It is ridiculous!

Luckily, both sets of parents are very understanding and more than anxious to remedy the situation. We are all at our wit’s end. So, the solution we have found is to force the girls to spend copious amounts of time together. The parents are arranging playdates outside of school. First the girls will play alone. Next the parents will invite other girls to join the playdates. Something has got to give. When I change the kids’ seats on Monday, the two little culprits will be seated at the same table. They will either kill each other or get over it. I’m hoping for the least bloody option.

Putting An (eo) I In Team

I have really tried to put the Thumper maxim into play when it comes to testing this year. I haven't been able to say much that is nice, so I haven't said anything (ok, much. I have said a few things) at all.

I stand by all my gripes. Won't back down on any of 'em. It's time, though, to tell the good stuff. My English II team has managed to pull of some educational goodness, and it should be shared. With a nod to my edu-blog-ness, I will even share some of our tricks.

Administration wants to see us turning flips to raise these scores. We've played the game by combining our classes. All the English II classes have been meeting together and will until testing. Our former colleague at the State Dept. told us the parts where kids score the lowest and lesson plans were made accordingly. We rotate teaching duties so that the day you are on, you are on ALL DAY. No plan time, no breathers. There's a ton of kids in the room and you'd better be singing and dancing the whole time.

We are! I will admit I was afraid of bringing my kids into the whole thing and even more afraid to bring myself. I was fully confident in my primary area (Speech/Drama), but it's taking some time to become a "real English teacher". What if my kids revealed some weakness in my teaching or worse, what if on my day up I bombed and the rubber English teacher mask was yanked from my face to reveal my elective teaching true self?

Didn't happen. Didn't even come close. My day of figurative language fun was good! In fact, I even found kids savoring lines of the poetry I chose. I had that moment you always laughed at in High School when your English teacher sort of half closed her eyes and leaned her head back with a goofy grin as she recited some poetry. Real is the word, it was real English teaching.

My sister teachers walk the room while the lead teacher works, and we enjoy together. We enjoy the material, and we enjoy our kids. Over lunch, we compliment or commiserate over each other's kids. It's some of the most gratifying teaching I have done.

So, here's some of the tricks that are working for us. If you want any extra info, email me, fellow Educats.

  1. Fear not the arts and crafts, even with High School kids. We have made two booklets with literary terms and testing strategies. Here are directions for the easiest one to explain--1 colored paper, 1 plain (I printed the terms we'd be using on the right hand side of the paper with cutting lines between as a timesaver.) Both papers folded lengthwise. if you've printed on the plain paper, put it on the outside. Glue one inside the other, cut the tabs with your terms to make peek-a-boo flaps. You now have all that flap space to definitions of the term, examples of the term, or whatever else.
  2. Word maps for vocabulary are lovely. Let me know if you'd like one.
  3. Who could have known of the magic of sticky notes!? Read the test questions before reading the passage, paraphrase them on sticky notes, then stick them near the passage as you read.

Maybe this is the idea of adversity bringing strength. If these equal higher scores, bully for us. What we're getting, though, is some much needed variety and good teaching.

Not listening? Not so bad!

It turns out, amazing things can happen when you don’t really listen to the kids. The other day one of my students was going on and on about his break. I needed to assist another student, so I excused myself from the conversation. My chatty little friend followed me over to the other child, yapping the whole way. Eventually I realized he was asking me when he should bring something to school. What that something was I have no idea. Sort of off handedly, I told him to bring it whenever he wanted. The kids often ask if they can bring in books for me to read to the class. So, I really didn’t think much of it.

Boy, was I surprised!! “Chatty” came into the room before school on Tuesday. He handed me a plastic bag and said, with the proudest smile I had ever seen, “here it is!” Here what is, I thought. Of course, what I said was, “Thanks Chatty. That’s great!” To my astonishment, in the bag I found one container of oil, another of balsamic vinegar as well as a bag of sliced rosemary bread. Can you believe it?? As I recall, he had been talking to me about how much he enjoyed eating bread dipped in oil and vinegar prior to break. He is such a funny kid.

At the end of the day I set up 3 dipping stations. The kids each got a piece of bread. Chatty demonstrated how to properly dip the bread. He wanted everyone to know that if you get too much of the black stuff you won’t like it, but you have to make sure to get a little bit of it or it won’t taste as good. The kids loved it!! I’ll admit that I poured myself a little dish and ate 3 pieces of bread when they all went home!

Fool For Testing, Fool For Television, CooCoo for Cocoa Puffs

I was nearly on television tonight. The ABC affiliate send their local boy out to cover an accident I was in involving a sparking, nearly flaming tire falling off a semi, my stopping to avoid it, and my subsequent rear-end collision. The girl who hit me was a teenager in her first accident. I am fine, my car is probably fine. No one was injured, we're all a bit windblown from having spent nearly an hour standing on the highway overpass.

Somehow, when the cameraman asked if I would answer his questions, I said yes. I am sure I looked every bit like the fool that I am. I swear I almost used my camera time to hold forth on the idiocy that my job has become for all this testing. I didn't, and the story didn't air on the 10:00 news, so I share my foolishness only with the slightly narrower audience here.

What's even dumber was how late I was working. Tomorrow is my day to review all 225 English II students on figurative language and commas and I left school at 8:30. Perhaps dumbest of all is how after calling 911, I called another English II teacher to tell her that if I didn't make it, I left all the copies in my department chair's classroom and to please make the overhead with the vocabulary.

Fool, fool, foolity fool. I am a fool who should move to a city with mass transit.

Please pay a visit to this dear woman, who witnessed my foolery after a google search and was kind enough to appreciate it. She appears to be a kindred spirit.

What to do, what to do?

My assistant has recently taken over the instruction of a couple subjects. I hadn’t imagined it would be so hard to relinquish control. She taught a lesson today. I kid you not when I say, I accidentally took over the lesson. Someone asked me a question, I answered and just kept talking. A few minutes in, I caught myself and slinked (slunk?) back to my desk. I apologized after the lesson, but she just laughed. I’m pretty sure she knows I wasn’t trying to step on her toes. It is hard though.

It is very odd to be a teacher in a room while another teacher teaches, especially when they are your students. I’ve spent 7 months getting to know the various learning and behavior styles of these kids. When my assistant teaches, I sometimes wonder if she knows them at all. That’s not true. She knows the kids. It’s just that she can be very abrupt and often sarcastic; it seems hard for the kids to be totally comfortable. She really likes the students. I think it’s just her way.

Maybe she is best suited to a higher grade-level. Am I being overly protective? It is possible. Hopefully I’ll feel better about it tomorrow. Oh, wait. She doesn’t teach again until Wednesday. Well, there’s a nice little reprieve. I’ll worry about it tomorrow.

I’m Back!!

Okay, so I missed them. Their big smiles, the way they all crowd around me waiting to talk, even the little kid who lies was pretty cute today. They were all so excited to be back. So many stories to share, so many questions to ask, their innocence really can be quite thrilling. Of course, it’s only Monday. . .

A prayer answered....

I tell ya, sometimes we go through life, and you pray and pray and pray and think "Okay, God, anytime now", and the answers don't come as quickly as you would like them to. Or, in my case, He's teaching patience in a very long, drawn out process!

One month ago today, I was dumbfounded over this whole car ordeal. I mean, my insurance agent wasn't gonna help me, and it turned out the guy had given me false information at the crash site (yeah, I learned A LOT about what I should've done!), so I was stuck. And, I didn't understand it. So, I started to pray. Granted, I was honestly a bit ticked off, and it was hard to pray at times, but I did. And today I got the answer...
I got a call from a gal in KC. As it turns out, the guy has insurance afterall, and I am going to get my deductible back! That's right, exactly one month from my day of frustration, I get the news, the dude has insurance and I get my money! YIPPEE! I am so jazzed it's incredible! And, even better than the money, I got what I should've had to begin with, the guy having to pay out! He hit me, in motion, no less, nowhere near a light, we were hit outta nowhere! I am glad, because it's only fair, it was his fault! I am pumped! Thank You God!
In other news, my heart was torn today as two of my students were removed from their home over the weekend. Apparently the Dad was caught red-handed doing some things he shouldn't have been doing. In one aspect, this makes my caseload a lot lighter, but I don't feel better about it though. I was finally reaching one of them in a rather deep way. So, you might say a prayer for two girls in Missouri, God will know who ya mean.
27 days left....and we get Friday off this week. Yeah!

Mowing the Lawn

I tell ya what, someday when God brings me my spouse, he's gonna be really happy because I will honestly be able to say "I enjoy mowing the lawn." Now, you're sitting there thinking, "Is she nuts?" Probably. I mean, how many people do you know enjoying spending a Sunday afternoon mowing? I don't know, but I do know I feel better after I mow. It's not the same as swimming for me (which I do two to three times a week for exercise), it's like you accomplish something when you mow. I don't know, it's odd, but I like it. So, here I sit, my part of the lawn is mowed, I guess it's time for a root beer float! hehehe

Hey, have a great week this week, my friends. It will be better than last week, I am sure of it. :-)

Never, ever, give up!

Back to the Grind

Tomorrow’s the day I go back;
My brain I am trying to rack.
Do I know what to teach?
Will the students I reach
Or should my belongings I pack?


My bag sits packed by the door;
My hopes beginning to soar.
I’m excited to see them.
Let’s hope there’s no mayhem
Or I shall frighten them all to the core!

Life Journal

I can’t believe how quickly this break went by. Was there some kind of time warp that I’m not aware of? Surely it can’t really be over… I didn’t actually get anything done. What about all of my errands that would be more easily accomplished during the middle of the week? What about avoiding the crowds?? Oh, well. It will have to get done in a panic at the end of a school day, but in daylight!! Thank you time change.

As I moved through my late 20s time started to speed up. All of a sudden I could relate to my great-aunts, who would pinch my cheeks and comment on how, “it seems like just yesterday you were nothing but a tyke.” A few years ago I made a purchase that helped me respect, if not embrace, the quick passage of time. It is a STANDARD DIARY or Daily Reminder book from Staples.

These little books are not much to look at, but functionality makes it well worth the purchase. The book has 366 lined pages, each with a day of the month printed at the top. Whenever something of note happens in my life, I flip to the appropriate page in my journal; I write the year and a summary. For instance, on this day last year, my husband and I were returning a trip to Tiburon, California. It seems, I very much enjoyed the trip and wished we could have stayed longer, maybe even move there. We didn’t go anywhere this break, but it sure is nice to take a minute and remember last year.

None of us can actually slow time down. Why not do our best to appreciate the accomplishments we make as it marches on?

Perseverance

So, today was much better than yesterday. Was it perfect? Nope, but loads better than yesterday...

It began with Mr. P following me to my room this morning. He gave me the same chat as he did yesterday, just using a rational voice instead of yelling. I simply replied, "ok". I thought long and hard last night (and at 5am this am, funny how stress lowers your sleep at times) and I can't lose my job by talking back to this guy. Yes, there were words I wanted to say, but I didn't. I have roommates who depend upon me for bills, and I just can't lose my job. Of course, that was never brought up, but Mr. P. has been known to blackball people in our district, and I don't want to wind up on his "list". While he didn't apologize for yesterday, he did say he didn't mean to upset me like he did. I took that as the closest thing I'm gonna get to an apology, and decided to let it go. Life is too short to hold a grudge.

I pulled kids and taught my first group, and Jake joked with me. It is clear that what I did yesterday wasn't something he held against me. I was glad, I really like Jake. That was cool.

Then I spoke in front of our whole school on perseverance. I only talked for about 5 minutes about my CP and limp, but I seemed to get my point about not giving up across, as I received kind words afterward about it. I tend to think God knew I needed that, as yesterday had me feeling sad in a way I hadn't felt in years. It was one of those days where people say stuff to you that means a lot but you never realize how they feel about ya. Yeah, really cool.

You wanna know the most ironic part of it all? At the assembly, guess who I sat by on stage? Yep, Mr. P. It was encouraging because we were laughing and joking as if nothing happened yesterday. Life is funny sometimes, you go through stuff, not sure what the outcome of it all is gonna be, and ultimately, it's okay. Kinda cool, if you ask me.

So, now my couch is calling my name.
Hang in there, my friends. As our students chanted this morning, "Do your best, and never, ever give up." Works for me!

A Day of Thanks

I really can’t spend another day writing this blog until I say, thank you. Thank you to all of the interesting teachers out there who have been writing blogs. I’m new to the scene and ecstatic that I made the discovery so close to Spring Break. I’ve been reading several cool blogs about the realities of teaching. I have learned more about the New York public school system in the last week than I thought possible. It is amazing how many of you I can relate to.

I had planned on writing more today, but I’m entranced by “But wait! There’s more…”. I've skipped around and am thoroughly enjoying March 2006. Once I learn a little more about how to create links, I’ll put them into the text. As it is, watch for a link to her blog at the side. Today I’m just absorbing. Hopefully I’ll be able to give back a little tomorrow.

Wow, it is really late. I must be on vacation!

Better Late Than Never

Spring Break arrived about one week too late for me.

Last Wednesday morning, after I turned in my grades for the 3rd quarter at 9:00 a.m., I started writing some notes on the chalkboard for my students when I began to cry and could not stop.

Seriously. Crying. Couldn't stop.

The thing is, I had 26 sets of expectant eyes waiting for me to turn around and explain the crap I had just written on the board. They were aware that something wasn't right - and I know they were waiting for me to turn around and tell them my dog just died or something to explain all the tears.

I didn't explain anything. I just ducked into the teacher's office next door where another teacher was getting ready to grade papers. She saw me and said "Do you need me to cover your class?" All I could do was nod.

My hardest day of the year...

You ever have one of those days...okay, weeks, where ya think, "Can we rewind to Monday so I can re-do this week?" Okay, maybe not literally, this week has been HARD, but I would do one thing differently, that's for sure.
As I shared earlier this week, this week has been our standardized testing week. And, it's been more stressful than ever due to my new principal. He's a great guy who was brought to our building to "improve" our test scores. My last principal should've retired three years before he did...anyway, so Mr. P comes over to run our building, and we have a great relationship. However, he came from one of our smaller buildings, so my building has been a tremendous change for him, as we're the biggest school in our district at the elementary level. So, he's used to things in his building, so we've all had to adapt this week. Mr. P is also a poster child for ADHD, and will admit that, so he can stress anyone out if you're around him at the wrong moment.
So, we tested Tuesday, and he gave some of us Sp. Ed. people a little chat, and he even went so far as to say "the testing police aren't going to come anyway." He knew what he was telling us wasn't on the level, but he just wants his scores high. So, the next day I started out doing what he said to do, I felt torn as I wanted to be obedient to him, but didn't want to lose my job. However, as I started with my first student, the little guy says, well, can I go back and do this on yesterday's part too? I turned to another teacher in my room and ask, and she says, "let me go ask AP lady." This saved my life, as I wasn't comfortable doing what I was asked, and we hadn't even done #1 on the test yet. Ms. Teacher friend comes in and shakes her head no. Yippee!
Then, Mr. P walks in with Ms. AP lady and says, "what are you doing?"
me: what you told me to do yesterday. (I made eye contact here)
Mr. P: Is it an IEP accomodation?
me: No.
Mr. P: Then don't have them do it.
me: k.
At this point, I am elated. I didn't want to do it, but was afraid of losing my job if I didn't do what he said.
So, life went on yesterday. However, as I started testing yesterday, it occurred to me that I hadn't scripted for Jake on day #1. So, day #2, I scripted for him. I didn't read it to him, just wrote what he told me to write. All was fine. I figured, if I couldn't go back on student #1's test and re-do it, I couldn't on Jake's either.
So today I am in a meeting and Mr. P comes to my door. He asks me to step out in the hall. (door open mind you)
Mr. P, standing with Jake's test from yesterday: I don't know isn't acceptable.
me: huh?
Mr. P: I can't have a test with I don't know as answers!
me: well, that was his answer.
Mr. P: well, from now on, that's not acceptable.
me: so what do you want me to do about it?
Mr. P: (yelling) nothing now! But from now on get the answers!
me: k
I enter room and do the meeting, fighting tears. I made it though, no tears. (Yeah!)
Then I pull Jake to do his Standardized Math Test. Just as we're on problem #2, he walks in and says,
"I need to see you in the hall"
I'm scared. He's already yelled at me once.
Mr P: You should be scipting for him!
me: I am
Mr. P: Then why is he bubbling the answers?
me: I let him bubble the bubbles, and I write the sentences.
Mr P: you bubble and you script for him! (yelling)
me: okay
mr P: and this other test?
me: I scripted yesterday but forgot the day before.
mr P: Then you need to re-do this!
me: what? I thought we couldn't go back to the day before once the session was over with?
mr P: Well, you will re-do it! Well, maybe....
At this point, tears fall. I mean, I hate being yelled at, on any level. I can't stand it! And this guy is yelling at me, in the hall, with people watching. ARGH!
me: How do I get it out of him? He reads on a second grade level! This is a 5th grade level test! How do I do it?
mr P: I don't know, just do it! This is unaceeptable!
tears....tears....tears....
Mr. P: okay, calm down...
me: I am sorry. I messed up. But, I did what I thought was right once I realized it.
mr P: okay, I believe you. (calm voice now) now just go in and do it!
me: tears....
mr P: deep breath....
me: k
I didn't do it. I couldn't. You know those days where you start crying and can't stop? I get one every 3-4 years....today was my day. Buckets. I excused myself from Jake, and a friend took care of his testing. I hit out in a friend's classroom. The beauty of sp ed at our level is you only have kids part of the day. Jake was my only kid.
After that, friends were there for me. Everyone understands mr p and his ADHD stress. I'm not mad at him. I messed up. I don't agree with yelling at me, but i understand his position.
I just got done talking to a couple friends who called to check on me. I am loved. Before I left school one gal even prayed for me. At least this day won't last forever....tomorrow is a new day.
Funny thing is, I'm talking to the school on pererverance. :-) What a lesson to learn, eh?
My couch is calling my name....
I'll keep ya posted.....

You May Only Get This If You Watched Top Chef

Tonight the chefs had a blind taste test of 20 ingredients. They had to identify as many as they could in five minutes. It was a difficult challenge and none of them did very well.

So when the quick editing showed Harold exclaiming "Christ!" right at the end of the segment, did anyone else envision him leaning over to spit out a communion wafer? And then the bell would "Ding!" for a correct answer? You didn't?? Seriously??? Because I totally did.

Blessings Of Testing Season To You

This testing season, I am grateful for...

  • That one elective Humanities class that reminds me that school isn't always about marking bubbles.
  • My choice not to give up any food items for Lent. Stress eating is just about all I have left.
  • A school email that can color my text red so that my emails can end with the words "and then there's testing" and just the right bite.
  • Benchmark test scores that skew low. I can use them to scare in their natural form but just at the right time pull out the phrase "of course, you could probably add 20 points to this and it would equal an EOI."
  • That one kid in the back in first hour that has a zillion questions. When he asks the question, I know that three other kids in the class are wondering the same thing. Thank you, kid in the back, for not yet knowing that questions are uncool.
  • The bluff "We're not doing testing stuff today, let's read from the lit book!" that allows me to own children for a day and slip in some hardcore work on dramatic and situational irony.
  • The knowledge that this is my blog, dammit, and I don't have to link to a State standard when I write the words "dramatic and situational irony".
  • That whole "figurative language bee" idea from the listserv.
  • Full strength cola
  • and coffee
  • and yarn
  • That slackjawed look from the 11th grade teachers today when I showed up at faculty meeting with highlighted score reports and intervention plans.
  • Fellow English II teachers to whom I can entrust my children in our round robin remediation festival.

Mean Girl Theatre

Mean Girl #2--"Why can't we take our vocab books home when first hour does?"

"There's several reasons for that."

Mean #2---"What are they?"

"Well, the main one is that I am a little concerned that you all aren't making good use of your time. I tend to hear a lot of visiting and not much work being done so I want to limit your time in order for you to finish quickly."

Mean #2's paramour--"Yeah, we talk, but we still get our work done!"

"Exactly, so you shouldn't need to take your books home."

Mean #2 hits her Paramour so hard I swear it leaves a mark and glowers at him.

Migraines

Today was one of those days where you get to about noon and think, "okay, I should've stayed in bed this morning." Yep, first day of standardized testing was nuts. I tell ya, giving the test wasn't the hard part. I didn't even have any kids bust out crying, which was a good thing. I was thankful when it was over. (tomorrow is gonna hurt though, four sections, I don't know that my kids will make it to lunch!) The stressful part started when my less-than-competant-neighbor stopped in at 8:05 and said, "okay, what do I do today?" Yeah, my headache began at the moment. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon how you look at it, I looked at her and said, "you should've figured that out weeks ago!" She left to find one of our aides, I was relieved. I have hit the limit with this neighbor, she needs to find another job. Anywho, test time comes and goes less stressful than I expected, and the headache was subsiding. Well, then lunch came.

My principal walked in to the teacher's lounge looking for me. This is not usually a bad thing. We get along very well, actually, and I have felt fortunate to have him in our building this year. Well, he sits down with 3 of us special educators and tells us how we're to start giving the test starting tomorrow. Now, what he told us isn't technically illigal stuff, but it's borderline stuff. My migraine was born! He even said "well, the testing police won't show up anyway." Now, I understand, his job is on the line, and but i'm not comfortable with what he's asking me to do. I have done my best all year to teach, and I'm not going to remotely cross any lines. I gotta admit, I am disappointed. I thought he was more on the up and up than that. It's one of those things that goes down in the "This is a made for TV movie" book. Herumph!
I'm glad summer is around the corner!

Yoga for Life

Four years ago this week, I attended my first yoga class. I’d been working with a DVD for a year already, so I was familiar with most of the poses. When I finally got up the nerve and went to a class, at the small studio down the street, I can’t tell you how surprised I was. The teacher kept saying, “We practice together to offer support, not judgment. Listen to your body. Be gentle. There is no competition.” Doesn’t that sound nice?

I proceeded to spend the next 90 minutes comparing my stance to that of the students around me. Is my arm up high enough? Why is he doing it that way? Should I try the harder variation? Are people looking at me? They must think I’m so bad. Here comes the instructor, what am I doing wrong? As I got in my car to go home, I was still feeling stressed.

After attending yoga classes regularly, it became easier to focus on my own individual practice. I stopped worrying about what other people were doing and just listened to my body. As the months went on and I became more flexible, it dawned on me; by letting go of my judgment I opened myself up to growth. Wait . . . why is that familiar?

Every September a group of mostly shy students walk into my classroom. They are nervously enthusiastic, desperate to be involved, but terrified of appearing different or weird. We spend the first month of school celebrating what makes us special in an All About Me Unit. Soon, rather than being embarrassed by their differences, students take pride in what makes them unique. Everyone is able to shed some of the self-consciousness and allow him or herself to be wholeheartedly involved. Thus, embracing academic growth.

I could have saved myself a lot of stressful yoga classes if I’d just practiced what I preach.

Car-less, but only for a little while!

So, for the past 24 days, I have lived and breathed this whole car ordeal. First it was to get the car fixed, then it was to have it looked at to have it totalled, then it was sending off all the paperwork to have it totalled...I have cried, buckets, over this whole deal. Not because I'm some nut-case (some of you keep your comments to yourself, hehehe) but because I've never had the pleasure of a car accident before. Then, kind of the top it all, I had a tire on my G-pa's car go out on me on the way to school. I sat there and thought, "Okay, God, please tell me this is all there is to this!" Yes, again, tears this morning. Not because I was mad, but because I was ready for this whole thing to be the "speck on the windshield" in my life as my Dad keeps saying. Anyway, to make a long story short (too late!), I BOUGHT A CAR!

I am so jazzed! I ordered an Atomic Metallic Blue Honda Civic Sedan! I am so pumped, I'm like a kid at Christmas! Now, of course, I need to wait 2 weeks for it to come in, and I am sitting here not quite sure how I'm getting to work in the morning, but, at least there's now a light at the end of this tunnel! Yippee! Yeah, it doesn't take much to make us teachers happy, does it?
In other news, I got a new kid today. He is labeled Autistic, so I'm not really sure how this is all gonna go, but I like the kid. He's polite and well-behaved, and seems really on the ball. Of course, I expect the honeymoon period, as we educators call it, to wear off, but today was okay.
Tomorrow we start our standardized testing. I dread this week at school. We act as if we're all pumped about just because we don't want the kids to feel the pressure we do, and it wears me out. However, it's just 6 days, so it will be over before we know it.
Finally, I have an intersting story for ya. I tutor an autistic kid after school three days a week, and I really love this kid. I mean, autistic kids are special just because they're so different from others. They don't have the social skills and cues down that we do, you have to literally teach them everything. So, we're sitting there today, and discussing this kid Nate that Jay (autistic-boy) is so taken by. Truthfully, little Jay is taken by anything that is Rated R or Mature, as he's sucked into videos and games pretty hard. Yeah, the world of the Autistic kid, it's really wild. Anyway, I've been against Jay seeing a lot of what he does as he doesn't have the processing skills to understand what's real and make-believe. I mean, you literally have to say to Jay, okay is that real or make believe? He usually can tell you, but I am not sure he understands completely. Hence, I wish his parents had never let him see some of the things he has. Anyway, outta nowhere (which is how Jay talks most of the time) he says, "Do you think Nate kisses his Mom with open lips?" I looked at him, and was appalled! He's a fifth grader, and he's asking me how Nate kisses his Mom. And the weird part is, Jay starts saying, "You know, like Adults?" Okay, pause, freeze, hold it, this kid, who has a maturity level of a 7 year old is asking me this? I looked at him and said "Where did you learn that?" He went on to tell me what show it was from. Honestly, I don't have cable, so I have no clue of the show he spoke of, but it didn't matter, the kid knew it wasn't okay, and started begging me not to tell his Mom. Yeah, melt down city! In the end, Grandma picked him up and agreed with me the show shouldn't be viewed by Jay, and that Mother would be notified. Melt down continued.... I think I'm now thankful I don't have kids at this point in my life, 8-3 is about all I need!
37 days left...but I'm not counting at all! :-)

Springy List Of Happy

...dang. That was supposed to be a draft and not a published half post (if you haven't got a post, then a hay-post will do...). Ok, here it is for real.


I hardly even missed that hour of sleep Sunday night, and look! Now I have that hour at night! Now I leave school and have to wear sunglasses!! Praise the heavens I shan't wear socks again until October!!!

And with that improved worldview comes such good news!

  • I was accepted to the National Institute for Teaching Shakespeare! I am one of 26 teachers spending a month at Smith College being all academic and Shakespearean! Sing Hi! Sing Ho! For my theatre degree shall be put to use!!!
  • The evil quagmire of testing has eased a bit. All the benchmark scores have been fed into the magical computer program and my students are doing....well, the same as all the other English II students in the school. Gone is my worry that I am only a pretend English teacher who nabbed this certification on some sort of crazy happenstance. We're average!! And come testing, we'll be slightly above!!!
  • I have even begun to joke about the testing with district officials! Witness an email sent to my district English coordinator...
I am in the process of making up the benchmark (or BM) to several students who
have missed. So, three students are taking BMs in my room right now. When they
finish their BM, I will put it in an envelope and send it to you.

She laughed, which just proves that there is good in the world.

Lazy

Sitting here
Trying to think
Of what to write
For you

Realizing
I’m on vacation
And really don’t
Want to
- Ms. Teacher

Reading comfortably
Pink chair by lamp
Heaven at home
- Ms. Teacher

:)

This Is Pretty Much The Entry You'd Expect From A Teacher This Time Of Year. If Standardized Testing Already Makes You Angry, Move On Along.

I have approached this topic from so many angles and still can't find a way to say what I mean without appearing to be just another teacher complaining about State testing and NCLB.

  • I once wrote this post detailing all of my teaching credentials and how they evidently still aren't enough.
  • I thought about detailing my lunchtime rant the other day where, fist pumping the air, I declared I would not even take the time to urinate (and yes, I said urinate, I'm not a savage) until all of my students were performing at or above grade level--a promise on which I had to recant a mere hour later. I just don't have the bladder I did in my twenties.
  • I almost wrote about how guilty I felt taking a moment at the computer writing something other than lesson plans or plans of intervention for my students who are scoring in the needs improvement range.

Instead, I'll just give you this: Someday, the teeth that our Government have put in all this testing will be a good idea.

You see, in reaction to the testing mandates of NCLB, the States have finally started to pass some accountability to the student. Right now, all the accountability is mine. Right now, I have to list a plan of intervention for every student who is scoring in the needs improvement range for every standard in which they are deficient. Right now, those plan supersede any plans that I as a competent teacher had made to prepare my students for testing (because all we do is play dominoes, right?) Right now, we will test every 10th grade English student every year so we can compare the test scores of my students from one year to the next. So what's the constant in that equation? Who are we testing?

Me.

Soon--and by soon I mean in about five years--our students will have to pass these tests in order to pass to the next grade level. However, in the mean time, that five years is about enough time for the Government to shut my school down for not making adequate yearly progress. And won't I be the hireable prized teacher then?

Next time we are ready to draft another sweeping educational reform package, I would propose that those legislators swing by a school and go a couple of rounds with Go Away and The Mean Girls.

How did I get here?

One of the most fascinating questions to ask a teacher is, “Why do you teach?” It’s no secret that teachers, regardless of school affiliation, don’t get paid very well. The hours, although less than traditional, are usually longer than your typical 40hour workweek. Parents are almost always challenging to deal with and most of your bonuses come in the form of gap-toothed smiles and handcrafted cards.

So, why do I teach?

6 years ago I would have said, “Because I couldn’t be a therapist.” It is hard to even write that now. It seems so callus, but it was how I felt. I’d gone to University with the belief that I would become a child therapist. I had always been the peacemaker in my classrooms growing up. Helping friends and family understand each other’s points of view had always come easily to me. It seemed like the natural path to take.

During senior year, my major courses were pretty intense. Several of the professors had us watch interviews with abused and/or neglected children. It was heartbreaking. I couldn’t make it through any of the films without tearing up. After class was over, I’d think about the films for weeks.

Panic set in. I can’t do this! I can’t spend all day listening to the troubles of children and then have a normal family life. How could I possibly detach from all of that? I couldn’t and that was the problem.

What now? For 10 years I’d known just what my future would involve. Now, I was floating in a world of possibilities. Not a fun place for a control freak like me. Should I stay in the corporate world? I was already working full time as a controller and making pretty good money. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. No, I wanted to work with kids, but how do I do that?

Several of my friends suggested that I look into teaching. That terrified me. I hadn't been a great student until college. We moved incessantly and that made it sort of hard to make lasting connections with important concepts. Also, maybe because of this, I’m a terrible speller. For some reason I just don’t see the mistakes, or I see mistakes that are not there because I’m so worried. Ya… I’d make a great teacher.

Long story short, I stumbled into an assistant teaching gig while looking for a better option, fell in love with being in the classroom, found a school that fit for me, and I do make a great teacher. My insecurities help me assist students with similar concerns. I’m able to use my own weakness to demonstrate how important it is to be able to make mistakes. I’m not trying to send a group of perfect spellers to the next grade. I’m trying to send a group of empathetic, resourceful learners. If you don’t know a word, where do you look? How fast can we do it? What might the guidewords be? If I don’t have a dictionary around, but I do have a computer, can I find a spelling? Can I look on posters around the room for a correct spelling?

My passion, dedication, and enthusiastic love for learning are what make me a teacher. I wouldn’t be whole doing anything else.

That is why I teach.

You Know You’re a Teacher When…

The world is an endless supply of lessons. Walking the dog the other morning, I found a candy wrapper abandon on the sidewalk. Maybe I should do a lesson on littering or taking responsibility for our environment. On the way to work, I passed the newly rebuilt Taco Bell. Wouldn’t it be cool to have the kids brainstorm ways to improve the school or their houses? What would they change if it were going to be rebuilt?

Oh, but there is so much more. I got in some trouble from my dentist last school year for not flossing as often as I should. Several of the students made a pact with me to floss on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That way we could all remind each other. Some of those kids still come by to remind me every now and then. Two new tires were recently put on my car. I took pictures of the new and old ones. That way my students can do a compare and contrast with them. Maybe we can even use a Venn diagram! I won’t even go into the amount of ideas I get from advertisements. Can what they say actually be true?

School vacations can be rough for folks like me. I will have such an excess of ideas by the time I get back into my classroom. Obviously, like most teachers, there isn’t nearly enough time in the day to get to all of the activities I’d like to try. Perhaps, during this break, I can try to pare down the list before getting to school. If I went back with 3 well-developed ideas instead of 20 half-baked ones, I might actually get something accomplished.

Did you find any lessons today?