Saturday, October 11, 2008

The One Where I Am Feeling Guilty For Not Posting More Often....

Wow, has it really been almost 2 weeks since I posted last? It has been a crazy couple of weeks, I can guarantee you that! We are nearing the end of our 1st 9-weeks and I am starting to look back and wonder where it went. I need a break much going on. We are moving on and trying to help our friend "D/Mario" deal with his Dad's death. He is back at school but struggling. The police caught and arrested a at least that is done.
We are right int he middle of a big Social Studies unit project too. My boys are struggling a bit with the research, so to take the heat off, that is what we are focusing on. We are talking about sources and how to write bibliographies and trying to find alternatives to G@@gle (we use Nettrekker a lot) ...since it typically doesn't filter out all the junk when they search. They are enjoying it (I think)..and learning a lot about the Explorers. We have a 4 day weekend coming up too (at least the students do..teachers will be working both Friday and Monday). My plan is to organize my classroom and de-clutter. I also want to Lexile my class library. We'll see how much gets done. I am excited about the in-service on Monday because we have a consultant coming to begin training us on 6+1 Traits for writing. I have been doing a little research on my own and it looks so cool. I admit it, I am not a good writer and I suspect I am an even worse writing I can use all the help I can get.
Well, I better close this for now..Monday folders, and lesson plans are calling my name.....until next time.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The One where I am at a loss for words...

Last night the father of one of my students was murdered. It was random, as if that is supposed to make me feel better. And he was sent to school today. WTF?? We were getting ready to start our day and he said "Mrs. Barker, guess what happened last night." I was half-listening as I passed out papers and checked agendas...."Did he just say his Dad was shot?" I asked him to repeat what he had just said. The cynical teacher in me was wondering if he had seen this on TV this morning and was somehow trying to understand it by making it his own...then the parent/mother cub/protective teacher kicked into overdrive. I hugged him and said let's go take a walk. I asked a colleague to keep an eye on my class and we walked together down to the office to find someone who could handle this way better that I could.
AT the same time my principal was looking for me because she had already heard, knew it was one of our kids, and knew he was one of mine. Not finding a counselor (or social worker, or mental health counselor--we have all three in house)...I headed to find one of our ESOL teachers. That was when my principal found me. Immediately she activated the Crisis Team from our school district and took the student back into her office. I headed back to class to check on the rest of my boys who were in mid-discussion about this, as many had either heard about it on the bus or in the car line.
Without going into much detail let me tell you this is the second time in 3 months that we have had to deal with a senseless death (an 8 year old student from our school had been raped and murdered in July by a 14 y.o. neighbor).
The crisis team came and talked to my class, the student was still at school when we went to lunch so he came and ate with us. And afterschool I made a home-visit to the student and his family (they were at an aunt's house) with our translator, an ESOL teacher and one of our counselors. My principal and the office staff kept a close tab on my class and I all day...for which I am very grateful. My Principal also insisted that I talk to one of the grief counselors. I am fine..I have not processed it all yet, so I am not sure when I will really deal with it...I just need to know that this boy is going to be okay...that is all I want for all my studetns. But his life is now changed forever...he will come back to school a diferent kid, beause now he has no Dad.
It certainly puts things in perspective...and make some things like handing in homework and having their agenda sign nightly, seem so trivial.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The one where I have 14 Parent Teacher Conferences in one week!!

Yes friends, its coming..the week where I have to meet with all the parents of all my boys. So you know what I am doing this weekend...looking at standardized test scores from last year, looking at grades, behavior charts, writing samples..and trying to get everything together. I am also putting together some FAQs about Single Gender education, including the latest research and some data from our state to educate my student's parents on the program their child is enrolled in.

I have a love/hate relationship with Parent Teacher conferences. Yes, they take a long time to prepare for, yet we are supposed to keep each meeting under 30 minutes (I have a sneaky suspicion they will go long). A lot of the data I present (test scores, etc) goes over these parents heads...all they really want to hear is how cute, sweet, smart, well-behaved their child is. Hell, that is all I REALLY want to hear when I go to a conference with my son's teacher! But I love telling a parent how cute, sweet, smart and well behaved their child is...problem is not all my students are. So I try to keep the 3 to 1 ration of positives to negatives and suggest some ways to improve their grades and/or behavior. is going to be a fun week!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The One Where I Found The BEST Survival Book...

This summer I went to a seminar given by Dr. Paul Slocumb. If you ever get the chance to hear him present--GO!! He is very knowledgeable about educating boys, especially boys growing up in poverty. Alot of his teachings dove-tail with Ruby Payne's research about the effects of poverty on children.

The book he teaches from is his own called Hear Our Cry, Boys in Crisis. I highly recommend it, especially for teachers in Title I schools, or anyone teaching children growing up in poverty.

Needless to say, I was having a rough week so I pull out this book the other night to see why a few of my boys were not responding well to me...I have been journaling each day (to document things for a variety of reasons) and I came across a passage in the book that I had underlined during the seminar....I was teaching in my parent voice alot this week and the book literally says " Boys perceive female teachers with a strong parent voice as just one more "bitchy" mother." WOW!! What an epiphany that was....the book also talked about a great strategy called H.E.A.T. which stands for Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Take Action.

So that is what I am going to try next week and see if I can turn things around!!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The One Where I Seriously Think I Was On Something When They Asked Me To Do This....

...whew...Week 3 is almost over. We are actually getting things done...little things...but things none the less. This week we started MAP testing, and we started with Math. I explained the instructions for the test a zillion times (bring a book, pencil and scratch paper with you)...and only had to remind them again what to bring oh, half a zillion times. I was starting to think it was me...maybe I am a bad communicator..then I pulled out my trusty "Gender Matters" book and to my amazement...boys don't follow directions as well as girls. And I already know they don't hear as well as girls. I am considering buying an old fashioned tape recorder, recording my instructions for the day, then they I can just re-wind and push play and voila----I don't have to say everything a zillion times. Seriously, I am going to experiment with some things including having them echo back the instructions to me.
I also wrote my first two referrals kid threatened another while they were in the bathroom. I got a note from Kid A's Mom- the threatenee, had a talk with both Kids. Kid B--the threatener denies any involvement. Mom also called my principal who came running out of the office as we were leaving the cafeteria- relayed the conversation she had with Kid A's mom, assured me Kid A's Mom LOOOOVED ME (we had a long conversation last week about her child--totally different topic).
That was one referral. The second was for a boy who cannot handle discipline in any form. If he is not following the rules and I ask him to turn a card (after several warnings) he completely WIGS OUT...lots of eye rolling, hands on hips, sucking the teeth, BIG OL ATTITUDE. This happens about every other day so I had finally had enough and I wrote him up...We'll see what kind of note I get from his Momma tomorrow.

Back to the Lesson Plans.....

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The One Where I Sum Up Week 2.....

WHEW.....I have survived the first 9 days of school...and now I am being rewarded with a 3 day weekend (unfortunately, not at the destination in the picture above!)

Whatever will I do?!?! Uh, lesson plans, putting together literacy centers, reading two books I am considering adding to my classroom library, grading papers...oh, and putting together "Monday Folders" which will actually go out on Tuesday next week due to the Labor Day holiday(try explaining that concept to a bunch of 9 year old boys..uh, Mrs. Barkers..if our Monday Folders go home on Tuesday, then when do we bring them back???)

So here is my week in a nutshell...we actually started instruction this week (Day 5) and got textbooks assigned on Day 7. I am not a fan of teaching from the book, so I actually go a lot accomplished. Our team is still making some modifications to our schedule and the lesson plan template we are all going to use (each team member writes plans for the entire team- for one content area).

I actually held our "Morning Meeting" 4 of the 5 days and the day we were not able to fit it in, my boys asked for it (GREAT SIGN).

I have begun to figure out the personalities of each of my boys and have figured out what roles they will play in the classroom this year. I have one boy "J" who doesn't play well with others"...he has been a challenge this week but I already have him on a behavior plan (yeah me!!) I have a few who are just plain clueless, a cryer, and one who told me he didn't have to respect me, I was just his teacher ( a note home with calls from BOTH Mom and Dad solved that one...and he gave me a hug Friday and told me he was sorry)

The highlight of my week was having my boys begging me to keep reading (HUGE...because it was time for us to go to lunch and they wanted more Treasure Island). I have been doing tons of reading this summer...lots of Boy Books...and I just finished reading the book "Reading Don't Fix No Chevys". next up...Ralph's Fletcher's "Boy Writers- Reclaiming Their Voice" I know from all the research that 4th grade is SUCH an important year for boys when it comes to reading..if they are struggling to read fluently by 4th grade and we don't fix it...this will greatly impact their future, and there is a greater chance they will drop out once they reach HS. This is my MISSION this instill in these 13 boys a love of reading and writing.

I am saddened to hear a few of my colleagues who are also teaching all boys say they won't do it again next year. Trust me, I have wondered out loud why I said "YES" when they asked me to do this. Some days are better than others but it is only the
9th day of school for crying out loud!!!

I became a teacher to make a difference, and right now..this is the first step.

PLEASE...leave me a comment, tell your teacher friends about this I am off to grade papers!!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The One Where I Come Home Exhausted Every Night...

okay, so it was a short week that felt like three weeks. Maybe I am just too old for this!! We started back to school on Tuesday and I went to be at 8:30 Tuesday night (after 2 beers, mind you!) Wednesday, ditto, early to bed. Thursday, you guessed it. Here is is Friday (night) and I should be relaxing but all I can think of is all the work I need to do to get ready for next week.
I do have an interesting class...all boys...13 of them. I know, I shouldn complain when I read blogs from teachers who have 30 kids. My roster started out with 15. One dropped out (not out of school, just our of my class--Mama didn't want him in an all boys class), and two never showed...I guess they took their business elsewhere.

All I can say is that it is going to be an interesting year...most of the boys are good, well they are all good kids, but a few of them will be providing me with some patience training, and if I end the school year with the tip of my tongue and my sanity, it will have been a good year.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The One Where I Am On The Countdown.... three days my young men will return for what will hopefully be a great 4th grade year. Ha!! Who am I kidding, when the bell rings on Tuesday morning I will be staring down 16 9-year-olds who would rather be ANYWHERE than in a school building. As cynical as I am, I am also excited about this year. Maybe it is the thrill of the unknown...who knows.

I did get to meet a few of my little darlings and their parents on Thursday night during "Meet the Teacher." Since this Single Gender program is new to our school this year, I was not sure how receptive these parents were going to be to having their son in an all boys class. Surprisingly, many of the parents I talked to had requested it (and after meeting their boys, I know why).

So this weekend I will drive myself crazy wondering if my room ir ready, if my papers are in order, and the dreaded "What am I going to do with them on the first day!!!" Our school promotes textbook-free week the first week to develop comunities within the classroom, learn (or re-learn) the procedures of the school, classroom, etc. So this will fill some of the time...but I think we are going to do some brainstorming about things we want to do this year.

And I am excited....only 68 more hours!!! Hooray!!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The One Where I Realize I Have to Go Back to Work In One Week!!!

Yes, you read that right sports fans...summer is officially over. Well almost. I have to be back to work next Monday. I am actually going in later this week to survey the disaster that is my classroom. When I last left it, the furniture was all askew as they had just finished stripping & waxing the floors.

Maybe the Classroom Fairy will visit and reorganize my files, set up my gradebook and do my bulletin boards.....not likely!

T-Minus 15 days till the young gentlemen return.

Until next time.......

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The one where I start my new blog.....

If you are a fan of the show "Friends" like I am ("how you doin"-Joey Tribiani) will "get" my post titles. If you're not...maybe you will....let me explain:
You see, each episode of this sitcom has a title that started with "The One...." such as "The One with Two Parties" or "The One After the Superbowl'' You get it now, right?

So the posts on my blog...sure to have quite a following, will follow a similar format (gee, wonder if that title-thingy is copyright-protected?)

Anyway..follow along as I chronicle my crazy, exciting year, with a classroom full of 9 year old boys....and don't worry, the names will be changed to protect..well my job.... I mean the innocent (and not so innocent!!)

I promise lots of laughs, maybe a tear or two (mine), and a lot of fun!!! Join me won't you....