September 30, 2009

To the child who stole from me;

When I caught you with your hands in my desk drawer, I got angry.  When I asked what you were doing and a series of lies poured  frantically out of your mouth one after another, I got furious.

Don't you understand that I give everything to you and your classmates?  90% of my day I spend with you, worrying about you, planning things to do with you, or talking about you.  I spend my money and time all on YOU.  You have become a part of my life.  I do everything I can to help you learn and grow both academically and emotionally.

I trust you.  I put books out in the room and let you borrow them and take them home.  I leave my purse in a cabinet.  I have stickers and candy and a camera in my desk drawer.  I leave my laptop in the room when you are here. I trust you not only because you are a child, but because we are a team. 

Then, when your hands are in my desk taking something of mine and I see you in the act of stealing and yet you have the guts to lie to my face about what you did, everything is turned upside down.  I sent you out in the hall to sit because I couldn't look at you right then.  I felt disgusted.  I felt angry.  I felt...betrayed.  By you.  A little girl.  I trusted you and your classmates.   

I let you wait until the end of the day before we talked.  I admit, part of me wanted you to think about what you did.  But another part of me knew that if I talked to you before then, I'd yell.  After school, I wanted you to tell me why you did what you did.  Yet again, the excuses poured from your mouth as fast as the tears down your cheeks: "I found it," "I was going to put it back," "I didn't mean to," "I didn't do it," "I was borrowing it."  You couldn't explain why.  I sent you home to explain what you did to your parents, knowing that that would be punishment enough.

The next day, you apologized.  We chose a logical consequence.  You accepted it.  You looked at me, still teary, and I saw how young you are.  You became not just a child who stole but a child who would do anything to earn my trust back.  When I told you that you had broken my trust, I meant it.  When I told you we could move on, I meant that too.

I am still your teacher.  I still care deeply about you.  I still will make your education my priority and still lose sleep, worrying that I'm not doing enough for you.  We will forget about this.  I am not angry anymore.  But I will still wonder sometimes if leaving my ipod in my desk is a mistake.  I will still wonder sometimes if I should keep better track of which books you and your classmates take home at night, and check that you brought them back.

You reminded me that it's as important to teach morals and character in school as reading and math.  Sometimes it's easier to say, "Oh, the kids will learn that at home.  It's not my job."  But what happens to the kids that don't learn those things at home?  If it's not my job, then whose is it?

what, you don't find the temperature in here quite comfortable?

Why being the teacher is sometimes better than being the student:

I have control over the temperature in the room. So. Much. Power.

Student: "Miss Teacher, I'm so cold! It's freezing in here!"
Teacher says: "That's too bad, remember to bring a jacket!"
Teacher means: "Really...I'm quite comfortable. I'm running up and down the stairs 50 times a day, standing in front of a hot copier, and then doing a song and dance up at the front of the room to get your attention! I need it a little cool in here. Deal with it!"

Just kidding...but only kind of :)

September 28, 2009

grr mondays...

Dear Kids,

Please talk less tomorrow. Please. You're making me crazy.


Miss Teacher

September 26, 2009

you know you're a teacher when... spend way too much money at target on stickers, colored pens, individually wrapped candy, decorative pencils, and miscellaneous little notebooks and stamps from the dollar bin...

drumroll, please...

...I think I actually enjoyed teaching this week!

Aside from being sick this week, things went very well, and I finally feel like I have figured some things out! I guess I should clarify: I am still making things up as I go along and 90% of the time I am confused, but a lot of things are feeling better. For example, shared reading went really well this week. Maybe it was because I was so interested in the topic, or maybe it's because we have gotten into a good routine, but things just felt better. Easier, more relaxed, and more, well, successful. So yay!

There are still a million things I'm figuring out, and everyday another thing gets added. For example, at my postobservation meeting with the principal, he asked how I'm helping my tier 3 (lowest) kids in preparation for boosting ISAT scores. My response: ummm....
And now that we're switching for math, I have to start getting into a whole new routine with my new math class. But, I feel less lost than I did a few weeks ago. I haven't cried lately, and I've enjoyed some things at school. I feel like I've been building a good rapport with most of my students, and am continuing to work on getting to know each one separately (which is hard--I am constantly thinking about which students I am neglecting or letting fall through the cracks, and I feel terrible about this). Things are getting better. Thank goodness.

In other news, Parent conferences are this week: yikes!! I'm terrified...

On that note, I better get back to my grading. But first, here're a few more words to teach by:

A child is not a vessle to be filled, but a lamp to be lit.
Hebrew proverb

September 24, 2009

my 1st observation, or, "shooting for the stars in literacy" ;)

Today was my first time being observed by my principal--oh the excitement. I am one of the most anxious people on the planet (ok, exaggerating a little, but only a little) and really tend to freak out before things like this. However, this morning I was able to calm down, remembering that my WORST teaching happens when I am nervous (flashbacks to the lesson I taught when I interviewed here! yikes...). Thankfully, the lesson went really great. The kids were on task (maybe the principal should observe every day?), they participated, and we had a great time. And, MOST exciting for me was that the kids FINALLY got interested in the subject matter!
Our reading theme for the week is space (my favorite!!!!), and Monday when I introduced it, I asked the kids who thought they might want to be an astronaut when they grew up. Guess how many hands shot into the air?


That's right, zero. I had to practically hold back my tears! I would have spent a MONTH on space, reading and writing about it, but thanks to my friendly literacy series, I must test and move on every week. :-/ Anyways, so my big goal was for them to get at least a little interested in space by the end of the week. Today I think I got my proof--some of them seemed to think the whole idea was pretty cool! Not sure if I have any budding Aldrins or Armstrongs, but I still have another 8 months to pound it into their heads. :)

Anyways, back to the observation. I managed to stay calm and was pleased with how it went. Even my challenging little buddy stayed on task and participated (our MORNING was great today, the end of the day unraveled...). When he left after the observation, he even left a note on my desk telling me I did a great job and that I have definitely built a relationship with my kids. Maybe he's not regretting hiring me after all...well, not yet. Maybe after ISATs...

Well, I made it through another week. Now I have to frantically get some more grades in the gradebook and get ready for conferences next week! I am literally petrified of parent conferences. I know that for the most part I don't have scary parents, but still...I hate that, "You're so young!" stare and "But, do you have children yourself? So, you don't understand, do you" comment... oh well.

September 22, 2009

1 sick day down

Well, I'm definitely glad I took everyone's advice and took a sick day today. There is no way I would have made it through a day of school the way I felt all day! I went to bed last night at 8:30 and slept until 11:30 this morning. Then I took two more naps during the afternoon, and still am completely exhausted and ready for bed at 8:15 tonight. Yikes. I hope I have more energy tomorrow!

It was nice to catch up on sleep, and after pumping my body full of vitamins, I am sincerely hoping this cold is on its way out. Even though I left very detailed subplans, my sub still had a few curve balls thrown at her today it turns out! I woke up at 5am remembering that Tuesday is band/orchestra lessons day, and I forgot to post the schedule on the board. Oops! I'm hoping the kids checked the schedule at home before school like they're supposed to, and found their way to lessons without my reminder. They are, afterall, fifth graders... :) Also, this afternoon we were supposed to have one of our biweekly community meetings with the social worker, but it turns out those are starting NEXT week...soo I hope the sub was able to come up with something to do with them for that half hour!

I know that teachers tend to fall into the self-righteous trap of thinking that the world will come crashing to a halt (or at least the school day) if we're not there, but I'm so glad that I took today to take care of myself. Hopefully nobody died and according to my neighbor teacher, there were no screams or anything from the next room! Phew. While still tired, I am feeling much better than I did this morning, although I seem to have developed a nice deep, attractive cough... :-/

A half gallon of v8 spash and a box of tylenol cold later, I am heading back to school tomorrow, cough or no cough!

September 21, 2009

zinc, vitamin c, and kleenex, oh my

Well, looks like tomorrow is going to be sick day #1 for this stuffed up first year teacher. They all told me I'd catch every illness under the sun this first year. Hopefully this one's just a cold. I should have known when my guided reading group members actually needed to bring the whole kleenex box over to our table Friday...I had every intention of sticking it out and getting through the week, but today after school my mentor convinced me to take the day off tomorrow. She's right, one day of rest will hopefully make all the difference, whereas going to school would make this cold drag out nice and long.

Anyways, at 8:23pm it's off to bed for me... :(

(good thing i finally registered with subfinder this morning...)


Ughhhh....I feel like death. My cold is definitely not better today, and all I want to do is get back in bed and sleep for days. But, it's off to school I go...more zinc and tylenol cold it is...

Note to self: register for subfinder just in case...

September 20, 2009

highs and lows: made it through another week!

I made it through another week :) And things did get better as the week went on. This will just be a brief recap because it's after midnight (I can hardly remember the days when I used to stay up until 4 or 5...), and I'm getting sick. Thanks, kids. Thanks.

Anyways. Monday was a tough day. One of my challenging students gave me hell all morning and then when I kept him in at lunch to discuss, snapped at me and really just pissed me off. During lunch I almost cried and seriously didn't want to go back to my classroom. Then, the kids were crazy chatty and that was about the last straw. Thankfully, Mrs. J helped me come up with a new seating arrangement, a new motivating behavior plan, and a new perspective. My kids now have table names (peace in different languages--the goal is a "peaceful classroom," but we'll start with that!) and earn table points. So far it is highly motivating. Let's hope it lasts! Miss R (school miss r, not iwu) and I enjoyed some much needed margaritas and chips at our friendly neighborhood Chili's and vented about school and the kids for a good hour and a half after we finally left the building. As much as I hate complainers, I'm realizing how absolutely necessary it is to just vent once in a while with someone who truly understands what you are going through. I swear, if I didn't have another first year teacher in the building who is feeling just as lost as me most of the time, I would lose it.

Well, Tuesday I came in with high hopes and high expectations. Thankfully, the new system helped, and we proceeded to have a great rest of the week. The fish didn't die, I didn't have pink eye afterall, and I made it through with no more tears. Just the regular old stress, perfectionism, and emotionalness that this teaching thing makes me feel! I even survived curriculum night! Thank goodness my school decided to shake things up this year and turn curriculum night into a student-led scavenger hunt through the classroom and building rather than a teacher presentation that so often turns into a parent interrogation. The night was fun and the parents were nice. Phew!
Some highs and lows from the week:

-a curriculum night that actually turned out to be a lot of fun
-surviving Friday's "soft lockdown" (thanks, escaped prisoner who hijacked a car on the street next door to my school!) with no significant problems
-the fish NOT dying!!! (note to self: model, model, model the correct procedures for feeding the fish...)
-having the kids love the new book bins that we set up for them this week and seeing how excited they were to discover new books
-some of the kids actually doing really well on their math tests yesterday--no tears while grading! yay!
-finally making it down to the teachers lounge for lunch a couple days this week
-having my student show me the correct way to "finger skateboard" (see right) and having the kids cheer when I correctly executed a "trick"
-grading some really beautiful letters in reading response journals today about my students' "something beautiful"
-Introducing Daily 5 read to self and having it go AMAZINGLY (to be blogged about soon!)
-dancing the Cupid Shuffle with the class--best "stretch break" ever.


-Monday (and almost everything about it)
-writing up one of my kids for the third time
-feeling about one step behind everyone on my team all the freaking time
-getting to school at 5:45 one morning last week, and still be scrambling at the bell to have my act together
-leaving school Wednesday and Thursday right away to go do autism therapy/babysit, and coming BACK to school after, not to leave again until 8pm...
-getting this cold...

Let's hope next week is even less stressful...*fingers crossed*

September 17, 2009

this can't be good...

Dear Class Fish (aka Ultimate Fighting Champion),

Please DON'T DIE. Please. I'm sorry that my "marine biologist" helper this week has been dumping fish food into your bowl. I promise I will clean it out first thing tomorrow morning. Just stay alive until then!!!!!


Miss Teacher

September 15, 2009

laughin and crying

Okay, I know I said I was going to bed, but I had a second wind and just wanted to share.

Some days I think, "Man, I wish that I had an easier job." Then, I stop myself and rephrase that: "I wish I wanted to have a job that was easier than teaching." It's weird because I don't want any other job--I just wish the job I did want were easier! Rock - me - hard place, I guess.

But anyways, I digress. Last night I was completely frustrated by so many, many things about school. Certain students making me crazy, school in general, just everything. I almost cried at lunch. Today, like I said, was much better. And even after a 14 hour day (including curriculum night), I'm in a great mood. Isn't it amazing how on a bad day I am ready to quit, and how on a good day I love love love my job?

This got me thinking. Sure, no other job has workers putting in countless hours of unpaid overtime. Most other jobs don't keep you up at night, give you nightmares, or make you cry. Few other jobs involve becoming so emotionally invested in your work that you are constantly thinking about it. But then again, how many other jobs can you leave after your 14 hour day and feel energized rather than exhausted? How many other jobs can you feel literally elated when a child tells you that you are a great teacher because you make learning fun? As I'm certainly learning, teaching is EMOTIONAL. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. But like I told my dad today, yes, I do wish my job were easier. But I know it's the job I'm meant to do, so I'm just going to keep doing my best and crossing my fingers that we all make it through the year and (hopefully) ALL learn something. :)

Tomorrow I will update on:
-daily 5 read to self
-table points
-curriculum night
-my grading dilemma
today was a MUCH. BETTER. DAY.

thank goodness--i needed one of those!

oh, and I don't have pink eye.

after a 14 hour day (oh curriculum night), I am going to bed. I'll recap tomorrow :)

oh no...

Dear Eyes that were insanely red this morning when I woke up,

Please please please please please do not be pink eye. On curriculum night. Please.
I promise, I will wear glasses the rest of the week and give you a break. I will go to bed early. I will get you the good eye drops. just please, NOT PINK EYE!!!!

Miss Teacher

September 14, 2009


When Dan Brown of The Great Expectations School came and spoke to my senior seminar class last year about his teaching experience in the Bronx, he told us how there were weeks when he was literally just coming into school and teaching for that one child. He would tell himself, if I can just help one child... On the days when the staff and students made him crazy, he'd think of that one child who was paying attention and learning and listening. When Dan Brown told us that last year in CLA 101, we all kind of laughed. One child? please.

Now, after leaving the comfortable walls of CLA and entering the actual classroom, I'm finding myself wondering how I will possibly make it through the year. And I'm finding myself saying the very same thing: "If it weren't for this student, I swear I wouldn't make it..." I know, I'm probably being dramatic. Of course I will make it though the year. But it seems like all I can think about is how I'm not doing a good enough job, how there are so many kids I'm already not helping enough, and how they're going to wear me down before I have a chance to make an impact.

But tomorrow I will still go to school, and if that handful of kids gets me down, at lest I can look to "that one student" and his immaculate desk and organized folders and think, 'thank goodness i have ONE who knows what to do at school!'

Wow, i really need some sleep. I got to school this morning at 5:45am and left at 6:45pm. Tomorrow I think I'm going to sleep in until 5:15...I know, I'm a rebel. :/ Here's hoping tomorrow is a good day.

September 12, 2009

3 weeks down--is that all??

Well, I actually made it throught the two loong days of PLC training, plus two evenings at my school afterwards! While the speakers were really good and pretty entertaining, I am not so good at sitting in a chair for an entire day. It was, however, nice to be able to go to the bathroom whenever I wanted! (Oh the small joys of a break from the classroom...)

I am hoping to be incredibly productive this weekend, because there is so much to do for next week. As I'm getting ready to start my Daily 5 implementation, I not only have to be sure I know what I'm doing for that, but I'm still moving ahead with the reading series and math of course. (Still no science and social studies yet, but my goal is to start social studies within the next two weeks. NEVER thought I'd be one of those teachers who didn't teach those subjects, but I finally understand why they get cut so often...) I'm really excited about starting Daily 5 Monday! My literacy coach and I have planned the week, and she is going to coteach part of it with me. I love coteaching, and am excited to share Daily 5 with the kids. I think that they will REALLY benefit from it, and of course they will enjoy the reading time (I have so many readers in my class, no matter how much trouble they might have not chatting all day long!). Yesterday I spent far too much money on new reading folders, cardboard book boxes, and a few new throw pillows for the room. I wish I could go to my classroom and start working on setting up the book boxes and things, but unfortunately my building is closed on the weekends.
School at 6am Monday it is... gross.
Thanks, IKEA, for having these awesome magazine files!
PERFECT for book boxes :)

I've also been thinking about how I've only had 3 weeks in the classroom, and that feels really weird. I feel like I've been there forever alreay. I'm trying really hard to remind myself that it has only been 3 weeks, and I can't expect magic to happen in my classroom in that short of a time period. I also shouldn't expect to be perfect at anything so soon. It has only been three weeks. And between labor day, this conference, and the short week our first week back, I have actually only been teaching them 11 days. When I think about it like that, I feel a lot better about myself. This is one of those times when I know that a calmer, wiser person would tell me: "Amy, how realistic is it to expect yourself to master a new profession in 11 days?" Someone very smart once told me to be wary of the "shoulds." I have a bad habit of thinking in terms of "shoulds." I should be doing this or I should be feeling or thinking that. I should be better at teaching or I should be happier I have a job. The reality is, I guess, that thinking in terms of shoulds doesn't help at all. And I think I need to adjust my expectations for myself to something a little more realistic.

In the spirit of doing that, I have decided that I am focusing on one subject at a time. Next week, I will do a really good job at teaching Reading. The following week I will do a really good job at teaching Math. After that I will really focus on Writing, and then Social Studies. I know that being "really good" at teaching 1 subject at a time isn't the best way for the kids, but right now I feel like I'm being "adequate" at all the subjects, and that's just leaving me frustrated. 1 thing at a time. 1 thing at a time.

With that in mind, I'm going to get to work so that I actually will be good at teaching reading next week :)

September 10, 2009

professional development, substitutes, daily 5 oh my

Today I feel...exhausted. If only there was an emoticon smiley for yawning. After a long day of professional development workshop during which I learned about PLCs (professional learning communities) but also spent lots of time whispering to Miss R about Daily 5 among other things (yes, I see the irony here. I complain daily about my frustration with my chatty students, yet I talk to my neighbor during this presentation. I am a bad person), I was lucky enough to have dinner with my college roommates and have one of them even help me in my classroom a little bit. Who knew how much work preparing for a sub is?

My to-do list is crazy long and includes some serious grading that I have been neglecting...but part of it involves going to IKEA this weekend to buy book boxes and bean bags for my class. Any reading program that encourages me to shop must be good! My plans for Daily 5 are pretty much ready for next week (Thanks Mrs. J!!! You rock!), and as long as it goes as well in practice as I'm hoping in my perfect classroom in my head, it will be fine. Math is another story (and please don't even mention science and social studies to me for another few weeks). But, as I am trying to remember, I will get it all done. It will be fine.

Okay, off to bed so I can rest up for another long day of PLC presentations...i better bring some grading with tomorrow :)

Good teachers are those who know how little they know. Bad teachers are those who think they know more than they don't know. R. Verdi
^Well, I know that I know very little. So maybe that makes me a good teacher? I think I like this R. Verdi, whoever he is! :)

September 9, 2009

scary parent #1

Yesterday when one of my students forgot her lunch, I allowed her to use my classroom phone to call her mother. This seems to be routine, and I have had other students call and have lunches dropped off for them. Imagine my surprise when I listened to my voicemail later and heard an incredibly fierce message from her mother. The following topics were addressed:
  1. The fact that the lunch had already been delivered to the office
  2. The incomprehensibility (word?) that this child was allowed access to a phone
  3. The inappropriateness that I would "go through the emergency contact list" without "digging a little deeper" to find out if the lunch was there
  4. (x 1000) The fact that she meets the needs of her daughter and did not need a phone call to be reminded to bring a lunch

I was seriously floored. After taking the afternoon to think the voicemail over and running the conversation past a couple colleagues and my mentor, I was assured that I did nothing wrong, and that her crazy rage had nothing to do with me. Praying desparately to hear an answering machine on the other line, I called the family after school. Thankfully, I was able to avoid talking with scary mom and left a voicemail explaining and apologizing for any miscommunication, assuring her that I trust her daughter is in good hands. Hopefully, I've heard the last about this incident.

This morning, though, two different staff members let me know that there is so much more to this situation than a parent attacking a first year teacher. Apparrently this parent was investigated by DCFS last year. How could I be so self-absorbed to think that this was about me? It's easy to forget that I'm teaching in a very different school than I have before. This reminded me that not only do I have to be careful of what I say and do in the classroom, but I have to (HAVE TO) remember that these students have so much history before ever entering room 202. I hope I never again get so hung up worrying what people think and assume about me that I forget to remember that many of my students have more going on at home and in their lives than I could ever imagine.

um, perhaps I should rethink this outfit

In July (which feels a million years ago), I blogged about the second grade student in my summer gifted program who told me I looked "about 14." Those of you who know me know that it's one of my pet peeves for people to think I'm younger than I am. I guess I don't want people to think I look OLD, but I'd at least like to look my age! Anyways, I feel like I am constantly getting carded or given weird looks when I say I've actually finished college and have a job. When I'm trying to represent myself as an adult and a professional in my school, it makes me CRAZY for people to think I look young! (Yeah, I know. I do look young. No need to point it out...)

ANYWAYS, this morning, I had a flashback to July when a student commented upon seeing me in the hallway before school, "Miss Teacher, you look like a teenager today! You look 16!"

Me: "Oh...well, I'm not..."

The irony??? I was wearing the same outfit as the "You look 14" incident from summer. Who knew Ann Taylor bermuda shorts and pearl earrings translate to teenager. I'm never wearing a headband again... :)

September 8, 2009

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

Today you addressed the school children of our nation in a live broadcast. Unfortunately, I was unable to share it with my 24 school children, because the district in which I teach would not allow it. Mr. President, I applaud you for taking the time to speak directly to the future of our nation. For some of these children, it is so easy to become convinced that they don't matter, or that their voices aren't heard, or that adults do not care about them. Thank you for acknowleding their potential and power, and for believing that the youth of our nation have ears and are eager to listen to adults.

I am sorry that so many adults allowed their minds to be clouded by political ideologies, and that they let their faith in teachers be forgotten. You see, no matter for whom I cast my vote last fall, my job is not to preach but to teach. I do not fill minds, I open them. I wish I had been allowed to embrace this perfect teachable moment. I wanted to shout to my students, "You see?? You can be anything! Nothing is impossible to you!" I wanted to encourage them to be critical listeners, and to take in your words and think them over before forming their own opinions. I wanted to remind them that despite their youth, they are important in this country.

Mr. President, do not let the ignorant adults who censored you today taint your faith in the young generation. Please do not stop speaking to the children, because they need to hear the voice of the leader of our country, no matter his party or race or platform. I will tell my students that their president cares about them, and remind them that they have both responsibilities and potential. I will do my best to help my students form their own political views, no matter what the views may be of the adults in their lives, mine or others. I know that this is my role as a teacher and a citizen. I will encourage my students to keep their minds open, in hopes that they will not grow up to be the jaded adults who would censor these moments from their own children.

Miss Teacher

September 7, 2009

Pause and Regroup

This weekend was a continuation of my emotional rollercoaster, I'm afraid to say. Saturday morning as I glanced through the quizzes I gave the previous day and had my prediction that many had failed confirmed, as I wrote about two entries ago, my frustration began. After blogging, I tried to step away from thinking about school for awhile, and left the house. Unfortunately, school just followed me. Thankfully, Miss R consoled me for a good hour on the phone (I would be a disaster without you, Miss R!), and between her encouragement and a blended frozed green tea & mango cup of heaven from caribou, I was able to calm down and take my mind off things. I even allowed myself to go for a bike ride with a friend and see the outdoors for a change.

Today I am feeling a million times better. I have a plan for math this week, and I have accepted that I have to move on after another day going over this material. I know it will be okay, and I accept that I am doing my best. As I told Miss R, I have a long history of liking to be perfect at things immediately. It's sometimes hard for me to remember that most jobs have a learning curve, and of course, no one is perfect. I am trying to focus on one goal at a time, and tomorrow it will be math. Next week I will tackle reading when I start implementing Daily 5.

My aunt gave me a book this summer that was given to her years back by a student (yes, another teacher in the family, but this one no longer teaches). It's called Chalkdust: Prayer Meditations for Teachers. While I don't usually talk about this kind of thing, and especially not when it comes to teaching, I want to share one of the meditations here:

For the Slow Learner
Oh, Father,
this child is so slow,
and I am so impatient.
We are both trying hard,
and I desperately need to see some success.
If only I could see a little progress--
slow, plodding progress.
But the word he read yesterday
he can't read today.
The math concept he seemed to grasp yesterday
has slipped away today.
And somewhere inside me
Discouragement is moaning, "Give up."
Help me not to listen.
Help me instead to listen for your voice
reminding me of all the good and true things
I've learned about teaching.
Remind me that progress is more a spiral staircase
than a straight flight of steps;
that learning rarely moves at a heartening pace;
it is more likely to dip and double back,
and move on in little spurts of growth.
So help me, Father,
not to give up when we move so slowly
or stand still.
or even seem to slip backwards.
Give to me, and to this child,
the sure and steady faith to keep on trying.
But, Father,
when I grit my teeth and try so hard
that I am overcome with impatience,
let me hear your still, small voice saying,

September 5, 2009

They left some of this stuff out of Ed 401...

What Teacher Education Programs forget to tell their candidates:
•A teacher cannot be all things to all people
•You are not a "bad person" if you are not always able to meet all the needs of all your students
•You are a powerful and compelling figure in the lives of your students
•In recalling their school years, students mostly remember their teachers, and not the courses they took
•You need to find a "critical friend" whom you can trust to serve as a sounding board
•At times students can be very cruel, difficult, and mean-spirited•It is a mistake to personalize a student's unacceptable behavior
•Teachers love their students as their parents love them--but in a different way and for a different reason
•Few people will ever appreciate the amount of time and effort teachers give to their teaching
•By choosing to be a teacher, you have entered an emotionally dangerous profession
•You are both a role model and change agent
•You need to pay attention to both your physical and emotional well-being
•Teaching is not like inducing a chemical reaction, but more like creating a painting, or planting a garden, or writing a friendly letter.
•Teaching is a complicated business because students are such unexpected blends of character, personality, and background
•Most of the significant advances in civilization have been the result of the work of teachers
•Teaching is an act of faith in the promise of the future
•Teaching is a way of life

James Marran, Social Studies Dept. ChairNew Trier High School, Winnetka, Ill

mood swings

It seems I am on a constant emotional rollercoaster when it comes to teaching these days. As I'm looking over the math quizzes my team gave yesterday, I am horrified to see that, after a week of teaching the same skill in many different ways, about half of my kids still have no idea what to do. I have taught the skill 3 different ways, used manipulatives, used drawings and visualization strategies, and worked with small groups of struggling kids before school. I don't know how else to teach this, and after about a week, I'm thinking it might be time to move on.

Last year, with my small group math during student teaching, I was able to teach and reteach until everyone grasped a concept. I did not give a quiz until I was positive that the kids would do excellently. However, not only was I working with a small group class of 10, but they were also my gifted learners, so we had no deadline or pacing guide to get through material--it was all enrichment anyways. I guess I got used to scoring 100% quizzes. Now, I'm not naive. I know that sometimes kids struggle with concepts. I struggled with math a lot as a child. But I know that I did a good job teaching them. I honestly am not sure what else to do for this.

I would spend another week on just this material if I were able, but I'm under pressure to finish chapter 1 at the same time as my team so that we can change up our classes for math. Do I try teaching it another way? Or do I move on?

I get so frustrated when I grade something and there are blank spaces. Kids, I struggeld in math as a child too. A LOT. I still struggle in math. But when there is a question that asks you to name a prime number, and you don't know the answer, TAKE A GUESS. Do not turn in your test half blank with "i didn't get it." written on the top.

I'm sorry. That probably sounds insensitive and like I don't understand learning disabilities, special needs, or my responsibility as a teacher. I do. I am just frustrated.

I never give up on my students--I know they are all capable of learning. But I honestly don't know what else to do about this.

I teach for moments like this

After the crying at my desk episode last night, today was better. :) I am falling asleep (actually, I have already fallen asleep, on my friend's couch, and been woken up and sent home, and am now falling asleep again...). However, I want to share a few highlights of my day. Now, it was still a stressful day (as they all are), and I did have to yell a little about not talking during a test and a firedrill (yes, we had both today. lucky us...). But what I'm remembering as I think back about the day are these moments:

1. I noticed a student who is very into graphic novels was reading a Garfield comic book during independent reading. I have no problem with graphic novels or comic books, but I think we need some regular text mixed in there too, don't you? Anyways, I called him over to my desk and asked what the last novel he read was. He told me a couple of graphic novels, and I shared my thoughts with him about variety. He told me that he had read Holes by Louis Sacher, and that it was his favorite book. I immediately brought him over to the reading center and pulled two other books by the same author: There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom and Sideways Stories from Wayside School. He thought both sounded good, brought them back to his desk, and decided on Sideways. About 10 minutes later, he came up to me and said, "Hey, Miss Teacher, this book's good!" I teach for moments like this.

2. A student with whom I've been engaged in a power struggle for the past week (his mom and I are already practically great friends) has been noticing how I made puzzle pieces from a Simpsons puzzle into magnets for my whiteboard. The magnets are small and only show tiny bits of Simpsons characters, but this guy spotted Bart's legs immediately. He has been asking me if I had the extra puzzle pieces all week, and today I pulled them out of my desk drawer. After explaining to him that, because I had made some pieces into magnets, it was an incomplete puzzle, he was still asking if he could have some. Then, my aHa! moment of the day occurred.
Me: If you get no check marks for the day, I will give you a puzzle piece to keep. Deal?
T: Deal!
And guess what. NO CHECK MARKS. I thought it was impossible. This kid shaped up to earn one lousy piece of a puzzle with Lisa Simpson's face on it? Man, I'll buy a 1,000 piece Simpsons puzzle if this will help! *Fingers Crossed that the motivation continues next week*
I teach for moments like this.

3. I had three students this week who missed multiple hw assignments. As is my rule, I kept them in 10 minutes at recess to "strategize" a way to get their assignments done on time. Our conversation was fabulous. All three students supplied ideas for both themselves and each other. One even stated that having their parents sign their reading logs each month was their responsibility, not their parents' responsibility, because it was not their parents' reading log. I wished I had a big gold star to give him. :) I teach for moments like this.

4. I gave a short writing "quiz" today related to our shared reading selection of the week. All I asked was for the students to write a short paragraph about a mistake they had made. As I was skimming through them tonight, two of my students who are not my strongest writers did truly exceptional jobs. Just reading that little paragraph made me so proud of them and so excited about the possibilities that lay before us this year to continue developing as writers. I teach for moments like this.

September 3, 2009

another frustration and a little crying at my desk

Today afterschool (after a wonderful surprise end-of-the-day visit from my good friend's mom who works in the district!! ), I met with my literacy coach to determine a plan of action for tackling my whirlwind of literacy that will take place next week (by next week, I mean the two days I will actually be with my kids...). Thankfully, she is going to come into my room and lead two of my guided reading groups. Phew. Thanks, Mrs. J! However, we still are determining what I need to start doing in the future for guided reading.

Mrs. J conferenced with the other literacy coaches today, and they decided that me, my other novice teacher buddy Miss R (not to be confused with the other Miss R from IWU!), and my team partner, Ms. R (too many Rs...), who are all confused about literacy this year, will be doing Daily 5. Or make that Daily 3. (I'm not sure which 2 they ditched, but I'll find out I guess). However, we'll be doing Daily 3 with a twist: instead of just reading to self, etc. all week, students will first be required to complete reading assignments in their leveled readers before and after our guided reading group sessions. After working with the reader, they will move onto the Daily 3. I am not exactly sure what I'm going to be doing for this since I am not entirely familiar with the ins and outs of the Daily 5 (just that it seems to be very "in" right now...), but I'm assuming that we are all going to work this out together.

I feel like Daily 5 is something I can handle (or will be able to handle with some help). It will be a lot of work to figure out at first, and tough to train my chatty bunch of kiddos, but at least someone is FINALLY giving me some direction on what to do here. Thank goodenss.

Anyways, that was a big long tangent. Back to the crying. Well, after this meeting, I began working on some plans and I decided I should probably look over the Literacy Test I am giving tomorrow. (I know, I'm a bad teacher. I should have looked at it at the BEGINNING of the week, not Thursday night! *hangs head in shame*) Well, imagine my surprise when, after my careful adhearence to the teacher edition lesson guides, my focus on teaching all of the "tested skills," and my emphasis on the week's target reading strategy, the extended essay question on the reading test is entirely based on a skill that appeared NOWHERE in the story or target skills. what the heck? I would have taught my students the skill if the text had asked me to! Why are they testing my kids on it???

Well, I called my team partner Ms. R and left her a very freaked out voicemail, then proceeded to cry for about 15 minutes. Thank goodness she called me back (after I had stopped being a baby) and calmed me down. Tomorrow's test will be fine, and I will talk them through that portion. And, as I was reminded today, I am the teacher now. If I don't like a part of a test, I can throw it out this week. Or, I can even do it with them.

I am the teacher. When did that happen?


another frustration that i JUST NOW REMEMBERED

4 & 5. Next week is a 4 day week. Plus I am being pulled for a professional development all day Thursday and Friday. Plus my entire literacy block Tuesday is MAP testing.

And I'm still expected to teach an entire week of reading and give a test Friday.



It's 5:33 am as I'm writing this, and I've already been up, showered, and dressed. As I wait for my bowl of oatmeal to cool, let me just share a couple of the frustrations I'm experiencing...

1. Math. I have been told to go in order, lesson by lesson, through the chapter. Thus, I am going in order. My frustration: My team who gives me a quiz to give to my class (oh common assessments...) this week, when at least a third of it isn't covered in the book until next week. Umm, huh?

2. Guided Reading. Just when I thought what I was doing with the kids this week while I was with my groups was working, I was informed yesterday by one of my teammates that she has been hearing that the principal doesn't want the kids working on individual seat packets during that time. I guess I should actually ask the principal, because it seems like I get very different opinions from everyone I talk to, including the literacy coaches...

3. ISAT preparation and pressure. Already. Let me summarize my emotions in the following "note" to my team:

Dear team,

Please do not mention ISATS to me for at least a month. Currently, I am not even going one day at a time, but one hour. I'm not sure what I'm doing after lunch today. Right now, I'm not sure I'm even teaching right, since no one is watching and letting me know. I'm just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. If I single handedly bring down our grade's scores, I apologize. But please, continue discussing how we should probably be giving a math extended response every week only if you want to see me have a heart attack.

Miss Teacher

Anyways...I'm hoping to leave for school by 6 to begin tackling my pile of worry and things to do...
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