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.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


So two schools in my district are closed for the next week due to Swine Flu. There are several kids out in each school with flu like symptoms. Only a few of those cases are actually confirmed but apparently the schools and the district are being cautious. Apparently, the missed school days do not need to be made up because of how late in the school year it is.

I think it is really scary and I am glad the school district is being cautious. I am concerned about the health and safety of my students. When I was talking to other teachers in my building about these concerns, they looked at me strange, as if maybe I had sprouted a second head on my right shoulder. One of the teachers said that it wouldn't be so bad to have a week off at the end of the May or beginning of June.

There are only 25 school days left this year and so much work to do. I think a week off now would be extremely disruptive.l While I love the warm weather and yearn to be at the beach this time of year, I care about the students, their health, and the health of their families. At the same, I personally don't want to get Swine Flu, I just got over being sick. So if there are children in the school who have it, I think the school should close or at least sanitize. But still, I am not rooting for mass numbers of sick children.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Everyone is here?

All fourteen of my students are here today for the first time in several weeks.  They seem to be recovering nicely from their various illness.  I am glad that they are all back in school and ready to learn.  Even though they all "belong" here, having one or two students absent can make a big difference in the dynamic of the group.  Also  having all of them here feels both like a wonderful gift and a challenge at the same time.  It is great that they are all here and over their sicknesses, but it is challenging at the same time because the room feels smaller and louder.  

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lost: 1 dose of optimisim, please return to owner immediately

The wonderful author, TeachenEspanol, of the blog Adventures in Super teaching published a post yesterday about the suckiness of certain situations. I love her blog and usually walk away inspired after I read it, but yesterday, a smile spread across my face as I read about "suck suck suck suck suck !" That pretty much sums up this week, and a big thank you to teachenespanol for articulating it so clearly. I generally consider myself to be a fairly optimistic and energetic person, but that was not the case this week.

A new student started without any advanced notice. I know that as teachers, we are expected to be flexible, but sometimes it is very hard to embrace such flexibility. As I looked through the child's file, something very glaring caught my eye. He is not receiving speech and language therapy, despite using an amplification system and having seemingly little verbal ability. He was referred for communication concerns, but the speech therapist was not present at his original IEP meeting, nor his her report anywhere in his file. To add to that situation, his grandfather claims the student lost his amplification system at school and the school will need to pay to replace it. Since it is an external system, I am pretty sure I would have noticed it if the child came to school with it. As teachenespanol said, "Suck suck suck suck suck suck"

Then on Thursday morning, many of my parents came in carrying their children. I thought this was a bit odd and asked one parent about it. She said someone "doo-dooed" on the stairs outside. I did not have time to think too much about it and assume it was some one's dog. Imagine then my surprise when I took the students outside at dismissal time and saw this huge puddle of shit on the stairs. It was disgusting! As parents picked up their kids, many commented that they had spoken to the custodian this morning about it and wanted to know why the situation was not handled. I unfortunately did not have any answers for them but felt their anger.

Talking with other teachers after school, it became clear that several of them had spoken to our custodian themselves. The principal was out of the building for the day and the assistant principal was tied up outside with bus duty. No big deal, it will be dealt with after school, right?
When I arrived at school on Friday morning and it was still there, I was horrified and embarrassed. Horrified that the germs and bacteria were still there, that some people had probably stepped in it inadvertently and traipsed remnants throughout our building and embarrassed to be walking in, to say that, yes this is indeed where I work. I was reluctant to approach the principal for a variety of reasons but I knew that if I didn't say anything, the situation would not get better by itself. The principal at first did not believe me and/or did not understand the magnitude of the situation. I finally had to show him and he got the custodian to clean it immediately. What message does it give parents, students and the community when a huge mass of fecal matter is on the steps of the school building? Was someone so sick that they couldn't make it inside? Was someone playing a horrible prank? Anyway, "suck suck suck". It is really hard to be optimistic when you literally have to walk around a pile of shit to get into work.

Added to the suckiness of this week was this overall feeling that I was sinking, that I was falling behind in my work. The week seemed to drag on. I was tired from having class until 8pm twice in one week. The wrist hurt through most of the week and is finally starting to feel better. I know the coming week will bring more challenges, but I hope I can return to my optimistic state and more energetic self.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Wasting Money Rant

Warning: This post is not about the kids. The next one will probably be but this is pure frustration at the system as a whole.

So one day this week, I am quietly sitting in my room, getting a few materials ready for the students. The custodian comes in and says that he needs to replace the light bulbs. For those of you who do not know, I have two tracks of florescent light bulbs in my room and approximately 24 individual light bulbs in total. About four or five of those were dead. So I would assume that the custodian is here to replace only the light bulbs that have burnt out. It seems logical to me...

So he starts taking out all of the light bulbs, every single one. Even the few he just replaced last month. The majority of them were working just fine, casting light. He said he has to replace every single light bulb in the building with an energy efficient light bulb. So in some office somewhere downtown, this idea probably sounded like a good plan and someone signed off on it, thousands of light bulbs were ordered city-wide and distributed to the various schools and buildings. "Green" is good but not when it means tremendous amounts of waste.

All of the working light bulbs in building were merely thrown away! They were fine, sure they used a little more energy and cost a little more to run but the cost of throwing away perfectly good functioning items to replace them with "better" ones is ridiculous. Those light bulbs are either going to clutter up the storage closet at school, or worse clutter up some landfill somewhere.

Why not just replace the older lights with the newer ones when the older ones die? Why waste all that money and all those perfectly good lights?

And then today we are told that they "forgot" to pay us. How can you forget to pay some thousand teachers and move green light bulbs to the top of your list? I am sure these events are not related but both are equally frustrating.