Saturday, May 31, 2008

giggle, giggle, melt

mrs lipstick, when i gonna get pay and buy you a toy! did you hear that? just wait 'til i get pay, then i buy you two toys.

is that what your mom says to you?

yeah, when she get pay she buy me toy. but i gonna get TWO pays and buy you toys.

Friday, May 30, 2008


sometimes the tiniest little moments are the highlight of my day or week.

today i was writing a story with a boy who has pretty severe disabilities. we were writing a 3 page story and labeling our pictures with the first letter in each word. sounds simple, but this is really quite an event in itself.

we finally identified the /h/ sound in the beginning of house and matched the sound with the drawn letter (we don't know the names of the letters yet even though we know the sounds and the "letter picture")

we got the h down and i started to turn the page.

"NO" my friend said. "That's /h/. Need more for house."

I wanted to cry, jump for joy, shout from the roof tops.
That's /h/, not house.

Who would have thought the letters hs as opposed to h would make me SO happy?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

secret book stash

for various reasons i have come to have a secret book stash behind my desk. tree and i had clandestine trashy book swaps, and somehow i forgot to take these books home so they are now nestled spines against the wall in the shelf behind my desk.

since we're in the middle of our state testing our instructional assistants are spending all day in the hallways behind huge signs that say, "TESTING! SHHH!", reminding us to be quiet, and, well, that's about it. so i've started spreading the word about my secret stash so they'll have something to occupy them while their sitting. other teachers who have to spend hours just watching one child take a test (because the child can't take the test in the room with his peers) have also begun to raid the stash.

i'm not proud of owning these books. none of them are high-class literature. i own them because checking them out of the library would go on my permanent library record. plus, the girls at borders are not nearly as snotty about book select as the librarians. i like the librarians to see my checking out quality. these books, are far from quality.

yet, almost like a secret chocolate drawer, my secret stash seems to be serving its own stress-relieving purpose.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

stages of grieving

yesterday i learned that two of my kiddos wont be coming back to our school next year. i'd always known it could be a possibility, but had truly hoped it wouldn't happen. we've been through a lot this year and if i'm honest with myself i've probably bonded with them more than any other children i've ever worked with. that in itself says a lot. the last few months i've begun to realize this bond exists and i've begun to worry about what will happen when i have to hand them off to new case managers next year. but at least i thought i'd still be in the building with them, and the possibility that i'd get to be their case manager existed.

but i was slowly becoming aware that i might be too attached. the realization that they are not my own is one i don't like to think about. i frequently joke with my husband about adopting them. at least, he thinks i'm joking. on weekends i lay in bed wondering if they are ok. i know i've bonded with them in a way that might not be best for any of us. i am only their teacher, and not even their classroom teacher at that. i'm not their mother, and they are not my kids. it's a harsh reality, but its also a line i need to keep in mind.

i was doing research on how to best help them and i found one website that reminded caretakers of children with their specific disability that we are merely caretakers. as teachers we can't replace the bond the kids should have with their parents, and if we did something would seriously be wrong. we can't become psychiatrists, pediatricians, or priests. reading the words in the article seemed harsh to me. what do you mean i'm ONLY their teacher? do you have any idea of what we've been through this year? do you know what we do for them?

but it's true.

it doesn't make it hurt less.

at first i was in denial about them moving. 'maybe it's not true' i thought, re-reading the email many times. 'maybe it wont happen'. and then anger at their family. 'how dare they take them away from me?' (obviously this is NOT what i was logically angry about, but if i'm honest that is what i was thinking.)

then the bargaining stage... well, if i can at least help them transition to their new school. maybe i can send them cards there. maybe i'll research their new program and help out.

and now the depression. last night my husband wondered what was wrong with me as i sat staring into space. today at a meeting i could barely focus and a few times found myself thinking, "who cares? why does it matter anyway?" i couldn't even get excited about discussing lucy calkins and writing workshop. this isn't me.

i fell asleep when i came home this afternoon and slept through my class at the gym. as though sleeping will change it all and make it go away.

and so, in the steps of grief, i know acceptance will come. and with it the lesson that my role is to help them meet their IEP goals, help them adapt to their school environment, and do what i can to help them be great people in life. my role is not to be their mother. i may need to repeat that to myself a few times.

at a school like mine with a population like mine the line between teacher and mother becomes blurred. co-workers got mothers day presents and cards from their students. we find ourselves doing tasks that only parents should do. we find ourselves wondering, 'if i'm doing all this, shouldn't i be the mother?'

perhaps this year i blurred the line too much. i know a first year teacher whose been told not to care so much. but those of us who 'care too much', isn't it in our nature that caring too much makes us do our best work?

and so i'm settled in with my depression tonight. it's ok to be sad. i just hope their new school will let them thrive and that their new teachers will love them as much as we do.

more importantly, i hope their family bonds and comes together in a way where our outside help isn't required so much. i hope they have one another and take care of one another in a way that allows for healthy attachments which in turn will help them form healthy attachments later in life to build their own families and be good husbands and daddies to their own children.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"draw a picture of what you did this weekend"

was what we did at lunch bunch today...

and i found myself almost drawing me, glass of pinio grigio in hand, sipping it happily on my porch as i read my book club book. luckily i caught myself before adding the wine.

now i have a great pic of me and my porch... like its teasing me about how many days we have left until summer...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

state policy?

As we drove around our state this Memorial Day weekend we saw many school marques which all said the same thing:

SOL Testing...
and then listed the dates. Some added comments like, "We are ready!" (Our school's states this month's character trait: Patience. Very appropriate as one reading teacher pointed out.)

All across the state we're in the exact same boat. Testing, testing, testing. It made me wonder if the state is giving these important tests in school if it has the right to apply mandatory curfews during the SOL weeks for children in SOL grades?

Or, maybe statewide law that during SOL weeks there will be announcements at malls at 8:00 to remind parents they need to take their child home because of the important test? Or tell the carnival which has arrived at Kmart that it will have to wait until testing is over until it can stay open past 8, at least for kids under 18? Movie theaters closing their 7pm and later shows to elementary school students in SOL grades?

I'm not usually a fan of limiting our constitutional rights, but if parents across the state are going to complain about low test scores, yet refuse to follow our bed-time advice, I'm beginning to think I see some possible solutions.

Friday, May 23, 2008

testing, testing, 1,2,3

a parent stopped me in the hallway today and asked me what was going on with all the testing in the school. as i tried to explain that we're currently giving the state tests to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, county assessments to k-5th, along with our school based literacy collaborative assessments, i may or may not have said, "basically, we test anything that moves."
oops. luckily his english wasn't very good. "que?" he asked.
never mind. just... we can't talk in the hallways.
it was a long, long week.

glorious chaos

i am sitting on my back porch sipping my wine, slowly recovering from the activities of the day. we had our second kindergarten field trip of the year, and, while i can say i loved every minute of it, i feel like i was trapped inside a bouncy ball. every time i thought i knew which way we were going, where i should be looking, or what to expect, we bounced in the opposite direction.

i knew it was going to be an exciting, yet exhausting day when i ran into kindergartners in the hallway before school started this morning. they were floating on air and stopping any one who would listen to them to tell them that they were going on a field trip. one boy kept grabbing both my hands in his and saying, "i can't even believe it!"

the day began as my bus partner, a very talkative and happy girl, told me all about the gun fight at the mexican restaurant that killed her uncle. which is why her mom works at mcdonalds, but her dad still works at the restaurant. (mental note~ this is common happy hour location... watch behavior when we're out as teachers...) the bus drove us through their neighborhoods and tiny fingers hit the bus windows, frantically pointing at their apartments as we drove by. the apartment pools were all being prepared to open tomorrow, and the children cheered loudly when we drove past.

we went to a county park not far from our school that is set up with many gardens throughout its land. there is a rose garden, rock gardens, gardens hidden behind other gardens, tiny gardens with tiny ponds of water hidden in their dark corners.

if i had been 8 i would have run off away from everyone and pretended i was living inside the book secret garden. instead it was as though i was inside the secret garden, just with children who usually aren't allowed to play outside because its not safe, and who also have special needs. magical and exhausting.

my favorite moments were hearing the cries of "LOOK! Nature!!" from the kiddos in my group. my group also became obsessed with 2 items at the park: the signs telling you about the plants, and the benches which were well placed under canopies of roses or under large, shady trees. we have pictures from every bench at the park. some we sat on twice. one of my charges was being interviewed by his classroom teacher later in the day about his favorite part of the day. "the beeches!" he exclaimed loudly, over and over again. it took us quite awhile to figure out he meant benches. i mean, i was strict a few times, but i don't think i qualified as a beech.

i was charmed by the excitement of kindergartners running from small hidden sign to hidden sign. it was as though we were on a word easter egg hunt. "LOOK! That letter is in Sam's name!" I'd hear. Or, "Here's another sign!! Read it! Read it!" over and over again. i will admit that a few times i shamelessly read the signs as i imagined they'd say, "please do not climb on me!" or, "DON'T CLIMB ON THE TREES!" "i am trying to grow. don't step on me!" but usually i read the odd floral name, or attempted to, as they quickly lost interest and skipped on to the next sign.

parts of the garden reminded me so much of my own childhood. i was lucky to grow up in the middle of nowhere near grandparents who had a fairly well-sized farm. nature was a part of my day to day life. i built little houses out of moss, played hide and seek in our woods, built forts, and climbed trees. it saddened me to lead them away from the apple trees, yelling, "I SAID DO NOT CLIMB THE TREE" when i know that apple trees are the best climbing trees in the world. or the multiple games of hide-and-seek i had to stop because, well, hide-and-seek just isn't safe. these gardens were perfect for hide and seek. the willow trees, the hidden pathways with rose bushes climbing up both sides begged the children to play hide-and-seek. i feel that i denied a part of their childhood by taking away these opportunities.

not that there weren't exciting games of duck-duck-goose, red light green light, and relays to keep us busy. or the parent who showed a small group of children how to start a fire with a magnifying glass. (i was horrified, but i think i learned that in first grade the exact same way. at least they weren't burning ants.) the children flopped their bodies on the soft grass and exclaimed at how wonderfully thick and soft it was. despite the lack of hills they still log rolled across the lawn and giggled at the grass in their hair.

it was a close-to-perfect field trip.

yet it was still a kindergarten field trip, and i am exhausted. and enjoying my wine.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

my smart cookie vs the high school musical diva

i was walking down the hallway today behind the high school musical diva. she knows EVERYTHING about HSM, and i'll catch her acting it out throughout the day. she is dying to be in high school and is fully aware of all-things 'popular'.

as we were walking i started to hear a quiet, but very strange noise. looking around the hallway i saw my smart cookie with her mouth slightly ajar. the HSM diva sashayed on by her oblivious to the noise, but my smart cookie turned her head, followed her with her eyes, and the noise continued.

she was hissing.

i explained that while hissing may work for cats, we don't hiss at people in school, or at any time for that matter. 'HSM diva didn't know what you meant by hissing!' I exclaimed. 'you need to tell her why you're upset.'

'she tells me i have ugly clothes on the playground!' she wailed.

both ladies lived up to their reputations.


social stories all around.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

venting, venting, and more venting

there is something terribly wrong if i can't make it more than an hour and a half without complaining about substitutes again. oh my.

quick classroom management for substitutes:

*If you are constantly saying, "It's too loud" the kids will stop listening. Particularly when they are actually not the ones talking loudly~ it's you. Lower your voice, they'll lower theirs.

*If you have a reminder signal, like a bell, only ring it once while you wait for the class to look at you. If you ring it say, for five minutes straight, the kids will stop looking at you will completely ignore the bell when you really want them to listen.

*cut out the sarcasm with the lower grade kiddos.

*if a child is obviously in the special education field, do not be harder on them than you would the rest of the class. They most likely need an extra minute or two to understand your directions, so don't expect them to read your mind if you haven't given the directions yet.

Oh, and have your directions make sense!!


the kindergarten classrooms all have ant farms right now.

i'm an adult and i still find those little suckers the most fascinating things. i'm finding myself zoning out from the classroom and watching the ants dig. i don't know how the kids are handling it, but i'm going to have to sit far away from the farms if i want to get anything done for the next few weeks...


having my fabulous co-teachers replaced with substitutes really makes me appreciate them even more...

one of the substitutes is actually fabulous, but she is a retired teacher from an inner-city and so her methods are just... not what i'm use to. last year when she subbed for my first grade class she bribed them with DOLLAR BILLS and called a child a Bi*** when the child was within hearing distance. i asked for her not to come back, but these days we're desperate for subs.

she is actually pretty good with them, she just has a different standard of how to talk/interact with the kiddos.

at least she speaks english.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

ear murder*

i sing all the time in the classroom. this is unfortunate for my co-teachers, because i really, really cannot sing. i kind of suspect i may be tone deaf, or at least my musical ability lays on the tone-deaf spectrum. still, i am a big believer in the benefits of singing in the classroom, along with the belief that singing with 6 year olds is a great classroom management technique. as embarrassed as i may be at my horrendous voice, i make a conscious effort to never say, "I can't sing!" in front of the kids. i don't want to teach them self-consciousness before they've discovered it on their own. so, if you stumble upon me singing during the day, please know that yes, i am fully aware of the pain i am implementing on you. and i apologize.

yesterday we had down time in one of my kindergarten classes so i jumped in to sing a favorite that usually all kids LOVE. the class quickly got into it, except for 2 children. 1 little boy with autism who has an incredible musical ear. the other was a little boy who just came into the country. i wasn't surprised when my friend with autism threw his hands over his ears, but i was surprised when pedro** did.

poor pedro, i finally realized. speaking no english meant that he really had no idea what the silly words were, or perhaps, he had no idea that i was suppose to be singing. to him, it was a crazy teacher getting in front of the class and doing cruel and unusual things with her vocal cords while performing odd motions with her body (we have to act the song out too). without knowing the words, the poor kid lost the humor of the song, and was stuck trying to figure out why americans are so crazy.

*title credit to my husband, who created the term this sunday in church during children's choir.
**names changed to protect the innocent.

Monday, May 19, 2008


IT's like the big nothing from a never-ending story.
the nothing that takes over everything,
turning the beauty of the land into blankness.
nothingness. no more joy, no more laughter, no more beauty.
it sucks the life out of anything that touches its path.

getting out of bed today felt like more torture than normal for a monday. our state testing begins this week. our school will be plastered with orange 'TESTING' signs and we will be trying desperately to keep our little ones silent in the hallway. recess will be shut down as we can't have any loud, happy cries of children interupting the testing. i'll be pulled out of my normal, happy classes to administer the tests to small groups of children.

there will be white knuckles, nail biting, anxious children, nervous teachers. we'll be doing fast last-minute reminders about the best ways to take the tests. we'll be sharpening number 2 pencils, getting our books ready, taking deep breaths and trying not to cry as we stand by in silence to watch our kiddos take these tests.

we'll be preparing the multiple tape recorders needed to record us in case the state believes we helped our children cheat. (no listening center this week~ we'll be going into every classroom we can to steal their tape records to meet state requirements) we'll be reviewing the list of testing rules and remembering to take away all scrap paper from the children, checking the bottoms of their shoes for test answers, and operating with higher security than the GRE testing centers.

ugh. this week seems lifeless. and IT will go on for the next 3-4 weeks. our county wide testing has already begun and we've been pulling kids one on one to test them for different assessments. that too will go on this week. so, those few moments when i am free to be in the classroom i will be giving tests to my own kiddos.

it's going to be a long week.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

a joyful noise

i am ridiculously exhausted for a sunday afternoon. it was children's sunday at my church today. i am involved in an 'under-ground' ministry at my church for the special needs children. we have a surprisingly large amount of special needs children and i am working with the christian ed teach to help meet their needs in the "general sunday school environment". we don't want the children singled out in any way, but we want to meet their needs the best we can. occasionally i feel like i need to write church-based ieps.

so, for a few children at church, i am always hyper-aware of their location. if they look like they'll melt down in church it's my role to swoop down, tempt them outside the sanctuary, so they can either be distracted with coloring or, if they must melt-down, they'll do so in an area where their parents and our other church members will still be able to hear the sermon.

with one little boy though, my role is to act like white on rice. which proves to be a challenge, as he enjoys sprinting away from adults and running circles around the church. last week i felt like we were reaching a break-through, as he was finally beginning to acknowledge my presence. he started passing me notes in church, which was a quiet activity during the sermon until he threw a note to me and hit me in the head with the crumpled ball of paper. all in the name of love, of course. at least he wasn't running.

today, at one point i heard a 10 year old boy comment as i ran by, "you picked the wrong day to wear heels, huh?" *sigh* but they were such cute heels. yet when a 10 year old is able to tell you your outfit isn't wise, it's time to re-think my philosophy that church is the one time a week i can dress up.

but today, being children's sunday, meant that it wasn't just my kids keeping us busy. i caught high school kids about to use the communion loaf of bread as a football, blocked the child-ushers from using the communion plates as either drums, hats, or drums on the head of their little brothers. the 3 kids passing out the church bulletins reminded me of election day at the polls. two boys stood across from each other, thrusting their hand-outs in people's faces, trying to get the passer-byers to take their bulletins, as opposed to the identical ones in the hands of their rival.

despite being exhausted, i am grateful to attend a church where the children are involved enough to be making joyful noises. i'm glad to worship in a community where they accepted the bulletins flying in their face, and were able to appreciate all of our differences as we carefully balance the collection plates. and of course, where if i wear tennis-shoes to church, no one would bat an eye.

Friday, May 16, 2008

may flowers

i started to feel that every time i walked into a kindergarten class this may there was a birthday. someone was wearing a crown and having trouble staying in their chair to do their work. sometimes i've walked into classrooms this month and noticed multiple crowns~ 2 kids with birthdays on the same day.

hmmm.... one has to think. what was 9 months and 6 years ago?

and then i realized, these are our 9/11 babies, almost finished with their first year of kindergarten. the pre-mies (many of whom are on my caseload) had birthdays in april, or even late march, while the full-termers are having their birthdays now.

i remember the reports on the news about the large amounts of pregnancies right after 9/11, and the record number of births in may that year. now our 9/11 babies are here, learning to read, write, tie their shoes, and proudly tell anyone near them that they have turned 6. they have no memory of that day in september, or any understanding of how it changed everything we knew. talking about that day will mean little to them for many, many years, although psychologists may state that their entire existence comes from the purest human emotion in a time of need.

i was in my own teaching classes on 9/11, but i still remember watching the children of my practicum process the day. and the following year, i was student teaching and watching them remember what they'd felt the year before. and the following years, where they had vague recollections of the day, and some understanding of what made their moms and dads so scared. and now, we're teaching the next generation, the after-math babies, our little hopes and promises that the sun truly will continue to rise each day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

losing it

in a 5 minute time span while cooking dinner tonight i checked to make sure my husband had not wet himself and then asked him if he needed to use the bathroom (as i do frequently with some children throughout the day... this is not indicative of my husband's behaviors). then i asked him if he wanted me to "knife the butter". i meant spread the butter, but as though i was one of the children who doesn't have a strong english vocabulary, i tried my best.

i'm a mess.

heart breaking

i was reading a book with a kiddo in guided reading today. he closely examined the picture of a living room with book shelves filled with books and said, "why books here? not school! books at home?"


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"under water in the deep end"

a few years ago i had a little girl in my classroom who had the fantastic combination of being very dramatic, very determined, and also spoke only basic survival english. she knew enough to get by, but not nearly enough for her dramatic thoughts. (this made her a beautiful writer because any time she spoke she practiced 'showing not telling' in order to get her message across).

one day she dramatically walked into my classroom in the morning, shook my hand hello and said, "oh miss l, it feels as though i am under water in the deep part of the pool". it took me a few minutes, but i finally realized she was trying to tell me she felt stuffed up in her nose from allergies and had sinus pressure.

any time i am having bad allergies and am very stuffed up i can't help but wanting to tell everyone that it feels like i am under water. in her limited english she absolutely described allergies perfectly. it's much better than 'snotty mess', which also describes the problem.

i spent the entire day today blowing my nose and hearing her little dramatic voice in my head.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

There will never be enough pigeon.

Mo Willems has another pigeon story out. I'm getting my car keys at this moment and headed to Borders.

This reviewer seems down on all things sequel, which I normally am as well. But anyone who has ever read aloud a pigeon story (or heard Mo read one aloud), and watched a full classroom of children become so excited with a pigeon story that they beg you to read it again the minute you finish it, will argue that we need more pigeon. Bring it on Mo. We've kept the pigeon away from the bus, and put him to bed on time, and now we're ready to refuse the puppy request.

How long will it take before we have memorized this one as well?

Friday, May 9, 2008

real teacher appreciation

teacher appreciation week is over, which is good, because i can go back to my normal diet of not eating ice cream and donuts for lunch. (but I thank everyone who fed us, and yes, if the PTO president tells me calories don't count during teacher appreciation week, well, i'll agree.) and of course, that massage was the best gift ever.

until tonight. i logged into my work email just to check before i went to bed and saw an email from a parent. i had emailed her quickly this afternoon updating her on the awesome progress her kiddo made this week. she emailed me back to say thanks for the good news, and thanks for all that i do for her kid.

to be honest, i am floored. in all our interactions, i don't think i've gotten a real thank you yet this year. maybe she heard it was teacher appreciation week, or maybe (what I'm going to believe) she is really thankful, and realizes how much we do for her kiddo.

those two words~ thank you~ meant so much. i joked with my husband that the email was portfolio material. forget mentioning my classes toward my masters degree on my resume. getting thanked by this parent means more than anything else.

i don't really need a week where the world is told to appreciate me. the gifts, the food, the candy, is nice, but genuine thank you and respect all year long mean are going to stay with me on those rainy mornings when getting out of bed and going to work seems like a dumb idea.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


it's teacher appreciation week and one of the fabulous parents brought in 2 massage chairs and 1 massage table and offered us free 15 minute massages.

best teacher appreciation gift ever.

mmmmmm....... but it certainly made it difficult to get back to work.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

popping the bubble

After 3-4 weeks during my college study-abroad in Greece I remember driving everyone crazy as I read every sign I saw. It was as though I woke up one day and suddenly understood the Greek alphabet. All of a sudden those signs my eyes had been skimming over were registering. I could read them! Like tiny puzzles calling to me up and down the streets, I had to decode every word I saw.

If you were not me, it was ridiculously annoying.

I always think about this when I watch first graders who seem to have suddenly been visited by the reading fairy. The ones who looked at you like you were crazy in guided reading for months and months as you painfully, yet energetically, tried to coax those reading fingers into pointing to each word, cheering, "Check the picture! Check the first letter!" They could have cared less.

Then all of a sudden they're flying. They come in one morning, point to some sign in your classroom, and read it to you with authority. From then on their eyes are everywhere, reading EVERYTHING. You know it's happening when you hear them whispering the words they can read during whole-group lessons.

I've been sitting on the carpet beside a little one in first grade this week, whose bubble has clearly popped. It pains me to silence her as I hear her decoding words, re-reading them, and saying them quickly to make them hers. Her eyes fly around the room, trying to read everything in sight. She pokes me and points to a word on my clipboard. "off" she hisses. "office. Off. Office." she glows with pride showing me that she's figured out that 'off' is inside 'office. The teacher reads a big book to the class and I hear her exclaim as she sees words we've learned in guided reading. More poking me. More of me trying to give her a teacherly-look, finger on the lips, trying to redirect her.

While I secretly cheer inside, and thank the magic-reading-fairy who I swear visits children during the night.

totally random trashy gossip

I just heard a bit of Oprah's Barbara Walters interview and admit that I was shocked to hear about her affair with Senator Edward Brooks. Shocked more or less because my opinion of him still exists in my fourth-grade memory, and I wasn't quite ready to start seeing him as anything but the father of one of my classmates.

We learned how to use encyclopedias by looking up Edward's dad. While this was a great way to personally connect us to the lesson, I think we all came away with some confusion of why our own fathers were not included in the books. None of us knew what a senator was, nor did we understand why being this so called senator would be more news worthy than our fathers who were bankers, lawyers, or headmasters. (I mean, our headmaster wasn't in the book! What an oversight!)

We all learned quite a bit of worldliness from this boy who had a father in some big book. Even in first grade he liked to make racy comments about naked women and what he'd like to do with us if we were naked. And I never understood, as a first grader, how it was possible that his nephew was older than him. I don't remember my mom doing a good job of explaining it either.

Even as a kid I wasn't overly impressed with this man's parenting of my classmate. Enclyclopedia or not (and I far preferred Enclyclopedia Brown to the actual thick books), I knew there were better parents out there. Parents who gave their children enough attention that they didn't need to stick their pens in the pencil sharpener until it started to break, or jump on desks when the teacher was out of the room.

It was odd to have my fourth grade memory jogged today. Looking back I may or may not have judged Senator Brooks harshly. I was shy and his son's antics scared me. Although now realizing who he is, I imagine it would be hard as a teacher to call home and explain all the naughty things the child was up to.

It is weird to think now that my Friday nights filled with watching 20/20 with my mom were actually us watching my classmate's father's ex-girlfriend. who knew?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

never stop teaching...

or, am i evil?

we had an earthquake today, even though we live in a state that rarely ever gets earthquakes. when it happened none of us knew what it was (earthquake crossed my mind, but 'that's crazy!!' i thought, it must be something else, like someone falling down the stairs, or the laminator machine falling off its table)

i was in my room working one on one with a kid. we were finally making progress after a SLOW 30 minutes of mumbling and there was no way on earth i was going to let some strange noise from outside stop our progress. sure the noise sounded ominous, but if there was a problem i'm sure someone would come tell me, right? one of my office-mates poked her head in the door, but pulled it out because she said i looked calm and focused. sure, i was calm and focused, she was suppose to let me know if i had to stop teaching.

however, this determination was the theme of the day. at 10 i had a writing conference with a kiddo that was going really, really well. despite the fact that every time he dropped his pencil he fell out of his chair trying to get it, which would somehow cause his shoes to come off. trying to put his shoes on caused him to fall backwards out of the chair the other way, and sometimes even fall onto me. i was absolutely, positively, not going to let falling out of his chair get in the way of a writing conference. under the table? we can still plan our story. sitting on top of me putting your shoes on? we'll count the words on the page we're planning on writing.

at 10:30 i was in another classroom having another writing conference with another kindergartner. this kiddo had no interest in working with me whatsoever and was trying every strategy in the book to get out of working with me. he tried the tug-of-war over crayons, the putting his head on the table, the ignoring me and pretending i was not there. finally, after we'd moved to our own private area in the room where we could really focus on our writing, he started to cry. the crocodile tears welled in his eyes. being evil, i said nothing, but grabbed the tissue box and the trash can and placed them beside him (so we didn't waste any of our precious writing time!) i explained. i never mentioned the crying, but kept stretching out the words "with him". finally, in one last attempt to get me to stop, he took a deep breath in and blew snot all over his face and mine. i grabbed a tissue, again ignoring the incident. he did it again. another tissue. he stared at me in disbelief as i exchanged his tissue for his pencil and said, "great! now, what do you hear in spongebob... /s/, /s/, /s/" giving up he picked up his pencil and got to work. i sound evil, but when we were finished and i sent him off to play on the computer he turned back to look at me and said, "hey mrs lipstick, aren't you going to play on the computer with me?"

so yes, despite our mysterious 1.8 earthquake, a bad case of kindergarten balance, and an incredibly snotty nose, teaching prevailed today.

i am teaching superman/wicked witch of the west.

Monday, May 5, 2008

derby weekend

i love the kentucky derby. absolutely adore it. and so, even though i have been ridiculously tired all day due to our very long drive back home yesterday, i can't complain (even if i did...) it was totally worth it.

and i got to wear a beautiful hat with real flowers, sip mint julips (although this year they had new drinks in the derby glasses that were quite tasty).

so, i apologize to my co-teachers for being groggy today. i am sorry if you had to restate things a few times before i caught on. or if my reaction time to your kiddos' misbehavior was in slow motion. i pledge to get lots of sleep tonight and be back to being full of energy and excitement tomorrow.

*the republican husband live-blogged from the derby if you're interested in more details*

"would rosemary wells write on her arm?" ~ lucy calkins, May 2nd, 2008

lucy calkins: the good, the bad, and the ugly

the good:
what i love most about lucy calkins is her great phrases. she knows how to talk to kids to redirect them without punishing them, as well as how to get little tidbits stuck in their heads so they'll never forget them. she's perfected ways to give mini-lessons with as few words as possible, while making them memorable. i've read in her books that she bases this off of the idea behind commercials.

"Tell me what you're working on today as a writer" is one of hers that delivers the message to a child~ you are a WRITER, and you are not just writing, you are working on your writing craft. you have a goal in mind that you are perfecting, and its your job to know this, tell me what it is, and work hard. all that in just a few words.

or, of course, in redirecting children misbehavior in writing workshop, gasp in horror and say, "but, would rosemary wells write on her arm?"

i wish i'd used that one last year with my smart cookie. i could have said, "but, would patricia palacco eat her writing paper?" of course, my smart cookie is the type of child who would respond to that question with details.

lucy was a whirlwind of information that made me ridiculously excited to teach writing, and slightly regret leaving the classroom. writing workshop is my all-time favorite part of teaching. one of the second grade teachers today told me that one of my kiddos from last year asked her in shock today why they weren't having writing workshop. "what did you do to them?" she asked me. it made my day. i'm glad i have little writing converts. at least some of them...

the ugly:
lucy did share with us that she had been asked to review a children's book written by laura bush and jenna bush. she described a train wreck of a book, but i certainly am looking forward to reading her review. it sounds like it may be a good mentor text in what not to do. (which is why lucy brought it up to us~ an example of what we don't want our first graders doing with their characters.) the authors' main character is tyrone, who is white, and magically goes back and forth between being 5 and 10 (not on purpose).

seeing lucy in person was wonderful. i came away with a lot of great ideas and a much better handle on how to pace the writing workshop curriculum. there were a few times though i had to stop back and wonder about what she was saying. currently being in grad school and having to back everything up with research, i did start to wonder where she was getting her facts. a few times she referred to child development and what she believed was good for kids, which does not fit in with any child development theory. this is fine and i certainly don't believe in teaching solely based on research, but i would like to see more academic studies as opposed to her personal opinion.

the not so good:
the one part that really upset me though was when she mentioned the importance of asking children to state an idea and then learn how to restate it, and restate it, and restate it over and over again in different ways. that (is something i am very good at) and is just bad writing. it may be a great exercise in playing with words, but then we need to teach them to choose which one sounds the best. apparently the SAT writing test gives better grades to students who write this way. the longer the better, and the kids are trained to rephrase their main thesis over and over again. i once had a paper ripped up in front of me in college because i did that.

Ahh, Lucy:
there were a few other points where i sat back and wondered (which is good, if we just took everything as gospel we wouldn't be good teachers). but for the most part i hung on every word as the true writing-workshop dork that i am. i do love lucy.

Friday, May 2, 2008

i love lucy

its kentucky derby weekend, (a true holiday) and despite the fact that we have derby and oaks tickets, we are not yet in kentucky. i am a HUGE dork, and after some research discovered that we could skip the oaks (the races today) and fly out to kentucky tonight, allowing me to see Lucy Calkins speak today with my school, and still make derby tomorrow.

i am a dork, i realize, but lucy is kind of my guru. i can quote many of her books (a result of my 1st teaching placement where i found i needed to justify everything i did through lucy or debbie miller.) i love her books, i love her ideas, i love that she's brought writing workshop into so many of our schools, made it accessible, and really shown us how important it is. writing workshop is my absolute favorite part of teaching.

and so now i'm off to see lucy today, drive to the airport to catch a plane to louisville, and then drive back on sunday with my college-senior brothers. (round trip tickets to anywhere near kentucky this weekend are about $1,000. i'm a dork, but a poor dork.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

sick day

its a beautiful spring day and i'm stuck at home, again, with strep. the dr originally told me i didn't have strep, so i went back to work wed., thinking i wasn't going to spend another day at home being a baby about some tiny sore throat. (i also tried to go to work tuesday but quickly realized i wasn't going to function so i drove home.)

then the dr called to tell me they had my lab results and yes, they were wrong, i have strep, and was still contagious. so, now i'm home again, not getting my coworkers sick (although i may have done that yesterday~ sorry). home, tired, and bored.

i also have to miss tonight's teacher research conference, which i am really disappointed to miss. my coworkers have been working all year on some interesting research projects, and i was looking forward to hearing them present. i love that i work at a place where everyone is investigating their teaching, and i hope i'll get another chance to hear their findings sometime soon.


while i was waiting for my antibiotics at cvs (because, yes, it is strep), i over-heard 2 boys excitedly explaining to their mother in spanish why they wanted to buy hershey's bars, marshmallows, and crackers. my spanish isn't very good but i was trying to practice, and eventually worked out that they wanted to make s'mores because they'd heard about them at school and wanted to try it.

I had to look. I peeked out behind the magazine rack and saw their mother smiling at them, willing to try this american experiment.

then i saw the ritz crackers.

sadly, i don't think their experiment is going to go as well as they hoped. i thought about telling them, but wasn't sure how they would take sick-looking crazy american woman, clutching some trashy magazine, using broken spanish to tell them they have the wrong crackers.

poor kids. maybe when you're 10 the chocolate and marshmallows override the cracker taste.