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