Wednesday, December 2, 2009

They are thankful too

After reading the book "Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks" by Margaret Sutherland and Sonja Lamut to my students, I asked them to think, draw and write about what they were thankful for. Many students said that they were thankful for their mothers. A few said he was thankful for his new baby sister. One said that he was thankful for his house. One was thankful for her whole family. One student was even thankful for her teachers.

This is the first year that nobody mentioned their gaming system or spider man toys.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful for

In spirit of Thanksgiving, here is my thankful list.

I am thankful for:
A wonderful, supportive and often hilarious and sometimes outrageous family
For my brother in law who is coming home from California for the week
For in laws who cook the turkey
For a husband who loves me just as I am
For friends who know when to talk and when to listen
For ample heat and food
For my job
For the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young children
For friends that cause me to smile, just by thinking of them
for a car that is safe and reliable and gets me where I need to go
For a half day on Wednesday
for a lunch date with a fellow coworker and good friend
for a growing home yoga practice
for good health
and for.....
many other things.
Stay tuned to find out what my students said they are thankful for this year.

The first time

Any teacher knows that it can sometimes be difficult to be away from the classroom. Last week and the week before I was sick. It started with just a sore throat and lead to body aches and sweats and chills and all that jazz. Naturally, I had to stay home for a few days. So I am grateful for the fact that I have a professional job and have paid sick time.

But then when I was feeling better, I had to go back to work. Since it was the first time I had been out all school year, I was a little uneasy and unsure what to expect when I returned. In years past when I have been out for more than a day I have returned to physical and mental disasters. When I returned the room was somewhat as orderly as I had left it.

Still, I felt uneasy. I spent a lot of time tidying up and trying to get organized. I think I should have planned more, but on the other hand, I did not know what work the sub had done with the kids and I wanted to connect what I was doing to what they did when I wasn't in. The kids felt the need to be really nice the first day I was back. They were very sweet and loving, giving lots of hugs. Two even said that they prayed for me and my family to be healthy. Very sweet.

The second day, they decided, consciously or not, to test me. To see if I still really meant what I said. Yes, I still mean what I say, and yes you still have to listen to me. I liked the hugs, and sweet comments better.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Random Moments from the week

Here are a few notes from this past week at work:

This morning was a bright and beautiful fall morning. Leaves were twirling their way to the ground and the oldest students in our building were simply mesmerized and stood watching in wide eyed wonder.

The students in my classroom were trying to guess my first name. I told them it started with a 'T" and one of them guessed toothpaste.

When I discussed a student's recent challenging behavior with his parent, she backed me up 100%, and helped her child at home. (That hardly ever happens so it is cause for celebration) The child came to school today and verbally apologized for the aggressive behavior and handed me a "letter" of all things he was going to do that were helpful and productive to being in school.

The students enjoyed constructing and playing in the "bat cave" in our classroom

My para was out sick for two days and appears to be feeling better. I was so glad to see her when she returned.

Two of my students have been out with flu like symptoms most of the week. One of those kids came in yesterday quite obviously still sick. I sent him home and his mother seemed irate. I need to keep myself and the other students healthy AND when they are this young they truly do need to be at home when they are sick.

Our secretary came to school with a gigantic hat on. Bright red and the same size and shape as a UFO. She has been wearing it all day. It is hilarious!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mrs. K1 teacher goes on retreat

Over Columbus Day weekend, I had the opportunity to go on a retreat and renewal weekend at a yoga/ holistic health center in my state. I decided the week before the long weekend that I needed to do something for myself. I quickly checked my stash of unspent birthday and holiday cash and decided that I had enough to go.

Despite the relative expensive and spontaneous nature of my weekend plans, it was absolutely well worth it. I sat in hellish traffic on the turnpike for hours. Even though the traffic was stressful, my work related stresses were slipping away the further I went from work. I checked in found my room and rushed down to dinner. The food at this place is wonderful so I did not want to miss dinner. I took time to eat slowly and savor my food, which is hard for me when I eat alone.

Anyway the rest of the weekend was filled with long walks, many cups of tea, quiet moments, tons of yoga in many different forms and some shared meals with a good friend. The weekend was restorative and energizing and calming. It gave me space to think, or not think and helped me to connect with myself, my thoughts, and feelings. I also learned a lot of things through the workshops and yoga classes. I learned to recognize the energetic and alive feeling I get after I practice and I learned the importance of a daily yoga practice.

So all of this means that I am taking better care of myself and am feeling more centered, more balanced, which of and in itself makes me a better teacher. I am also bringing more yoga into the classroom. I am helping the children to increase their awareness of their own body and the many sensations in it. Simple activities like having the students stretch one hamstring and then pause before doing the other side so they notice the difference. One of the students said " It feels alive" Another student said "it is bigger ( than the other one). Not only is it beneficial to them, it also helps me to remember to reconnect with my own body and take that moment or two to breathe consciously and deeply.


Monday, November 2, 2009

A sad farewell to a wonderful student and his mom

On Friday, a parent approached me with a sad look. She explained that she was taking her student out of our school and transferring him to another school in the district. My heart nearly broke there on the school yard. This particular student started in my classroom in the 2006- 2007 school year, and was with me in 07-08 AND the 08-09 school year. When he started he was a shy little boy who spent his first few weeks either crying or sleeping.

His mother met me with within that first month and explained how she wanted her son to learn to read. We talked about was developmentally appropriate for his age and considered his specific disability and educational needs. She was open to what I had to say at the time and an amazing parent-teacher symbiotic relationship developed.

She was the parent who I first gave my work email address to. She was the parent who volunteered in the classroom, both during regular class days and field trips. She never missed a performance that the class was giving and often donated tissues and hand sanitizer to the classroom. Her child blossomed into a leader, and by June 2009, into an early reader as well. She worked with him at home and her efforts were evident in the classroom. When the last day of school arrived last year, tears were all around, but I assured her that her son would be fine. He had made so much progress that he was being discharged out of special education and would be placed in a regular education classroom! Hooray for an overall special education success story! One of my professors in graduate school once said of the field of special education that we should all be working to put ourselves out of business. It's an interesting idea.

I saw her a few times earlier this year and worked hard to clear up placement confusion when I learned that the child was placed in a sub-separate class AFTER BEING DISCHARGED. The child seemed incredibly somber whenever I saw him in class or in the hall. When I saw the mom last week, she explained her reasons, which included the feeling that her child was not learning anything, that the work was simply busy work and that the teacher is chronically absent. I fully support and respect her decision but it is a loss for me and for the school.

I was personally hoping to follow this student through the school to keep track of his progress. The school itself needs more parents like this outstanding woman. Parents who are willing to work with and listen to teachers, parents who are willing and ready to be involved can have such a positive impact on their child and the overall culture of the school. Unfortunately, parents like this are so few and far between in our school.

Even though I respect the parent's decision, I was filled with sadness on Friday. This is not the first time that a former student has left the building because the parents have not liked the quality of the teachers at the next grade level. It tells me that as a school we need to shape up and the administration needs to address this. I feel bad for my colleagues at the next grade level, but I can't give anything less than 100%. Unfortunately, other people can tell when people are NOT giving 100%.

I hope that my former student and his mom are happy at the new school. I hope this incident wakes up my colleagues and administrator and I hope to maintain my relationship with this wonderful family for the inspiration they provide to me and others.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Wait, I really was going to use that soap

So the new soap dispensers have been removed! This is both frustrating and somewhat comical. It is frustrating because a lot of resources were used and seemingly wasted. They removed the old soap dispenser and installed the new ones and this took about 2 days and 4 city employees to do. It took about another week for the dispensers to be filled. Then presto, I came in one day and both of the new dispensers were gone!

I had asked our custodian, but he simply shrugged and said that they were installed in the wrong place but they have not yet reappeared in any other location in our building.

It's comical in a somewhat ironic/typical of my district sense

Saturday, October 24, 2009

School Improvements

In the last month the following projects were started at school:
1) New soap dispensers were installed. 2, to be exact, for 500+ students.
2) The new soap dispensers were filled (it took about a week)
3) They started to install an intercom system in my classroom. They worked on it on Thursday, did not finish and did not return on Friday.
4) School yard was cleaned, and all signs of fall were removed, including leaves and acorns that were on the ground. Note to self, rework that lesson plan
5) Technology support person was notified that the internet jack in my room does not work. Hopefully I will have internet in the classroom soon

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Problem of the day

In my school, many of teachers give their students a mathematical problem of the day. I think this is also the case in some other schools too. This past week, I accidentally posed a very challenging math problem to my colleagues and principal.

Here is the situation. Last year the early childhood and special education classes took a trip to see a play in December. Last year the principal gave me the money for our tickets in advance and then as the students' families paid, he collected the money. This year, he said that was not doable because of some accounting problems he had last year with the school account. He asked me to pay for everyone out of my pocket and I think that is an absolutely unreasonable request. It is 5 dollars per student and we are planning the trip for fifty students. News Flash: that is 250 dollars!

Once I got over my initial shock at his request, I thought some more about it. I am comfortable putting up the money for the students in my classroom because I have good relationships with their parents and would be better able to follow up with them in case someone did not pay. I do not even know all of the other early childhood or special education parents, so how can I ask my them for money? My colleagues are little lazy and or unorganized so I don't feel that I can trust them to do it. I wanted to just take my class but my principal said that was wasteful because the bus would not be full at all.

So I asked each teacher to pay for his or her class upfront. I explained that it is five dollars for each student. Everyone with me so far? Then, I explained that the ratio of chaperones allowed by theater is 1:10. One chaperone for every ten students.Since some of our classes have fewer than 10 students and 2 adults, they are over the ratio and the second adult also has to pay 5 dollars.

Did I lose anyone yet? Because 2 of my colleagues and my principal could not follow this reasoning. I gave an example: If I have 2 adults in my classroom and only 9 students, I need to pay five dollars for each student (45 dollars) and five dollars for that second adult. 45+5 = $50.
Still blank stares and confusion. So I explicitly talked about the numbers of students in each of their classes. One has 6 students and one has 7. Each of their classrooms has fewer than ten students and they have an extra adult. Therefore, they need to pay for that extra adult.

Chaos erupts. My principal whips out his scientific calculator. The teachers explain that they want to combine their classes. They will then have 13 students and four adults, and will still need to pay for two of those four adults. The math was beyond all of them. My early childhood colleagues may have the excuse that they don't teach such complicated math to their students, however, my principal, the person who is somewhat in charge of school finances, should be able to comprehend this.

Frustrated with their lack of understanding, I resorted to drawing pictures. I started drawing stick figure representations. After 25 minutes, I still don't think they truly comprehended the math. They did agree to pay up front for their students. I was annoyed. I find I have a lot of patience for helping students understand something, but very little patience for explaining something that I take to be basic math to adults. People who have been teaching longer than I have been alive. People who are supposed to be mentoring me.

I explained this math problem to other people and they could follow the reasoning. Could you follow the math in this post?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"It's just another manic Monday..."

... and Tuesday!

Things are very busy in the classroom. We started to implement both the reading and math curriculum last week. It is my first time using this math curriculum, so there is a learning curve. While I had been teaching my students math all of the other years, I hadn't been trained or given the district wide early childhood math curriculum or materials. I was finally trained over the summer and picked up the materials a few weeks ago. So far, it seems like I was already implementing many aspects of the curriculum so I am focusing on the parts that are new to me. The materials we have used so far seem to be exciting and actively engaging my students.

Last week was a really rough week emotionally. My kids are dealing with some pretty rough stuff at home and I was working hard as their advocate to clear up confusion with parents and get them the proper services that they need.

Yesterday, Monday, I was startled by their behavior around food. More than half the class came into the classroom in a frenzy. They were desperate to have breakfast, and even though I have assured them several times that everyone can eat at school, my words don't penetrate. Some of the kids became very aggressive and protective around their food. "That's my food, don't take it from me" and other troubling statements. The frenzy died down once everyone who wanted to eat was sitting with a breakfast in front of them. I knew before Monday that many of them are hungry or worry about food but I was still shocked by their aggressive and protective behavior about their breakfast. I hope that their out-of-school situations improve sooner rather than later.

I continue to really struggle with supporting one of my students who has intensive behavioral challenges. I have a behavior plan in place that he seems to respond to, sometimes. I am working on training my para and the other teachers on how to support this student. In addition to attempting to decrease this student's non desirable behaviors, I am working with him and the whole class to build better social skills.

As I write this though, I am optimistic. My principal finally changed the schedule so that it is more consistent. Consistency is an essential ingredient in academic learning and in reducing problematic behaviors. My principal and I have had this same conversation each year. Each year it seems as though he has completely forgotten all of the points I have made to him about this topic. When I got to him and express the need for routines and consistency in the lives of my students, I am not asking for me. I am not asking to have all my prep periods in the morning so I don't have to do any planning on my own. I am asking on the behalf of my students, who do not need more chaos and disorder when they come to school. I am optimistic that a set schedule will help my students adjust. Once they learn the routine, hopefully they will feel less anxious at school and problematic behaviors will sharply decrease.

I must remind myself that it is still early in the school year. This is only my students' fourth full week of school. Things will get better.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From hitting to biting and sentence writing

I am still feeling quite sick with a nasty cold. It appears to be making its way away from my head though. Celebrate progress in all forms. I dragged myself in today for two IEP meetings that didn't happen. The parents did not show, the special ed chairperson was meeting with her financial advisor in person in the meeting room, and the speech therapist did not show. So my sick self is there specifically to attend the meeting that, for all intents and purposes, did not happen. After fifteen minutes, I finally told the chair that I needed to go back to class. My reports were placed in her mailbox last week. She had the nerve to tell me to be patient. Excuse me? She was not even doing anything relevant to the two students at hand. I explained that if we were not going to have a meeting that I needed to be in the classroom, with my students. Sounds reasonable, right?

One of my students who has been very physically aggressive decided that biting his friends would be better than hitting them. I did not agree with his plans and so the day was.. a little challenging in that regard.

On a positive note, one of my very young students has taken to writing sentences. He wrote two full sentences this week, complete with capitalization and punctuation. Hooray for him!

Wondering what else will happen this week...

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Another look at the week, this time through random quotes:

Me to the class: Oh, it looks like the lights are out in the bathroom. I wonder what happened
One student: Someone spilled turkey bacon in there!

One of my students to me during recess: He is in trouble, I brought him over so you can whoop him, Mrs K1 teacher

Me, as a student gets off the bus in the morning: Good Morning!
The student: I hate you. F*** You!

Me to parent at open house: Excuse me, that is my desk, it is a personal area.
Parent: Oh I was just looking at your stuff
Me: Well , you can look at the student work or the centers. I can answer any questions you have....
Parent: I just wanted to look at your files and papers....

Week 2

The second week is over. This week was a challenge because of illness. My husband was sick for th beginning part of the week. I wanted to stay home with him to monitor his health. I used my prep periods and lunch time to call whenever I could.

I had a severe stomach ache for several days, complete with loss of appetite, nausea, and other unpleasant digestive situations. It got worse and worse over the course of the week. Finally on Thursday night at open house, I had to sit down. I apologized to the parent I was speaking with. I was really scared to drive myself home and thought of calling my loving husband. I jotted down some sub plans before I left school Thursday night and a letter of apology to my para. Most teachers would agree that it would be very difficult to miss a day so early on the school year.

When I finally made it home, my husband looked at me and determined that it was necessary to go to the ER. I tried to convince him that I would be fine, but I was too scared and too weak. Off to the ER we went. A few iv bags of fluid and medicine later, I was feeling a little better. I slept soundly through the night and felt much better Friday morning. I went into work, storing my letter of apology for another day. As the day wore on, I marveled at this sensation called hunger and I picked at simple, bland foods. By Friday evening, I had the makings of a pretty nasty head cold, complete with chills, heavy head and sneezing. It appears like the third week of school for my students will start pretty much the same as the second one did,, with me feeling under the weather.

Oh, the ER doctor was helpful and had some possible theories about my seemingly very frequent upset stomach. One of which involves following up with a GI doctor. It is definitely time for me to this. As a teacher, I know I can not meet all of my students needs. I often look to other teachers, specialists, therapists, parents, and community resources. I need to apply that same theory to caring for myself. I cannot ignore my problems and hope they go away. I need to take care of this situation. I cannot simply expect to handle it by myself without some specialized support.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thankful that the first week is over

Sometimes in the school year are more challenging than others. The first week of school is certainly one those times. On Monday morning, I was ready. The room was clean and organized. Their first activity was set out on the table. The clipboard was loaded with bus information and blank pages for notes. I had made fairly detailed notes in my plan book for the first three days of school.

Then the students and their families arrived and I detailed some of that an earlier post on this blog. By the end of the day, I was thoroughly exhausted and frustrated with the prep period schedule. It is at a different time each day, which makes teaching routines to children inexplicably difficult since we literally had a different schedule every day this first week. I have plead my case to the administration several times, and carefully explained that a consistent schedule is not about me or my needs but it is about what is best for the children. Since they cannot advocate for themselves, it is my responsibility to advocate for them. It was to no avail. My concerns were answered with shoulder shrugs and a wiping hands gesture, which only aggravated me more! Use you words, Mr. Administrator!

Tuesday came and I was determined to make it a better day. The students arrived to find their laminated picture name cards on the table. For some of them, this seemed to ease some of their worries and anxieties. They saw their picture and relaxed a little, feeling just a tad more comfortable. Oh and then there was the observation. A therapist came to observe on of the students. One the second day of school. I protested and didn't think this was fair to anyone, including the student who was being observed. For some kids, it can take a while before they settle into the routine and are performing to their best ability. Again my protests were seemingly in vain.

A new student arrived on Wednesday. On the bus with no name tag, no identifying information and a very styling hairdo. When I approached to ask what his name was, he greeted me with a string of expletives. So that teacher -student relationship was off to a great start, as you can imagine. He eventually told me his name and he was one of the students on my class list who did not show up at the beginning of the week. He was angry and aggressive throughout the day. I read through his IEP later in the day and familiarized myself with some of his goals and his history.

In addition to helping a new angry and aggressive student adjust, more people arrived to observe the same student who was observed on Tuesday. The message I received said they would come "late morning". That to me is before noon. They did not arrive. So as any classroom teacher knows, the show must go on. When they arrived slightly before 1pm, the students were resting. They were baffled and annoyed. I tried to be professional and polite as I explained that I was expecting them earlier in the day. I also told them when the students would be getting up from their nap and told them that they were welcome to come back then. This did not work for them and I did not see them for the rest of the day.

So that brings us to Thursday, meeting day. By this point in the week, I was marveling at how much my students don't know. In other words, I forget every year how much they learn by June. When we start in September, everything is brand new. I am tired from lack of sleep and stressed. I am still trying to help my students with routines but still have not received any administrative support. The parents of the student who was observed have requested a special meeting. Many people were involved in the case, including private and district therapists. The parents are requesting extra services. The district claims the student does not need all of those services.

I did not want to go to the meeting. I felt like it was more important for me to be with my students since it was only the fourth day of school and all. Even though Ms. S, my para, is fabulous, the kids still need a lot of support and I worried about them. Unfortunately, my presence is mandatory. So off I go to a 2 hour meeting. Everyone in the room is tense. Not much was accomplished. I felt vulnerable, anxious, personally attacked and generally sick to my stomach. Chaos was brewing in the classroom when I returned. I couldn't wait to go home. When I had my prep period at the end of the day, I was distraught and unproductive. Finally, the kids left and I headed to yoga class with a wonderful teacher. Thank goodness for yoga.

Thursday night I was angry about the meeting and some specific things that were said. I felt sorry for myself and for the student. I was bothered by some other unresolved issues from the week and worked feverishly to plan and organize. Mr. K1 teacher, my wonderful husband had worked hard to fixed my computer and I was extremely grateful for all of his hard work. And because of all the stress and intense emotions, I ended up erupting at him about some stupid little thing not working just right on the computer.

Friday was probably the best day of the week. I was buoyed somewhat with the knowledge that it was in fact Friday and that weekend was approaching. The students were adjusting and I started to develop a behavior modification plan for the angry and aggressive student. We will start to implement that plan on Monday. I worked on some paper work type tasks during my prep period, including copying emergency cards, and starting student files. And I taught. That's the point.

Stress, lack of administrative support, and general lack of understanding in my building about early childhood special education drive me insane. I want to teach. I want to enrich young minds. But sometimes, I find all these other things get in the way. I start looking for other jobs and wondering if I should quit. Then I look at the calendar and try to remind myself that its too early in the school year to feel this badly and that things will get better. I hope.

Monday, September 14, 2009

first day

My students started today.  I feel like I have been waiting a while for them to come.  Despite the fact that it is my fourth year in my current classroom and my 6th year of teaching full time, I was still feeling the first day jitters.  Do they ever go away?

Many parents were eager to get their children into school earlier than school officially starts.  I understand that the first day of school is a big deal but I feel that if I let parents drop off students before school now, then I am setting a tone for the rest of the year.  I value and desperately need my time in the classroom in the morning at the start of the day.  Since my kids are in the classroom most of the day everyday, the time I get there before school starts is truly my time to get things done.  Some see it as me being rigid and that may be true, but I see it as setting boundaries.

Another parent told me how her kid doesn't need to be in the classroom because she is advanced.  She already knows everything.  And she is very concerned about her daughter regressing.  I assured her that regression is not our goal for anyone, including her sweet child.

One parent asked for my cell phone, fax, and zip code.  

I have mostly boys this year.  I am starting the year with a full house, which, hopefully, means that there will be less transitions and new arrivals as the year progresses.  The specialist schedule sucks and is at a different time every day.  This makes it difficult for the students to learn a routine and challenges my planning abilities.  I have explained to the principal several times about the importance of consistency and routines in early childhood and special education but it seems to be to no avail.  I have offered to sit with some other teachers who have similar concerns and rework the schedule FOR him.  I have suggested simple switches.  I have communicated my concerns many  times over only to be sadly ignored.

Each teacher was given one single package of paper.  The rest of the paper and supplies are "coming"... some time.  

While I am excited to learn about the children and develop our classroom community,  I am wary of the many challenges that exist.  The job is challenging enough of and in itself without adding additional challenges to it.  

Off to catch a little rest and relaxation before bed time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Trepidation about the school year

Today was not a good day.  I arrived at school all eager and ready to work for several hours, only to find out that the custodian was painting the hallway outside my room and I could not get in to actually work.  The principal then recommend that I not come in tomorrow either because of the paint fumes.  He mumbled something about needing 72 hours for the fumes to dissipate.  So I can't help but wonder why not paint the basement after summer school ends or on the Friday  afternoon of a long weekend (instead of on a Thursday).  Not being able to work in increments leaves me feeling anxious, unsettled, and semi-unproductive.

I went to the office to see if I could get a class list with addresses.  I introduced myself to the new secretary.  I never start the year with a full list and it seems like I will be doing just that this year.  I have 15 students, 9 of whom have a disability and 6 who are "typically" developing.  My ratio is supposed to be 7 and 8, with the idea that the kids who are typically developing serve as models for the other students.  It is hard for the students with disabilities to find models if there are fewer "typically" developing students in the classroom with them and that partially defeats the point of the program.  Of those 15 students, 12 are boys. There are 21 students currently enrolled in Pre-K and I have 15 of them?  That means that between my two other grade level colleagues, they have 6.  Something is not right about that math to me. 

When I looked through the master list, I noticed that one of my former students who was discharged from special education at the end of last year was placed in a substantially separate classroom.  A similar thing happened last year and it was a huge fiasco at the beginning of the school year. I wrote to the principal when I got home to explain the situation and hopefully avoid a similar conflict. 

All of this is tiring and frustrating.  It makes me nervous for the start of the year.  My goal was to work in that building for five years but days like this make me question the validity of my goal.

Hoping it gets better and goes smoother from here on out.

Back to school thoughts

I have recently realized that many people have already started school.  We haven't yet, which is why there has not been too many posts here.  

Earlier this week, I spent two straight days with Nicole, one of my best friends.  She teaches in a nearby district and recently had knee surgery.  She was nervous about moving the rearranging the furniture in her classroom with the knee being not quite healed.  I have known her since college, shared many teaching experiences with her, and was eager to help.  She has helped me set up my classroom several times over and it was high time I repaid the favor.  

So, on Monday I met her at her house and we went over to her school.  Of course the doors are locked and there are still ongoing miscellaneous construction projects in and around the school so we have to use the back entrance and wind our way through the maze of a basement.  We get to her room and I am ready to work.  She was overwhelmed so I toned it down a bit.  Then it was on, we were moving and rearranging desks, removing chairs that were too small for her students,  trading out one book shelf for another and unpacking boxes.  I marveled at how much we got done and how well we worked together.  

Then it was off to my school.  It was my first time back since I left in June.  And it was my turn to be completely overwhelmed.  I took a few deep breaths and tried to quiet the voice of the frantically crying teacher inside of my head.  We started moving furniture and had a good portion of the center areas set up when the custodian came in and stated that he was not finished with my floor.  I explained that I could leave and that prior to coming, I had called the principal, who assured me that all the floors were done last week.  I was frustrated and he went around the hallway having a grown up temper tantrum.  I offered to leave but he said not to bother so we kept working.  We worked for just over an hour and I was thrilled with how much progress we made.  It is so much easier to do certain things when two people are working together on it.

Also, we have known each other for a long time and so certain things just didn't need to be explained to the other.  I could make a gesture or she could say some vague phrase about how she wanted to arrange the furniture and we were on the same wave length.  On Tuesday we started out at my school and then went to hers.  We were just as productive.  I share these thoughts here because I just love her, she is fabulous and, more importantly it is rare when you find someone who gets you personally and professionally.  When we go to each others' classrooms, we know what is important to the other and throughout the year we have that visual in our minds when we share our stories.  

All of these positive experiences made me think yet again about co-teaching.  When I was in graduate school, I student taught in a classroom with co-teachers and a classroom assistant.  It was a fantastic classroom with high outcomes for all of their students and the model has inspired a deep interest in co-teaching within me.  My teaching assistant is a teaching assistant, and although she is fabulous, she is not interested in all of the teacher responsibilities like planning curriculum, collecting data, and conducting assessments.  If the opportunity presented it self to co-teach with Nicole, I would certainly take it in a heartbeat and I really don't think it would compromise our friendship.  Maybe my next job will involve some co-teaching with another teacher, just to see what that is like.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Making it count

Today I had the opportunity to attend a professional development day for early childhood educators in my district on the math curriculum that they are rolling out. Just in case anyone in the blogosphere is wondering, I have been teaching math to my students. Math that has been based on the state wide early childhood learning standards, that is developmentally appropriate for my students, challenging enough for those who need a challenge and taught as part of an integrated curriculum.

I was not engaged with the training. None of the ideas seemed new to me. The activities that we had to role play in our workshop were variations of activities I had done in the past. I tried to focus but I kept overhearing bits and pieces of the room next door. I daydreamed about the beach. I listened carefully for new, inspiring nuggets of information. A phrase from that instructor or a question from a colleague that would set off a firestorm of ideas. No such luck.

I think many of my colleagues were similarly disengaged. People were knitting. A few were texting. Many were talking quietly amongst themselves. Some were staring at the ceiling. Part of the time was devoted to clarifying some department specific logistics. Part of the time was spent on an extra long lunch. Part of the time was spent pretending to be children and doing the math activities. Part of the time was spent eavesdropping on the other training. Part of the time was spent making materials that many of us already had made in past school years. The last part of time was spent waiting for the time to be over so we could collect our certificates. Waiting for the time to be over is the worse part.

There has to be a better way to provide professional development for teachers. I want to be engaged. I want to learn. I want my thinking to be challenged and I want to feel like the time I am putting into attending these trainings is valuable and relevant to my teaching. I don't want to attend what feels like a marketing presentation, and I don't want to spend time acting like a 4 year old.

What does effective professional development look like? How do you engage teachers effectively? What factors help teachers retain information and apply it in their classrooms? As a large urban school district, what is the best way for various administrators to communicate with a large group of teachers? How can basic information be shared without taking up time during professional development activities when half of the teachers can not or do not respond to email?

Maybe when I know the answers to some of these questions I will do one of two things: write about it here on this blog, or actually give professional development on how to give effective professional development.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What's in the bottom of your bag?

After lugging home most of a classroom in late June and stashing everything in a spare room, I was finally feeling adventurous enough to tackle this situation. Its that time of year when I want to organize everything. ( The problem is not that I CAN'T organize well, it's that I often cannot maintain it.) Usually by February or March, some of the neatness and organization slips a little.

So anyway, I pulled out my school bag, a milk crate, and one small box. Here are some of the interesting and non-relevant things I found:
1 roll of quarters
1 pair of winter gloves
1 winter scarf
100 photocopied outlines of small mittens
3 out of date school supply catalogs
2 quare inches of badly used sand paper
and a whole lot of dust

So I still have a lot of organizing left to do but I started.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


On a recent organizing spree, I found a few notes i jotted down at the end of the year:

  • Working with Ms. S made the year better and more enjoyable. I felt more motivated and the work environment was better
  • Most of the students made measurable progress on the PALS pre-K
  • Many students scored above average on the end of year vocabulary assessment
  • I collaborated more with the speech therapist and reading teacher than in years past
  • Students developed good relationships with each other. They seemed to genuinely care about each other.
  • Using the bucket concept to encourage positive behavior seemed to help them understand what was expected
  • Very few behavior problems this year and I think that is related to several things: 1) a consistent schedule with my prep periods thanks to administrative support 2) a para who was better suited to the job and 3) and my own growth as a teacher and being more proactive earlier on
Ok so I did not think of all of these on the last days of school. Some of them have popped into my brain relatively recently.

  • I need to give feedback to Ms. S so that some of the problems she encountered with students can be avoided ( although I am not sure of the best way to give her feedback or suggestions)
  • I did not stick with the bucket system as well as I would have liked to
  • I would like to work harder on potty training the students
  • I would like to keep better track of the IEPs and possibly actually use the folder system that I started
  • I would like to plan the filed trips with my grade level colleagues at the beginning of the year and then divide up the responsibilities so that I am not doing all of that work all of the time
I am sure I will think of more things later on this month as the start of school gets closer.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Doctorate in Special Education?

I always thought a doctorate in education seemed unnecessary without plans to teach at the college or university level. It certainly would not make me a better teacher in the classroom. Pursuing a doctorate degree needs to be for me, because I want to learn more, because some particular topic has peaked my interest and I need to know more about it. One day last week, Mr. K1 teacher sent email about a talk he had went to at his company. He thought about how that idea could be applied to special education students. I was pretty intrigued. Since then, I have thought about it more and tossed around the idea of a PhD so I could further investigate.

Then I thought of my dear friend Alexandra, who writes the Brainy and Beautiful blog and a recent conversation I had with her. She raised some good questions about higher education and insisted it wasn't the only way to learn something. She pointed out that following some predetermined curriculum didn't necessarily help a person to reach their goals. She questioned the necessity of higher education degrees. I suppose that I could read countless research papers on my interest area and just absorb knowledge. Which sounds doable now, that I am on summer break. Could I keep that up when school starts and responsibilities pick up? If I did a doctorate and did some successful research, would it even make a difference to real students?

I guess for now I will toss my idea around in my head a bit more. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer Musings

During a quiet moment in an otherwise hectic vacation, I pondered the idea of writing stories for children while sharing some fine Indian cuisine with my husband. I have a few ideas that I think are pretty solid. He was supportive and encouraging. He asked probing and thought provoking questions and offered to help in any way that I needed him to. The problem of course is not a lack of ideas or support. The problem is getting started on those ideas and then following through. The problem is not having any idea where to actually start. Well I know I need to do the actual serious writing, do several drafts, actually commit the stories to paper. But still I feel overwhelmed and bogged down at the same time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"It must be nice... know, to not have to work all summer and all." "You teachers have it so easy, I wish I had 8 weeks off every year." "You must be so happy!"

So summer vacation is upon us. It has been less than a week and I am already tired of hearing these remarks from various friends and family. For the most part, they mean well. Some people are, I suppose, a tad envious of the schedule. And yes, I am happy to be on vacation, just like any hard working adult is when her vacation time finally arrives. But its not all that simple.

First, there is the very real worry for the safety and well being of my students over such an extended break. For a good number of them, school is where they eat. Sadly some of them go home and do not get dinner or a bed time snack. What happens to them over the summer? Sure, the city has a free lunch program for all residents under 18 in various locations over the entire summer. Do my students' parents know about it? Do they have access to the locations where lunch is being served? And for the families who really do struggle and desperately need this assistance, will one meal a day be enough to sustain a healthy child?

What about less tangible, but just as important things? What about the students who seem so desperately to need love, positive attention of any kind? I spent the days helping these students to realize their own potential and giving them all the positive attention that I could. And I saw how different they were on Monday morning versus Friday afternoon. They came in looking tired and forlorn, and sometimes fearful. As the day wore on, they began to flourish, to open up to me and their peers, to bask in the warm praise used to acknowledge their best efforts. As Friday approached, they became wide-eyed and anxious. Many of them expressed not wanting to go home for a weekend and a few even expressed worry about being on summer break for "all those days."

Even though each student was sent on with a summer packet, I worry about regression. Will the students who are moving on to new classes in the fall regress over the summer? Will their future teachers look down on them or on me? What about the students who will spend another year with me, will I spend the beginning of the year reteaching them skills I thought that they had already mastered?

Then I have the challenge of finding meaningful professional development activities for either the summer or the fall. I will admit that this is challenge is somewhat my own fault. My principal has urged us all to seek off site professional development and he recognized that he cannot and will not provide professional development that is relevant to either special education or early childhood education. I usually, with his permission, opt to take classes off site because their is a chance that something of my own choosing will be more meaningful and relevant to me. I got caught up in other things, like teaching and inspiring young minds, and neglected this task somewhat. When I finally started working on it, I was dismayed to learn that many of the classes were already filled. I am sure that I will find something, but until I do, the task looms over my head.

So it is with all of these thoughts and worries that I started my vacation a few days ago. Yes, I am excited to be on vacation, but that is secondary in comparison to the worry I feel for many of my students.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Winding down

There was a staff meeting after an early release day today. I was looking to my principal for inspiration, motivation, and possibly a little encouragement. No such look. His agenda included teacher lay offs and involuntary transfers. He touched on preliminary state testing scores. He talked about the difference between our school, the district and the state as a whole. He complained that many teachers are not involved and invested in their school community. Just when I thought things couldn't get any better, he likened teaching in our building to teaching in a third world country. Swell.

Tomorrow is the last day of school. I will try to be less cynical and more reflective and optimistic.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"My Kids"

Often times, when I am speaking to other people about my students, I say "my kids". The people I talk to often enough seem to understand that I am not referring to any biological children that they did not know about.

Yesterday we had some friends over and I was sharing some story from school that began with "My kids..." I don't talk to the person too often though because of crazy busy schedules. She stopped me at the first sentence of my story to ask "What kids?" I laughed and explained that I was talking about the kids at school.

I understand that they all have parents and that some of them have excellent parents. But I also feel that I am responsible for them for 30 contact hours a week and the responsibility does not end when the school bell rings. Did they get home safely? Will they have bright futures and have I given them more than enough high quality instruction to set them on their way? Will they be able to eat over the weekend? So while I am not their biological or adopted parent, I still feel great responsibility towards them, a great sense of pride in their accomplishments, and an overall loving feeling.

If you teach, what do you call the people who sit in front of you every day?Students, children, kids, learners?

Friday, June 19, 2009

slow and steady progress

Here is what is done:
all narratives!
all progress reports!
The annual review report and meeting
In class observation has been scheduled, canceled, and tentatively rescheduled
Letter written to parents requesting crab adoption and one interested response
Summer packets are all assembled
student gift bags are assembled
Ms. S's end of year extravaganza has been finished
students have been rehearsing for their performance
I finally started packing the classroom
gather necessary documentation for potential meeting for amendment to IEP

Here is what is left:
make end of year certificates for students
pack up the entire classroom and lug personal belongings home ( to avoid theft)
clean basement to make space for personal belongings

Z is not for school

The last letter of the alphabet is for zoo. This past week, my school has resembled a zoo more than a school.

One of my students left last Friday. His mom decided that daycare would be better for him. While I am not against day care in general, I was slightly offended. I understand that people need to work and that daycares offer longer hours than a public school. I also understand that people act in what they think is the best interest for their child. However, the student has significant needs that cannot be met in a daycare setting. Mom told me about an before the end of the school day, so much for a proper farewell. Additionally, the mother indicated that she is not sure if he will be back in the fall. I feel bad and the student only started last month so I was still getting to know him.

Then another one of my students showed up after missing three weeks of school. I had called the parent several times during this period of time but I did not hear back from her. I assumed that the parent had started summer vacation earlier. So the mother and daughter paraded in this morning much to my surprise. I talked with the mother, who denied receiving any messages from me. She explained how ill her child was, how the child was feeling much better, and how she brought her in today so she could participate in our end of year celebration, which is not today but the mother did not know that because the child has not been in school.

When I took the child to the bathroom, I noticed a rash on her leg that looked suspicious. On our way to the nurse, i noticed a half dollar size bump on the student's wrist. The nurse told me that she couldn't look at the rash because she "can't just go around pulling down students' pants." I explained that I understood her concerns and that I would stay in the room while she examined the child. She refused. That is ridiculous to me, but she did decide to call about the bump. In the meantime, the student and several others went to speech therapy. A few minutes after the group left, they came back. The student who was out for illness was apparently still quite ill! So back to the nurse for this poor little girl. It took her mother an hour to get to school, and then she wanted to know details about the vomit, what it looked like, what the consistency was, and how many ounces. What difference does it male? The child is sick and needs to go home.

Finally, despite having 5 days of school left, many of my colleagues are already done. There rooms are already packed and students are sitting on the floor on small carpet squares. I have started packing things that students won't be using. My room is still functioning as a classroom. Yes we are starting to relax a little, but we are still learning. What are those kids going to do for the next 5 days? Oh, did you say run wild through the building? If you did then congratulations, you guessed correctly. Throughout the day today, the principal was paging runaway students back to their classroom. So instead of leaving the office to look for these students and supporting the teachers, he pages the students back to their classrooms.

This time of year is challenging for many reasons. I am struggling to keep my cool wit various adults. Currently, I am very thankful that today is Friday and I am hoping that Monday brings calm to the building and a little more peace to me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Updating and making progress on the to- do list

Here is what is done:
6 of the 8 narratives
The annual review report and meeting
In class observation has been scheduled, canceled, and tentatively rescheduled
Letter written to parents requesting crab adoption and one interested response
Summer packets are all assembled
student gift bags are assembled
Ms. S's end of year extravaganza has been finished
students have been rehearsing for their performance
I finally started packing the classroom

Here is what is left:
2 narratives
6 progress reports (this is really not in my contol, so I am trying not to fret about it)
gather necessary documentation for potential meeting for amendment to IEP
make end of year certificates for student
pack up the entire classroom and lug personal belongings home ( to avoid theft)
clean basement to make space for personal belongings

Still it feels very overwhelming. I am so much better at UNpacking than I am at packing. I like setting things up and getting organized. I like beginnings more than endings. I struggle most with the packing this time of the year.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beautiful Butterflies

I posted earlier about the slow process of the metamorphosis of the caterpillars in our classroom.

All 6 butterflies finally emerged from their chrysalises. The first two emerged during the school day. When the students arrived in the morning, we had six chrysalises. After lunch two butterflies had popped out, blending in very well with the sticks and leaves that were in their habitat. Still my students were able to spot them and were very excited.

Two more popped out over night and the final two took their sweet time and made us wait until we returned to school on Monday. The colorings and strength of their wings intensified each day that they were out. The butterflies gradually began to become more active and get stronger with each day.

I had been anxiously eying the weather, waiting for a sunny day. Our literature in the classroom indicated that the butterflies were more likely to fly if it was sunny outside when they were released. Also we were starting to hit time constraints. The school year ends in seven more school days, there is no school in our district tomorrow, and butterflies don't have an exceptionally long life span. So when the weather started to improve today, I scrapped our prior plans and headed outside with 6 butterflies and 11 children in tow.

We read a story about butterflies and how they grow. I explained to the children that we had started off with small caterpillars, then we had very large caterpillars, then chrysalises and now adult butterflies. They wanted to know what the butterflies would do when we let them free. We talked about how female butterflies lay eggs. Someone told me that he eats eggs. All were eager and some were slightly cautious, unsure of what would happen.

I gently opened their habitat and the first one was out and about, fluttering first around me and the students and then taking off to the right of where we were sitting. The next four out of the habitat also fluttered to the right. The last one was reluctant to the leave the habitat and actually perched on my finger for several minutes and let the students touch it. It was so still that I was worried it may not fly. Then once all of the students stepped back, the butterfly took off! It was the only one to fly to the left. One of my students remarked "it took a different path than all the others".

This has been a valuable learning experience for both me and my students, but I was touched by her remark about the different path. This year has taken me down a different path, with a new teaching assistant, new students, and different needs than in past years. The butterfly made me think: which kind of butterfly are you, one who follows others, or one who makes her own choices? Are you bold enough to let possible predators tenderly touch you or are you scared and flee as quickly as possible? And finally, just like with the butterflies, I was unable to predict the paths of all my students this year. Some proved my first impressions completely wrong and others proved them mostly right, with a few interesting, unpredicted twists and turns along the way.

Iamge for this post was found here

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Getting there

Checking off items, slowly, from the daunting to do list.

Here is what is done:
2 of the 8 narratives
The annual review report
In class observation has been scheduled
Letter written to parents requesting crab adoption
Summer packets are almost all assembled

(That is good for one day)

Here is what is left:
6 narratives
6 progress reports
gather necessary documentation for potential meeting for amendment to IEP
make end of year certificates for student
assemble and gather materials for student gift baskets

finish Ms. S' end of year present
help students rehearse for performance
pack up the entire classroom and lug personal belongings home ( to avoid theft)

clean basement to make space for personal belongings

Contrary to popular belief, I am not all that organized, or at least I don't feel that way. Writing it down doesn't mean I'm any better at the task or any closer to being able to do it, it just means that I can sleep at night without a gargantuan to- do list keeping me awake. It means I can cross things off the list, which brings about its own satisfaction. It means I can try to plan accordingly, and balance my time.

This is the first year that I remember feeling so much better at the beginning of the year then at the end. I know people get tired around the end of the school year and so I am not beating myself up too much. I feel really scattered and hoping it passes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Feeling Crabby?

Last week a coworker asked me to watch her class crabs for one day. She was going to be absent and worried about the safety of the pets while she was away. I figured one day wouldn't be so bad, it would be manageable for me and exciting for my students, especially since we had just finished our unit on things that grow. A quick trip to the local library supplied me with some age appropriate books on those friendly little crustaceans. The are kids are excited and look through the books, trying to find a match for the specific species we are babysitting. They are thirsty for information and together we went about gathering facts and making observations.

I was ready to give them back and the kids understood that the crabs were "just visiting" our class. One full week later, the teacher is back from her absence, and has been back now for several days. She does not want them back. Lucky me. I just wish she was honest and had said something like " oh the science department gave me sand crabs and I really don't want them, are you interested?" So a bit frustrated, I set out to find the science teacher, who was nice enough to tell me that I had been duped. He reluctantly came in and shared some crab food, knowledge, and salt water with us.

The crabs, in case any of you wanted to know, with one large pincer and one small one are the males. The ones with two small pincers are the females.

Oh yes, and then there is the humor in the situation. Some of my students enjoy higher end cuisine like lobsters, and knew that crabs could be eaten. Many other students were excited about most about this fact and proceeded to sit in front of the crab tank staring at the crabs, and salivating slightly while they rubbed their stomachs and thought about a really interesting school lunch. I insisted that the animal were pets and therefore, definitely NOT food. "uh yes, hi Mr. So and So, your daughter ate one of classroom pets and I think she needs to go home" is not a phone call I want to make.

So with 11 days left in the school year, I am hoping to find a family in my class who wants to adopt them. Else wise my last day of school plans will involve a trip to the beach.

End of year to do list

There are 11 school days left of the school year. In addition to planning challenging and engaging curriculum for my students, there are several other items on my to do list. It is my sincerest hope that by writing them down here, I can get organized and tackle them, rather than feel over whelmed.

In no particular order:
8 end of year narratives to write
6 progress reports
1 annual review report
gather necessary documentation for potential meeting for amendment to IEP
schedule an in class observation with yet another district person on a specific student
make end of year certificates for students
assemble student work packets for summer
assemble and gather materials for student gift baskets
finish Ms. S' end of year present
help students rehearse for performance
write letter to parents requesting someone to adopt our class crabs
pack up the entire classroom and lug personal belongings home ( to avoid theft)
clean basement to make space for personal belongings

ok well that looks like plenty of work...stay tuned for updates

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A little soap and water would go along way

Last Wednesday 32 kids were out sick. Last Thursday, 47 kids were out sick, Last Friday 60 kids. This past Monday 124 were either out sick or sent home early. Yesterday, 120 and 115 today. The children seemed afraid of the Swine flu.

One girl was running through the school yard screaming for someone to stay away from her. Her fingers were crossed and she kept looking over her shoulder. When I talked to her, she said that someone was trying to give her swine flu, so she needed to keep her fingers crossed so she didn't get. When I was in school, people had "cooties" and we sang to ward of unwanted germs and creepiness:
"Circle, circle, dot, dot,
Now I have my cootie shot"
For those of you who are not familiar with this rhyme, more info can be found here.

But my childhood schoolyard days are over and I am now the adult in the school yard. I explained that if she did not want to get sick, she should wash her hands with soap and water and stay away from people who are sick. She looked at me for awhile and then asked if "We got soap now downstairs?"

Sad and angry

It makes me enormously sad to know that I care more for some of the children in my classroom than their own parents do. Maybe, in some cases, it is not that I care more, but differently. That's fine, but in some other cases I think I really do care more for them.

How can you send your child to school without changing her diaper in the morning when she woke up?

How can you send her to school with a mini skirt that has been stitched up to make it even shorter?

How can you send him in and ask the teacher to monitor his temperature all day because the child has not been feeling well?

Why am I the only one who cleans the crust of his face?

These things worry, enrage and sadden me. I guess I can't understand because I am not a parent yet. Sometimes I wonder if I am expending all of my caring capacity in caring for other people's children. Sometimes I worry about the students when they go home for the weekend or a school vacation. What if their next teacher doesn't care as much? And other times, I am just angry. I try so hard not to be. I try to look at the situation from the point of view of the parents. I try but sometimes I fail.

When I am all emotional like this, I also get confused. Are my emotions and care for the students impeding my ability to teach them? Or is it the opposite, that my care and concern for them ignites the passion to teach them and teach them well? I don't know. I do know that I am tired. Tired of feeling as if I am caring more for them, even if it is not true.

Kudos to the OTHER parents. The parents who work hard and set good examples for their children. The parents who communicate regularly with school and advocate on their child's behalf. The parents who nurture their children and provide for their basic needs. Kudos to them, I know they are out there!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Waht did you say, part 2

"she has boogies. They come out of her nose"- One of my parents. I tried not to thank her for that information.

"You need to have patiences"- One of my students to me when I was trying to get the students to clean up quickly after center time.

" This is my body, see I drew the belly button and that's my mini skirt" a student, after a body tracing activity.

"Our whole family has allergies, so that is why he is late" a parent, explaining chronic tardiness to me. I think I should tell my boss that I have allergies also.

"We need one hundred children to be absent in one day in order for the school to close for a week for swine flu"- my assistant principal on the current news item.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Slow change

We have live caterpillars in my classroom. After some miscommunication, and a couple of friendly emails to clarify things, they finally arrived last week. I was worried that they would not survive the long weekend, but they are doing just fine. Like the students, I was amazed to return yesterday and see how much they have grown in the few days that we were away.

As they prepare to make their chrysalises, I am eagerly observing the process along with my students. Of course I know what will happen, this is the third time I have had caterpillars in the classroom. I have provided my students with a variety of nonfiction texts on caterpillars and butterflies. We have contrasted the information in the infamous The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, with the information we learned from the nonfiction books. The students were surprised to learn that the caterpillars don't actually eat fruits, lollipops and sausages as described in the Eric Carle story. Students who would not normally be drawn to the book area, are there, looking at the nonfiction books we have and comparing the images to the current appearances of our caterpillars. Some students drew pictures of the life cycle and others drew predictions of what they thought the butterflies would look like when they finally emerge.

Live creatures in the classroom is very exciting and learning all about them excites and energizes the children. There is one lesson that I couldn't have planned but that is happening. It seems that many of the children expected the caterpillars to move through their entire life cycle in less than a day. For those of you who may not know, once they arrive in the classroom, it takes about 5-7 days for the caterpillars to form chrysalises and then an additional 7-10 days for the butterflies to emerge. That is a long time for three, four and five year old students. So many of them are used to immediate gratification, of things happening RIGHT NOW. Waiting is challenging for them.

On the first day we had them one student asked me at breakfast if we had butterflies yet. He asked again at recess, lunch, small group and closing circle. He and his classmates have been observing the caterpillars carefully and looking for signs of change. We have been discussing how change takes time and how they did not get all of their skills in one day. So aside from their excitement and my carefully planned learning experiences, the best lesson is the incidental one, the one I didn't plan for. That good things take time, and that sometimes, we have to wait for things to happen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It really wasn't Monday today?

It certainly felt like a Monday. For starters, all of my students were very hyper. One informed me that summer was officially here and that he was done. With school. Forever. Many seemed to have forgotten classroom rules and routines. I chuckled when I heard about some of their weekend adventures. I was amused at their definitions of an inch worm: "A worm that inches", "A worm with inches" We talked about an inch as a unit of measurement and some of them said " he inched on the floor" and the "inch worm inches".

Classroom stuff aside, the school was pretty intense today. One teacher still hasn't been given a lay off letter or a letter of reasonable assurance for next year. It is challenging and frustrating not to know where you will be next year so close to the end of the school year.

A child advocate and special education supervisor showed up unannounced to do observations on a child who is out sick. Their visit was canceled Thursday because the child went home sick. I hadn't heard from them and so assumed that I would hear from them when they rescheduled. If I had known that they were planning to come today, I would have called them once I realized that the student was absent.

The police were called to school today not once but twice. One teacher's laptop and personal cellphone were stolen in plain daylight in less than a five minute time period. A parent violated a restraining order and then became very agitated at school and was ultimately handcuffed.

Maybe that parent who told the child that it was summer had a good idea. Maybe we should adjust have vacation a little bit earlier this year. But thankfully, it IS Tuesday and not Monday.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What did you say?

Here are some ridiculous quotes that have amazed me this week from parents and teachers in my school:

"I don't want my kid to catch Downs Syndrome"- by a parent when discussing a city-run summer camp for her child. You can imagine that this was a very long conversation.

"What the hell is that kid wearing on his head?"- by another teacher in my building when referring to a student's hearing aid. After explaining that it was in fact a hearing aid the response was "Oh, I wasn't sure if it was some new fashion statement" Because blue Velcro headbands with black boxes attached to them are oh so fashionable.

" Oh yeah, he was sick yesterday, but I figured I would send him today"- a parent who sent his sick child to school. Prior to this remark, the child had vomited several times.

"No recess-it is state testing week"- my principal.

" Mrs. K1 teacher, I know you are going to play all kinds of naughty sex games with your husband this weekend, and lucky for you, you have an extra day to get it on"- unfortunately, this was from yet another teacher in my building at the end of the school day. Wouldn't have minded if it was just her and I and other teachers, but it was in front of students. I replied that her remark was inappropriate and she just laughed.

So it is Friday of a long weekend and I am feeling better, just getting some of those quotes out of my head.

Its that time of year, already?

I can hardly believe that this school year is almost over and that I will need to pack up my things for the summer in just a few short weeks. While I marvel over the progress of most of my students and continue to be concerned about others, I am reminded that the 2009-2019 school year is nearly upon us.

This morning the principal had an open house and invited the new early childhood parents. I met three of the eight new families for my classroom. That is nearly half and a higher turn out than in most years. They seemed eager for their children to start. They had questions that I answered while their children played with the current students on the playground. I tried to sneak in some observations of their children. Did they climb well? Did they socialize well with others or did they play by themselves?

By this point in the year, I have grown quite attached to many of my students and so the end of the year is bittersweet. I am both amazed and proud of how much they have accomplished and at the same time, a little sad to see them go. One of my students has been with me for three years and I know he is ready to move on but I will miss him. I have come to know him and his quirkiness really well. I admire his mother for working hard with him at home and being his biggest advocate.

I am fortunate that some of my students will stay with me for the next school year, so planning is always interesting at the beginning of the year. I have half a class of students who know me really well and another half who are possibly coming to school for the first time and looking at me like the stranger I am. But I am not ready.

I am not yet ready to say farewell to the current group of students. I am not yet ready to be done for the year, to pack my classroom materials in countless plastic bins and recycled boxes. I am not yet ready to lug a majority of those storage containers into my basement. Most importantly,I am not yet ready to let them go. I know I have worked hard and given them a solid academic foundation. I can only hope that I have instilled a love of learning and a love of books in all of them. I hope that I have served as a model of good character I hope that I can cherish these last few weeks with the whole class and most especially the time with the kids who are leaving. They are a wonderful group of kids and they will be missed.