Sunday, February 28, 2010

#28-- I did it!!! a whole month of posts.....

Wow, when I started this challenge 28 days ago I was not sure I could do it. When would I find the time? Would I find topics worth blogging about? Well I made it..and I think it turned out pretty well. Only one day, when I was really having some severe back pain, did I skip, but I made up for it the next day! And I have to was fun. Especially logging on each day to see if I had new followers or any comments. Speaking of both, I am going to draw the winner of my contest tomorrow. I will post the winner Tuesday morning!! There is still time..if you have not left a comment...leave one by midnight tonight and I will include you in the drawing.

So what am I going to do now?? Well, I am not going to make any promises, but I am going to try and continue to blog 2-3 times a week. I am sure there will be lots to write about with testing coming up...and as the end of the year approaches, and all the fun that comes with that. I am excited that I am taking this summer off from teaching (I have taught summer school the last 2 years!)...I am taking some classes, and will be trying to organize things for next year. Oh, and there is that grant I said I wanted to write.

I am still not sure if I am going to loop with my current class to 4th grade..but that is my plan. I hope that it all works out. I know I will lose a few students and gain a few but I am looking forward to keeping the core group of boys. If not, I will start with a new group if boys. Either way, the adventure will continue and so will this blog.

I LOVE reading everyone's comments and I have tried to reply to most, and will continue to do so. I would also like to have a few guest blogs in the coming months so any of you teacher friends of mine who ware interested in being a guest blogger...let me know.

Thanks friends, old and new, for reading. Continue to, and feel free to suggest topics you would like for me to cover. I am happy to oblige. And who knows, I may try another one of these challenges in the coming months.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

#27- Let's just fire all the teachers....

Hold on---I am jumping on THIS bandwagon......
It seems like everyone is talking about the firing of an entire staff at a Rhode Island high school. I watched the coverage on the news and have read quite a few articles on this particular incident. I know that school systems "clean house" from time to time. In fact I remember reading this article in the Washington Post last summer about the firing of 250 teachers by Chancellor Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C. But never before do I remember an entire staff of a school being terminated. As I read these articles and posts on other blogs I see that it is not just an issue of a poor performing of the options (aside from being fired) was to require these teachers to work extra for little or no extra pay. This is the part that, quite frankly, pisses me off!!

This is what the school district proposed to the teacher's union:
The conditions are adding 25 minutes to the school day, providing tutoring on a rotating schedule before and after school, eating lunch with students once a week, submitting to more rigorous evaluations, attending weekly after-school planning sessions with other teachers and participating in two weeks of training in the summer. (according to the Providence Journal). The union refused. (BTW I am not a fan of unions however, I do think in some cases they do where they protect teachers RIGHTS!)

First of all, I DO realize that the school was failing...horrible graduation rate, low test scores etc. But I refuse to believe that EVERY teacher in that school was ineffective. 50% of the students managed to graduate. You show me a school where 50% of the student body is THAT self-motivated and I'll be waiting with baited breath to see what their next miracle will be...walking on water?

This article says the firing drew praise from parents (and Sec. of Education Arne Duncan....I am not even going there....YET!). So let's talk about these parents...I am assuming they were the parents of the 50% who graduated (or were on the correct path to). Why isn't anyone blaming the parents? Last time I checked, it was part of a parents responsibilities to see that their child got an education. Why aren't they being held accountable? Granted, we can't fire the parents as much as we'd like to ...(this is good, can I get an AMEN!!!) So they know their kids are failing...are they helping them (assisting with homework, getting them a tutor, etc)?

What about the kids? Surely (yes I am calling you Shirley), they should have just as much responsibility in this as the teachers. I have met some apathetic kids in my day and I teach elementary I can imagine the kind of apathy that exists by the time they are in high school.

What this situation really boils down to is money...and I am not talking about money for teachers, believe me. At stake is $13 million in federal funding to reform failing schools...the Federal Government (again, our "friend" Arne Duncan). To get the $$$$, schools have to choose one of four paths laid out by the Feds (including mass firings). I read today that the teachers were appealing the firing. We'll have to stay tuned and see how this turns out. I hope that they can find a way to keep these teachers and still make the necessary changes to turn the school around academically.

I can't help but take these situations personally because I can't for the life of me realize why some people in this country (and in our government) do not value the job that I, and millions of other teachers do everyday,....for very little money. And yes, I could throw in the cliche that we don't do this job for the reality we do in fact do it for the money we need to live, but more importantly we do if for the kids so they can live out the hopes and dreams we have instilled in them. And if that is wrong, oh well, then FIRE ME!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

#26- WANTED: More parents like this.....

This one is gonna be on the short is late Friday night. I just got home after leaving my house 15.5 hours ago. I picked up Chik-Fil-A biscuits for the PTA biscuit sale at 6:30am, helped sell them until a quarter to 8, taught all day, rushed home, picked up my little guy, headed to the National Guard Armory, help set up for his Cub Scout Blue & Gold Banquet, attended the banquet, helped clean up , and now I am home, and ready for the craziness to start all over again tomorrow morning with a 6am wake-up, in order to head to Clemson University for Clemson Day with Scouts.

What a crazy week it has been. Rumor has it all the kids were crazy this week...acting out, lots of referrals, just crazy. It certainly can't be spring fever because we are still in the 30s and 40s here in the Upstate, where is usually a balmy 55 or 60 degrees this time of year. Can you say HURRY UP Spring Break??!!??

I need some shut-eye but before I go I wanted to share one brief bit of wonderful that happened in my class today. Remember my little friend who got caught with the Pokemon cards in class yesterday, and decided to yell at moi because he was angry/frustrated/terrified of getting in trouble? Well his mama must have done a number on his backside yesterday evening. Little friend came in to class today full of remorse. He was so sly about it too....he waited until I went to the back of the room by myself to retrieve something and he came back and said "Mrs. B I am so sorry about the way I acted yesterday. I was wrong to yell at you and it won't ever happen again." I gave him a little hug and said you know Mr. G, what you did yesterday broke my heart because that is just NOT like you to get in trouble. You are one of my shining stars." And then I thanked him for his apology and told him I would accept it.

A few minutes later I was checking agendas and found a note from my little friend's mama telling me to call her if he did not apologize today. She said that she told him he needed to be a man and take responsibility for his bad choice, and apologize to me for both his decision to play with the cards in class and to yell at me. She also said she explained to him that men never raise their voices to women, especially not their mama or their teacher. SCORE for little friend's Mama! She ROCKS! But i have know that all along..she had definitely been one of the most supportive parents I have ever had. What I admire most is that she is raising her sons (little friend has a 4 year old brother) to be responsible, respectful young men! Wish all my student's parents were like that!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

#25....I am not YELLING!!! I am talking loud...

Okay, I am not going full tilt-vent tonight. Mostly because I am afraid to relive the day I had!!

I got yelled at by a parent and a student today. Not fun. The parent...well, I am not even going there. The kid, although it got him in even more trouble with me, did provide me with a bit of comic relief.

Today at (indoor) recess...or as I call it, day 100 of the hostage crisis...two of my little friends were bold enough to pull out Bakugans and some Bakugan and Pokemon cards and thought they were going to play with them. We (as in me) have a very strict NO TOY policy in my classroom and the school has a NO TOY policy at school. I had seen a few of my little friends pull out toys the day before but then I got distracted (ie: overwhelmed) and forgot about it.

So today when I saw the contraband toys, I went over and reminded my little friends that we do not bring toys to school even to play with at recess because someone "forgets" that toys are for recess and decides to play with them during instructional time. I thought I was pretty rational and convincing...they put the toys away and that was that. Until a few hours later when my class was returning from switching with my team teacher for Math/Science instruction. As we lined up in the hall, my teammate informed me that she had taken a stack of Pokemon cards away from one of my students (yes, one who I had talked to about this very thing at recess). I send all of my little friends into the classroom but asked the "guilty party" to remain out int he hallway with me.

Before I even got the first question out of my mouth my little friend starts yelling at me..."they weren't mine..they we ______________'s cards." I calmly (at least in my mind) asked him to lower his voice and asked if the other student put the cards in his hand or in any way forced him to take the cards. Little friend continues to yell at me, "But, but, they were not mine." I (again ) calmly asked my little friend not to yell at me, to which he relied "I am not yelling, I am talking loud!"

I stepped back for a second, speechless. I tried to hide a smirk, and had to turn away as to not show him that I was about to burst our laughing. I wish I could say that my little friend repented and things turned out great for both of us. However, since he broke a rule, defied me and TALKED LOUD to me, little friend went home with a discipline referral (as did the little friend who gave him the cards in Math/Science class).

Maybe I am being a hard @ss...but nobody TALKS LOUDLY to me and gets away with it!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

# 24 You want to write a grant for WHAT??

Has anyone out there ever written a grant? I have never done it, but I really want to write one for yoga balls. Yes, you read that balls. They were all the rage a few years ago. C'mon admit it, you have on stashed away in your closet bought it because it promised you a miracle workout to give you abs of used it for a week then stashed it in your closet with all the other abandoned workout equipment. Oops...I am getting off track.

This post is not about abandoned workout is about the grant I want to write.. FOCUS Mrs. B!! Okay, I'm back!

I first heard about using these yoga balls to replace chairs in classrooms a few years ago. I was at a single-gender training class and one of the teachers said she had them for her students and it really helps them focus and pay attention more. REALLY? I was not convinced. All I could imagine was kids falling off of them and hitting their heads on the hard classroom floor (not that a few of them couldn't use a little bop on the head!!) So I googled it and found out that a lot of schools are doing this. And I found out that there had actually been studies that showed that it helps kids because they can bounce, which is something they can't do on a chair. I think you would definitely have to lay down some ground rules (especially with boys) about how to sit on them, etc. But don't I already have to do that with chairs anyway?

So I just started researching costs, and it looks like these are going to run between 18-25 per yoga ball. Since I have 16 students (and it could go as high as 20 next year), I am looking at an investment of about $500. Let me remind you all that teachers don;t make squat, so I will have to write a gran tot get part or all of the money. I have even considered buying a few to start and using them with my little friends who REALLY have a hard time sitting still. Then I would add more to my class as I could afford it.

I am looking into using a site like Donors Choose. However, I just looked at their website and currently there are several current proposals for yoga balls, and none fully funded. I may still go that route but I am also looking at other organizations offering classroom grants. If any of you know of grants out there or organizations who might be able to help out, email me and let me know.

I think this will be a great addition to our classroom and I think it will really help my boys focus a bit more. I'll keep you all posted on what happens....

PS- My Dream Class book did not arrive today..hopefully tomorrow!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

#23- There is a reason why it's called RETIREMENT!

Warning- I am going to vent a little on this post today...stepping away from my boys for a moment, because quite frankly, they did nothing blog-worthy today. We did go on a field trip to the see a play about Harriet Tubman and they were great. They acted so well-behaved (compared to the little animals that sat down from us who were either hitting each other , playing rock paper scissors or getting up and changing seats--all during the performance.). I was so proud of our entire 3rd grade..they rocked at behaving in public. My boys are SO GETTING a treat tomorrow!!

Now on to aforementioned venting. Okay, so you have taught 20+ years and you decide to retire. WAY TO GO have earned it. Sell your house, buy a condo at the beach, read that stack of books you been accumulating for the last 10 years. Go on a cruise, take up knitting, get a puppy...but PLEASE don't become a substitute teacher..I BEG YOU!! Back the truck up..right, No she didn't just say that!! Yes, I did.

First of all, the kids are way different than when you started teaching 20+ years ago...and you are no spring chicken, so you know you can't honestly say you can keep up with the youth of today. Everything has changed. We do grades on computers now...the kids don;t write on stone tablets....Promethean what? You are just torturing yourself, the kids and the other teachers who have to A) answer your ridiculous questions B) Hear about how the kids have changed (see above) since you were in the classroom C) Hear how long you taught BEFORE you retired (we get it, you taught George Washington, okay!)

Now before all you retired teachers out there start flaming me, let me just add, it is not all retired teachers turned substitutes that I have a problem with...just a few (and my Grove Peeps probably know who this is aimed at!). There are a few great ones and I try to utilize their services whenever I need a sub...its the other group of you I am talking about.

"Why the anger, Mrs. B?", you ask. Today, one of the other teachers on my grade level was out and called in a sub...well not just any sub, we'll call her the notorious Ms. D (her name rhymes with cure-em). On a good day Ms. D is a train-wreck! And today was no exception. In fact, a field trip day is probably the last day you want to have Ms. D as a sub. We were having a team meeting before the field trip and Ms. D barges in and starts ranting about name tags...c'mon, how hard is it to figure out name tags? Then she walks out of the room. We all just sat there shaking our heads. Fortunately, our principal had the best idea- switch teachers for the field trip. So Ms. D stayed behind with a small group of students and one of our resource teachers came on the field trip with us. But, no, the fun doesn't stop there. When we returned, the infamous Ms. D. decided to be a one-woman welcoming committee in the main hallway as we headed back to our classrooms, all the while firing off random questions that everyone pretended not to hear.

Yes, Ms. D needs to hand in her chalk and erasers and head for the nearest Active Adult community. Her glory days are behind her and that is where we would all like them to stay!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

#22- I "heart" my job...really I do ...and NO I am not being sarcastic!

Have I mentioned lately that I LOVE MY JOB and my boys?!? Yes, I was a little miffed at a few of them last week when they misbehaved for the sub, and I am still frustrated that some of my little friends continue to "forget" to complete and/or turn in their homework.

But I can honestly say I love my job!! I get to be a kid again every day with a great group of boys who are evolving into great young men before my eyes. I look at them and I see the future...and yes, I realize than many of them will continue to struggle academically. They also have many obstacles in their personal lives to overcome. But, I am so lucky to have these boys in my life. They keep me young. And they are so full of life, and excitement and energy.

Let me share a little bit about what I got to experience today. First, let me start out by saying that Mondays are always a little crazy. Throw the fact that our related arts time got changed today into the mix and we were waaaay off schedule today. But my little friends took it in fact I think they were a little too happy that they got rid of me for 45 minutes right off the bat today when I took them to Art. When I came to pick them up, they were so excited to show me the pencil drawings they had worked on. And I will admit, I had a hard time identifying what some of the things they had drawn were ("Oh, that's a cat wearing sneakers. Yes, I see that!"). But they were so proud of their work and I was proud of them!!

Next we headed back up stairs to have a quick morning meeting before it was time to switch classes (they go to another teacher for Math & Science, and that teacher's class comes to me for ELA and Social Studies). We started out our morning meeting in typical fashion..greeting each other with handshakes and "Good Morning Mr.___________." Then, since it was Monday, it was sharing time....where we all got to share about what we had done over the weekend. I love this time because it gives me a glimpse into their lives when they are not with me. So I shared about the stray dog that had wandered into our neighborhood and how my son wanted to keep it, but that our dog Ella was so jealous, she would not have liked a intruder staying with us. They love to hear my stories (or at least they humor me and say they do!), and many of them know Noah from when he was at our school last year so they like hearing stories about him too.

So we're going around the circle...its funny when one student shares, and several of the other students that follow have stories that are remarkably similar. I chalk that up to the stage they are is not so much jealousy that makes them share a story they hijacked from their classmate..I think it is really just them wanting to have connections to one another. So we humor them...even when the story changes from one child falling off their bike after going over a bike ramp, to the next student who jumped a small canyon over a creek and fell and had to get stitches (which have miraculously healed and dissolved overnight, leaving no trace or scar!!!)

So anyway, back to my today The Sweenster (pretty much the closest thing to the perfect student..if one exists!!) decides to share about his weekend. He was beaming! I thought maybe he had gone to Great Wolf Lodge or the beach for the weekend, or got a new bike or skateboard. NOPE! Guess what he did..he came to school on our PASS Writing class. And he was SO EXCITED about it!! He talked about the fun things they wrote about and how next Saturday they were going to write an entire paper. I could have kissed his little face right there in front of all my little friends. I make a big deal and said "Wow, you are so lucky that you got to do that! Isn't he friends?" Yes, there were a few confused looks and my little friend A-Mac, even had a "What you talking bout Willis" look on his face (I'll have to blog about A-Mac sometime..he's a Naughty Boy but he's coming around to my way of seeing things!!). But for the most part, my little friends looked a little jealous that The Sweenster got to come to school on Saturday to WRITE!! And it was FUN!!!

Later at recess I heard a few of them ask him how he got to come to school on Saturday for PASS Writing. He replied.. "Well you have to be a sort of good, well, okay writer, and you have to be willing to try hard so you can be a better writer for the PASS. Oh, and you have to give up playing video games and watching cartoons for 3 Saturday mornings. But its just 3 Saturdays and you'll have like a bazillion more before you die."

AGAIN..I could have kissed his little face right there in front of all my little friends.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

#21- I am SO BUYING this book!!!

I was perusing a few education blogs this afternoon (yes, I do read other blogs!! They are great ways to get ideas) and came across one that advertised this book. The title, Dream Class- How to Transform Any Group of Students into the Class You've Always Wanted, caught my eye right away. I mean, c'mon, ANY GROUP, ALWAYS WANTED...those are some big guns there!!

I immediately began reading review after review of this book...and then headed over to Amazon for a little sneaky-sneak!! Wow! Could it be true...or is it another flash-in-the pan educational theory...or worse yet, a GIMMICK to sell books? Well I am not going to waste any more time pondering that..I just jumped right in with both feet, and ordered it.... AND paid for 2-day shipping...I am so cheap I NEVER pay for 2 day you know I gotta be really excited about this book.

Now you know I am going to read it from cover to cover and give it a review right here on the blog, but in the mean time, let me share a little bit about what is in the book (a la bullet format)

According to the Author's is some of what you’ll learn…
if you buy AND read the book of course.

  • The single most important trait all great teachers share.

  • How to build leverage with your students so they’ll want to behave.

  • Exactly (step-by-step) how to transform a difficult student.

  • How to create a memory map for your students so they’ll know exactly what to do and how to do it well during every minute of the school day.

  • How to eliminate the distractions that cause misbehavior.

  • How to build influential relationships with your students.

  • Why a certain segment of students (40%) require learning strategies most teachers are unaware of.

  • How to give praise that inspires, uplifts, and motivates.

  • How to get your students do exactly what you tell them to do.

  • How to raise test scores dramatically without teaching to the test.

  • The single most effective teaching strategy.

  • How to develop mature, independent students.

  • How to get students to take responsibility.

  • How to lower your stress and get more enjoyment out of teaching.

  • How to improve learning, retention, and performance.

  • How to build confidence and academic self-esteem.

  • How to reduce tattling to almost zero.

  • How to strengthen your authority.

  • The one thing every teacher should do to get students to love school.

  • Why most teachers rely on strategies and techniques that actually increase bad behavior.

  • How to dramatically increase parent involvement.

  • A simple change that will improve student behavior immediately.

  • Why most teachers are undermining their own success.

  • How to be a teacher that fellow teachers, parents, and students respect and admire

Wow, that seems like a magic potion or silver bullet of some sort...and there is really only one way to find out if it will work. Yes, I am going to read the book, try what it says to do and see if any of it works. I hope I am not disappointed!! It does say it has a 100% money back guarantee...and don;t you worry...if it don't work..I will be getting my money back!!!

DISCLAIMER- I am not being encouraged, paid, coerced, bribed, threatened or otherwise influenced to promote this book. I am doing it of my own freewill and curiosity.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

#19 & 20- The DOG ate my homework....

Sorry friends...I could not post yesterday because I was truly in a lot of pain....I have done something to my back...either it is from doing reverse butterfly exercises in Kim's Class of Pain on Tuesday or getting a little crazy on the drums playing Wii Rock Band with Noah earlier in the week (I can rock out on the drums..just for the record). So that is my excuse....which is the perfect segue way to my topic for today's post, which will be extra long (not) since it is two posts combined!! And by the way, I looked up the word segue way here and it still doesn't look right!!

Anyway...on any given day one of my little friends comes to school without his homework completed. So let's chat about this shall we.....this conversation is either going to go swimmingly, or it will end badly...let's proceed and see what happens.

As teachers (and parents) this is a topic that brings a range of, hate, anger, tears, joy, name it...we see it.

Let me take you down the teacher path first. I want out start out by dispelling the myth that giving homework is a time-honored tradition, and that is why teachers give it. Let's face it, we have all had to do our share of homework in our educational years...and even out in the "real world" of jobs/careers...there is still homework..they just call it something different. When I worked out in the corporate world they like to wrap it up in "this client really needs this report tomorrow" or "we are facing a tight deadline and we really need these numbers for tomorrow morning's meeting" paper. Even when I owned and ran my own business, there were always last minute orders that you had no choice to take, because you needed the business or the client would go elsewhere, so it meant a last minute rush out for supplies and a late night!

But back to homework in the school setting. The real purpose is to allow kids to practice skills they are taught in school...pure and simple. The reality is, that the school day only contains so many hours to introduce a concept, with limited practice. So the real practice has to take place at home, which is where homework comes in. On a typical night, I give my students about 45min-1 hour worth of homework, not including the 30 minutes of required reading nightly. It seems reasonable to me, but many may disagree that 90 minutes (with 1/3 of that being reading) is too much for a 9 year old. And I do understand that with multiple children in a family, that can lead to several hours a night being spent on homework. I only have one child, and he is very self motivated, so aside from monitoring his reading minutes, I only have to check over homework to make sure it is complete and correct.

Herein lies the issue with homework that I have as a teacher...many of my students do no complete and turn in homework. I know I posted about this already this month but it really is hot button with me. Everyday I check homework, and everyday there are several of my little friends who do no complete and turn it in. When I ask them where it is and why they did not turn it into me, I get a myriad of excuses. Everything from "I forgot," "or "I left it at home" or my favorite "I don't know (how can you NOT know where your homework either did it or not..C'mon people!!! Can I get an AMEN???) The one that gets my blood boiling (yes, I know I am taking this WAY too personally) is when they just give me the blank stare or shrug their shoulders. I think the reason this last response gets me so worked up is because I grew up in a house where if you were asked a question by an adult, you answered. No answer, or shrugging your shoulders was not acceptable. UPDATE: Another issue for another post...but another thing that gets me even more worked up is when they complete their homework, but fail TO PUT THEIR NAME ON IT.....yes, I can usually figure out who it belongs to by the handwriting....but c'mon..why do all the work, then forget to put your name on it so you can receive credit for said work? I have gotten to the point where if it comes in with no name on it, it goes in the trash...I know that sounds harsh. But I'll post about this later and you can all FLAME me then!!!

So what should the consequence be?? I usually have them complete any missed homework at recess. But since we only have 15 minutes of recess time, rarely do they complete it during that time. So I ask them to take it home and complete it and return it tomorrow (along with their new homework for that night)...and guess still doesn't come back the next day. It is a vicious cycle.

I have talked to other teachers in my building and they face the same dilemma. Many of them have given up the battle. Other say that in the scheme of things in these kid's troubled home life, homework is the least of their worries. And I get that, really I do. I know the kind of chaos these kids live in. Many of them say they did not have paper or pencil at home to complete their which I reply, "then take it home with you from school." (there is always a box of pencils and loose leaf paper on the table in my classroom for them to freely use). But the pragmatic side of me says that my job is to teach them responsibility. I found myself telling a kid "If you grow up and you become a carpenter, and someone hires you to fix their house. Will they accept the excuse that you did not have a hammer and nails to complete the job they asked you to do? Will they still pay you even though you did not complete the job?" I want them to see that when they grow up they have to take responsibility, despite their circumstances. I truly believe there is a correlation to school and the real world. If we make excuse for them all their lives, will they grow up and be productive members of society?

I guess homework is just one of those issues, that as a teacher, I am always going to struggle with. I hope that I am not being too legalistic with it..but I feel strongly that it has a purpose and that my little friends need to do it...and that hopefully one of them will grow up, become the CEO of a major corporation, and secretly thank me for making him do his homework, because it made him the man he is today (okay I will stop dreaming...because my nightmare would be to be mentioned at a parole hearing....."Well the reason I committed this crime was because in 3rd grade....well, it all started with homework...")

Thursday, February 18, 2010

#18- Note to self...NEVER take a day off....

It is 8:20pm and I just got home! So let me whine a little bit to you about my day! Let me start by saying I took a sick day yesterday. Not because I was sick (although I seemed to have pulled some kind of muscle in my back and I am having a hard time breathing)...but I had a sick child. As parents, we use our sick days not on ourselves but on our children and their various doctor and dentist appointments. Anyway, but to the point....

So I had a substitute while I was out....and we all know what happens when there is a sub!! It was like throwing chum to the sharks and my boys knew it. They misbehaved like nobody's business. I walked in this morning to a disaster of papers and notes on my desk, including a 4- pager from the sub outlining the various offenses my little friends had committed in my absence yesterday.

So we had a "come to Jesus" meeting right off the bat. Of course to hear them tell it, none of them did anything wrong.Yes, little friend, WE ARE allowed to hit the person walking in front of us in line in the head repeatedly. Oh, and yes, little friend, WE ARE allowed to drum on our desk while everyone else is reading in their Social Studies book, its OK because you were BORED!!! And by all means, little friends, it is ABSOLUTELY okay to NOT sit in your assigned seat, because the sub doesn't know where you are actually supposed to sit (too bad a resource teacher came in and BUSTED you, and ratted you out to the sub!!) And yes, little friend, it certainly IS OKAY for you to call another little friend the MF word because he took your pencil without asking. IT IS ALL OKAY, because your teacher is not here today, and it is 100% OKAY to treat the sub with disrespect....but tomorrow is another day. And your teacher is BACK...and she is writing half-sheet referrals and calling home.

Yes, today I spent an hour and a half after school calling parents to A) inform them of their child's behavior referral that I stapled in their agenda that may or may not have made it home B) that their child was failing one or more subjects and progress reports were going home on Friday or BOTH!!

But I have to give a shout out the the six of my little friends (Blondie, Mr. D, Mr. V, G-Man, The Sweenster, and Camo)...they brought their A-game yesterday, like they do everyday...kept their noses clean, did their work, helped out the sub. For that they will be treated to Rice Krispie treats (store bought of course) and will be dining in "The Cafe" tomorrow for lunch! These little friends are my shining stars....always!!

So anyway, after that glorious 90 minutes of phone calls this afternoon, I had to rush across town to pick up my own child, hit the drive thru at McDonald's to feed him, and rush back to school so I could present at a PTA meeting, help out with Math Night, and then help serve a hot dog supper to our students and their parents.

Yes, it has been a long day. A REALLY long day!! But tomorrow is Friday. And progress reports go home. So, between progress reports and behavior referrals, some of my little friends are going to have a VERY long weekend at home with their parents!!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

#17- Looking Back

Okay, so a few days ago I was looking forward (as in next year), so today I am looking back. Inspired by Ms. Mimi's post from yesterday I am going to relive my first year of teaching. Well, not exactly. I am going to actually relive my second year of teaching, because compared to my 2nd year, my 1st year was a walk in the park.

Well, here comes the obligatory 1st year really was not a walk in the park. But for a 1st year I can honestly say I was in the best place with the best administrator and colleagues...I could not have asked to be better supported. And I still think I had an advantage going in that your average 22 year old, fresh from college 1st year teacher did not have...I had the experience of being a parent. And with that comes wisdom, gray hair and the ability to pick your battles. Yeah, I was still overwhelmed (and underpaid-nuf said!). But I had people to help me when I asked, some decent parents who supported what I was trying to do, and a great principal.

Fast forward to year 2! I survived year one and was getting a little cocky. Plus I was on top of the world because I was going to have an all boy class this year, I was more comfortable with the curriculum because I had already taught it once through (yay ME!!) and had survived standardized testing! I had taught summer school and had even taught some of the boys I would have in class that year. I was ready to take on the world...or so I thought. However, I was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster my little friends and I were about to board.

Our school was already reeling from the brutal murder of one of our 2nd grade students over the summer. So the school year started out under a dark cloud. Then about 4 weeks into the school year, the father of one of my boys was murdered. You see we all think we are signing up to teach--you know reading, math, science, et al...but as teachers we are more than just teachers. We are parents, counselors, disciplinarians, coaches, and sometimes judge and jury. As I tried to help this child maneuver the "new normal" in his life, following the death of his father, I found myself maneuvering a new normal myself. Did I really sign on for this. And it didn't stop there. I had a little friend who had extreme anger issues, another who wanted to hurt himself, another who no matter what I did, his Momma called me out on it. Everything from asking him to pay attention rather than play in his desk to requiring him to actually do his homework.

But we weathered those storms, (thanks to the help of our fabulous school mental health counselor..shout out to Ms. Katie!!) and established a routine....Christmas break was right around the corner....and then IT happened. We got a new student! So what, you say, it happens. Well yes, you are right. In fact we had gotten several new students already that year. But this one, he was different. I could tell on day 1. He was a Naughty boy (to coin, i.e., steal Ms. Mimi's phrase).

He turned our classroom upside down in a matter of days and continued to do so for the remainder of the year. I should have taken it as a bad omen when he got suspended, for defiance, and interrupting class, the first week we was with us. I did everything I could to return our class to normal, despite this new little friend's intentions. I separated him. He still bothered people. I even put him in a cardboard box (okay, let me explain, it was actually a cardboard study carrel that went on top of his desk). He drilled holes in it with his pencil ...when he wasn't throwing his pencil, drew on it, ripped it. I moved him to the back of the room , he bothered people. I moved him to the front of the room, he bothered people. He stole things, lied, cheated, threw things, yelled, pick up things and threatened to throw them, ran away (well down the hall)....all of this and more.

So how did I handle him? Honestly, I didn't! Not very well. This kid got under my skin. He knew what buttons to push. And despite being a parent, I was first and foremost an inexperienced teacher. I had him removed from my room, he came back. I threatened to call his parents, they could have cared less (and so did he). I ignored him, he acted out even more. I raised my voice (okay, I yelled) and he yelled louder.

As a teacher, you never want to say out loud where you think this kid is headed in life, but I did. Yes, I made mistakes...lots of them. I was ill-equipped to handle this child and his magnitude of issues and problems. So I just survived and counted the days until the end of the year. And a few days before the end of the year, for an incident that pales in comparison to the other stunts he pulled all year, he got suspended for the remainder of the year. What did he do, you ask? He threw a pencil at me. Why, you ask?..because I asked him to take his spelling test.

Despite the fact that he threatened, he yelled, he ran, he stole (including over $50 worth of stuff from our school book fair)....he got suspended for throwing a pencil. At me! Even though it didn't hit me (I had gotten pretty good at ducking at that point in the year)....I could have cared less if it had. He was gone and that meant we could enjoy the last few days of the school year in peace, like we had before our naughty boy arrived.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

# 16- Panic is starting to set in....or how Mad Libs saved the day!!

One month, or exactly 4 weeks from today my 3rd grade students will take the PASS (Palmetto Assessment of State Standards) test. For two days in March they will take the writing portion, and then in May the remainder of the content area tests (reading, math, science and social studies) will be given.

I have known since August that this date was looming. We have been writing our little hearts out...editing and revising and even publishing at least once every two weeks. Quite frankly, my little friends are a little burned out on writing. But since the test is 4 weeks away...I have to keep reinforcing the writing process, grammar, spelling, punctuation, great topic sentences an staying on task.

Today, I was just not ready to start a new piece of writing. I was also not ready to do any more editing/proofing practice. And I could sense that my little friends were not either. SO I reached into my back of tricks so that we could honestly say we were working on something that would help us prepare for said upcoming writing test. I decided we were going to do some Mad remember Mad Libs don't you? I remember as a kid, whenever we went on a car trip, my Mom always bought a pack or two of these to keep us occupied in the car. And at the school book fair, I always bought some. To this day, I owe my amazing use of adverbs and adjectives, singular and plural nouns to Mad Libs.

Well, to be fair to the Mad Lib people, we really did not do real Mad Libs...we did these....called Wacky Web tales. The cool thing about these, vs. Mad Libs is that the Wacky Web tales website does not show you the story with the fill in the blanks like Mad Libs. What you get is a list of types of words, such as clothing (singular), or present tense verb. You fill in the blanks without seeing the story, so you are not tempted to influence the quality of the end resulting story, like you can (and I did ) with Mad Libs. Then with the click of a button, your story appears with the words you provided. There is even a button for parts of speech help, in case students are stuck and can;t remember what an adjective is or a present tense verb.

The whole class got really into it, shouting out ideas for musical instrument (singular) and verbs ending in -ing. It was great to hear their laughter as we read the story aloud together (ah-ha! snuck in a little reading practice too!). They were practicing reading and writing and didn't even realize it because they were having so much fun!

Here is one of my favorite stories we created together today...
A Crazy Night at the Library
One night something really mean happened at the library. The characters in the stories started hopping from their books!
Harry Potter climbed into Charlotte's Web and started whistling with Wilbur the Pig! Captain Underpants wandered into an encyclopedia and ended up lost in Greenville!
The craziest part was when Percy Jackson wandered into Diary of a Wimpy Kid and said, “Oliver, I don't think we're in South Carolina any more.”
Then Mrs. Case walked in and said, “Wowza!! Everybody back in place!”
The characters burped around the room. Just in time! The students in grade 3 came in to get books for their reports, but it was safe. All the characters were back in the books where they belonged.

Lesson learned...even with pressure from standardized tests looming- I can still make learning interesting and fun and my students don't even realize that this was my intention all along!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

#15- Hooking Boys on Reading

I am a fan of any book that will make my boys head to the school or closest public library in search of a copy. This is the phenomenon that is happening in my classroom right now. As soon as I heard they were making a movie of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief, I decided to grab a copy of the book to do a read aloud in my classroom. I figured many of them would go see the movie, so I decided to use this as a way of introducing them to the series. My boys were hooked by the time I had finished the first chapter. Within a few days, several of them had borrowed or purchased a copy (the whole series is available in paperback at Kmart) and were reading along with me. And by the end of the first week, two of them had finished the book on their own. SCORE!!!

The same thing happened both this year and last year when I read James Patterson's The Dangerous Day's of Daniel X. And this year I read and reviewed the second of series, Daniel X- Watch the Skies. But it is a little intense for my 3rd graders so I didn't read it to them. I do have my copy in the classroom and several have borrowed it.

But good books for boys are not as easy to find, especially books in a series that boys will go back for time and time again. Sure, my boys love the Captain Underpants books and Diary of A Wimpy Kid series. But real books that they can get lost in, are harder to find. So I am always on the lookout for great books to introduce to my boys. Aside from the ones I have already mentioned, I would also recommend several series by Andy Griffiths such a The Day My Butt Went Psycho and Zombie Butts From Uranus. Now, I know what you are thinking....they sound very inappropriate for elementary school boys, but you are wrong---that is who they are written for. They feed right into that boy humor and the boys love them.

And nothing gets me more excited than reading to my boys and seeing them on the edge of their seats waiting for me to read the next page, and the next, and the next. When they actually groan when I say it is time for me to stop reading, I know I have planted a seed in their hearts and minds that will hopefully grow into a love of reading. Sadly, most of my boys were probably not read to as children, like most of us read to our own children. Statistics show that boys are far less likely to pick up a book than girls. And while it has since been proven unfounded, I once read that prisons are built based on the number of boys who are failing reading in the 4th grade. This should make us all very uneasy.

I love reading...I always have. In fact friends often tease me because I am always reading something. Since I became a teacher, I have made it my personal goal to hook kids on show them the places they can visit and explore through a book. This is crucial to helping them become lifelong learners and readers. And it all starts with just the RIGHT book....and they are hooked.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

#14- How do you do it??

I get this question alot when people find out that I teach all boys. It is not that they are asking "How do you survive it", but is it different. I usually give them my pre-packaged spiel, "boys like movement" "my class is loud and active" or "boys want to do, then talk about it later."

That is really not all there is to I thought since tomorrow is a holiday, and I have run low on fodder form my boys for this blog, I will share with you what I know (I am not an expert, but I do play one on TV) about educating boys in a single gender environment. Here is my disclaimer--this is what has worked for ME...take it at face value, and if your school is considering starting a single gender program, email me and I will put you in touch with the gentleman who heads up our program in the State of South Carolina...our , by the way, have the largest number of single gender classrooms in the country.

  • Movement- if you are not moving, they will create movement. They think better when they are moving. Some classes have even written grants for yoga balls for the boys to sit on rather than chairs. I have not gotten that brave yet....maybe next year.

  • Be Brief- the fewer words, the better, when it comes to instruction. Those of us who are married know that men tune you out after about 3 minutes. But be clear and to the point (even consider writing instructions on the board rather than give them orally)

  • Speak loudly- boys hearing is not as well developed as girls so if you are soft spoken, they are going to miss a lot of what you are saying. I don't mean that you have to shout or yell, but speak in a louder voice to be sure that they hear you.

  • When you are talking, especially when giving instructions, pause, and make sure they understand. You may need to stop every few minutes and ask them to summarize what you have said.

  • Wait a few extra seconds when asking boys to answer a questions. They need the extra think-time.

  • Manipulatives, manipulatives, manipulatives....boys like to do, and they process by doing so give them as much hands on time as possible.

  • Most boys tend to pick non-fiction books to read...make sure your classroom library is well stocked, and rotate the books every few months if possible. Find out what they like to read, and put this books in your class library. This website is a great resource for finding books for reluctant readers. And this blog shares book reviews and ideas for getting the right book in the hands of boy readers.

  • Competition- boys are raised to compete (sports, etc) , and if you make things a competition, you will get buy in from them right away.

  • Be careful when using sports themes, analogies or metaphors. Not all boys are into sports, so you want to avoid stereotyping

  • Call them by their last name, as in Mr. Barker, Mr. Smith, Mr. Williams...this fosters self-respect and raises the level of responsibility in the classroom.

  • Boys are not as good as girls at interpreting non-verbal cues so be careful when using facial expression or signals as non-verbals cues to re-direct them when they are off task.

  • If possible, use tables rather than desks in your classroom. Boys need room to spread out, and a desk does not provide that.

  • Boys like to memorize facts so use this to your advantage (dates, names multiplication facts)

  • Boys can't multi-task effectively so allow them to finish one task ("get out your math book) before starting another (turn to page 24)..wait until the majority of the class has completed task # 1 before giving the information for task # 2.

  • Make learning fun---your boys will thank you for it!!

Oh, and that isn't really me in the picture, haha!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

#13- Looking ahead to next year...

I know, this school year is't even over yet. But it is never too early to start planning ahead for next year. It is hard to beleive that we only have 71 days left in this school year. It is even harder to believe that PASS testing begins in 4 weeks (our state standardized tests)--at least its just the writing part for now.

Contracts for next year are coming out soon so I have been looking ahead to next school year and trying to decide what I want to do. Here are my choices: A) loop up to 4th grade with my current class or B) stay in 3rd grade with a new class of boys. Both have their advantages.

Since I taught 4th grade the past two years, I am comfortable with the curriculum. And I do LOVE my current group of boys! If I looped with them we would already have rules and routines established (just need to do a refresher at the beginning of the year, and bring along side the new studetns to our class). Many of the kids and parents have already asked me if I would consider doing it. And of course I would love to be back teaching with my best buddy, Beth!

On the flip side, this was my first year teaching 3rd grade, and I LOVE my 3rd grade team. I would also like to have another year of teaching the 3rd grade curriculum under my belt. I know that my little friends coming up from 2nd grade are going to be a challenge...but I have never been one to back down from a challenge!!

I have a lot to think about, and I am leaning towards looping. But I don't have to make any decisions right now. Either way, it will be fun, either continuing down the road with my current group of boys or starting fresh with a new group. In the meantime...I am starting my countdown to Spring Break (6 weeks and 6 days!!!)

Friday, February 12, 2010

#12 ---I "heart" Valentine's Day!!!

Being a teacher of all boys definitely has its privileges...and this never more evident than on Valentine's Day (or the Friday before!!).

My little friends showed me lots of love today!! I received flowers (tulips AND roses), boxes of chocolates (yes, multiple, including a HUGE Hershey's Kiss), cards (homemade and store-bought), balloons, even a stuffed skunk (as in stuffed ANIMAL, not the taxidermy kind)..still scratching my head at that one, wondering if that student was trying to tell me I stink, my teaching stinks or both!!!

They were so proud of themselves as they came in the classroom this morning, carrying their gifts. One by one, they came to my desk and said "Happy Valentines Day!" and presented me with the gifts they had brought me! Of course I made over each one and gave out lots of hugs! I even felt a little guilty after posting yesterday about the frustration they have been causing me over homework! And while we were not "officially" having a Valentine's Day party, they also brought lots of cards and candy for their friends.

I had a few treats in store for them, so later as we headed to lunch, I grabbed the box of homemade cupcakes I had made for them. They LOVE getting treats at lunch (especially homemade cupcakes and cookies). So we enjoyed our strawberry cupcakes with strawberry icing and sprinkles and went about our day! We would exchange cards and candy right before packing up later in the day.

Last year, when I taught an all boy 4th grade class, they just were not into the whole Valentine thing...I wondered if it was the age...and their concern about how they are perceived by their peers (the whole giving another dude a Valentine card thing must be SO 3rd grade!!) But my 3rd graders genuinely were excited about giving and receiving Valentines today. It brought back wonderful memories of my own elementary school days. You remember, when we all decorated a shoebox like this to collect all the valentines from our classmates. I guess kids don't do that anymore because my son came home today with his all collected in a brown paper lunch sack.

But enough of that trip down memory like all days, I am proud to be the teacher of 16 of the cutest, funniest, sweetest, mischievous, some times aggravating, always motivating 3rd grade boys in all of South Carolina!! Maybe even the whole world.

Yes, I "heart" Valentines Day!! So today, even the runaway hamster got a treat!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

#11- This homework "situation" is driving me crazy!!

Before I start, I really want some feedback from both teachers and parents and teachers who are parents, etc. on this issue....

This is my 3rd year teaching and with each passing year, homework seems to be the one issue that can get my blood boiling very quickly. Not assigning it, not grading it, not going over it, but getting kids to complete it AND turn it in!!!!!

First off, our school system will not allow us to grade homework. I am not really sure what the rationale is behind that policy, but I have been told it has something to do with parents helping kids complete the homework, etc.

So here is my beef...on an average weeknight (Monday-Thursday) I assign 10-15 math problems and a spelling assignment (writing sentences or an editing/proofreading passage). They are also required to read 30 minutes each night. Of the 16 students I have in my homeroom and the 15 in my co-teacher's class (we team teach on our grade level, so I have her kids for ELA and Social Studies), I have at least 6-7 kids each night that do not turn in one or more assignments. Many of these same students also fail to have their reading log signed nightly.

I have tried all kinds of rewards as incentives to get them to turn in their homework. But I seem to have the same core group of repeat offenders and they don't seem to care that their peers who do complete assignments get these rewards and not them. We tried taking away recess, but many of them figure it is less of a hassle to miss 10-15 minutes of recess than it is to complete 45 minutes worth of homework. In addition, I am pulling my hair out keeping track of who owes me work, when it is turned it, etc.

Today I had reached my boiling point so I decided to try a new approach. I called my habitual homework offenders out into the hallway during indoor recess for a little pow-wow. I started off by telling them that I needed their help solving this problem (making them take ownership). They seemed receptive to that. I then asked them what were some of the reasons they did not turn in homework. I got a few mumbles then a few fessed up to the fact that no one was there to check at home to see if they did it, or to help them if they didn't understand the assignment (okay, now we are getting somewhere). I asked them what they thought would be a fair consequence (notice I didn't say PUNISHMENT) for not turning in their homework. Surprisingly they offered up loss of recess, silent lunch and a few others that did not seem like consequences at all.

Then I turned the full-tilt child psychology on them and asked if they thought if you "forgot" your homework, you deserved a 2nd chance...this is where I was going to hook them.. They said "YES" and I said so if you lose recess for forgetting your homework, can we agree that if I give you a 2nd chance, you will complete the homework that night and turn it in the next day? Again, the response was astonishingly "YES!" So then I left the other shoe drop..."So what happens if you don't turn it in the second day?? WHAT..more consequences???? SO I suggested..."Don't you think your parents would want to know if I gave you a 2nd chance and you still didn't complete the work???" Blank stares....finally, a few "Yeah, I guess" and "Sure"...not as much enthusiasm this time around. So I thanked my little friends and sent them back into the classroom.

I then proceeded to call a class meeting so we could get the buy in of the rest of the class. Surprisingly, everyone was in agreement that this was a fair way to handle this is the newest "non-negotiable" in room 226.

No, it is not going to lessen my workload as far as keeping track of who owes me what, and I am certain I am goign to be callign home a few times in the next few weeks, but I think I showed them a little lesson in democracy and hopefully it will motivate them to get that work into me by the 2nd day....I am certain not many of them want that phone call going home about missed homework.

I'll keep you posted on how things work out.....

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

#10- Writers Guild Celebration

One of the challenges I face as a teacher is the fact that my students don't have the same life experiences as some of their peers in other schools here in our county. I teach in a school where 90% of our students live in poverty. Most of these kids don't get fancy birthday parties, vacations to the beach or mountains, they don't go to sports -themed summer camps or have private tutors. As educators we teach the whole child and that means doing whatever it takes to help these children overcome some of the obstacles they face due to being born into poverty. The lack of life experiences is very evident when it comes to their writing. They don't have a lot of background and life experiences to draw on when they are brainstorming ideas to write about. What we try to do is help them take the small moment (a trip to Wal-Mart, an afternoon playing basketball in the neighborhood, a trip to the park) and write about what they do know.

We teach them grammar and punctuation, how to to use an eyeopener, and when they can think of nothing else to write about to end it with "As you can see!"

And on days like today, we celebrate their ability to communicate, to be a storyteller, to tell their story in written form. Today was Writers Guild day and even though this is the second time we have done this, this year, I still get choked up listening to the writing of our students being read aloud at an assembly of their peers and parents. Each teacher on every grade level from kindergarten through 5th grade selects a piece of writing-- one that stands out above the others. Parents are secretly notified so they can attend the assembly, but are encouraged not to tell their child that he or she is being honored so it is a big surprise. Once the writing is read aloud (and by this time the child recognizes their story), the student comes forward, is presented a Writers Guild sash, a certificate and a journal to encourage them to keep writing. The applause from their peers is deafening. There are hugs, high-fives, cheers and tears. It is one of the greatest things I have had the privilege to be a part of as a teacher. And for one moment, we are able to stop and honor these children and celebrate...their story!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

# 9 SHE'S BACK!!!

This morning as I headed into school, I was a little scared/nervous/anxious about whether my little furry friend had returned, or if she was even still alive. Shortly after arriving this morning I ran into Bobby, our building engineer. You have to know Bobby (and some of you do) to truly appreciate this story. You see Bobby is a man of few words but has a wicked sense of humor. He was grinning yesterday morning when I told him my hamster was on the loose. I know this is not the first time he has been called in to located a wayward class pet. And from the look on his face, the outcome is usually not good...

So this morning when I ran into Bobby I told him I was headed up to see if my furry felon had returned. He laughed and said "I found him"--apparently Bobby was confused about the gender of Sweet T! I cautiously asked is she was dead or alive. He grinned and said "Alive!" I almost kissed him, I was so excited. He told me that he had gone in my classroom at about 5am this morning and heard her scurrying around. He started lifting up things and discovered her stash of food that she had carried out of the open cage I left on the floor. And a few minutes later, he discovered her hiding in my bookshelf (see picture below).

Needless to say, my boys were very excited to see that our little escape artist had returned this morning when they arrived at school. I know I am going to have to be extra careful whenever I clean the cage to make sure that I get the lid back on securely...I am thinking about buying an aquarium to put her in, so I can put a brick on the top to keep her from escaping. I really enjoyed reading some of the responses I received on Facebook when I posted about the hamster escaping. The best one was from my friend Mo, who sent me this link.... Enjoy!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

#8- This, boys and girls, is what we call foreshadowing...

If you read this post on Friday, you remember me joking around about whether I remembered to close the lid to the hamster cage before I left on Friday. Note to self: never joke about leaving the lid to the hamster cage open over the weekend!!

Now, let me back up a bit. When I got our little furry friend, a colleague of mine told me that in the winter they turn the heat off in the building and she had a hamster freeze to death last year. So since she shared that little tidbit I have nervously entered my classroom every morning, fearing that out little furry friend would be dead.

So this morning I came into my classroom and immediately went over to the cage. Cr@p! No hamster..where was she. I looked all over the the wheel, under all the shredded paper...everywhere. As I moved the cage around I noticed the top was not securely snapped. Cr@p! When I cleaned the cage on Friday I must not have closed it tightly. She squeezed her little hamster behind through the opening at the top of the cage. As I surveyed the counter, thinking she might be hiding behind something, I noticed a pile of hamster food on the counter. That little fur ball genius, not only escaped, she went back and forth in and out of the cage bringing out food to fuel her little adventure!!

I quickly went across the hall to another classroom to get some help in hunting for our Houdini hamster. We searched my room (the opening under my classroom door is so small, we are figuring there was no way she could slide underneath it to escape. Of course I didn't think she could slip out of the cage either. After searching for about 30 minutes we decided to notify the front office that a rodent was on the loose in the 2 & 3rd grade hall.

A few minutes late our building engineer, Bobby J came in, grinning from ear to ear. Apparently this was funny to him. He poked around, lifted up a few things, but no hamster. Surprisingly, my boys did not notice the furry one was missing until lunch time when they were lining up to go out of the room. S I broke the news to them. Being 8/9 year olds, they are optimistic that she will, not so much. But just in case, I put fresh food and water in her cage, and placed it on the floor with the door open. If she comes to eat, she is going to have to eventually, do you know what, so she will leave a little evidence behind. At least we will know she is still in the classroom somewhere.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

#7- Preparing for the inevitable...Monday morning!!

There is just something about Sunday night that bring joy into the hearts of parents (at least parents who are not teachers) and fear and dread into the hearts of students and teachers. Now tonight is a little special because most parents, a lot of teachers and probably just as many students are preoccupied with some sporting event that is going on tonight...oh year, the Super Bowl.

Since I teach an all by class, and many of them play football on local rec leagues and have dreams of playing in the NFL, I am expecting a bunch of sleepy boys in the morning. That will not phase me..I will be ready with my amazing lesson plans, dreams of molding their young minds and enough enthusiasm for the whole bunch of us. Remember I will have had MANY cups of coffee before my little friends even cross the thresh hold of my classroom.

I am ready for them. And to assure that they don't just tune me out and go back to sleep....I have some sports themed morning work, some Superbowl trivia AND if I can pull it off...some clips of the Superbowl ads from tonight (which is really the only reason I watch this over promoted event between two teams of players who are over paid and have the morals of a .....okay, I will keep it in perspective.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE teaching boys?!?!...they are full of energy, enthusiasm, energy...well you get the point. Yes, they can be a bit rambunctious...but as long are you have control of the room, and you are genuinely showing that you are passionate about their education and want what is best for them, you can have them eating out of your hand.

So tomorrow I go in there, hyped up on coffee, wearing my "Is it Monday Already" hat and ready to rock their world. And they are never going to know what hit them!!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

#6 Allow me to hit the pause button for a moment...

It is almost midnight and in order to fulfil my contractual obligation (okay, there really is no contract ), I have to post every day in February. And since it is almost midnight and I have not posted (not to mention the fact I just got home from a party and had WAY too much wine)..I need to stop procrastinating and post before the clock strikes midnight! The problem is, I am not feeling the creative juices flowing (which is strange, because after drinking the aforementioned wine, you would think they would be!)

So I figured the best thing to post about was reflections of my week. And here it is short and sweet in bullet form...gotta love bullet form when you are trying to pull ideas out of you know where!!!

  • My week started out with a snow day..can it get any better than that?

  • Finished up 2nd round of N & O Math flex groups this week. We rocked fractions...Boo-Yeah!!

  • It is less than 6 weeks until PASS writing and I am starting to freak out a little bit, but I am trying not to let it show to my little friends or they will REALLY freak out!

  • We are reading some great stories and my friends are really getting the reading comprehension skills...they could fill out a story map in their sleep!

  • It is so hard to believe that we are reaching the mid-point of our 3rd 9 weeks grading period. Summer is going to be here before we know it. Yay!!

  • I still get excited when I break out a new pack of dry erase markers...brings back memories of the start of the school year.

  • I am getting better at working on my lesson plans throughout the week so that I am not overwhelmed on the weekend trying to finish them up. I can actually say I have not spent an early Saturday morning writing lesson plans since early January. Yay Me!!

  • I love the fact that I tried some new stuff this week and it worked....especially our new greeting and handshake at morning meeting.

  • And even though I also wanted this week to end with a snow day also, that didn't quite work out in my favor. But I had a great Friday anyway.

And last but not least, I just wanted to mention how blessed I am to work with such an amazing, funny, sweet, smart, kind group of 9 year old boys and the greatest colleagues in the world. You guys ROCK and you know who you are!! Love ya!

Friday, February 5, 2010

#5- Freaky Friday

So, I will admit here in Blogland that I was a wee bit disappointed not to have a snow day today. I know, I know...all we got was rain. But I was hoping the snow and ice fairies would swoop down last night and sprinkle a little magic around and that when my Blackberry alarm went off at 4:45am this morning, and turned on the TV I would see the fabulous words "G_____________ County School -Closed!"

But NO...not even a delay. As I slumped back into my pillow I could hear the pouring rain outside. Well at least I could wear jeans today!! So I decided to put on my Happy it's Friday hat and get my day started.

From the time I left the house, I could tell something was not normal about this day. But not in a bad way. Traffic was not bad (surprising for a rainy day). When I arrived at school and parked, I tried to figure out how I was going to juggle an armload of books , my teacher bag, my coffee AND my umbrella that is so big my entire class could gather under it and not get wet. Before I could formulate a plan, my colleague's middle school teenager appeared and I quickly coaxed him into carrying my books. I would say that I convinced a boy to carry my books but that sounds way creepy!. Score!

Making my way upstairs, I had 13 happy campers waiting for me...two of my boys were absent unfortunately. It was then that I remembered today was "Writing Flex Day." Cr@p!! What was I going to do for 40 minutes with my boys that was writing related (and differentiated by writing ability). I quickly pulled some editing and proof reading practice together. As soon as I began the lesson hands went up. Cr@p AGAIN...they are not getting it, I thought. But they DID! In fact they rocked it. Of course it helps that we have been doing this for homework practically every Wednesday night since the beginning of the year. I decided to reward my little friends with a little tech time on the hand-helds. The hand-helds are these little devices resembling orange cell phones that allow them to interact with moi, the computer, and the Smartboard. SO I pulled out a little multiple choice quiz-thingy and we had a little fun. Again, shocked that this too did not tank my day!!

The rest of the day went swimmingly...with lots of victories to celebrate, including J-man getting a 100% on his spelling test today (he has averaged a 54 all year long). And we had a great discussion about the events leading up to the Civil War including the election of Abraham Lincoln (or as one of my little friends refers to him, that dude with the tall black hat and beard...this friend and I later had a little chat about showing respect and reverence to dead presidents) My little friends didn't even mind when recess was replaced with a chaotic 15 minutes of buddy reading with a 1st grade class (for most boys reading in itself is torture...but reading to a bunch of 1st graders...pure torture). They took it in stride..perhaps because they knew with the monsoon happening outside, we were destined to have indoor recess anyway.

The only blip on the radar of my otherwise freakishly perfect day was when my little friend Mr. L (who resembles the kid Chris from Everybody Hates Chris), got sick at lunch..not at the table, mind you, but in the bathroom. We called Mom, sent him home for a little rest...and went on with our day. I kept pinching myself to make sure I was awake....Fridays are usually crazy (kids --and I are ready for a few days away from each other)...someone usually gets in trouble for breaking a rule for the 112th time, etc. But not so much today...thankfully.

I even got out of work at a reasonable time. It was a great day...we had fun, learned a lot and now its finally the weekend. So I am kind of glad we didn't have a snow day. Who knows if all the stars and planets will align just so ever again for us to have another day like this. But as I replay all the wonderful events of the day..this thought comes to mind. Cr@p!! Did I remember to close the hamster cage before I left today!!!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

#4 Some days I can really relate to Charlie Brown's teacher!!

I know..I know...they are 9 years old and they are boys..but some days I have to repeat myself so many times that I feel like Charlie Brown's know..mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah!!!
Today I could have recorded my voice saying the following: get your pencil out, stop talking, make sure you write your name/number on your paper, stop talking, turn around, stop talking, open your book, stop talking, copy down your homework, stop get the message.
I have tried everything and I am open for suggestions. I have tried writing instructions on the board (they don't read them), waiting until I have every one's attention (this takes FOREVER, and you never truly have every one's attention), giving rewards, giving punishments, trying to not to talk too much or too long (those of us who are married KNOW that men tune you out after about 90 seconds). Nothing seems to work.
After another frustrating day of it I was not sure what I was going to do, short of showing them a clip of Charlie Brown's teacher and asking them if that is what I sound like...but I am not sure my self-esteem can handle it...9 year old boys can be brutally honest. So I did what all good teachers do...I Googled it! And this is what I found....How to Get Elementary Students to Pay Attention There are a few really good ideas in here...oh, and I have tried the circus ticket thing...and it does work for a while but then the novelty wears off (and you go broke buying rewards). I do think I might try the clapping thing or the flashlight idea.....hopefully we'll have some success..I'll be sure to blog about it if we do. In the mean time...enjoy a little clip of Charlie Brown's teacher and think of me!!! Charlie Brown's Teacher Video

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

#3- We're getting what? Goats? Seriously?

Today was Mega-Meeting Wednesday..once a month, I have meetings from 12:30pm until oh, 4ish or later, depending on how long our staff meeting runs. I am the interim PTA President for out school, and on the School Improvement Council so once a month, both groups meet on Wednesday which happens to be the day we have staff meetings. Long day...for sure.

So today, after I had already chaired a PTA meeting and sat though SIC meeting, our Principal announces in our staff meeting that we are getting goats. Yes, you read that right....GOATS!! So, there is a program in our county where they are supplying goats to school ...we're not exactly sure why. And apparently, they're good lawn mowers (and fertilizers) so some time this year we are getting three goats. Of course, being the mature adults that we are on staff, it lead to tons of questions like who is going to milk them, or better yet, clean up after them? These questions continued when laughter and chuckles broke out and the next question was what happens if the kids are out on the playground and the goats get a little frisky (with each other, not the children, mind you)..we are around children all day so it is inevitable that eventually our maturity level takes a hit!!! The conversation took a downward turn from that point, but it sure was a good way to let off some steam after a long day!!

Now I can't wait to share the news of the goats with my boys...if they were excited about the hamster, imagine how excited they are going to be about goats!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

#2- A smile, a handshake and a good morning to you!

Here goes post # 2 for February--so far, so good.

Okay, so I know a few of you are curious about this all boy class thing. Let me start off by saying I love it, and it works for me, and it can be very rewarding IF you have the right mix of personalities. Last year was my first year teaching all boys, and it was a challenge, and not just because it was my first year doing it. This year, it is so much easier, fun and rewarding and by boys are great. They get long for the most part (as well as can be expected for 8 & 9 year old boys). I love them..I really do!! And many of them were together last year in an all boy 2nd grade class. This is where I give a shout out to my friend Lisa G....she trained these boys right, so it makes my life easier.

So not onto the topic I really meant to write about...the excitement of trying out something new and it going well --the thrill of VICTORY (because we all know how it feels when we try something new and are met the agony of DEFEAT!) Over the weekend a colleague of mine sent me this link about morning meeting. For those of you who don't know what morning meeting is, it is a time you gather your class together to have community-building time..sort of like carper or circle time in the lower grades, but with some added extras. So I watched the video and it had some great ideas. One that stood out to me was about starting morning meeting by greeting one another. EUREKA!! Who would have thought????

All my boys arrive at different times in the morning, and I greet them as the come in. Some greet each other informally as they unpack, make their lunch choice or sharpen a pencil. Our class' equivalent of the office water cooler is the pencil me, if you want to put your finger on the pulse of what is going on in your classroom on the bus, around the school, hang out and eavesdrop by the pencil sharpener. Oops, I have gone down a bunny trail....

So I decided to try this today at our morning meeting. So I gathered my friends in a circle at the start of morning meeting and I explained to them what we were going to do. I went first to model it for them. I half expected them to look at me like I was insane, or even for some of them to refuse to participate. But I put on my Enthusiasm Hat, and modeled it by turning to my friend to my right, smiling a big smile, reaching for his hand, shaking it and belting out "Good Morning Mr. Carter*" as loud as I could. In return Mr, Carter turned to Mr. Roberts* and repeated the process. And this went on around our circle until it got back to me. NOTE: I address each of the young men in my class as Mr.___________, rather than their first name. This was recommended int he single gender training I attended , and is supposed to instill a sense of respect for each other and themselves.

I discovered a few thing by doing this exercise: 1) some of my friends don't know each other's first names but they certainly know each other's last names...and most of them know both. 2) they made eye contact with each other as they did this--which tells me they are becoming very confident in doing things like this and 3) they really enjoyed it!!!

Okay, what shall I do with my little guinea pigs tomorrow.....????

Monday, February 1, 2010

Can I do it??? February 28 day Blogchallenge

I have been inspired by Ms. Mimi who blogged every single day last month. SO I am going to try it..I am going to try and blog everyday in February. Heck there are only 28 days (right? right!). I can't promise that they will be fantastic and exciting posts every day..but we'll see!!

To encourage me...I would like to get some more people following me. So sign up on blogger (or if are already a member) and then sign up to follow me and comment at least 5 times (even if it is to day HI. I will do a random drawing on March 1st of all those new followers. And the winner will get.....well you will just have to sign up, comment 5 times and wait and see. It will be go tell your friends!!

#1 Snow Day? Seriously?

Okay, so we got a little snow (well, ice) here in the South over the weekend. Not nearly as much as the weather guy said we would. I want his/her job. Where else can you be wrong 90% of the time and still keep your job? Heck, my boys call me out if I call one of them by the wrong name. To which I wittily reply, "Hey, I have to remember all your names, you only have to remember mine!" Okay, there I go down a bunny trail...back to the snow.

So the weekend progresses, the temps rise yesterday, I finish grading every last paper for Monday. Plans are done...yada, yada. My phone rings at about 5pm and it is M, my next door neighbor at school. She is eager to inform me that we have the day off today. WHAT? There is not a flake of snow left in my yard...even the streets are clear. Meanwhile, my 9 year old and his friend are eavesdropping from the playroom (they really can hear you even when they are playing wii, and the volume is on 11--but only when it involves a day off from school).

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I thank M (well, after we chatted for a while about how ridiculous a snow day is/and wondering when we'll have to make it up)..hang up and then call my actual neighbor-neighbors who are also teachers and let them all know there is no school today. I can hear their kids doing the happy dance in the background.

After that I decide to hop on the computer and verify (now that I have let the cat out of the bag) that we do in fact have a SNOW DAY today through official channels and look up the employee calendar to determine when we will have to make this day off up. I am happily surprised to see it won't be until May. Happy now, I'll be complaining later when we actually have to make it up. Then I head over to Facebook to spill the beans to my teacher friends on Facebook (most of whom have already heard) ..and reply to a few dozen posts about how ridiculous a snow day is, how we plan to enjoy it, and discussions about when we have to make the day up. Then I just sit back and relax in the reality that I can sleep in on a non-holiday Monday--- SWEEEEEET!

Oops- speaking of sweet...wonder if SWEET-T our class hamster has enough food to last until Tuesday! Guess I'll find out in the morning.