November 30, 2010

Tofurkey it is, in that case!!

Last Tuesday, our last day of school before Thanksgiving break, I assigned this journal prompt:

Write a letter, from the point of view of a turkey, to your family.
Include reasons in the letter that your family should NOT eat the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

I love having students write from others' points of view, especially animals, so I love assigning this prompt.  Also, my vegetarian self likes getting the students to think about their food from time to time!! :)  I promise I'm not preaching...I don't want THAT parent phone call!  Anyways, I didn't have a chance to read through them until today.  Here were my two favorites:

(sorry the pictures are super blurry!  I really have to remember to bring my camera to school--my phone isn't cutting it!)

 Dear family,

PLEASE DON'T EAT ME!!!  There are SO many different foods you could eat instead of me!  You can eat potatoes, pie, cranberrys, NOT ME!  Or how about we all be vegiterians for this time.  Please, please, don't eat me.  Turkeys don't need to be Thanksgiving food, how about you take the chickens insted.  (That sounds like a good plan, don't you think?!)  I will give you some time to think about this (or 2 days to be exact!)  PLEASE DONT EAT ME!

Very scared and sad,

Please don't eat me this year for thanks giving this year.  I have lots of dreams when I grow up.  I want to be a Professional turkey dancer.  So if you eat I will never get to accomplish that career.  that would be really sad right so if you want to eat me well PLEASE DONT!!!!!

         Your Turkey

I'm thinking next year we should do an actual writing project with this prompt...these are too funny!

Today's Little Happys :)

Today was happy because of...

 ...These cookies that a student brought me.  She wants to bring them in for our class holiday party the day before winter break (in 2 1/2 weeks...), and she and her mom wanted to give me a "taste test."  Adorable.

...And because of this gingerbread latte.  First of the year!!  I have to say, it was not quite as yummy as a pumpkin spice latte...but really, what is?

...And also because of this little guy!  This worn out, ugly frog is a new addition to our classroom.  Actually, he is a cast-off from my mom's classroom (she's also a teacher).  Teacher Mom decided he was looking a little ratty, but I thought he still had some life in him!  My kids seem to be way too old too fast, and I am forever looking for ways to keep them kids.  They like to sit and read with the frog, and I was happy to seem him perched up here with the books at the end of the day!

..And because when we took the Reading MAP test (a 3x a year progress monitoring test), almost all of my kids' scores went up since fall!  YAY!!  2 of my lowest kids actually went up close to 15 points, which is HUGE!  I almost cried.  :)  Now, just gotta keep this up until the end of the year!

..And also because I had a successful visit to the orthopedist during which it told me it is OKAY for me to be running, as long as I am taking it easy and a LITTLE pain is not becoming a LOT of pain...after which I had a successful run/walk on the treadmill!  PS- treadmill < running outside.  I miss summer...

November 29, 2010

Pourquoi Stories: Class Book

While I LOVE teaching intermediate grade kiddos (I actually had a NIGHTMARE that I had to teach Kindergarten last night...*shivers*), one thing that often makes me sad is that we do way less "cute" work.  Actually, at times this is something I LIKE about big kids, but come on, every teacher likes a good bulletin board filled with cute work now and again!  Well, as promised, I made the Pourquoi Tales from last week's lesson into a class book.  The kids were thrilled!!!  We spent 15 minutes of social studies today sitting on the carpet and listening to students share their tales from the book.  It turned out great, and was wonderful to see them get so excited.  I definitely plan to incorporate more writing into class books in the future (even if just copies of expository essays or narratives!), because they get the biggest kick out of both seeing their writing in a book, and reading their classmates' writing.

Pictures (sorry for the smudges!  I blurred the names)

The Bee Story was a few more pages...but you get the idea ;)

Story Surgery

Earlier this year, I taught a mini-lesson on Story Surgery that I borrowed from Ralph Fletcher's Craft Lessons K-8.  Here's a secret...sometimes kids' writing absolutely SUCKS their first draft out!!!!  No really, it can be a big garbled mess.  But here's a bigger secret that I just learned this year...that's okay!!!!  My perfectionist self tends to like a nice and neat first draft, but it is SO much more beneficial (in my opinion) to just let kids write, then teach them the beauty of revising.  Because the first draft is often a little sketchy, I love Story Surgery.  I have my kiddos write on every other line on just one side of the paper for the first draft.  Then, as I am going over the writing with them in conferences, we will look for places that may need more elaborating, or parts that are out of order.  Next (and here's the fun part), the kids will cut apart their draft, and tape it onto fresh paper leaving room for the new additions.

It's very practical, and let's face it, it's fun too.  I keep a set of scissors and some scotch tape in the writing supplies bin (along with whisper phones, thesauruses, and red and blue pens for revising/editing), and while at first I thought they would get crazy with them, they are actually very responsible.  Anyways, this all came up because I noted this case of story surgery getting a bit out of hand...

Story Surgery--yep, those are all taped together!!
Hey, at least she was revising!!! :) 

November 25, 2010

I am thankful...

...for my wonderful family with whom I got to enjoy a yummy, silly thanksgiving...

...especially for my parents and brothers, who never mind hearing my stories about school, who put up with the fact that I am still free-loading at their place instead of growing up and moving out, and who grilled tofu and allowed it to grace our Thanksgiving table :)...

...that even though many of my friends live far away now, we are as close as ever, and when we DO see each other, nothing has changed...

...for my job.  not only that I have one, but that I have one I LOVE that is never boring, mindless, or impersonal...

...for my supportive coworkers, who I know I can call at night, frustrated and stressed out, and they will talk me down and convince me to keep coming back into work...

...that the above type of phone calls are FAR less common this year than last year!!!

...that I have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children every single day.  Because honestly, what better purpose IS there in life?

...that while I am often frustrated about my running injury, I still have running in my life.  After years of believing I was not an athlete, I have found a sport that I love, and thank goodness it's one that you can start anytime, anywhere, and participate in even if you kind of suck...

...for you. :)

I guess some runs are just like this...

This week I started my half-marathon training plan, after putting it off as long as I feel I can and still be ready for my February race.  This is my first half-marathon, and I very much want to be prepared, so I had every intention of starting to train EARLY.  But then my body had other plans...I've been on a running hiatus for the past few months, trying to rest my tibia and allow it to heal from the stress fracture I got in August.  Turns out it's taking FOREVER.  I finally felt ready to start running the past couple weeks, but still have some pain off and on...let me tell you, I think back over my runs before I hurt my leg and I did NOT APPRECIATE THEM ENOUGH!!!!  I would give anything to be able to run without a) tibia pain b) worrying about tibia pain and c) having to take a million walk breaks to PREVENT tibia pain.  Wow, I'm doing a lot of complaining of those mornings though.

training plan
When I started my run this morning, it was bad.  And got worse.  I imbibed in two delicious brews last night while catching up with my college roommate who is in town for the holiday.  They were on the heavier side, and did NOT like being sloshed around in my tummy this morning on my run.  Cue nausea...not the recipe for a good run!  (but it was worth it to spend the time with friends!)  My tummy was not enjoying my run at all.  Then, halfway into the 3 mile run my tibia started yelling at me too.  You'd think after months of rest it would just chill the heck out!  I did listen to my body though and switched to just walking once the tibia started really hurting, and headed straight for home.  Where I promptly saran-wrapped an ice pack to my leg and laid on my bed wallowing in self-pity.  I know, pathetic.  I'm just frustrated and SO over this whole deal...

Here's hoping that a day of icing is all I need and I'll be ready for my 4-mile run Sunday...note: do not drink heavy beer Saturday night...

November 24, 2010

Pourquoi? Because I said so.

I have a secret to confess.  I don't like teaching social studies.  I know, it's horrible...Actually, the TEACHING is not so bad, but I dislike the planning part because I very rarely have original and engaging ideas for social studies.  And since I don't have inspired lesson ideas, I don't enjoy the teaching as much as I do other subjects.  Once in awhile I do stumble across a great interact or simulation (I adored the Hacker Trail westward expansion interact we did last spring!), but between our outdated sub-par social studies curriculum, and the fact that there is little or no time in the day for social studies anyways, my lessons are usually not quite what they ought to be.

Right now, we are in the middle of a half-assed unit I threw together on Native Americans.  Now I just said I'm not into social studies...well, I am REALLY not into the social studies curriculum on Native Americans.  First of all, it's way too much.  No, we are not going to study EVERY tribe, and no, I really don't want to do tribe research projects.  I would much rather focus on traditions of Native American cultures, then begin moving onto settling the New World/revisit Native American roles in that.  Anyways, in my ongoing quest to find engaging, meaningful lessons that connect to Native American traditions, I found this fantastic unit on Pourquoi Tales (how & why stories, often myths and legends) on the fabulous website Read Write Think.  If you have never looked around there before, definitely check it out!  It's a gold mine.

Over the past two days (I squeezed it into such a short time because we weren't using our literacy series for the two day week, plus our intervention block was cancelled.  Helloooo tons of teaching time, it's so nice to meet you!!), I read aloud 3 or 4 Pourquoi Tales from different cultures, including a few from Native American tribes.  The kids also read a few for homework.  We worked on identifying the aspects of the genre, as well as discussing the cultural elements from the stories.  The class LOVED listening to the stories (and hello, we know I am a big sucker for any chance to a. read out loud and b. read picture books to my class), and really got a concept of the genre.

Then, after exposure to a few tales, they worked with partners to come up with an idea for their own pourquoi tale to explain something in the world.  They filled out planning guides (provided by Read Write Think!!) and started drafting their stories.  One thing that they struggled with a little bit was coming up with plot events that can link to an eventual solution that explains their element in nature.  For example, one student wanted to write about why the cheetah has it's spots, but couldn't think of any ideas for events that would lead to that.  It took a lot of conferencing with me for some of them to get ideas, but once they did, they ran with them!!!  The stories are so creative.

After writing and revising, they recopied the stories onto construction paper and illustrated.  When we come back from break, I'm planning to laminate the pages and bind them into a class book.  Hopefully beforehand, if I am feeling extra ambitions, I will have a chance to photocopy them all and make individual black and white booklets of the stories for the kids.  They seemed excited about the class book idea, but disappointed that they wouldn't be able to take their story home.  I definitely recommend this lesson, and not just as a Native American unit link.  Genres, especially traditional literature genres, are a highly tested area, but tend to be very confusing for kids.  While "Pourquoi Tale" isn't a specific genre, I feel like my class has a much clearer understanding of legends and myths after this lesson.  And, I am SUPER excited to get the book all put together.  I will post pictures of that next week!

November 23, 2010

You know you're a teacher when...

You get a new book (not for your classroom for a change!) and your immediate instinct is to write your last name and the genre of the book inside the cover!  Almost just did that, and then realized that it probably isn't necessary... ;)

In other news, Happy Thanksgiving Break!!!!! aka the BEST 5 days off of the year.  Much, much needed for everyone's sanity I'd say!

To be updated on soon:

  • My RTI frustrations
  • Our wonderful writing project from the past two days
  • Half-marathon training--let the tibia swelling begin!

November 21, 2010

Book Club = Eating Extravaganza

Today was Book Club!  (BTW that just made me think of how, during student teaching, the el ed majors would call gathering at the bar next to campus Friday afternoons "book club"...oh the good times...)  Anyways, this book club actually does involve some reading.  This month the book of discussion was Harry Potter 7, which of course we had all read before, but wanted to reread/discuss with the movie just coming out (which I still have not seen!!!).  Actually though, I'm pretty sure that the only reason we picked HP was so that we could just keep discussing the Hunger Games Trilogy, our OBSESSION.  The past two book clubs have both been discussing Hunger Games books, and both had fabulous Hunger Games themed desserts, including a cookie cake designed like the arena in book 2, and cookies shaped like Katniss's mockingjay pin.  All courtesy of our resident book club baking/cooking/crafting EXTRAORDINAIRE!!!  This month, we upped the ante by each writing trivia questions for one of the books so we could have our own Hunger Games Game.  God, we are so lame, but it was so much fun.

Too fabulous to eat...almost!
This month, she outdid herself and cooked up this AMAZING edible Hunger Games game board!!!  We had a great time moving our game piece around the brownie board, answering trivia questions, and eating amazing food.  The beverages were one thing that DID go along with the Harry Potter theme--butter beer floats and pumpkin juice!  Umm can you say delicious?
The pathetic dent we made in the HUGE game board!
I apologize to anyone who is bored outta their minds because they don't know what on earth The Hunger Games are.  I suggest you read the book review I wrote on them a few months ago, then get yourself to the library ASAP because you are missing out on one awesome book series!!!

Next month's book club book?  Twilight.  I have never read it and the other girls are avid fans who insist I will love it.  And, let's be honest...we just can't bring ourselves to tackle an adult book.  :)  That's okay...right?

November 20, 2010

Wine + Chocolate + Shoes = BLISS

Friday nights I usually want to just curl up in a ball on the couch, totally drained from the long week.  However, I think my abundance of rest Monday-Wednesday this week left me with an abundance of extra energy Friday!  That, and having a good, productive, happy day at school.  That might have something to do with the fact that only 19 kids showed up...yes, 5 absences.  I love my kids, but that small group was amazing.  Wish I could have 19 kids every day!

Too pretty to eat...well, almost...
I decided to take advantage of my bundle of energy and went out for wine and chocolate with Miss R.  Amazingly, there is a fantastic little cafe/lounge not too far away that sells the most beautiful hand-painted truffles paired with a glass of vino.  Hold me.  The company was wonderful, the conversation lovely, and the chocolate and wine...bliss.

But wait, it gets even better.  Halfway through my glass of wine, I realized a DSW shoe store was just across the parking lot, still open.  Obviously a quick walk through the massive shoe store was in order before heading home!  Which means of course, buying a pair...when you see red patent leather flats on the clearance shelf, you do not think twice.  You just buy!!

The weekend is off to a wonderful start.  Now, I'm off to school to help out at Family Movie Night.  When I heard they were showing Toy Story 3, I immediately signed up.  I'm kind of a Toy Story fan... :)  Have a great Saturday!

The One who Gets It.

I've written before about how I adore reading aloud to my class.  Last year's group was a little screwy on the carpet, so I didn't make time for read aloud as much as I should have because it frequently gave me a headache.  This year I was determined to a) make time on a regular basis to read aloud to the class, and b) choose novels to start with that would instantly hook them and make them fall as much in love with read aloud as I am.

Enter Wayside School.  I started reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School aloud to the group the first week of school, and was overjoyed when I realized that I could sit down in my chair, start reading quietly, and the kids would magically settle down, and even shush each other if conversations were continuing.  They'd be silent almost instantly!  Also, if I paused partway through because they were disruptive (and let me clarify, the disruption while I read these books usually consists of them getting over-excited about something I just read), they will immediately quiet down and wait expectantly for more.  They will beg me to read another chapter.  It is music to my ears.  We just finished Wayside School is Falling Down, and I am excited to start book 3, Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger on Monday.

Sometimes, when things are hectic, Read Aloud gets pushed to the side.  It's tough to make time for things that don't have an automatic correlation to ISAT testing when there is always so, so much to be done...I mean well, really, but when it comes down to it, it's often that thing that gets skipped when the schedule is tight.  I know how beneficial it is to kids, though; listening to a novel teaches fluency, expression, helps with comprehension, and, #1, the most important gets kids HOOKED ON READING.  (when done correctly with the right books!)  Like I said, though, it's tough to see any immediate payback from an unstructured activity like this.  Most of the time, it's crossing your fingers and hoping that these benefits do happen!

This week, though, I was lucky:
When I was absent Tuesday, my fabulous literacy specialist and fabulous friend Mrs. J was helping my class out with reading.  She asked one of kiddos to read aloud to her a little bit, and she was pleasantly surprised that when he began, he was reading with expression and emotion, even doing voices for different characters!  This is NOT typical of the average 5th grader, much less 5th grade boy!  After a pause, she exclaimed, "Wow!  Do you always read like that?"  He responded, "I didn't used to, but Miss Teacher reads aloud to us, and she reads like that, and she does all these voices!  It's so much more fun!  So I started reading like that too, and it makes reading so much fun!  Sometimes, at home I even close the door to my room and read out loud so I can do voices too."  Big smile.

And that is why I will continue to make time in my crowded schedule for something that has nothing to do with test scores, but everything to do with what I believe in as a teacher.  Maybe not every student is suddenly reading with fluency and emotion, but this ONE student is, and sometimes one is more than enough.

I teach for moments like this.

November 19, 2010

Please Excuse Me While I Bang My Head Against This Wall...

Me = just patient enough to be a teacher, but not as patient as I need to be sometimes...

Today I was literally about to gouge my eyes out in frustration during a long division recess tutorial.  Never mind the possibility of mastering the 5th grade material, this is what was driving me UP THE WALL CRAZY today:

Miss Teacher: "Okay, after multiplication comes subtraction. What's 9-8?"
Student: [grabs calculator]
Miss Teacher: "Nope, no calculator allowed for this part, you know this."
Student: [blank stare] "Um..."
Miss Teacher: [beginning to get tense] "Come on, 9-8.  9-8."
Student: "Umm......."
Miss Teacher: "Look at the number line.  Are there any numbers in between 9 and 8?  How far apart are they?"
Student: [muttering under breath, looking at the number line] "11, 12..."
Miss Teacher: "NO!!!!! Come on, 9-8!!!  9-8!!!!"  (almost has a coronary)

Not 5 minutes later...
Miss Teacher: "Okay, what's 8-8?"
Student: [blank stare, grabs calculator]
Miss Teacher: "AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!" tears out hair, shakes student silly...
^not really.  But I was THIS CLOSE!!!!!!!!

Oh math woes...

November 18, 2010

Love & Logic In Action

A few of my students like to wear their jackets all day long.  This kind of annoys me, but since the primary culprits are a few of my tougher students, it is a battle I typically don't choose.  Today I decided to throw some Love & Logic at it...

(Remember, this is relaxed and smiling through the whole conversation, in true Love & Logic form)

Me: "I noticed you're wearing your jacket.  Why is that?"
Student: "I like my jacket!  And it's cold in here."
Me: "I'm glad you like your jacket!  I like my jacket too.  But it's not really appropriate to wear in school.  Do you think you could hang it up?"
Student: "But it's cold in here!"
Me: "It is a little chilly, but I just turned the temperature up."
Student: "But..."
Me: "Would you mind hanging it up?  Just for me?" (Bigger smile)
Student: "Well..."
Me: "Thanks." (Smile, walk away)
Student: [goes to hang up jacket immediately without another word]

BAM.  Thank YOU Fay & Funk!

There was a little Love & Logic later on in my day too...
I got pretty rotten sub reports for the 6 student reading intervention group I run at the end of the day when we break up the students across the grade...There are a few unruly kiddos in that group!  One STORMED into my room at 2:00, sat down, and literally sat grumbling and grimacing to himself.

I walked over with a GIGANTIC smile and exclaimed, "[Student]!  I'm so glad to see you!  I've missed you the past few days."
Student: "Thank goodness you're here." (aka thank goodness another sub isn't here because I might EXPLODE!!!)
Me: "I'm glad I'm here too!  You seem a little upset.  Could you help me get the materials set up?"
Student and I walk over to the shelf to grab the bin of intervention materials.
Me: "You seem pretty upset.  What's going on?"
Student: (getting worked up and beginning to sputter) "Yeah, I am, well, Mrs. Teacher lied to us FOUR TIMES today, she, she..."
Me: "Wow, that's pretty awful.  Take a deep breath.  Listen, I haven't been here all week, right?"
Student: "Right."
Me: "So, remember, I haven't done anything to be mad about, right?"
Student: "Yeah."
Me: "Okay, so you're not mad at me.  That's great.  Listen, why don't we sit and talk for a minute?"

I sit down with him and tell him about being home sick.  Pretty dull, but kids love to hear about their teachers' lives.  Especially really needy kids.  Like putty in my hand...

Me: "So, I can tell you're still a little frustrated.  But remember, you're not in trouble in here.  So let's just have a fresh start for Intervention.  Can we do that?"
Student: "Okay."
Me: "Great.  I'm going to bring the books over to our group and get started.  Feel free to sit here as long as you like.  When you're ready to join the group, come on over."

Before I became a Love & Logic convert, I might have thought he'd sit there for the entire 45minute block, taking advantage of me.  Or that it was inappropriate to not immediately side with his teacher.  Or that I should get on him right away about starting his work or entering the classroom appropriately.

All so untrue.  In fact, he came over to the group about 2 minutes later, sat down, and started working immediately.  He started to get upset again, remembering the conflict he'd had with his teacher, but all I needed to do was look at him and calmly say, "Hey, remember, you're not in trouble in this room.  Fresh start, okay?"  and he immediately relaxed.  Kids like this one need MANY things, but most of all, they need to be shown that you care about them.  They need to be heard, and know that you like them.  This student needed to know that I wasn't mad at him.  It doesn't ALWAYS work, but it works just often enough that it is SO worth it.


Wow, 5:30am sure does come early.  I think it comes even earlier when you've spent the past 2 1/2 days on the couch in jammies...needless to say my body is not into this whole going back to school thing...

Good news is I feel pretty okay.  Head and body aren't achy, no fever...but my tummy is still a little off and I STILL have no appetite. <-- This NEVER happens to me.  Usually when I'm home sick I end up snacking all day long, but I've barely consumed anything but some toast and a baked potato since Monday breakfast.  I have been drinking copious amounts of gatorade though so at least I am ingesting some calories, but gatorade does not a meal make...

Okay, just gotta get through TWO days this week, then TWO next week and it's Thanksgiving...I can do this...hopefully the nurse doesn't have to call my dad again!

November 17, 2010

Gimme a break...

I just received an email from today's sub with a VERY detailed recap of the day.  I do appreciate detailed sub notes to a certain point...that is I greatly prefer them to yesterday's sub's note that she "enjoyed working with my class!" (lies.) and "the day went well!" (more lies.) but "Mister Principal did have to come in a few times." (ahh the truth comes out...).  No you did NOT enjoy working with my class, do not lie to me Ms. Substitute...  Anyways, the notes from today were far better, although not fantastic.  But no blood was shed which is a plus.

Well, I was GREATLY amused when I read the following:  "[Student of the previously mentioned Crazy Mother] went home immediately after lunch (his mom ate with him) because 'the other students' behavior was upsetting him so much.'  He also came into school late today for the same reason because of the day yesterday."

Give. me. a. break.  In what corner of the UNIVERSE is it appropriate to a) Come into your child's FIFTH GRADE CLASSROOM to eat lunch sitting with him at his desk?  Seriously, um, deranged??  b) Allow your child to go into school late, missing valuable instructional time, because some of the students were off task the day before?  And c) pull your child out of school 2 hours early for the same reason?  Seriously, that should be illegal.  Oh wait, I believe that keeping your child out of school IS illegal...crazy, crazy, crazy.

I absolutely cannot WAIT to listen to the voicemail(s) awaiting me in the morning, explaining why it was simply NECESSARY that her precious baby not be around those unruly children, and letting me know that it is somehow MY fault that the students were behaving like that...Honey, just WAIT until your child is 35, still living in your basement, and telling you that everyone at work is "upsetting him too much" and that he needs you to come into work to eat with him in the break room...oh wait, you'll probably love that.

^I really do apologize.  That was completely inappropriate and unprofessional.  But I have been laying on the couch for 53 hours and believe I have at least some right to be a little crabby.  I mean honestly.  I am officially grossed out by this family...

Sick Days #4 & #5

You may have noticed that I've been sick an awful lot this would appear that while I am in better SPIRITS this year than during year 1, my body is not such a fan of the whole work thing lately.  You would think that since I am actually putting in less hours at school, getting more sleep, and am on average less stressed-out than last year, I would be healthier.  You would be wrong.

It was all going fine until around 8am Monday...already at school, I started feeling a little iffy.  Just not quite right.  This continued all morning, until during math I actually stopped my teaching, assigned a practice page, and sat down.  At lunch, I went to my car to lay down in peace.  (I know, pathetic)  All afternoon I progressively felt weaker until at 2:15 I walked next door to Mrs. P's room and informed her that I felt a little light-headed.  She took one look at me and walked me down to the nurse's office, who called my dad.  Who drove to school and picked me up.  I'm 23, btw, and the school nurse is still calling my dad.  Some things never change I guess?

I was pretty miserable Monday night and all day yesterday with awful achy muscles, chills, fever, and headaches.  I tested negative for the flu at the doctor, but that meant that all I could do was rest and wait it out.  Thankfully, I am feeling much better today, although my temp is still hovering around 99...I swear if it hits 100 and I can't go to school tomorrow again, I will kill someone.  I am out of activities for subs to have my monkeys do!!!

They certainly gave yesterday's sub a run for her money, as I heard from multiple teachers and the social worker...I think I can pretty much sum things up by saying she was small, soft-spoken, and wearing a tucked-in flannel shirt.  I know, that sounds mean, but she never had a prayer against my quick-to-judge monsters!!!  Yikes!  Thankfully, today's sub seemed to have her act together and I got a really positive email from her after school.  Hopefully the room is not quite as messy tomorrow as it was this morning when I stopped in to set up!

Man, if only I had a job where you could just call in sick and go back to bed, knowing all of your work would still be waiting for you the next, we've missed two days of real instruction (3 if you could the half-assed teaching I did Monday), which puts us behind, which means we likely WON'T wrap up the units I'd hoped before Thanksgiving break...oh well, so it goes.  We will endure.  For now, though, it's time to relish the last of my sick day (hopefully my last one of the, to think it's not even winter yet...), and start thinking about some plans for tomorrow...

November 14, 2010

Running Shoe Woes

New Kicks
This is the story of my year-long attempts at buying good running shoes, that (hopefully) FINALLY came to fruition this afternoon.  Last fall I picked up a pair of Asics running shoes at Kohls one evening after school on sale.  I didn't put a whole lot of thought into them--I'll admit that I picked a pair that looked cute (I know, I know...) and felt alright!  However, after wearing them at school the next day, I HATED them because they were rubbing my right ankle bone like crazy!  Obviously they went back to the store soon after.  (Well, actually they sat in the box in my room until June when I finally returned them.  Thank you, Kohls, for having the loosest return policy ever!!!)
Anyways, after failing at choosing shoes on my own, and after I decided that a half-marathon was in my near future, I took the matter to the experts.  I visited my friendly local running store and asked them to put me in the shoes that would be right for me.  They told me that I over-pronate (walking in on your arches) and sold me a motion-control shoe to stabilize my feet when I run.  Okay, wrap them up!  I wore them for two days before having the same problem with my ankle bone again.  So weird, because I've never felt that in shoes until the past year.  I was able to fix that by lacing them a little differently, and the shoes felt great.  For awhile...

In early August I felt that CRIPPLING pain in my shin that ended up being a tibial stress fracture (which I won't bore you about anymore, I promise!!).  Since I hadn't upped my mileage or changed ANYTHING about my running (distance, surface, etc.) other than the shoes, I attribute the injury at least partially to the fact that I was put in motion control shoes after running for years in neutral (regular) shoes.  Oh dear...Running Store, you led me SO very astray!!!  Anyways, the shoes were packed up in the box and stuck in the corner of my bedroom for a few months...

Today I finally dusted off the box and headed back to the running store.  While they didn't automatically agree with me that the shoes caused that problem, they did agree to exchange them for a neutral shoe.  The sales person who was fitting me though DID look at my gait (watch me walk) and was surprised that I'd been put in motion control shoes in the first place, since she didn't think I was pronating too terribly much.  *shakes head* Man, to think that just a different sales person back in July could have prevented the past 4 months of tibia drama!

In any case, these are my new Nike ZOOM Vomero shoes.  They feel great just walking around the house, but I hope they feel as good when I run in them.  I'm taking off running for a little longer, until I can get back to the orthopedist, but am looking forward to trying them out on a walk sometime this week.  Phew.  Hopefully I have NO MORE posts about the agonies of running shoe shopping, and that these shoes last me for at least awhile!

More Journal Gems

I made a BIG mistake of collecting all 24 journals at once this weekend to read and respond to...and an even bigger mistake of waiting until Sunday evening to start reading through them all...*shakes head* will I never learn?  I always say I'm going to collect a few each day, but between me forgetting to ask for them and students forgetting to turn them in when I DO ask, it doesn't exactly happen.  Any suggestions on how I can space them out better are welcome!

Of course, though, there were a few gems that I just had to take pictures of...unfortunately they are both from a student who writes pretty lightly so the pics didn't turn out too well, but here they are anyways.

Brings you band-aides, brings you chalk, thinks of fun games...the hallmarks of a true friend.  :)  God, I freakin' love kids sometimes!!!  Adorable.

This one just cracked me up!  She definitely has things planned out!  I love it.  And in response, I'm living my dream career!

Sweet Sunday

I have been L A Z Y this weekend!!!  After being up so early for GOTR yesterday, when I made it home from a lunch date I had with my aunt after the race, I pretty much collapsed on the couch and bummed around all evening.  Then, I slept super late this morning (emerging from bed only for PB toast...).  Needless to say, I feel REFRESHED, albeit LAZY.  And now I am off to Corner Bakery to grab lunch and settle in with my lesson plans.  I don't get anything done at home, and I feel like trying a new school work location (usually I like working at Caribou).  Also on the agenda today is return shoes I impulse bought last weekend, restock on my favorite food items at Trader Joe's, and stop at the library.  Let's hope that I get all of those things checked off my to-do list so I can start the week relaxed and ready to go.

November 13, 2010

Baby, just look at us now!

I caught up with my 2nd year teacher soul sister from my building this evening on the phone--for teaching in the same building, we haven't seen much of each other at all lately.  It's been a couple busy weeks in a row, so it was nice to compare notes and chat without glancing at the clock every 30 seconds to see how much more time was left in the lunch period.  We started talking about how rough October and November of last year were.  I believe her exact words were that last October she used to "lay in bed and cry" most nights.   I decided to go back and look at my posts from this past week in 2009, and reread this one:

November 9, 2009

I want to quit.  I can't remember any of the reasons I got into teaching anymore, 
and I just don't know if it's worth it.  I just need one thing to go right tomorrow.
I can't handle this.

^And I meant it, too.  This time last year, I remember thinking about how many months were left until summer, and feeling like there was no way in hell I would make it through.  It seemed impossible.  That day was a real low point.  My whole life I have known I would be a teacher; I think sometimes that this profession chooses you, not the other way around.  So it honestly felt like my world was crumbling...this job I'd dreamed about for years, not only was I finding that maybe I was BAD at it, but I hated it.  HATED it.  And could not imagine coming back another DAY, much less a week, the school year, or year after year to come.

Let me be clear: This year is no picnic.  I have tough kids, I lose my patience, I still yell.  I do my best, but there are many days I know I could have and should have done better.  I get frustrated still.  But at no time this year, for a single moment or even a split second have I thought, "I will not make it through this," or, "I want to quit."  And this is something to be very happy about.  
This picture is actually from student teaching:
Playing a science game, to be precise!

Oh Girls on the Run, where have you been all my life???

This morning I rolled outta bed at the ungodly hour of 4:50am, ate a quick breakfast, and jumped in my car by 5:20.  On a Saturday.  Why, you ask?  To volunteer at the Girls on the Run Chicago Fall 5K, duh!!!  I decided that volunteering at the race was a good first step to getting to know more about GOTR and starting it at my school in the future.  While I was bummed that I couldn't run in the race (I learned that it's not a closed event--anyone can register and run) because of my NEVER ENDING injury nonsense, my experience volunteering was fantastic.  Here's the recap...

Rolled into the parking lot of Toyota Park, home of the Chicago Fire at 6:20am, just in time to see a GORGEOUS pink sunrise!  I immediately got to work at the Coaches Only Tent, helping organize goody bags, water bottles, and bags of tiaras.  (<--sigh.  Why was this program not around when I was 9???)  Soon after, coaches began trickling in and we got them set up with packs of bib numbers and tiaras for their girls.  It was pretty busy up until the start of the race, but I had plenty of time to get excited as bus loads of girls started arriving, decked out in GOTR t-shirts, running tights, and HUGE excited smiles.  It was pretty freaking cute.

The race itself started around 9.  Here is a list of some of my favorite things about this race: tween pop music playing the entire time, all of the girls sporting a #1 on their race bibs, NO chip timing/race clock (because for the girls, it's just about the fun of the run, NOT winning/losing), seeing the girls run with their "running buddy" (an adult, usually a parent, who signs up to run the whole race with their girl), the huge smiles of the girls, running in tiaras, and oh so many more things.

Since our tent was involved in pre- and post-race activities, we got to stand and cheer on the runners for pretty much the entire race.  Let me tell you, there is nothing like seeing a 10 year old girl ready to pass out at mile 3 (Seriously, when I was 10, i could barely make it through the Mile in PE...), giving her a huge cheer, and seeing her smile and start running again.  Also, there is pretty much nothing like seeing dads running holding hands with their daughters.  Obviously, I had a few tears...shocking, right? ;)

It was a great experience to be a part of, and I left with a single thought on my mind: I NEED to start this at my school!!!!!

November 12, 2010

There be dragons

I get a lot of inventive spelling on student work...with all of our time spent trying to boost test scores, certain things like spelling have kind of fallen to the wayside... Combine that with messy handwriting, and it can be a bit of a challenge deciphering WHAT the heck they are writing.  But once in awhile, I get a true gem...

Question: "What are two reasons why Jose Manuel's grandmother would not let him out to play?"
Student Answer: "Jose Manuel's grandmother would not let him out to play, because the steer [street] where [was] to dragons.  and to many fast cars."

I seriously read it, and read it, and reread it...and thought, "How could DRAGONS possibly have entered into this story??"  It's a realistic fiction, set in San Juan.  Today I brought over the worksheet and asked him to read me the answer.  Turns out Dragons was actually Dangerous.  Makes MUCH more sense now.  I had him chunk the word he actually wrote and he realized it really said "dragons," and needless to say we both had a pretty good laugh.  I just couldn't let him erase it though so I could snag a picture of this gem.

Please know that in no way to I mean this to make fun of this child--I love him like crazy!  And part of what I love about this job are the smiles I get to share with students.

November 11, 2010

All kids accounted for, and I remembered that darn backpack too!

After all my worrying the past few weeks, we finally had the unannounced fire drill!  And get this--the kids were in PE.  I still had to wander outside to meet them, but so much for my worrying a "blocked exit"!  We made it outside, I remembered the emergency folder and backpack, and the kids were perfectly well behaved waiting in line.  Some of them were a little nervous that it was real because it was unannounced, but no big deal.  If you ask me, it's good that they can take it seriously!  While no kids were pulled from my line today, I did have the foresight to enlist a student as the class monitor of sorts--his job is to line up last, make sure the door is closed, grab the backpack if I forget, and keep an eye on the line to see if anyone "leaves it" as I worded it, i.e. is pulled by the principal or a firefighter!

Another week almost over, and with no sick days at that.  I have to say, I have been exhausted pretty much 100% of the time this week.  I am pretty excited for the weekend...BTW I had a GREAT post-observation meeting today--will update on that's time to fill out the kiddos' Weekly Reports, throw together a math lesson plan for tomorrow, and relax with some Grey's. :)

November 10, 2010

...because cookies always make math more fun

I had observation #2 for the year this morning in math.  Honestly, I was REALLY dreading it.  Math has never been my strongest area, both as a a teacher and as a student.  In fact, in elementary school I pretty much sucked at math.  The orderly, organized part of me loves the logic of being able to follow a formula and plug in numbers once I "get it," but the creative, language part of me reeeeally struggles with that whole "getting it" piece.  As you can imagine, this means that I often have a tough time teaching it.  Now, I'm pretty solid in teaching math, but with a really low group of kids (like the one I have this year), I am often at a loss when it comes to trying to find ANOTHER way to explain a concept that I have already tried to teach without success.

Anyways, math this year hasn't exactly been the smoothest.  The kids are really lacking confidence and are very needy, and with just 1 of me it's hard to get through lessons some days.  But we are plugging along nonetheless...  When I scheduled my observation, I soon realized that it would be for the FIRST day of our new math unit, tackling, guess what....DIVISION!  (dum dum duummmm.....)  Division is practically a swear word to the average fifth grader.  It always was to me!!! In fact, when I student taught, I had to have my cooperating teacher give me a little "division refresher" one day after school before I felt confident enough to teach it to the class...embarrassing, I know...

I decided to kick off division with a VERY basic, hand-on lesson to hammer home the concept behind division.  I think that half of making struggling students understand math is teaching them in a very real-life, concrete form, THEN coming in with the strategies, tricks, and formulas.  We read the picture book The Doorbell Rang, a story about a family that is sharing 12 cookies, but the doorbell keeps ringing with more friends coming over.  Obviously, after each time the doorbell rings, the number of cookies that each child gets to eat becomes less and less as they are divided between more and more people.  We all enjoyed using Cookie Crisp cereal to work out the answers to the problems, and the kids practiced writing division problems using the bar symbol on dry erase boards.  One of the goofiest parts of a division problem is that not only is is set up complete backwards of the other math opeations that are solved from top to bottom, but the problems are read from right to left!!!  As if kids weren't already confused enough...

The lesson was a success, and the kids LOVED that Mister Principal sat at a desk and did all of the work right along with them.  As with any "exciting" lesson, there was plenty of shouting out, but it was all on task and I feel like I handled it well.  I'd prefer a little engaged ruckus to the alternative any day...While the kiddos are by no means division masters yet, I'm optimistic about the unit and just hope we make it through in 1 piece.  Oh division...Now, I wonder how many other lessons I can work cookies into...hmm...

November 9, 2010

My Sleepy Afternoon

I had great intentions for this afternoon.  Honestly, I did.  I had three separate to-do lists.  I was going to be SO productive because the house was quiet tonight.  It was going to be FANTASTIC.  Really, it was.

Miss Teacher's Great Plan for Being Productive this evening:
  • great student reading response prompts
  • since that's the last reading grade i'm taking for the trimester, enter it into my online grade book, obtain my trimester average reading grades, and plug them into the report card
  • fill in report card indicators for reading
  • grade math test
  • ditto on math grades
  • respond the the journal letters my new student wrote me about her old homes in Georgia, and (get this!!) Dubai!!  
  • buy Cookie Crisp for tomorrow's division lesson
  • short run
Miss Teacher's Actual Evening:
  • Ran to store to get cookie crisp and walked home (BAM.  two tasks completed in one.  promising start!)
  • Ate PBJ and a yogurt/cereal bowl (nothing says LAZY like this kind of dinner...but seriously not only was I lazy, but I was STARVING when I made it home!!!  There was no way I would have been able to make it long enough to actually cook something!)
  • Fell asleep on the couch from 6:30-8 (this started out as, "I'm a little cold, I'll just get under the blanket...well, I might as well lay down to be cozier...well, why not rest my eyes...")
  • Woke up, decided that NOW I was going to be productive
  • Naturally, changed into comfy pants and relocated to my BED under ANOTHER BLANKET with my grading.  Because of course this is the perfect place for productive work...
  • Fell asleep from 9-11.  (during which time I had a disturbing dream that I decided to be part of a "survey" at the mall that involved me drinking BLOOD.  just a tablespoon, but ew.  and hello, unsafe???  I was very worried in the dream but for some reason did it anyways.  I did not taste as I expected, in case you were wondering...)
In summary, this day was one big epic fail of productivity.  I blame the time change.  I now want to do NOTHING after 5 ever.   Let's home this day isn't indicitive of either my entire winter or even the rest of the week.  With report cards due Monday and an observation tomorrow morning, let's hope I get my act together!!!

November 8, 2010

To the child who brought an (unloaded) bb gun to school today:

When the assistant principal came and picked you up from my room today, I assumed you'd been fighting on the playground.  When she called my room phone and told me you'd brought something unsafe to school today, I assumed it was a pocket knife or lighter.  But when she told me that it was a gun, my jaw dropped.  Unloaded, no ammo, and without an intent or plan to harm.  [Thank goodness, or I would be shaking my head as you cleaned out your desk, expelled, and off to who knows where to do god knows what...]  But a gun was in MY classroom today.  Yes, I know it was just a bb gun.  I know you and your friends might play with these, that they're viewed as toys by some, but they are STILL weapons, guns, dangerous.  And if you brought a bb gun today, who's to say what will be next, for you or someone else?

I'm not quite sure what to make of this.  When the assistant principal and I talked this evening, she told me that you did not want to hurt anyone.  I didn't think you would.  But as she continued talking, and told me that you got it from someone in the community, that you were worried about other people in the community, kids and adults, and that you felt like you needed it...I didn't exactly feel any better.  I have no idea what you were thinking, and part of me wants to tell you what a stupid thing you did and yell at you that you are the LUCKIEST KID IN THE WORLD that you are not in more trouble...but then I stop, think, and sigh...  

You are too good for this kind of thing.  You have a good heart and a good head and it breaks MY heart to think that there are things in your life that make you think, at age 10, you should have a gun on hand.  And I fear for your future--who will you be in 5 years, 10 years, 15 years?  Where will you be, and with whom?  Please tell me what I can do to help you, because I just don't know.  I am here for you.  I am here for you from 8:35am-3:00pm, but sadly, when you walk out of my room and I say good-bye with a high-five and a smile, where are you going?  And how can I be there with you, in your head, even then?  I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. 

And so, tonight I add you to the list of children about whom I will stay awake worrying...

Miss Teacher


I had a dream last night that one of my absolute FAVORITE students from last year was still in my class....and then he moved.  I almost cried in the dream!!!  AND in the dream one of my sweetheart girls who always checks in the homework for me moved too!  Yikes--that really is a nightmare!!!

November 6, 2010

Keep Moving

Today I had a fabulous coffee date with Miss R, and as usual we relished the opportunity to share our teaching celebrations and frustrations with someone who is experiencing the exact same things.  One thing that we discussed this afternoon was the pressure we often put on ourselves when it comes to teaching.  Our first year, we both struggled with having incredibly ambitious aims and visions, and having to reconcile those goals with the fact that, as a first year teacher, you CANNOT DO IT ALL!!  We couldn't be the teachers we had always dreamed we would be, at least not yet, because we were barely staying above water.  This year, we have improved, but I at least still feel like there is so much more I could be doing, should be doing, WISH I were able to do.

The thing is, this pressure comes from how much we LOVE OUR STUDENTS and how dedicated we are to them and their education.  But still, we are only second year teachers, and we cannot do it all.  Every year we will learn a little more and be able to take on a little more.  And our students will benefit from it.  The important thing is to set small goals and truly take time to appreciate how far we have come.  Anyways, tonight I remembered a quote that I felt was appropriate for this conversation.  It's from the book The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life by Boston Marathon Winner Amby Burfoot, and while about running, I honestly think it can be applied to any area of life.

I have learned that there is no failure in running, or in life, 
as long as you keep moving.
It's not about speed.
And gold medals.
It's about refusing to be stopped.
You might find that one particular direction proves difficult,
but there are many points on a compass.
Infinite, in fact.
As long as you keep searching, you'll find your winning way.

That's what I will be remembering this week: It's about keeping moving, keeping trying, keeping teaching, keeping coming back and not giving up on the kids.  It's about refusing to be stopped.  :)

November 5, 2010

Dear Miss Teacher,

This post-it was waiting for me on my desk yesterday morning when I came back from being sick:

Best part of my week. :)

Writing Woes

I have a secret to confess...

The past two weeks, Writing Workshop has been TANKING in my classroom.  I know.  Just a few weeks ago, I was like Miss Writing Workshop, exclaiming how amazing it is to anyone and everyone!  What changed? Well, I started having the kids work on an expository, and at first it was going fine.  Now, though, as kids are finishing, I am noticing a lot of students have TOTALLY forgotten the whole, "finish a piece, work on something else!" rule.  No matter how many times both before, during, and after the lesson I say it.  Yikes.  It is making me CRAZY!

Good news is though that the expository is almost finished, and most are not half bad from what I gather.  Good first writing project, but I am READY to wrap it up.  In fact, we're not even publishing them (i.e. typing, cover, etc.).  I'm just having the kiddos turn them in so I can slap a grade based on paper structure and support on them just in time for the end of the trimester.  And it's about time too--I miss LOVING writing workshop!!!  I think my kiddos and I both need a reminder of why we were so in love with writing that first month of school.  This calls for some fun Ideas lessons and a few weeks of Free Choice in Writing Workshop...

November 4, 2010

Sad, but true...

In the past two weeks I have had 3, count them THREE, nightmares about school-related things.
So I blogged awhile back about fire drills.  Ohhh fire drills...well, my school must be under pressure from either the fire department or the district to smooth out our fire drill protocol and decrease the time it takes us to evacuate the building.  Over the past month or so little reminders to make sure we have updated class lists, clear directions for subs in case of fire, etc. "just in case."  Also, the administration has mentioned a few times how it is of GREAT importance to have class lists for every segment of the day.  For example, 3 of my students leave the room for math, so I should have a math class list in my emergency folder.  In the afternoon during Interventions, I have a hodge-podge group of kiddos milling around my room, so I should have a list for those guys too.

Now let me tell you, last year I had NOTHING of the kind.  In fact, with move-ins and move-outs I'm pretty positive I didn't even have an updated class list in the emergency folder by the end of the year.  This year, with these little "hints" being dropped, I am literally PARANOID that I will be the one to screw up a fire drill, lose a child, or worse, have a child "taken" from my line by the principal as a test to see how long it takes me to notice (I'm not kidding, this really happens this year!!), and be THAT TEACHER who ruined the whole fire drill and can't keep track of her kids.

Oh, and also, there have been hints that "an exit may be blocked" at the next drill, so we should "have an alternate route in mind."  Not joking.

Okay, I know this is all really no big deal, but these little not-so-subtle reminders have led to me having 2 fire drill related nightmares in the past week.  Seriously.  In one, I forgot to grab the emergency backpack (not a joke...we actually have this.  it even has an orange vest inside), which isn't such a stretch of the imagination because I really did forget it in the last drill...but in the dream I was trying to get back into the room to get it and just couldn't make it.  In the other dream, our exit was blocked (by a BARRICADE of teachers who all had their arms outstretched in front of it) and we frantically had to find a different way out.  Now, in neither of these dreams was their an ACTUAL fire.  How sad is it that I have more anxiety over the DRILLS themselves than the actual prospect of our school catching on fire and the safety of my students?

Oh are making me positively it Thanksgiving yet???

BTW:  When I arrived at school this morning after my 2-day absence, I found out a new student showed up while I was home sick!  Surprise!!  Nothing like giving a sub a challenge immediately!  Anyways, don't worry, I promptly added her to the emergency list. :)  The good news is she seems like a sweetheart.  Phew.

November 3, 2010

My Raspy Little Voice

Well, I DID make it through Monday, although by the end of the day I had a killer sinus headache and a next-to-nothing voice.  Since Monday is a Battle of the Books day, instead of my usual dramatic reading of Frindle I had the kids choose parts and read a chapter like a play.  They LOVED it!!!  We switched the "narrator" every few pages because, like most novels, it is narration heavy.  But it was the perfect way for me to rest my voice as well as a way to not only get the kids even more into the book, but to sneak in some fluency practice!  Man I'm so tricky... ;)  Anyways, after Battle, I pretty much went home and passed out for most of the evening.  It was clear that I would not be making it into school Tuesday.

While my voice was pretty pathetic Monday, I was surprised to wake up Tuesday and find that I had NO voice at all!  This has never happened to me, and I have to say it was a weird feeling.  I could manage a whisper, but when I tried to speak in my normal voice, literally nothing would come out.  When you're a talker like me, this is NOT a desirable situation.  I decided it might be time to head to the Immediate Care at my doctor's, and I was lucky enough to get a doctor who is unopposed to "preventative" antibiotics.  Yes, I know it's a bad idea to take antibiotics too often because you'll build up an immunity, but he must have sensed my pain and sent me home with a Z-pack prescription, a "stay home from work" note for Wednesday, and instructions to rest my voice and drink milkshakes.  Yes sir!!

I decided to follow his advice to give my voice and body another day of rest today, and took sick day #3 of the year.  Man oh man, we are certainly off to a rough start!  What will I be like come winter and actual cold/flu season??  The whole 2-days off in a row thing did mean that I had to come in this morning and drop off manuals, set up the room.  Lucky for me though the sub I requested was available, and my fingers are crossed that she was able to keep them in line better than the sub I had last week!  That's nothing against that sub, mind you, my children are of the "baptism by fire" school of thought when it comes to any new adults in their lives.

I am HAPPY to report that after a 2nd day of rest, my voice is STARTING to reappear. Now, this doesn't mean it is normal by any means, and I will still be enlisting student volunteers for a majority of our reading tomorrow.  But it's a start.  Now, to look over my lesson plans and figure out how I can teach math in a small group/guided style to prevent unnecessary voice use...hmmm...

(Note: I WAS able to use my sick days to reread Mockingjay in preparation for my book club tomorrow evening.  Thank goodness I am healthy (er...healthier...), because I would be HEARTBROKEN if we had to postpone again!  And I just have to say that rereading the book completely reignited my Hunger Games OBSESSION.  Man, do I love these books...Kinda makes me want to start over with book 1 again...For now, though, I will control myself...)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...