July 31, 2009

letter to my teacher

Last week, I was talking with another teacher friend, Mme H. (prof de francais excellente!), about whether or not, when we think back to our years of school, we have that one teacher that stands out as the one who inspired us to teach, or the one that changed our lives. While I would have liked to tell her about that special teacher, I couldn't think of one. Neither could Mme H. I have had wonderful teachers in school, but the ones who have impacted me most definitely came in college. However, tonight I realized that, although she did not inspire me to teach, I was lucky enough to know one special teacher from ages 7-18, and this teacher did change my life. She was my piano teacher, Mrs. N. I was planning on writing a blog here about how special she was to me, but I think I'd rather write it as though it is a letter to her.

Dear Mrs. N.,

It's Miss Teacher, your former piano student. Do you remember me? I wanted to write you this note to tell you some exciting news: I'm going to be a teacher next year! As I've been preparing for the upcoming year, I've found myself musing over some of the great teacher's I've had in my life.

Mrs. N., while you were not my classroom teacher and I didn't see you every day, you are one of the teachers that most touched my life. After studying piano with you for ten years, I have so many vivid memories of my lessons. You made piano fun by helping me pick music I already loved and challenging me with music you knew I was capable of playing. You listened when I was frustrated with a piece. You never cringed when it was bad, but helped me improve. When I absolutely hated a piece of music, you know that sometimes it was okay to let me move on to something different--you understood that not every student needs to play the exact same thing.

Mrs. N., piano lessons with you made me fall absolutely in love with music. Music was such a defining part of my childhood and young adulthood, and I am so grateful to you for helping me develop that love early on. From Billy Joel to Broadway, Debussy to the Disney Princess Collection, you knew that by playing what I loved, I would love playing.

I have so many wonderful memories of the non-music parts of my lessons, too. You always knew when I had something special going on at home or school, and I remember excitedly showing you my pictures from Homecomings and Proms. You knew that sometimes those parts of lessons were as important as working on my music. You did what so many teachers wish they could do, or don't even know that they should: you learned who I was as a student and as a person, both accepted me and challenged me, and showed me that you cared. Mrs. N., I hope that someday I can teach my students the way you taught me. I hope that I can inspire them and share my love for learning with them, as you shared your love for piano with me. And finally, I hope that I can make my students feel as special as you made me feel every week for ten years. I will never be able to thank you enough.

With Respect, Gratitude, and Love,
Miss Teacher

Furniture Moving: Take 3

After attempting to arrange the furniture in my classroom both yesterday and Wednesday (with neither day coming to any even remotely functional arrangement), today my mom and I finally figured out a layout! Thanks, mom, for having the spatial skills and design ideas that my brain lacks! My new setup has a reading corner (or what will be a great place for reading once i bring in a rug and pillows, oh, and the books!), a functional desk area for me, a couple independent work stations, a place to set all my materials when I'm teaching, and a great place to lead reading groups and for group work. I could use another table for group work, although I don't think my odds of getting one are very high...

I feel much calmer now that things are where they belong, and I'm excited to start decorating. So many ideas...Now that the room is arranged, it's already starting to feel more like home. Once it's completely ready, I know that I will be so excited for school to start. But for now I'm still nervous :)

Some pictures of the room (it's so long that I couldn't get it all in one frame!):

The Reading Corner: the angle doesn't do it justice, but it will be fabulous with another bookshelf, my pillows, and my teacher chair. It's right next to my amazing window nook, which will be perfect for curling up with a book. This is right when you walk in the room, across from the door.

Straight back from the reading nook, I have my main desks area and the white board. This is where I'll do most of my teaching. I'm not sure about the desk arrangement, but it's a start!

My Desk: Here's my mom, posing at my desk. Yes, she's holding a tambourine. I love that my desk is by a window now--perfect. This is so much nicer than where it was at first, on the other side of the room in back. Now it's more in the middle/towards the front.

Well, it certainly feels good to have that figured out. Who knows if it'll still be as good once I start teaching, but for now it's a start! Ooh and another exciting thing from today was finding a stack of Spiderman comic books at a rummage sale :) Perfect for my reluctant readers. And only $.10 each!

Now it's time to take a break from thinking about school for the weekend...Next week though is our school planning retreat, followed by me spending the rest of the week in my room, working. Hopefully it's a productive week!

July 29, 2009

words to teach by

I am not a teacher; only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. 
I pointed ahead–ahead of myself as well as of you.
George Bernard Shaw

holy math manipulatives!

I got into my classroom for the first time today! In trying not to overwhelm myself too much, I brought my friend Miss R for support and ideas. I also brought only two tiny crates of supplies, putting off the big hauling of my books as long as possible.

The Good: My room is big! It's bigger than I remembered from when I visited the school in May, and has tons of space. It has two windows that are in little "nook" alcoves that will look awesome with some pillows on the floor and posters--perfect places to read, work independently, or just take a break (or a nap after school if you're me...). I also have every math manipulative imaginable, including a class set of fraction circles! Good thing my mom talked me out of buying the big bucket at Lakeshore for $30! (I also have about 10,000 unifix cubes, not even exaggerating) Miss R and I agreed my room is Math Manipulative Mecca. I have a gigantic white board and plenty of cabinet storage.

The Bad: No bulletin boards. I mean I quite possibly have the only elementary classroom with no bulletin boards. I have two cork "strips" on the wall outside my room, but that's it! If you know me, you know that I pretty much breath arts and crafts, and I have been planning cute bulletin boards in my head pretty much since I decided to be a teacher, so this is a bummer. My room does have two chalk boards in addition to the white board, which I think I'll cover with paper and make a magnet board of sorts... Anyways, I also have a whole bunch of big pieces of furniture for which I can't seem to figure out a functional arrangement...I'm bringing in my mom Friday and crossing my fingers her incredibly high spatial skills will see the room and instantly have a floor plan in mind (complete with accents, decor, and a color scheme. if only I could paint :) )

The Ugly: Huge file cabinets, this really ugly book storage contraption (picture to come) that I can't make sense of, and orangey-brown carpeting.

The Wonderful: It's my real classroom and I'm going to be a real teacher very, very soon!

The Terrifying: See above.

I will post pictures tomorrow :)

Back to School Countdown: 27 Days (yiiiikes!)

July 28, 2009

More on the 32 Third Graders?!

Imagine how excited I was today when I sat down at my computer and saw that I had a message on goodreads.com (a wonderful site for the reading-obsessed) from Phillip Done, author of 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny (see my book review from a few weeks ago). As if it wasn't exciting enough to hear from the author and receive a thank you for the 5-star rating I gave 32 Third Graders on goodreads (rightfully deserved!), Done informed me that he has a new book coming out early this September! It's called Close Enconters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood. I cannot wait to read this, and you can bet I will be ordering it from amazon the day it is released. Check it out in September! And thanks, Phillip Done, for letting me know! ;-)

PS- On a different note, if I get this excited that an author messaged me, perhaps I should have my students write to authors this year... *files idea away in mind amidst a million and a half other "brilliant teaching ideas" and hopes we have time to actually do it*

"darn, that would have been so cool"

My OMG moment from my morning at the gifted program:

Me: So, you're staying for lunch and recess this week?
Second Grade Boy: Yeah, my sister has batman camp everyday at 12 and my mom has to take her there before she can pick me up.
Me: Batman Camp? What does one do at Batman Camp? (confused and intrigued)
SGB: You know, it's a game. With a net and you hit the plastic thing back and forth...
SGB: Yeah!
Me: Is that what you said? Or did you say Batman?
SGB: (smiling) Batman...
Me: Darn, that would have been the BEST CAMP EVER!

oh batman camp...if only

July 24, 2009

difficult parents

Like I said in my last post, I've been working in a gifted enrichment program this summer. needless to say, some of the parents we encounter at this program can be a little...well, interesting. Because my program works with the little kids, we always see a bunch of really young kids who maybe aren't truly gifted or are still developing academically in certain areas and it's more that their parents WANT them to be gifted, so they get them in this program. They still need test scores to back them up, but as far as I have seen, difficult parents can sometimes get their way and get their children in even if they don't exactly meet the criteria.

While giftedness is a wonderful thing and gifted children deserve to be challenged just as much as on-level children, it's always rough to encounter those parents who are already pressuring their children way too much. When did being on-level become unacceptable? It always makes me sad to think about how some children already have so much pressure placed on them before first grade, and I wonder how that will affect them in the long run.

In any case, today I had an encounter with a VERY difficult parent who not only did not believe us when we shared that her child had been behaving innappropriately and disruptively all week, but who also refused to believe her child was struggling in our class. While I strongly believe that we should have high expectations for children and believe the best to be possible in each of them, talking to parents like this one makes me wonder: how many parents are seeing only the child they wish they had and refusing to see the child in front of them?

July 15, 2009

summer with second graders

This week (and the next two) I am working in a summer enrichment program for gifted students. It's always a fun experience and refreshing to work with kids who are excited about learning, but one of the things I really love is the opportunity to work with younger kids than I normally would. I would never want to teach first graders in the regular classroom setting, but working in this mornings-only program for a week at a time with the little ones fills my appetite for cute little kid interaction. I thought I should share a few of the fun things these second graders have said so far this week:

Second Grade Boy during snack time: I would really like a version pina colada right now. Have you ever had one? I love version pina coladas.
Second Grade Girl: Miss Teacher, how old are you?
Me: 22
SGG: Wow, you look 14!
Me, yawning and hiccuping: Oh man, yawning AND hiccups? I really am a mess today!
Second Grade Girl: (looks me up and down) well, you're not completely a mess. You look perfect.
(during a class discussion of the harmful effects of alcohol--don't ask me how we got on this subject)
Second Grade Girl: The moment it touches your lips, you can't tell right from wrong.
Me and Teacher look at each other and attempt to contain our hysterics

I love little kids. Most of the time :)

July 14, 2009

words to teach by

education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.

-william butler yeats

i <3 thrift stores

This afternoon after work I stopped at my friendly neighborhood thrift store to check the children's book section for some new treasures. Of course I got a small stack of new books for my library. You really can't go wrong with 25 cent books! I can't believe that when I first started collecting books I bought them for $5 each! what was i thinking :) Anyways, clearly the thrift store is the way to go. Other exciting purchases of the day included a pretty class vase that I'm going to put a beta fish in (and hopefully some pretty stones and bamboo), a battleship game (yes!), and a pretty cool toy that's like a rubix cube but with sudoku numbers! I already tried it and failed miserably (gave up after about five minutes), but it might be something I can give to a student who finishes a math activity early or something--exercise those brain muscles!

Another exciting activity of the day was visiting my friend Miss R's brand new classroom! Attempting to help her figure out how to arrange all her furniture made me simultaneously so excited to get into my own room (still no word on when I'll be allowed in...) and dreading the thought of coming up with my own floorplan. With my lack of spatial skills, needless to say my mom will probably be instrumental in figuring out how to maximize my space...

Well, school is a little over a month away already and I can't believe how fast the summer is going. Yikes!! So much to do!

July 7, 2009

getting ready for school = $$$

today i visited my friendly lakeshore learning store, and felt like a kid in a candy shop, except most of the candy cost more than i make in an hour (or several) doing autism therapy. yikes! i did find some pretty cool things, like these great magnetic pockets:

i plan to stick em to the board for the kids to turn in their work or for kids to grab the next assignment from when they finish something, and hopefully eliminate at least some of the messy shuffle of paper piles.

i also got some bulletin board borders, name plates, and a staple remover. oh and fell in love with about a hundred other things, especially a big bucket of fraction circles that was way out of my price range. currently searching the internet for a cheaper option...

getting all my things ready for school = expensive. but exciting!

getting ready for school part 1

i told myself that today would be the day i tackle that reading curriculum teacher edition and figure out how to teach this series. i taught language arts during student teaching, of course, but my teacher and i didn't stick whole-heartedly to the district's reading series. we taught some lessons from it, read and worked with the stories, but mostly just got ideas from the series and created our own activities.
well, my district this year wants me to be pretty by the book, so i have to figure out how to make this series work for me. i'm VERY intimidated by the million and a half lessons/activities the series expects me to cram in every week...and put it off even trying to wade through it. last night, i said today would be the day.

so naturally, i decided that this morning (instead of doing the reading stuff), i just HAD to start organizing that gigantic pile of teacher stuff that i've been collecting. i now have five boxes of books with my last name written neatly inside each cover, and boxes for each of the following things: organizational stuff for room, decorations for room, supplies, games, prizes, toys and fun things for room. somehow it looks just as disorganized as it did before i started... i cannot wait to get some of this stuff out of my house and into my classroom!

sigh...i guess i'm out of excuses now and should probably crack open the text book...wish me luck!

July 6, 2009

Book Reviews: 32 Third Graders and 1 Class Bunny

As I logged onto the online library catalog this morning and searched the "teaching" under keyword, i hoped that i would stumble upon a new teaching book to help get me psyched about starting school in a month and a half. Lucky for me, Phillip Done's 32 First Graders and One Class Bunny was the first book listed. Well, who can resist a title like that?? I stopped by the library later this morning and checked out this book along with a stack of others. (I am determined to read as much as possible this summer because i recognize that my free time will be rapidly decreasing in just a few short weeks)

When I started Done's book, I was so excited to see that it's a collection of hilariously funny anecdotal essays about things that have happened to him, funny tips for teachers, and lots of those "you know you're a teacher when..." stories. In teaching so many hilarious things happen every day (if you can manage to laugh about them...), and Done actually wrote them down and made a book! Candid and genuine (and HONEST!), Done's voice leaps from the pages of the book and takes the reader away to his funny classroom where the stapler always jammed, his tie gets stuck in the laminator, and the love the teacher has for his students is obvious.

I found it hard to put the book down to go to work this afternoon and dove back into it when I got home. Done's stories, horrifying as some of them are, remind me why i love teaching and why i love kids. If you're a teacher or have ever been a student, read this book :-)

July 2, 2009

Well, I guess I'm really going to be a teacher...

After blogging from time to time during my student teaching last year, I decided today that my teaching blog is worth reviving.  Miraculously, I managed to both graduate and land a pretty wonderful teaching position since I last blogged.  (I know, I can hardly believe it myself!)  Let me quickly recap the course of events leading up to this...

August 2008: Began student teaching in 4th grade.  Instantly loved every second of it and became convinced without a doubt that not only is teaching the perfect career for me, but intermediate elementary is the perfect age group.

December 2008: Shedding a few tears, said goodbye to my student teaching class, and began to think about my plans for post-grad.

January 2009: Began applying for teaching jobs throughout the state, as well as some other miscellaneous service/travel programs. 

February & March 2009: Many looong days of applications and job fairs; many looong nights of soul-searching and figuring out where I wanted my life to take me post-grad...a decision which turned out to be tougher than anticipated!

April 21st, 2009: Interviewed for a 5th grade position at an elementary school near my family's home.  Completely bombed the interview.  Strangely got a voicemail from the principal that night wanting me to return his call the following morning.

April 22nd, 2009: Was offered a job teaching 5th grade at said elementary school.  Was completely stunned/shocked/you name it.  Needed a day to digest news and think things over...

April 23rd 2009: Accepted job and officially began preparing for the next phase of my life--Miss Teacher, fifth grade teacher.  (weird...)

Anyways, as this summer passes by (too) quickly, I'm starting to anticipate and prepare for the year ahead. It's definitely going to be a tough year, and I'm both excited and terrified. I will be using this blog to chronicle my year, share lesson ideas, describe high and low points, and vent frustrations.
Here's to hopefully a relaxing and productive last month of summer and a beautiful start to the new year!
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