October 31, 2010


Yellow Zone :(
My cold is back, and with a vengeance.  What started as a head cold has traveled through my throat and into my lungs...As an asthma child, this was a VERY natural progression for me, and I was at the doctor with a juicy wheeze and either pneumonia or bronchitis at least once a year.  However, I haven't had EITHER since my freshman year in college (knock on wood), and my asthma has been almost nonexistent minus the occasional shortness of breath that comes when I overdo a workout.  However, all day I have been feeling a gradual tightening of my chest and felt my breathing become more and more shallow... I just dusted off my handy peak flow meter, a very basic gadget that measures your breathing...basically you just exhale a quick puff of air and it moves a little thingy down the meter depending on how strong your breath is.  Well, I'm in the "yellow zone" for the first time in years.  :-/  I guess this means I haven't totally grown out of my asthma!  (even though I was insisting to my doctor that I had just a few months ago...)

What else does it mean?  Well, I'm still going to school tomorrow.  You'd have to kill me before I stayed home voluntarily on a Monday.  I will at least make it for the morning...and actually, I don't feel HORRIBLE, just not my best.  In terms of asthma, all the "yellow zone" really means is it's time to dust off "puffy" (aka my inhaler) and take it every few hours.  Oh, and no spontaneous runs up and down the stairs tomorrow.  I REFUSE to be sick again.  I guess I should probably get to bed and rest up...And did I mention I only have about half of a voice?  Oh, and I'm supposed to be observed Wednesday?  This should be an INTERESTING week...

My Response to Waiting for Superman

...Or, "Waiting for Parents who Care, Streamlined Teacher Education, and Clear Expectations for Teachers."

A few weeks ago I saw Waiting for Superman, the highly anticipated documentary about the ways that public schooling is failing our nation's youth.  Here is the trailer in case you haven't had the opportunity to see it:

As anyone who knows me personally will tell you, I am a passionate person and have very strong opinions and beliefs.  I am also fairly vocal when it comes to those passions and those things I feel strongly about.
Now, I don't pretend to be an expert on politics, the education system, or public schooling.  But, as a teacher, I do know an awful lot about what goes on in MY school on a daily basis.  And watching Waiting for Superman, I was frustrated (but not surprised...) by the glaringly one sided view of public schooling that was presented in the film.

Now, I'm not a robot.  My heart sank when I saw the learning conditions in many of the urban public schools shown in the film.  I grew irritated when I saw the many teachers being paid to sit in the "Rubber Room" in the New York City Public School system because their tenure prevented them from being fired.  And I cried, actually cried when Daisy and Fernando (two of the students followed in the film) weren't picked in the lottery to attend the vastly superior charter schools in their areas.  It was heartbreaking.

But, at the same time, I wanted to scream at the filmmakers, "You are missing SO MUCH INFORMATION!!!"  Here are my biggest frustrations with the film:

1. Many subjective and generalizing terms are thrown around, especially "Good Teacher" and "Bad Teacher."  Seriously.  Those are the descriptive labels attached to teachers by the clearly knowledgeable film makers and interviewees.  Good and Bad.  Yet, at no point in the film is it explained what MAKES these teachers Good and Bad.  An example is given in the film of a tenured teacher who read newspapers in class.  Okay, I'm with you there.  That's clearly a bad teacher.  Then, later, a teacher is shown using raps and chants to help her students learn measurement conversions.  Okay, that's a great idea, the kids are really getting it.  Good teacher.  But...what about the rest of us?  I'll admit it, I don't use raps in my classroom.  It's just not me.  I'm sure they work great for SOME teachers and SOME students.  But...it's not going to work for me.  Does that make me a bad teacher?  I don't read newspapers in the classroom.  I love my kids, care about them, and literally would do anything for them.  But, at the end of this year, let me tell you, a few will still be horribly behind in reading, some will have learning disabilities that remain undiagnosed for a variety of reasons, and some will not meet on state tests.  Does that make me a bad teacher?  If so, how can I improve?

2. Which leads me to my next point.  The film is incredibly anti-union.  Now, I'm not exactly Miss Union 2010, but I greatly value what my union does for me.  In a profession when I am left alone with 24 minors during the day, when I am in parentis locus from 8:35-3:00 Monday through Friday, and when, if I give a student a detention or a C- that student just MIGHT, out of spite, go home and tell their family a dirty lie to get back at me, I thank my lucky stars that I have that union on my side.  I know that my union will protect me if I am wrongly accused by parents or administration of something I didn't do.  I know that my union will make sure I am not expected to take calls from my principal at night or stay at school late (or later than I already do) just to show I'm doing my job.  What a scary thing it would be to go to work knowing that there is no one to protect you if Susie goes home and tells her mom that you threw a chair across the room because she is angry you called her out on talking back in class.  I am thankful for what my union does for me, and that does not make me a lazy, bad teacher.

3.  Speaking of unions, point three I'd like to address about the film is its attack on tenure.  The film is absolutely correct that there are many lazy, burnt out, tenured teachers out there.  There are incompetent, inept, and poorly trained and supported teachers out there who have survived through the four years necessary to acquire tenure.   My question is, what principal LET those teachers keep their jobs long enough to earn tenure?  Or, why weren't they given additional training or coaching to help them grow from inept teacher to excellent teacher?  I am of the belief that most teachers are born with both a talent and a love for teacher that cannot be taught.  You have it or you don't.  But even if you are born with this gift, it does NOT a  teacher of the year make.  Practical training, coaching, mentoring, and regular constructive evaluation are just as critical.  Imagine being plopped into a job in the medical profession, being given 24 patients to "cure," and then just checked on 2 or 3 times a year.  At the end of that time, if your patients lived, congrats!  You're a good doctor!  But if not, oops.  Bad doctor.  That would be ridiculous.  Why is it, then, that in many of our schools we expect teachers to learn on the job with very little support and evaluation?  And if incompetent teachers do survive, why are principals allowing them to be tenured?  Incompetent teachers should be identified within the first few years of their careers, supported and coached, taught the skills they need, and be cultivated into the excellent teachers they have the potential to become.  And if for some reason they do not blossom into these excellent teachers, please, administration, find them another line of work.  It's not tenure that's evil.  It's the fact that teachers are being tenured in some schools and districts without appropriate support, training, and evaluation.

4. In the film, it is particularly heart breaking when the mother of one child, Fernando, describes the way she has been working tirelessly with her son.  She has been taking him to after school reading support programs, hiring tutors, and reading with him at home.  Yet still, she receives reports from her child's teacher that he is not progressing and may be retained.  However, when the mother calls the teacher again and again, she is never called back.  The teacher clearly does not see the value in communicating with her about her child.  So, this mother works to get her child into a charter school.  Sadly, his name is not picked in the lottery.  Tears are shed by all.

This is incredibly sad, and I feel for Fernando and his mother.  It irks me, though, to think that the audiences nation-wide watching Waiting for Superman are seeing only this representation of a public school teacher.  Ladies and Gentleman, I am here to tell you that, while this may happen, it is NOT representative of every public school teacher and student.  Fernando is blessed to have a mother who cares about his education, and even though he will not be attending the charter school, I know that his family will make all of the difference for him.  Because it comes down to this--teachers can work tirelessly during the school day, but at 3:00 children go home.  Some go home to families who value their education and have the time and skills to work with them outside of school.  Some go home to empty houses, or parents who don't speak English, or to parents who just don't care.

In my personal opinion, one of the reasons why charter schools are so successful (one of many), is that they tend to have tremendous support from families.  Parents have worked tirelessly to enroll their children in these schools.  They have filled out applications, sat through lotteries, and traveled with them for miles to attend the schools.  These parents are committed to their children's educations.  As a teacher, I can tell you that when a parent calls me, I call back.  But I can also tell you that there are times I want nothing more than to get in touch with a parent and I find lines disconnected, voice mail boxes full, or phone numbers incorrect.  I had 6 families not show up for conferences this year, and I teach at a suburban school, hardly comparable to the inner city schools shown in Superman.  Why wasn't this side of education shown in the film?

Well, that's all I have to say.  There was a lot of truth in this documentary, and it was well made.  But it had an agenda, and was very one-sided.  What I think frustrates me most is that so many Americans already believe that having ATTENDED public school once upon a time makes them an expert in public school.  This film will arm them with another reason to attack teachers, unions, and the public school system.  I invite anyone who thinks they have it figured out to come to my classroom for 1 day and attempt to solve all of the problems.  There ARE problems with public schooling, and I'm not saying I have all of the answers.  But the problems cannot be reduced to tenured teachers and teachers unions.  Anyways, that's all.  Just my thoughts.

Miss Teacher Reads

I have been ROCKING through the book list for Battle of the Books!!!  Woohoo!!!  And while they are not all the best book EVER, as I felt about many of last year's titles, I'm discovering (and rediscovering) some gems in the mix.  And because I am nothing if not a list person...

Books I'm Reading:

  • Ida B
  • Frindle
  • Tuck Everlasting

Books I've Read:

  • A Year Down Yonder (5 stars)
  • Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark (2 stars...)
  • Among the Hidden (4 stars)
  • Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (4 stars)
Books to Read:
  • Hank Zipzer: The Night I Flunked My Field Trip
  • Exploring the Titanic
  • Lincoln: A Photobiography (SO not excited about this one, but I will feign interest for the sake of the kiddos...)
  • The Face on the Milk Carton
  • Hatchet
  • My Side of the Mountain
  • The BFG
  • 1 more that is slipping my mind...
Anyways, Battle of the Books is up and running, and going great.  We have about 15 kiddos this year, and many of them are already gung-ho about the books.  We are reading Frindle together in shared reading style at meetings, which I am absolutely LOVING.  We didn't do this with any of the books last year, but it's been a good way to model writing the questions and recording important information from the text.  Plus. it's am amazing, hilarious book that I ADORE reading, and am elated to share with an audience who eats it up as much as these readers.  Hands down the best part of coaching Battle of the Books is when kids come up to me both at meetings and during the week and say things like, "Miss Teacher!  I'm halfway done!  Look!!"  or "Miss Teacher, this book is GOOD!!"  Gets me every time.  :)

Oh, and btw, to whomever invented books on CD, thanks.  Thanks a million.  I would never make it through this whole list without you!!!

Miss Teacher Runs

In college, I started a blog called Smile Like You Mean It, mostly because my brother suggested it.  I love writing, and used it mainly to share quotes, musings, pictures, and thoughts on books I was reading.  I wrote sporadically.  I recently started writing in it about running, and more recently, the injuries that have led to the lack of running in my life.  Well, it is enough work to keep up ONE blog much less TWO, so I've decided that I will be ending my relationship with smile like you mean it, and posting all of those other things in this blog.  In real life, I'm not JUST a teacher, so why should this blog be JUST about my teaching?  Of course, this blog will still be MAINLY about my classroom adventures, but there may be some other things sprinkled in here and there.  I think it's symbolic of the fact that, as a SECOND year teacher, I actually have something of a life outside of school!!!  Although still not too exciting of one! ;)  If you don't care about my outside of classroom adventures, please feel free to gloss over them.  :)  Anyways...

One thing I have been MAJORLY missing lately is running.  On August 4th I suffered a stress fracture in my right tibia, which I am blaming on being sold a pair of running shoes that way OVER corrected my feet, and have consequently been finding myself staring out the window longingly at runners without being able to tie up my shoes.  It has been pretty sad, especially since I had just gotten BACK into running for the first time since college, and had fallen back in love with the sport in a HUGE way.  :(  Anyways, my tibia is finally starting to heal, but I have still felt lingering pain every time I have tried to run in the past few weeks.  There were at least  5 races I had hoped to run this fall that are one by one passing by on the calendar with me still bumming around the house, but the one race that REALLY matters, the Disney Princess Half-Marathon, aka my escape from Chicago winter in February, opportunity to run through Cinderella's Castle, first big-girl race, and basically dream come true, is still pretty far ahead of me.

My Pain-Free and Fabulous Tibia :)
However, as the weeks and weeks have gone by and my tibia pain has continued to linger (the only real cure for a stress fracture, just like a regular fracture, is REST and noooo running), I have been getting nervous about whether or not I'll have enough time to rehab my tibia, get back into shape, AND oh yeah, prepare my body to run 13.1 miles for the very first time ever.  The first day I tried running again post-injury was a couple of weeks ago, and I WAY overdid it.  I ran/walked about 3.5 miles when I should have started it out at, oh, i don't know, 0.25 miles.  I got a little carried away...and paid for it with pain later.  So today, I decided to dust off my running shoes, lace them up, and give it another shot.

A few weeks ago, some of the bloggers I follow celebrated Love My Body week.  Today, my motto on my run was, "I love my body enough that I will LISTEN to my tibia, RESPECT my pain, and NOT PUSH IT!"  I ran a pathetically slow mile and a half following 30 second/60 second run/walk intervals, and survived with NO PAIN.  Wonderful.   :)  Not quite ready for Disney yet, but it's a baby step.  And that's what it's all about, right?

In other news, I met a friend today to talk to her about Girls on the Run.  She started a site at her school last year, and absolutely has loved being involved with the organization and coaching the program.  I am super excited about the prospect of starting a site at my school possibly next year (you know, assuming I still have a job!).  For now, though, I am going to do some volunteer work with the organization and help coach at another school.  More on that to come!!

October 30, 2010

Sniffles, Sore throats, Subs, and Other things that make my life crazy

Hello!  I took a blog break this week as I was fighting a nasty cold...Wednesday I got to school with dirty hair in a ponytail, a half-hearted attempt at makeup and a presentable outfit, a sore throat, and a a stuffy nose.  By the time I left at 4 for autism tutoring, I was completely exhausted and feeling sick as a dog.  I knew there was NO WAY I would be well enough to teach the next day.

One of the few things that I absolutely HATE HATE HATE about being a teacher is that you can't just call in sick.  OH NO.  I spent a ton of time typing out detailed sub plans and proofreading them, and even then I still needed to go in Thursday morning to set up the room.  I have a group of kids this year who does not do well with subs.  Last year, the principal or assistant principal would literally have to sit in one of the 4th grade classrooms when there was a sub just to keep fist fights at bay.  I have a number of those kids in my room, and while there were no fist fights, my sub's report was hardly glowing.

Thankfully, though, the asst principal stepped in in the afternoon and told 6 boys who were causing most of the trouble that they would be missing part of Friday's halloween party.  While that didn't completely turn them around, it did save ME from having to give a consequence.  Let me explain: I believe that there should be consequences for poor choices.  However, I have a hard time giving consequences for things I did not witness.  Since I wasn't there, it would do more harm than good to come in Friday and tell these boys, who I do believe were causing trouble, that they were going to miss party time.  I have several boys whose respect and trust I have had to EARN, and doing something like that, when I wasn't there to see what happened, destroys a little bit of that trust.  So, the asst. principal saved me from that.  I was able to come in and say, "Listen.  I heard you had a rough time yesterday.  I know that you will make a better choice next time.  You will be having a consequence this afternoon, just like Ms. Asst. Principal said, but we're going to move on and have a fresh start today."  And, in true love and logic form, when they protest, "But, [fill in the blank with something they did not do or something THIS STUDENT did]!!!" I can cut in and say, "Listen, we're not talking about the other studnets.  We're talking about you.  And I wasn't here yesterday.  I don't know what happened, and I am not mad at you.  So let's please just move on and have a good day today."  And 9 times out of 10, it works.

I still hate missing school.  But it was DEFINITELY the right choice.  After a day of naps, Arrested Development, peanut butter toast, and jammies, I felt MUCH BETTER and was able to go to school Friday for Halloween.  :)

October 21, 2010

Happy (but sleepy) Teacher

This has been a week of good days.  :)

This time last year, I was choking back tears every night and staying past 7.

While I still have 2 long days per week usually, and while many things still are frustrating and need work, I am not choking back tears.  Not even close.  In fact, I feel pretty good.

This week I have realized that I have great relationships with my kids.  I care about them, and, more importantly, they KNOW I care about them.  I am at a place with them where I can say, "Will you please do it, just for me?" and they WILL.  It's amazing.  Even my tough kids hold some pretty special places in my hearts.  My toughest kid of all, who can barely read and is prone to temper tantrums and melt downs?  I freaking love him.  BTW this has been a melt-down free week.  So proud. :)

Oh, and my kiddo who was skipping out on school last week actually TRIED this week!  In fact, he did a fantastic job all week and I could not be prouder.  Have we made progress??

Today was an extra good day for another reason--I had a special guest!!!  One of my good friends from my college elementary ed program, Miss S, came to help in my room today!  Miss S is currently subbing in another district, but had the day free and offered to come help out.  YES PLEASE!!!!  It was unbelievable how much more we were able to get done with an extra teacher in the room.  Miss S met with two of my reading groups which meant EVERYONE got met with today for a change (yay!), and in math she and I were basically like a swat team running from struggling kid to struggling kid (first day practicing measuring angles with a protractor--always a disaster!  she could NOT have come on a better day!).  Also, it's pretty great just having another grown up in the room to share a laugh with sometimes.  Miss S, can I just pay you to co-teach with me???

Tomorrow is Friday.  Hallelujah.  Good week or not, I am E X H A U S T E D.  Like, falling asleep in your grading exhausted.  But in a good, I-gave-it-all-I-had-and-it-shows kind of way.

This evening's laugh-out-loud moment while grading vocabulary sentences:
"Slurp: When I got in trouble, I slurped my icy noisily and casually."  Amazing. :)

October 20, 2010

Journal Gems :)

Two fabulous discoveries made this morning while responding to students' journal entries...

Prompt: "If you won $1,000,000 and couldn't spend any of it on yourself, what would you do with it?"
This student's response was that he would give it to his parents because they do so much for him.  
I adored the illustration complete with text-lingo captions.  :) 

Prompt: "What is your dream career?"

This one made my heart melt. :)

October 19, 2010


Oh recess...what a love-hate relationship I have with you...

Let me clarify, we are talking about the extra 10-15 minute recess I sometimes take my kiddos out for in the afternoon (not the lunch recess).

-a breath of fresh air
-getting a chance to glimpse blue sky and green grass rather than cinder block walls and brownish-orange carpet
-seeing my kids run around and actually act like the 10 year olds they are, rather than the 18 year olds they try to be
-how excited they are outside
-how some days they are SO ON when we come back in, just because their brains and bodies got a break

-how some days it takes so much time to settle down once we come back inside
-when the kiddos complain that i am taking them in earlier than they think i should be
-when they COMPLAIN COMPLAIN COMPLAIN that I don't take them out enough (they seem to feel recess is a RIGHT rather than a PRIVILEGE, no matter how frequently I stress the contrary!)

Usually I make the kids earn recess with good behavior throughout the school day, spelling the letters RECESS on the board.  Today, I looked at the clock with 10 minutes left in our writing time, decided it wasn't worth starting somethign new, and announced, "We have 10 minutes left.  I think...we should go outside."

The kids' incredulity was priceless.  "What?? Are you serious?? YES!!!"  It was actually kind of cute to see how shocked they were, and to catch them in a moment when they weren't begging for recess.  Now, tomorrow, when they beg, I will remind them that sometimes I surprise them with recess when they are just being good and not asking for it.  Stealthy teacher trickery at its finest. ;)

Extra exciting moment of the day: box of day old bagels from panera sitting in the lounge this morning, including special october  pink ribbon bagels!  yum!  :)

October 18, 2010

No, I do NOT live and sleep at school.

Dear parent who believes it is perfectly acceptable to pick up her child at 4:20 from a club that ends at 4,

I am already dedicating 1 hour of my time every Monday to share my love of reading with your child and 14 others.  I cannot stay outside with your daughter for an extra 20 minutes.  And while I would be understanding if this were just a one time thing and you got the times mixed up, or even if you apologizes, I am really failing to understand how you can show up late and basically tell me, unapolegetically, that you can't be at school until that time because you get off work at 4.  I'm sorry, I get off work at 4 too!   Please don't act like it's my responsibility to stay with her and like it's a big inconvenience to you that I would even ask you to be ON TIME.   If your daughter needs to be picked up, find a way to get her home!

Maybe I will feel more understanding later, but right now I am annoyed.  Mostly because it frustrates me when other people don't value my time or acknowledge that I just might have a life outside of school or other things that could and should be occupying my time, like, oh i don't know, preparing for tomorrow.  Your daughter is welcome at my club.  I love reading with kids and that's why I offer my time.  But please, when you look at me, see a human, not a child care robot.  Apologize when you are late.  Make an effort to make other arrangements.  And do not treat me like I OBVIOUSLY have nothing better to do than babysit your daughter pro bono.

Miss Teacher
Battle of the Books Sponsor

^I apologize.  This is a rant.  But honestly, it's not the time that is the issue, it's the attitude...

October 17, 2010

cue disgusting nose-blowing sound effects...

It would appear I officially have a cold.  Achoo.  Sniffle Sniffle.  The works.  I'd been feeling fine all weekend, but around 3:30 today I decided to take a bike ride, and part way through my nose started running like CRAZY!  I was sniffling non-stop until I got home.  (Okay, I'll admit it.  I wiped my nose on my shirt sleeve a few times...I know, I'm disgusting...)  Since then, I've been blowing my nose and sneezing NONSTOP.  My nose is already so raw and red that it's seriously painful.  No fever and no other symptoms except feeling crappy from the cloudy head that comes along with a runny nose, but I feel YUCKY.

I REFUSE to miss school on a Monday of all days though, and a handful of my tough cookie kiddos do NOT enjoy subs and REFUSE to behave for them, so I hate being absent...So I'm off to change into sweats, lay down on the couch with a bowl of soup (and a box of kleenex and vaseline for my poor raw nose), and just relax before going to bed early.  I WILL be well enough to go to school tomorrow, gosh darn it!

Please send healing vibes my way...

October 15, 2010

sheer terror

I have written before about a certain "difficult parent" and the trouble she likes to cause. Well, I have managed to appease her for awhile, but no calm lasts forever. Yesterday, her child was playing with a necklace all morning. Before PE I suggested I hang onto it for the rest of the day and put it in my pocket. Well, as all things do at the end of the day, the memory of the necklace simply evaporated from my mind. I remembered it only when I dug for something in my pocket at home that evening. Oh lordy, I thought, imaging the voicemail I was sure to have from mom in the morning. When I arrived at school, I was surprised to find that the telltale light on my phone was not blinking red (a sight that always creates a knot in my stomach, no matter what). But sure enough, around 7:50 the phone rang. "Yes, I have the necklace, it slipped my mind. Of course I will return it today, first thing this morning. Oh, you'd prefer that I didn't return it until after lunch recess? No problem. I have it on my desk with a post-it so I won't forget. Have a nice day!"

It should be so simple.

5 minutes before the end of recess, I spot the post-it which I had forgotten about until then--must have had other things on my mind like, oh, I don't know, TEACHING. Anyways, what I mean is, I spot the post-it, but I do NOT spot the necklace. I immediately launch into full-on panic mode. I search my desk top, the drawer underneath, the floor, my stack of papers to grade, even the trash. Then I put the handful of students who were in making up homework on the search. They crawl all around the floor, and suggest impossible places it could be. I check the same places again and again to no avail. I am beginning to feel like I am sure to either throw up or cry or both. All kinds of horrible accusations the mother is sure to make are running through my head. I am thinking about how she is sure to complain to the assistant principal, the principal, the district office, other parents, and anyone who will listen about me. The silly, young, irresponsible teacher. The teacher who stole her son's necklace. The teacher who is too incompetent to even keep track of things in her classroom. Any small margin of credibility I may have managed to scrape together in her critical view would surely be ruined. I was a wreck.

I pulled her son aside and told him the truth: it was missing, we were looking for it, I would pay for a replacement if it wasn't found. He seemed okay about it, and seemed to trust me. I asked the class to search their desks. I accused students from another class who had stopped by when I was out of the room. I called the asst. principal and warned her for the angry calls she would soon be receiving, and asked her in advance to support me from the wrath.

Then, from the grace of st. anthony or perhaps just karma paying me back for all of the blood sweat and tears I put into this job, I hear from the reading corner, "The necklace!!!" It was all I could do to keep from weeping tears of joy.

No questions asked, no wondering, "how the heck did that end up there?!," just an immediate, "Put that on your neck NOW!!" And a gigantic sigh of relief.

All in a day's work. :)

To the child who decided it was okay to skip school:

What were you thinking??? No, seriously, what the heck were you thinking? Did you think that school was optional? That no one would notice if you just decided not to show up? Did you think that you were too sneaky to have to go to school, or that you were smarter than everyone else because you figured out how to trick your mom and ditch school?

Did you realize that skipping school at your age is illegal? Did you consider how your mom would feel when, after two days of unexcused absences for both you and your brother, she was called at work? Did you know how panicked she would be, know she would picture you dead in an alley or in the back of a kidnapper's car, or worse? Did you think about the trouble you would be in? Did you even think at all?

Or what about this: did you take a moment to even consider how, when you are already reading and writing four grades behind, missing two days of learning would set you back even further? Did you realize that if you even want a SHOT at college, you need to learn to read first? Did it occur to you that YOU need to TRY to learn, that I cannot force you?

It baffles me to think that the child who sits, staring into space in my classroom each day, who cannot even figure out that, when he doesn't know what to do, he should raise his hand to ask, could mastermind a plan to pretend to walk to school two days in a row only to run back home once mom was at work. What. Were. You. Thinking.

Wake up. Get your act together. Now. Because I fear for you if, when you turn 16, you still can't read and think school is "boring." What will happen to you?

I hope you will take a moment to think about the consequences of your actions, and for the love of god, get to school. Period.

Miss Teacher

October 14, 2010

Sweet Autumn

I'm a summer girl at heart, but there is just something *MAGICAL* about fall.  Although I'm still recovering from a nasty running injury and am seriously missing fall crunchy leaf runs, I am adoring going for walks and bike rides and just gawking at the phenomenal fall colors.  Yay for sweaters, scarves, and birkenstocks!

Fall also means that we are officially into the swing of things (at least as much as we will ever be!!) at school.  No more fooling around, it is LEARNING TIME.  Not that we haven't been learning since Day 1, especially since I tend to be a no-nonsense kind of teacher and don't do a lot of fluffiness, even at the beginning of the year...I believe in more practical, beneficial ways to build the learning community...but that's another story.  Anyways, I'm not sure if it's just me, but lately I've been feeling like the pressure has already set in.  I think it comes from having so many low readers that I just look at them sometimes and think, "I'm not doing enough for you...," but at the same time another part of me is thinking, "What more can I possibly do?????"  It's tough with the older kids I think--some of these kids have just gotten further and further behind every year that by 5th grade, it's scary.  This is no one teacher's fault--it's just something that happened due to a WHOLE BUNCH of factors and circumstances.

It really feels daunting though--how can I possibly give everyone the time they need?  I swear some days I think, "Man, I hope you're taking some of this in!  Are you learning???  Please be learning."  Yes, I'm assessing my kiddos, but it's still tough, when there is SO MUCH growth to make, to notice on any given day who is making tiny gains and who is maybe not.  There are always many more things I wish I had time for.  I swear the school day is over in the blink of an eye.  It is already mid-October, and before you know it the kids will be talking about their Halloween costumes (I'm actually surprised they haven't been already!).
Where does the time go???

PS: That reminds me, any Halloween costume ideas?  A friend already suggested Hermione, my all-time favorite costume.  I reminded him I was that already last year, and two years before that, and three years before that.  Totally attempted to pull out the sweater vest and gold-and-maroon scarf again, but that would probably just be lazy. ;)

October 12, 2010

I'm not sure that's the correct adjective to be used in this situation...

What do you do when a student decides that, because you are calling him out for inappropriate behavior, you are "racist"?

What do you do when said student decides to yell that out in front of the entire class?

I'm assuming the appropriate reaction is *NOT* to bring him out into the hallway and yell at him...rarely is that EVER the appropriate reaction...but that's what I did today.  I just couldn't handle that such a serious, ridiculous accusation would be thrown at me, and it didn't matter to me at the moment that this child is impulsive, has a behavior problem, and was only saying that to hurt me.

I did not handle the situation very well.  And while I appreciate that, I am still not sure what the best way to handle it would have been...They didn't teach me this in teacher college...

(By the end of the day, we had resolved the issue--after his weekly time with our social worker, this student apologized to me and said that he was just angry and that's why he had said it.  We have moved on.  It worries me, though, that other students will decide that this is an appropriate insult to throw at others when they are merely being held accountable for their own choices...My oh my the world we live in...)

October 9, 2010

Updates from Teacherville

  • Made it through conferences (5 families didn't show up...i will never understand how a parent cannot be bothered to come to school and discuss his or her child's progress.  seriously.)
  • Enjoyed a quiet Friday morning at school getting plans done and copies made
  • Saw Waiting for Superman--don't worry, this deserves its own blogpost...we'll save that for another time...
  • Looking forward to a relaxing weekend with NO GRADING!!!!!!!
  • Excited to spending the day babysitting and watching the blackhawks :)
Happy Weekend!

October 6, 2010

'twas the night before conferences

Tomorrow is PARENT CONFERENCES.  Yikes!!!  Ours are early in the year because we view them as a mid-term conference.  I like that idea, because it doesn't really make sense to wait until the end of the grading period to discuss the students' progress.  I am very much looking forward to having some conversations with a few parents, I have to say...  Also, I am excited to share some studnets' positive achievements with parents.  Honestly, as scary as conferences can be, I enjoy them for the most part.  There is nothing quite like sitting down with a student and his or her parents and telling them how much you are enjoying having him or her in class.

A little nervous about my crazy scary parent....keep your fingers crossed that I don't flip out if/when she gives me a hard time! :)

October 4, 2010

Does this make me look 12?

Oh dear.  My one and only goal for the night was to go to bed by 10.  It's 10:24.  EPIC FAIL.  I started off on the right track, I swear...I tore myself away from House Hunters on HGTV by 9:45 and headed upstairs to start getting ready for bed.  Brushed my teeth, washed my face, etc. etc. etc...then, I went into my closet to change into jammies.  That's when everything went downhill...

It started off innocently enough..."I should pick out something to wear tomorrow...Hmmm...*browses clothes that are plentiful yet never seem to match/fit the occassion/fit the weather/are what I want to wear...* What to wear..."  I proceeded to pull items off hangers and hold them up against each other for a good 15 minutes.  See, normally picking out clothes isn't that big of a deal.  Sure, when I have extra time that I should be using for sleep (like tonight...), I tend to over analyze and enjoy rooting around in my closet in an attempt to put together a marginally nice outfit.  But most days I can pick something out pretty quickly.  Who am I trying to impress anyways, the kids?

Well, this week is a different story.  It is PARENT CONFERENCE WEEK (ahhh!!!).  That means I will be on display for 24 sets of parents/family members.  It also means that I better not look 12.  See, all teachers end up under the scrutinity of well-meaning parents on conference days.  But 23 year old teachers have an added challenge: attempt to look old enough to BE a qualified teacher so that when you're talking about their children, the parents don't wonder if YOUR parents know where you are at this time of night.  This is a problem for any 23 year old teacher, but if you're a 23 year old teacher who happens to look about 19 on a GOOD day, and about 16 when wearing a ponytail, things can get a little tricky....this leads to much time spent trying to put together the "right outfit."

It all comes down to, "What kind of teacher do I want to look like?"

  • Do I want to be "professional teacher" in dress pants, a formal-looking button down, and heels?  
  • Or maybe "trendy workplace teacher" in a pencil skirt, dress top, and chunky trendy necklace?
  • What about "cutesy teacher" in a polka dot top and plain skirt?
  • Then there's "functional teacher" in pants, flats, and a sweater, because the reality of conferences is that I will be nonstop talking with parents until 8pm and better be comfortable?
  • Or I could be "stereotype teacher" in a cardigan, denim skirt, and some sort of cutesy accessory? (no, I have no apple pins, but the cardigans are a basic staple in my wardrobe...am i already THAT TEACHER??)
The list goes on... Well, as conferences aren't until Thursday, I have some more time to give this dilemma some thought.  I only started thinking about it tonight because I do have one conference tomorrow morning for a parent who couldn't attend Thursday's marathon conferencearama.  In any case, I have 5 outfits pulled from my closet to mix and match as needed this week.  I will keep you posted on which teacher I "show up as" Thursday.

And in the spirit of not looking 12 for my first conference tomorrow morning, I better head to bed so I have time to shower and straighten my hair tomorrow...Nothing says professional like a dirty ponytail with scraggly bangs bobby-pinned all over... :)

A few of the options...

Yes!!! Now, THIS is what I'm talking about!!!

At the end of the day today, I discovered one of the kiddos' writing journals on my desk with a post-it sticking out of it.  On the top of the post-it was written, "Please read this," and it was marking a story that this kiddo has been working on for the past week and a half or so.  After our Desert Voices lesson awhile back, the students did quick-writes from animals' points of view.  After reading this student's story this afternoon, I had a big smile on my face--HE TOTALLY GOT IT!!! YES!  I would have taken a picture of the journal, but this student is something of a minimalist--he writes sooo lightly with his pencil and uses such tiny printing that I can barely read it!  But I don't say anything because it is VASTLY superior to the chicken scratch that is most fifth graders' handwriting...  Anyways, here is his amazing piece:

What am I?  I have four legs and I am very fast.  you guessed it, I am a cheetah hunting for my cuvs.  My cubs are with me also.  Im teaching them how tp hunt./  I am very fast leaping over rocks and cactus.  I am leaving my cubs.  I better slow down.  OH NO I see a lion right behind my cubs.  So i fight the lion off while my cubs are still running.  I am so tired so then I just decide to run to catch up to my cubs.  I roar and give my cubs the signal to find a good place to hide.  So then i dashed up and that's when my cubs stop because they are tired.  I try to encourage them to keep going but the lion is far back so I wait with my cubs as I see the lion more and more.  My cubs finally aren't tired no more so I grabbed them by their neck with my mouth and I run.  I am very worried for my cubs.  All of a sudden I hear a huge roar.  I see a humongous family.  I am very worried for my cubs.  Since lions hunt in packs I'm scared too.  My family tried to run but then... 

Oh writing workshop...thank you for teaching my students to love writing. :)

October 1, 2010

Dear Crazy Parent

Dear Crazy Parent,

Please chill out. There's no need to call about 1/2 points taken off of your child's assignments. There is no need to criticize the little things and question everything I do. Please don't tell your child how much better he is than everyone else. Also, there is really no call to let me know that, in not so many words, you are better than me. I am a college grad, with honors no less. I am a good teacher, and I would do anything for my students. There is no need to doubt my every move. I get it--you care about your son. Here's the thing--i care about him too. I care about all of my students. They are the reason I stay at school after hours, do research for lessons on the weekends, and constantly look for ways to better myself as an educator. I'm not sure why you feel the need to sit watching and waiting for me to make a mistake. Which I will, by the way, because I am human. I can only imagine what your reaction will be...

But honestly, chill out. If not for your sake, then for your child's sake. I worry about him and his future, because I see the way you manipulate him, plant ideas in his head. So crazy parent, I hope you will learn to let go, and let me teach. And even though I do not love you, I will continue loving your son because I am a better teacher than you think I am, and because I care about all of my students.

Miss Teacher
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