August 30, 2009

highs & lows

Once again reflecting on the first week, I decided it might be nice to think about the highs and lows:

-getting my new computer :)
-reading aloud Thank You Mr. Falker and having the kids give me complete 100% attention
-helping the kids write their bio poems with piano music playing in the background (and having my principal peek in right at that time)
-when we wrote our class rules, having one student suggest that we sign them, frame them, and then refer classmates to the framed rules any time they break one (amazing)
-calling parents just to tell them how much I'm enjoying their child
-meeting with my most challenging student's mother, and finding out that she's incredibly supportive and down to earth

-the centers disaster (I won't discuss it again...)
-spending my entire weekend making work packets for the kids to work on during guided reading
-realizing every single second that there are at least 100 things I need to do but never even thought of before then
-waking up at 5am every morning, then falling asleep at 9 on Friday night

Hopefully this week goes smoothly, and the kids didn't forget their carefully practiced routines and procedures over the weekend!!

1 down, a whole lot more to go

My first week is over, and my first weekend as a teacher is coming to a close. It was filled with catching up on sleep and hours upon hours of planning, but also some relaxing and catching up with friends.

After my down in the dumps post on Thursday, I'm happy to report that Friday morning I woke up with a renewed positive attitude and fresh optimism. I was excited to get to school, and had high hopes for the day. I talked with my kids about what went wrong on Thursday, and we resolved to make it a better day. It was so. much. better. After the centers disaster, we went back and just practiced quiet transitioning, not bothering to take out all the activities (baby steps). They nailed it this time. I'm still not sure they're ready for centers next week, but maybe in the near future we'll try practicing again.

It's amazing how this job plays with my emotions. When Thursday was rough, I was choking back tears all afternoon. But when Friday was better, I was happy as a clam after school. I once heard that really passionate people feel every emotion with an incredible intensity. The good things can bring you rapturous joy and the bad can bring you to your knees with frustration and despair. I guess that's certainly true for me when it comes to teaching. I also guess that it's better to have this rollercoaster of emotion because I'm doing something I'm so passionate about than have a career that may be easy, but that is void of emotion.

Anyways, after spending my entire weekend save a few hours planning, I think I am ready for the week. At least for reading. We'll see about those other subjects :) I have a hella lot of copies to make tomorrow morning, so I better get there nice and early so the other teachers don't crucify me. I'll update soon to share how my brilliantly thought out plan for teaching guided reading pans out in the real classroom, as opposed to the perfect classroom in my head :)

August 27, 2009

one positive thing of the day:

my old-ish dell laptop was replaced with a slightly newer dell laptop. i guess that's something, right? :)

recap of my first three days (or i guess some days are just rainy)

Well, I made it through three whole days of 5th graders. My first two, the kids were incredibly chatty, but mostly very sweet. After a chatty first day, on day two I started timing how many seconds I had to wait for them to stop talking, and kept them that many seconds at recess and after school. That has been working well, but today posed some new problems...

After a good morning and early afternoon (during which I learned the following: DO NOT assume that your students know how to share a poem with a partner and give feedback. 5th graders hear this instruction and interpret it to mean: go sit on the rug and talk), my last hour and a half quickly unraveled to the point where I was about an inch from tears as I sat at my desk after the kids had left. Let me explain:

Because I had been hoping to have my kids work in centers while I run my guided reading groups, I decided I needed to practice working at centers and transitioning between them. This was something I did last year during student teaching, and it went beautifully. I clearly explained my instructions as every good teacher should, had detailed information cards at each center that answered almost every possible question the students might ask, and had all my materials assembled. I discussed expectations, and the purpose for the activity. I talked with the students about how, when we start guided reading next week, it is incredibly important that they be able to work without talking and disturbing the group. Sounds good, right?

Well, I should have known within the first 2 minutes what the afternoon would be like. Two of my groups were complete angels and I swear they did not ask a single question or laugh once. The rest...with a few exceptions...were, well, not angels. Not only did I have to stop the groups many times to discuss what was going wrong (noise level and bothering other group members, in true fifth grader style), but every time we transitioned, we had to go back and try it again several times because they were not transitioning quietly and slowly. It was a DISASTER.

After calming myself down after school, reminding myself that tomorrow is another day, and talking with one of our literacy coaches about how I can run guided reading next week NOT using centers, I am feeling marginally better. I know I have a challenging school and that some of my students have academic and emotional needs that are expressed in many ways. I know it is only the first week and I am still teaching them routines. I know I cannot expect that they know how I want them to behave. I know that I have another chance tomorrow and that things will get better. But still...days like this suck.

I guess some days are just rainy like today...Here's to hoping for a sunnier

August 24, 2009


Today was my much anticipated first institute day & meet the teacher evening/cook out. I can describe the day in one word: long. okay, two words: long and exhausting. I got to school at about 7:15 this morning and left at 8:15 tonight. Yikes. While I realize that this is the first of many long evenings at school, at least I won't have kids until 7:30 every night! Hopefully my body gets the memo that it's not in college anymore and gets it SOON!!! When one of my team mates asked me today what I'm going to do about my naps (I am a HUGE napper. Love em. Like, 2 hour naps are ideal...Somehow I think those ended with my summer..), I responded that that's why I have so many pillows in my reading corner. 20 minute snooze after school? Done.

Aside from being exhausting, meeting my students and families tonight was really great. As nervous as I was, the really seem like great, friendly kids (save for a few shy ones and a few who seem to be in denial about summer's end...). I am SO excited to get to know them better tomorrow!

While I already have a million things to do and a pile of papers on my desk to sort through, I am planning on just taking the next few weeks one day at a time...We'll see how tomorrow goes :) In the mean time, at 9:02pm, I am going to bed. I am either officially old, or officially a teacher.

August 22, 2009

maybe, just maybe, i'm ready for this

After countless hours in my classroom this week, my room is (drum roll) DONE. Name tags are taped to desks, text books are passed out, folders are labeled, and my desk is cleared off. Except for one (small) pile of papers...but no one's perfect ;)

In three days, my students will be come into my perfectly prepared classroom, the year will start, and I will really be a real-life teacher. I'm feeling nervous and excited once again, but for maybe the first time all summer, a little more excited and a little less nervous. For those of you who know me personally, I tend to be a bit of an anxious person (and those of you who REALLY know me know that that's the understatement of the century...). But I looked around my classroom today (yes, I was there on a Saturday. I know.), glanced through my first week plans, and realized that I am ready for the week. And as much as I wonder if I'm ready to teach, I have to remember that I would not have gotten the job if my building staff hadn't thought I was competent for this, not to mention my professors from college and cooperating teacher/principal from student teaching. Don't get me wrong, I'm not in denial about how challenging and stressful this year will be. I just feel, maybe, that I can handle it.

Ask me that same question again next week, and you may get a completely different answer. I'm told this year will be a roller coaster of emotion. But I'm looking forward to it :)

August 20, 2009

countdown: 4 days

Yikes, I've already gotten behind on my writing and school hasn't even started yet! Let me (briefly) catch up. After a long but helpful four days of teacher training last week, I spent the weekend a little excited, a little nervous, and a little overwhelmed. I vaccilate between these three emotions incredibly rapidly. After an end of summer vacation weekend in Boston, I got to my classroom Tuesday morning with the best intentions. 10 hours later I walked out the door. TEN HOURS. Needless to say, that was a pretty draining day. I am getting a lot accomplished, and with a little polishing, my room will be ready.

Yesterday, I received my class list so I started putting names on folders, name tags, check in magnets, etc. Who knew how time consuming THAT would be?! But things are coming together.
I also received my district laptop yesterday: an old-ish dell. If you know me personally, you know my dell history and hatred. I swear, if this dell gives me a quarter of the problems I had with my dell, I will have a breakdown (by this I mean I will probably throw the computer out my classroom window and watch it's microchips splatter across the parking lot). I swear I'm not a violent person...

I'm still pretty overwhelmed by trying to write up my schedule (and trying to fit the 120 minutes of literacy instruction that are recommended into a 90 minute literacy block...buh bye science and social studies...), and there are so many tiny details that I think of every single second. But the room itself is looking good-ish.

My reading rug (I wish my camera could get a 360 view!)

Reading corner

Main floor area

My (messy) desk area complete with the aforementioned laptop whose brand I will not respeak here....

My to-do list for today is insanely long, and so far none of my friends have sounded too thrilled about coming in to I guess I better hit the road.

ps- you know you're already losing it when you have dreams about frantically searching for a t-shirt diecut punch

August 11, 2009

teacher, do you believe in me?

Today was my first day of new teacher induction week. You know what that means--yes, it's almost time for school! Believe it or not. While today was very overwhelming, it got me excited about my district and my school. Over the past few years, both have implemented a bunch of programs to help their students boost test scores, achieve in the regular classroom (without special ed. pullouts), and reach their highest potential. And it's really showed with the huge gains all of the district schools have been making. I'm excited to be a part of a district that really emphasizes professional collaboration and makes sure that teachers have the time, resources, and support to intervene when students aren't learning (more about this in my next post when I review my most recent read: Whatever It Takes).

While I learned an incredible amount today, the thing that definitely stuck with me the strongest was this amazing video we watched. Even more so than "What do teachers make?" this incredible speaker impressed upon me both the importance and seriousness of my job, as well as got me super excited about teaching. Watch it. AMAZING.

August 5, 2009

Help I'm trapped in a pile of books!

Today I worked in my classroom for about 4 1/2 hours. I know that's not too long, but it was my longest time there yet! While I feel like I was productive, there is SO much more to do. Way too many white walls! Thankfully my good friend Megan came to help me and took over all the tedious jobs: wipe desks inside and out, wipe cabinet doors so I can hang posters on them, put up number line, sharpen pencils, etc. Oh, and bring me lunch--perhaps the most important job of all! Thanks Meg! :)

While I had many accomplishments today, I had two big frustrations. First, the files left behind by the teacher whose room I have inherited. While many are well labeled and organized, there are many huge folders generally labeled things like "science." Needless to say, I spent my first big chunk of time today sorting through those and recycling tons of things and organizing things into files that are, ahem, a little more descriptive than just "science." Thank goodness for my three filing cabinets!

Second, I realized to my chagrin that sorting books by genre is easier said than done. Is this fantasy or science fiction? A ghost story or a fantasy? What about the ghost stories that are also historical fiction? Or the animal books that are also sports books? Aaaahhh!! I spent about two hours sorting books by genre, and needless to say that by the end a lot of books were just falling into the "fiction" umbrella genre. Yikes. When my neighbor teacher popped in and shared that she also had all her books leveled, I about had a heart attack. Hmmm who can I convince to look up the levels of my hundreds of books for me...

Funny how it seems like the more I get done, the more it seems there is to do. Hopefully the next couple days can be super productive since next week I have new teacher orientation and will have much less time in the classroom. Maybe I can leave my mom a to-do list...
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