Friday, February 29, 2008

fire?

like always, on the last day of the month we had a fire drill. one of my kindergarten classes had just gotten a new student from Korea, who speaks very little English. Knowing we'd have a drill I decided I'd go to help explain how American fire drills work. Apparently I didn't do a good job.

He nodded along with me as I explained what would happen and took him into the hallway to show him what we would do. And then the actual alarm went off. He was at the end of the line, but he took one look at me and started to run. I caught him with an aggressive "WALK" to which he responded,

"Is FIRE! Must Run!"

What he was silently thinking is 'What is with these crazy Americans who make me WALK during a fire? I'm not burning alive in this crazy-American school.'

Thursday, February 28, 2008

well said:

A friend just sent this to me.

disclaimer: *this is not meant to support one political candidate or another, it is just an excellent point that is worth reading.*

Amen!

Parenting Tips from Obama Please a CrowdBy Shailagh MurrayPosted at 5:37 PM ET on Feb 28, 2008Washington Post's The Trail Blog BEAUMONT, Texas

-- It's more about heft than hope these days as Sen. Barack Obama tries to lock up victories in the Lone Star State and in Ohio on Tuesday. His speeches are bordering on wonkish, packed with details about energy and education and worrisome talk about the economy. But at a townhall meeting here before a mostly African American audience this afternoon, Obama couldn't resist a brief exegesis on one of his favorite subjects, parenting -- and he got a foot-stomping response worthy of an evangelical church service in reply.

The Illinois senator raised the issue at the end of a lengthy answer to a question about education. After discussing teacher pay, afterschool programs, summer school and recess, Obama added, "Can I make this one last point?" "It's not good enough for you to say to your child, 'Do good in school.' And then your child comes home, you've got the TV set on, you've got the radio on, you don't check their homework, there's not a book in the house, you've got the video game playing." The crowd cheered. Women started dancing at their seats, fists waving. "So, turn off the TV set, put the video game away, buy a little desk," Obama continued. "Watch them do their homework. If they don't know how to do it, give them help. If you don't know how to do it, call the teacher. Make them go to bed at a reasonable time. Give them some breakfast." His words became almost inaudible as the audience shrieked in delight. "Can I get an 'Amen' here?" Obama joked. "All right, all right. Since I'm on a roll, if your child misbehaves in school, don't cuss out the teacher. You know I'm right about that. Don't cuss out the teacher, do something with your child. I'm speaking the truth. I'm telling you, I won't just tell you what you want to hear."

who are they? and why do i let them in?

i woke up on the wrong side of the bed after my dinner conversations last night. everything going through my head was petty and mean. i couldn't help from having that helpless feeling that people who have no idea what they are doing in education are making the education policies for the rest of us. "who are they in their fancy suits to tell me what good teaching is?" i angrily thought in the shower. "who are they" I thought as I searched for my keys, "to tell me that teachers only improve instruction when they are being held accountable to standards."
"Who are they to even know what drives good instruction?" I thought as I started up my car.

"Who are they to say the people of my profession are lazy? Have they walked through the halls? Do they know?"

I got to school in an obviously angry mood. I was disgruntled with the world, feeling defeated and disrespected by everyone, and wishing I'd thought of incredibly clever remarks to prove them all wrong. Instead I am sure I cemented their opinion that crazy-teachers don't listen to reason because they are too lazy to change their ways.

At school I dove into a meeting with another teacher about how to help a family with an autistic child. Then I rushed to help at an IEP meeting, and then to meet for a quick reading conference with some first grade students reading a chapter book for the first time. Then it was off to a training, followed by my ever-crazy lunch bunch, some emails with parents, at jumpers practice, more meetings with co-workers, and then now... when for the first time during the day have time to remember last night and my anger. The thing is I'm still angry, but the crazy day was a reminder that in many ways whatever decisions they make in Washington will not change my devotion to my job unless I let it. They will not take away the initial shock when a parent first learns her child is autistic or the support I can give. They will not make me teach reading less passionately, or change my relationship with my lunch bunch. I love my job. I'm sorry some people don't respect it, and I'm sorrier still that people feel they have the power to change something they do not understand and don't respect. But I can't let myself leave for work angry at the world. My job is way too important for that.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

oops

i may have ended the evening at what i'm sure was a very nice dinner event with my husband at fairly right-leaning organization. they stupidly did that fancy host-planning of splitting up the spouses at dinner, which turned out to be a bad idea on their part.

me, armed with red wine and no husband to kick me under the table is not a good combo when i am seated beside someone who works at an education reform think tank and believes nclb is a GOOD idea.

i knew i was in trouble when i tried to ask questions about the gentleman's opinions and he said, "You're going to tell me that you work for a school, aren't you?"

there may have been table banging (from me). i may have insinuated that teach for america is racist, and i may have interrupted very nice people mid-sentence to correct their facts. i have almost no recollection of the actual food, although i know i ate it. i know there was creme brulee for dessert, and it disappeared off my plate while i made points about testing and accountability.

more highlights later, as i am tired since i am actually a teacher and have to get up early to work with the kiddos. my favorite statement was "Come on, nclb only requires testing once a year. why does everyone spend so much time teaching to the test?"
That might have caused me to explode and say some not nice things.
oops.

schema

in kindergarten workshop today i watched a teacher hold up a picture of a tomato.
"What's this?" she asked.
"I KNOW! I KNOW!" a little one jumped up and down in his seat.
"SAUCE!!!"

i guess if you've never seen a tomato, and only recognize it from the picture on the box, a picture of a tomato IS a picture of sauce.


In my first grade guided reading group I was trying to explain the concept of dew to children who live in apartment buildings and don't have any concept of what grass looks like in the morning.
"Poo? Like dog poo?"
"The grass is wet? Like someone used their hose?"

success?

At the end of practice yesterday we did our routine that is really a competition between the jumpers to see who can last the longest as the song gets faster and faster. It had been a hard practice (with my grouchiness I may have made us work on one routine over and over again) so most of the kids were exhausted and quickly tripped on their ropes.
It quickly came down to just 2 jumpers, one competed at nationals, a 5th grader, and certainly our strongest jumper this year. The other was a third grader who blends into the group and will always position herself in the back of the pack. Toward the end of the song our amazing 5th grader tripped on her rope, leaving only the third grader. Her eyes got big and she immediately sat down when she saw she was the only one left.
I totally understand where she was coming from, but it still broke my heart that she didn't even let herself win. Afterward she came up to me and told me she knew she'd sat down because she didn't want to win. "I don't know why!" she said, shaking her head. "I just had to sit down".

It reminds me of a quote featured in the movie Akeelah and the Bee "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. "

For our children whose lives are chaotic and constantly in a state of survival~ success, standing out as a champion, and having talent is not always an option. Caring for the family, blending into the background to be one of the group has been ingrained into these little one's bodies for so long they don't know how to let themselves start to shine out from the group.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

irrational frustration

at some point today i transferred from being happy-go-lucky teacher to fire-breathing viola swamp evilness. looking back at the day i can't figure out at which point it happened. but by the end of the day i was done. when i thought about running my car into the car in front of me on the way home i knew i was having trouble. there's something about being 100% patient while working with a child who is just not getting what you're teaching that sucks all of your patience out of you. i never once felt frustrated with the child, but immediately felt frustrated with everything else in life, from my shoes, the door, my car, etc.

so, off to the gym so that i don't explode with frustration.

Monday, February 25, 2008

those pesky numbers

Can you show me one goldfish?

Great! Now can you show me the number one?

"Hmmm.... where did that number one go? It has to be around here somewhere!" says my little one as she searches her number line.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

snow day technology blues

our printer died last night. it went out in somewhat of a fit of glory, loud noises, little rubber pieces going every which way, string-like things coming out with the paper. little pieces of the printer guts are spread across my grad school papers, a gruesome reminder of last night's violent death. it wasn't sudden, sadly, as it had begun giving us pieces of itself with every print job. i spent a parent conference trying to explain why the child's draft iep was covered in little black rubber things while I shook them off each page. our kitten, a fan of noise and small pieces, jumped around watching the commotion as we begged and pleaded the little printer to come back to life, just for 2 last papers.
but alas nothing worked and my day of productivity is still hiding inside my computer. i emailed the files to my professors, but they were too big and were sent back. so now i am off to go to kinkos? staples? to beg and plead someone to let me into the campus' locked computer lab?
i never thought i'd say this, but if only we'd had school yesterday, i would have been able to print there. *sigh* first snow day of the year and i can't even appreciate its existence. what kind of ba-hum-bug does that make me?
a disgruntled grad student ba-hum-bug i suppose.

Friday, February 22, 2008

educational leadership

One of my coworkers/mentors just started working on her masters in administration. This thrills me because she would make the type of principal I would work for in a heartbeat. I go to her with problems frequently and her advice is always thoughtful and thorough, and most importantly, always delivered with a sense of humor. Before making judgements she asks questions and examines a situation from all sides before giving her final opinion. I have the utmost respect for her, and hope she will be successful in her grad work.

The stories of her grad school peers terrify me however. She describes overly ambitious people who rarely listen to their group members or others. They answer questions quickly and make decisions instantly, trying to prove that leadership comes from the shiniest apple or loudest mouth. They seem to be focused on short-term efficiency and long-term recognition.

The more she talks about them the more I shudder. These people want to be principals? They don't exhibit any of the qualities I would want to work under. They don't seem to understand the meaning of 'team work', nor do they understand that yes, while efficiency is important, so is being efficiently correct. Incorrect, snap decisions based on little facts or personal opinions aren't going to be efficient in the long-run. Being the loudest in the room does not make you a leader. Being the rudest doesn't make you a leader either, even if it does cut other people off at the knees.

I've worked for a principal like that. I don't plan on doing it again.

What disturbs me the most is that this kind of behavior sounds like it is encouraged in her class. These students are praised for their 'leadership' and willingness to speak out. They seem to be stepping up to what the college is deeming as 'leadership qualities'. Those can't really be the leadership qualities our principals are being trained to have, are they?

A bad administrator can fill a school with fabulous teaches and then suck their will to live right out of them with belittling, micromanagement, and rash decisions. It doesn't matter what kind of fabulous strategies those teachers are using in the classroom, if an administrator is poisoning a school's environment those teachers will lose their passion and their ability to create powerful lessons to inspire students.

I once had an admistrator (fresh out of an admin program) say to a room full of teachers (who she was suppose to be congratulating) "Look how successful you were because of all I gave you". Is that the type of "leadership" admin programs are producing?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

why i keep hitting refresh on weather.com

pajamas inside out.
ice cubes in the toilet.
dance in the front yard.
walk backwards to bed.
stand on your head while chanting to the snow gods.

do whatever is needed.

I want to still be in my pjs at lunch tomorrow.

it's time for some snow.

today

and days like it are the reason i keep the very large hershey's bar hidden in my desk.

thriller follow up

we just showed our jump rope team the thriller video. confusion over M.J. continued as i had cut the questions off last week.

"wait, he's black?"
"no, thats not M.J., thats someone else. M.J. is singing"
"no, he use to be black. now he's white. because it doesn't matter if you're black or white."
"he sings?? i thought he was just a crazy man on the news."
"whats up with the jacket?"
"why did they call it thriller?"
"why are we doing this? this is bad."

the best was when i told them they'd have to wear the makeup from the video in our performance. i wish i'd had a camera of their faces before i told them i was kidding...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the phone and the iep

My dirty little secret is that I really hate talking on the phone. I'm far more comfortable with email and will sometimes go out of my way to use email or written communication instead of calling people on the phone.

This is a problem with my new role as a special ed teacher, because I HAVE to call parents to set up meetings. Don't think I don't try to do it through written word. I'll email if the parents have email (which most at our school don't) and will first send home a written letter months ahead of time, just hoping the parents will read it and return it before I have to call home.

But, inevitably, after a week of checking the book bag every day to see if the parent answered, I have to realize its time to call home.

I don't like using the phone with people my own age who speak English, and I'm even more uncomfortable with using the phone to call people who don't speak English, or speak English with a very heavy accent. Some parents do great speaking in English in person, but when you're on the phone they aren't able to read your body language and so it opens up all sorts of communication battles.

So you call home and just start speaking in English. If the person that answers utters something in another language and hangs up the phone, you wait for a day and try again. If that same person answers the phone and repeats their answer, then you hunt down a Farsi/Vietnamese/Urdu translator and hope they'll be able to deliver your message. It is always likely though that someone else will answer the phone. Many of our children live in homes with multiple families, and so if you call a home number you're never sure of whose parent/grandparent/teenage sister might answer. It can sometimes take awhile to communicate with the person on the phone exactly whose child you want to talk about. Remembering that all of this is suppose to be confidential and you should never utter the child's name and the words 'IEP' in the same sentence if you are not speaking to a parent. Which is hard to prove over the phone.

So on Friday I sucked it up and made some phone calls. Smugly hanging up, I was very pleased with how well my fury of calls went. I went into our computer program and entered the meetings, confirmed the dates with the teachers and administrators, scheduled a location, and went on home for the weekend.

On Tuesday morning, around 7:10 a mother was wandering our halls looking for me.
"Oh, Mrs. L! I want to schedule meeting?" she said clutching the paper I sent home two weeks ago.
ok... but we scheduled it. on Friday. When I called. Which I tried to explain nicely.
"No... I work then. Who talk? No? Not me. Not my number. That time? No, that not work for me. I work."

So, some poor soul answered the phone on Friday and agreed to come meet with me at a certain date and time. She even asked questions about what the meeting would be about. And I repeated the child's name again. And my name. And they said, "OK, see you then!" Never mentioned this wasn't their child or that they didn't understand why I was asking them to come to a meeting for a kid that wasn't theirs.

I have scheduled an IEP meeting with an unknown parent about an unknown child, who frankly, might not even go to our school.

This is why I don't use the phone.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

aliens

there is a boy in one of my kindergarten classes who is fascinated by aliens. whenever i enter his classroom he comes up to me and whispers something about aliens in my ear and then backs away, nodding at me with wide eyes as though to say, "just a warning".

the other day he whispered that the night before the aliens took him on their space ship with them and then brought him back in time for school. "it was scary" he said and then returned to his work as though he hadn't told me anything.

sometimes even with my adult logic i start to wonder...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

i heart i heart writing day

on friday we held our 2nd annual school-wide writing celebration. while the timing so close to valentines day makes it a crazy week, we are creating children who believe writing is more important than valentines day. its kind of great.

friday was the first day i really, truly missed being a classroom teacher.

i love writing workshop. no matter what it has always been my absolutely favorite part of any day. the first day of school i always promised my first graders that no matter what would happen with our schedule, we would always have writing workshop. i tried my hardest to stick to it, even having time to write on the last day of school.

i think what i love about writing workshop is that you are able to really connect with the children in your classroom. it is time cut out in the day for their little lives to become the most important topic in the world. in writing conferences you can pull out the exciting details of seeing a butterfly at the park, or how dad came home late with an extra pizza from work, or what they played at recess yesterday. and using all of that essential information pouring out of the child you are able to teach how to listen to the sounds in words, where to put the periods, how to start an exciting story, or how to add details.

in the classroom i always held a huge writing celebration after the first month of school. it was really the only time i went all-out for a writing celebration complete with table clothes, cut flowers, invitations to everyone who had contact with my class, and cupcakes made by the class. i found it was such a powerful way to start the year. we are writers! it said to the kids. our writing is important, meaningful, and is meant to be celebrated. i totally subscribe to lucy calkins recommendation that you should have at least 8 writing celebrations a year. they don't have to be huge or elaborate, but just something to say, 'hey, look at our fabulous work. we're awesome!'

i love it.

thinking about having i heart writing day without a classroom made me depressed and cranky. no tables to decorate, no kids to bake with, no stories to add the finishing touches to. so instead i encouraged my friday bookclub to bring their writing and instead of reading books, we'd read their writing.

the short 40 minutes made my day. i ended up with a mixture of children from different years of teaching. all children i'd had so many writing conferences with. children i'd tried and tried to teach about where to put the periods, how to listen to those pesky middle sounds in words, or how to add exciting details. i remember their early writings in the beginning of first grade, the large letters, the 'ilbu' notes (i love you).

one girl who came on friday is now in fourth grade. she came to my classroom speaking no english and would sit and carefully label her pictures with random letters to match her friends. eventually she began matching the pictures with the sounds in the actual words, which led to stories. i remember her first real story she produced, a story about her grandfather back in Indonesia. our heads bent together over the little table, her trying to explain about a thunder storm in broken english, me nodding vigoriously, hoping to pull more of the story out of her. working together to listen to the sounds in each word, laboring over the abc chart to match the sounds.

then there is the love of my life, a girl with a special ed label. she and i fought in writing workshop. her not wanting to write, me demanding it. the timer sat on her table, a reminder of how much time she had to work. the early scribbles to the 'i love my dad' stories that turned to princess stories. all of the princess stories. so many. now in 3rd grade, she came with a published poem and instructions... no more princess stories.

the other third grader whose excited writing would use up an entire page with one word in the beginning of first grade. she had so much to say and so little patience for her lack of spelling ability. why bother getting the words right? many, many writing conferences were held on those sounds and spelling patterns. no need to teach this one about writer's voice. just a reminder that no matter how fabulous her story is, if a reader can't read it then its meaning is lost.

the second graders whose writing conferences were not so long ago. two of them came into first grade with the ability to produce long, long stories, about every detail of their day. we sat and read through our mentor texts, trying to see how those authors constructed a story without listing every detail needed.

the writers came clutching their books and poems they had prepared with their new teachers in new writing conferences. i was impressed by their work, proud of what they'd created, and slightly jealous that some other teacher gets to sit in writing conferences with these amazing writers.

on friday, i missed the classroom so much.

Friday, February 15, 2008

ew

i walked into a kindergarten classroom today and observed one boy with his hand inside another child's mouth. i immedietly asked him to stop trying to pull out his friend's tooth. when the classroom teacher heard me she ran over.

"Are your hands in his mouth AGAIN?" she asked.

It was the 'again' that made me duck my head so they wouldn't see me laughing.

"We have talked about this all day! Who can pull out a tooth? A dentist, a parent" she started counting on her hands. clearly they had been over this many times during the day already.

the dentist to be walked away muttering and the boy with the loose tooth looked grim.
"Did you ask him to pull out your tooth?" i asked. he shook his head.

so his classmate had taken it upon himself to spend the day grabbing the tooth whenever he thought his teacher wasn't looking and pull as hard as possible.

wow. kindergarten logic.

thriller

the new routine we're working on with my jumpers is to michael jackson's thriller. now that the kids are hitting the right beats at the right times and landing those difficult turns we decided it was time to spice up the routine.
the head coach was trying to explain to them certain moves she wanted them to do based on the music video. they of course, not being born in the 80s, looked at us like we were crazy. Zombies? are you serious? eww.
(i sadly have to admit that since i grew up beliving pbs and npr were the only way to reach the outside world, i had actually never seen the music video until i went home and watched it last night. )

the head coach went to go grab some paperwork and the minute she was gone a bunch of kids raised their hands with concern.
"I don't understand!" one said with passionate confusion. "Michael Jackson... is this before he was white?"

"yeah!" another one blurted out "he sings? i thought he was just... you know... bad."

"wait! whose michael jackson?" came next.

and so, without going into to much detail, i tried to quickly capture the fact that there was a time when michael was as popular as Hannah Montana, but, he feel from grace like Britney. When they clearly weren't buying that MJ use to be an american icon I quickly moved on to another topic.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

love, love, love

What a day. Aside from the large choclate lips given to me to honor my name, my day has been full of chocolate, chaos, energy, and lots of love. But more energy and chaos than anything else. And my tummy hurts from the vast amount of valentine parties I attended. I shamefully had one of those days where the kiddos delighted me so much that I couldn't keep a straight face, so, I let on way too many times when I was overly amused by them.

Images of today:

"I have a joke to tell you" one of my co-teachers said to her class. "What is invisible and smells like bananas?" And, in true kindergarten fashion, they burst into laughter. Who needs a punchline? Its kindergarten.

Another kindergarten co-teacher was making 'welcome to our classroom signs' to put on their door for our school-wide writing celebration tomorrow. She asked what kind of a sign we should put on the door. One of her kiddos yelled out, "GET IN OR GET OUT!" Think he hears that one at home?

Watching the kindergarten classes working their hardest to sit still on the carpet was like watching a wave pool or a wack-a-mole game. Everyone would be criss-cross-applesauce and then they would slowly pop up and down, up and down as their wiggles erupted through their entire body. Who can sit still on your first valentines day in school?

I walked into one of my classrooms and one of my six-going-on-sixteen year olds waved her hands and then emptied my valentine mailbox across the counter like she was displaying a million dollars. "Look at all this!" she proudly exclaimed. Valentines is clearly her favorite holiday.

Inside the mailbox stuffed with chocolate and cheetah-girl cards was also a handmade card from a little boy. When I turned it over I realized it was done on the back of an old piece of homework that had been returned to him. He was hording his school papers and using them to write to us since he has so little at home.

On a side note, The Cheetah-girl valentine cards must share an art staff with victoria secret. How are those possibly appropriate to send to school with your six year old??

sigh

Psss.... Mrs. Lipstick...

I got you a valentine! It's chocolate lips... for mrs. lipstick

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

co-teaching valentine woes

co-teaching in 4 classes = 4 valentine parties & 80 valentines to give

tonight will be spent with my hand cramping as it writes, "love mrs. lipstick" over and over and over again.

Monday, February 11, 2008

what's average?

On Friday I left my crazy bus driver and my jumpers to have dinner with my husband at C-PAC (those of you who know me know we have a bipartisian marriage and so he comes to jump rope events and international dinners with me, I go to republican dinners with him. It's a fair and balanced life we lead. I of course, win fancy dinners from this, and he wins attending non-English speaking funerals and eating homemade South American food in a elementary school cafateria).

The keynote speaker was George Will, whom, despite any political leanings, I love. He had many brilliant points, but one was the unquestionable fact that "50% of America's children are below average" and there is no way to argue with simple math.

This, of course, is true. By definition, average, no matter how high average falls, half of participants will be below, and half above.

So, when looking at this under NCLB, one has to ask, if our goal for our children is to bring everyone up to the same place of achievement, that place must then be, below average. But the more we increase the line, the higher what is average will grow, continuing to keep 50% of children below average. Half of our children will continue to be below average, despite how much we hate the way that sounds. So is focusing on the one number of achievenment we want all children to meet really the best method of success for our kids? It means that for half of them we are focusing on a line that is below average, and for some we are focusing on blowing a bell-curve that mathematically is impossible to blow.

I just woke up from a nap as I came home sick today, still not over the grosness of the cold possibly flu. Now I'm trying to wake myself up for grad school, so I realize my thoughts are not put together yet. But Will's comments struck me as true. We need to look at the way we measure success in the public schools, how we want to track it, and the best way to reach it. I just don't think AYP goals do that in any sort of way.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

my smart cookie

My smart cookie has been making some really not fabulous decisions lately. I can't tell you the sinking feeling I have everytime I hear about another one of these terrible decision.

Last year I went to my graduate school professor in my emotional disorders class and asked his opinion on my little one. His words still terrify me. He pointed out that she was on the track to become socially maladjusted and without proper social training intervention would most likely end up in jail. He didn't say it out of malilce, just out of knowing the patterns and trends facing children who never get social skills intervention. By 8, he said, it is usually developmentally too late to turn a child around.

I feel helpless and frustrated. She needs so much. How do you get her to use her powers for good and not evil? Can 8 truly be too late to turn a child's life around? How can that be possible?

Matilda

I wish I had Matilda's powers. If I did I would will the books from the library down the block to fly through the windows and into my house. My husband asked if I felt an ethical dilema for "stealing" library books from a closed library on a Saturday night. I don't think I do. Especially not when my husband and I are pathetically sick tonight.

I've wanted to have Matilda's skills since second grade. *sigh*

bus drivers

to be honest i'm not planning on saying good things about bus drivers in this post. specifically, school bus drivers. i should start by mentioning that despite my recent experiences with bus drivers i will give them this: i would rather be a garbage collector than have their job. if it was between collecting welfare and driving a school bus you'd have to work really, really hard to convince me that i should drive a school bus. their job sucks and i am very, very glad they do it so well. they do not get paid enough to drive around in a fairly unsafe vehicle with more screaming children than the rest of us would ever allow ourselves to be alone with. i can barely drive around in traffic in this area and listen to outrageous conservative radio talk shows without driving my car into oncoming traffic. imagine if dr laura's voice became the voice of 100 screaming children. it wouldn't be pretty.
so, i acknowledge that their jobs are difficult, they do not get paid enough, we have a bus driver shortage, and that i respect for them actually having a job because i would seriously be thinking about welfare.

that being said, i have NOT had good run-ins with bus drivers lately.

last week one of my kiddos needed to be escorted to his bus after a bit of time screaming and physically fighting me. originally we thought he would not be safe on the bus but he calmed himself down so with the administrator's OK i took him to the bus. the bus driver, knowing my child, told me exactly where i could take myself and the child. he did not use any words that are unacceptable standing on their own, but when he put all of those g-rated words together he did not have very nice things to say about me or my kiddo. the other bus riders listened with wide eyes at the adults not demonstrating qualities of the character of the month.

so yesterday, my jumpers had a show at a nearby elementary school. nearby being about 10-15 minutes away depending on traffic. it had already been a fairly hectic morning and the head coach and i were enjoying our first real conversation together since october when we realized we'd been on the bus a little more than 30 minutes. something was very wrong.

we asked the bus driver if he knew where we were going and he grunted, waved a map and said, "I live here. I know." so... we thought maybe he knew.

then he pulled into a large middle school in a neighborhing county and started to open the bus door. we gently pointed out this was not where we were headed, to which he replied, "I KNOW, I KNOW, I turn around here, yes? We go back"

so we go back, and before we have entered back into our county's lines he pulls up to an elementary school and puts his blinker on. we try to gently point out that the elementary school begins with the letter G, and the one he is about to pull into begins with the letter C. We have now been saying the name of this school for 35 minutes, and he has been saying, "Yes, yes, I know school G" for about 30. Still, here we are at a school far from our county that starts with a C. C and G look similar; my kindergarteners mix them up. Still.

so, he gives us angry looks, mutters about women and directions, and pulls back onto the main road. about 10 minutes later the bus is beside a large hole in the ground piled with dirt.
"Oh!" he says, and points, "That is it. It was there"

I thought he was joking. "haha, I hope not" and I take the map to try to help him out.
"NO!" he insists, "I think that is it. This is the school. It is gone. See. My directions are right, right here is the school."

yes, because since we left our school this morning the large school of roughly 700 students blew up, became a hole in the ground leaving nothing behind. Yes. that is obviously the logical answer to this problem.

finallly, we convince him that our destination is not a hole in the ground, has not become a hole in the ground in the recent past, and that we should in fact continue driving. we find the school only to realize we have pulled into a neighborhood behind the school. although we can see the school there is no possible way to pull the bus up to the front. looking at the map i realize we're going to have to drive back to main roads, which will take another 10 minutes. our performance is suppose to be starting at that exact moment, so we unload the bus back there and head through the soccer fields, playground, and parking lot to get into the school. on our way off the bus, as our bus driver mutters about women and directions, i give him exactly how to get to the front of the school when it is time to pick us up.

"YES!" he says, obviously annoyed. "I know how. I live here, yes? I know the school."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

suckers (subtitle: i heart moviemaker)

One of my fabulous co-teachers and I just put together our second photostory on movie maker. Can I tell you how much I love that software? We first did it last year when she was an intern in my classroom. We started by having our kiddos write a class story using interactive writing. Then we took pictures of what we wrote about, had the children sequence the photos in their correct order, and then recorded the class reading the story. In the end we had a fabulous "movie" to show to parents and others of our great writing.

Of course, any great teacher knows it's not about the finished product but the journey in between and movie maker is a fabulous way to get kids to work together on a sequencing activity, create a meaningful story, focus on word-wall words, needed writing skills, and fluency in reading. It is also great because it can be adapted for any grade level. Last year we used it with our first graders, this year with her kindergarten class. Her goal with the group was primarily putting together a class recount and then having them participate in meaningful shared-reading.

It SO worked. Tell kids they are recording thier voices like Hannah Montanna (we didn't actually say that) and they are remarkable well-behaved and focused. We really got in some great shared reading and fluency work as they practiced reading their story, word wall words and all, over and over again.

And they thought we were just having fun.

suckers.

middle class expectations

The more I work with my jump rope team the more I realize that jump-rope is really designed to be a middle-class sport.

Jump-rope itself is a fairly low cost/low committment activity. 10 minutes of jump roping is equal to 30 minutes of running. It costs almost nothing to buy a rope, which is all you really need, along with a small place to jump. Sidewalks outside apartment buildings are great for this.

Competitive jump rope though is a whole other ballgame. Aside from the fact that my kids all had to fill out forms for Jump-Rope-for-Heart that required a primary care physician (so many don't have any health insurance so this question was really a joke), most competitive jumpers go to gyms where they pay big $$$ for every lesson they take. Our kids don't of course, but regardless the money adds up. A fancy rope is $12, the uniform is $5 (nothing, I know), and our newest expense is our March clinic for $50.

More than the actual cost though is the middle-class expectation that your children are the most important beings in your life and you will drop everything to give them everything they want and need. Growing up, $50 might have hurt my family's monthly budget, but they would pay it without question, without making me beg, or without being yelled at by a coach. Most of our parents see jump roping as a nice activity for their kids to be in, but in no way a priority like getting food on the table, keeping their jobs, keeping their house, and getting to church (in that order). They haven't budgeted for a $50 dollar trip for their 3rd grader, nor have they planned to alter their work schedule so they can pick their child up when the bus arrives back at school. To them they are protecting their child... they are saving money and guaranteeing they keep their job. Disapointing their child for one day is sad, but it keeps them fed. We of course, see them as disorganized parents who expect us to parent their children because they don't have time to do it themselves.

And from our side it is a catch-22. Do we punish the kid and say they are off the team because their parent refused to pay the $50? Do we pay the $50 for the children who can't afford it? If we do that are we creating a culture where the parents expect us to pay for their children every time? Is this a learning opportunity for the parents or the kids?

And what about the families where "it's always something"? If they aren't homeless (again) someone is in the hospital, or on a job interview, or needs a babysitter and they need their child to translate for them. I tend to be more leinent toward these children, although I realize that creates a child who feels drama is a way to go through life without responsibilities. But where do you draw the line? When do you punish the child for their life situation? Or should I look at it as teaching responsibility instead of seeing my actions as punishment?

spaghetti day will be the death of me

images from lunch club today:

~ a child has put her chicken nugget on a fork and then nestled the fork down her shirt right in the middle of her chest. She then begins shaking her shoulders. ??? Someone sees too much tv.

~The remains of the spaghetti carefully carried to the trashcan only to be tipped upside down before reaching the trash. Noodles and sauce everywhere.

~Child asked to clean up the spaghetti he dropped then begins to shovel the dirty noodles into his mouth as a way to "clean" up.

~When asked to stop putting the dirty noodles into his mouth he then begins to throw them into the air.

~While I am assisting the spaghetti monster with getting his noodles into the trashcan another child loudly states, "HEY! I LIKE APPLES" and grabs the apple pieces from another child's lunch. She grins happily because she had been instructed not to move out of her chair until the apple pieces disapeared.

i have a headache.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

let's be real

One of my fabulous co-teachers emailed me yesterday with a quick story to make me smile...

In a moment of classroom management she explained to the class how they should be acting and so she said, "Kindergarteners sit quietly on the carpet"

One of the students responded, "No they don't!"


You can't argue with that. But we can always hope.

ambi-turners

I've noticed that kindergarterns are not so good at the ambiturning (reference to zoolander). If you hand a 5 year old trash and say, "Hey, the trashcan is right here, can you throw it away?" kindergarners do not seem to be able to turn around in the direction closest to the trash can. No, they turn around the other way, and if they miss the trashcan the first time around they go around another time until they are able to find the trashcan in front of me.

new focus lesson: how to turn left.

Monday, February 4, 2008

mental note

do not work on the /b/ sound with children while they are eating.


if you don't know why fill your mouth with food, chew, and then make the /b/ sound as hard as you can. see what happens.

my terms or your terms?

many of my kids put most of their energy into trying to control the situation around them. This may include refusing to move when asked to line up, refusing to pick up a book and come to guided reading, or doing exactly the opposite of what the teacher asks him to do. (And at times it comes in much more aggresive actions as well)

And I realize this is because there is very little, if anything, in their lives they have any control over. So it makes sense, but it can be ridiculously annoying/frustrating when you are trying to teach a classroom of kiddos.

today one of my buddies was working on type to learn in the computer lab. he kept getting bored with the program in front of him and would play around with the other options inside type to learn. (I had to sit beside him to make sure he didn't exit out of the program all together and play around on the internet.) The classmate seated beside him had found his way into some notebook program inside of type to learn and was playing around in it when the classroom teacher came over and re-directed him.
Well, my buddy was determined to show her. He started loudly stating, "I do it, I do it" and went into the exact same program his friend had been asked to leave. However, just to prove it was ok, he then went about typing the exact same key strokes as the program had been asking him to do (and that he had refused to do seconds earlier). fjf, frf, juj, ujuj.

ok, so do i stop him and force him to get out of the program he "wasn't allowed in" because of the rule, or do i ignore him and let him go on typing the lesson we expected him to do when he walked in the door that day.

i ignored it and let him type away, frf, fjf, juju... it might have been the wrong decision, but if we're not going to learn on my terms i might as well try to reach him on his terms...

transition IEPs...

I just came from a meeting where kindergarten special ed teachers and preschool special ed teachers met to begin to get familiar with our future kids for next year. I'd been warned it would be crazy, and it certainly met all of my expectations. The preschool teachers were excited to talk about the kids they were sending on and we bombarded them with questions as we were excited/nervous to hear about the kids/parents/needs that would walk in our doors next August.
What I found refreshing though was making contact with the preschool teachers who obviously put their heart and souls into teaching their kiddos. They described problems with behavior with a truthfulness yet still showed they loved the special kid they were working with. Some had taught my previous kiddos in past years and were excited to hear updates and share stories of how my kindergartener's preschool years. It was great to know where my kids came from, and to know that my kids for next year will be coming from amazingly loving backgrounds. I hope when I talk about my kids my love for them comes through, even when I'm describing bathroom or behavioral issues.

Now I have a whole new set of kids to know, dates to memorize, paperwork to complete, and meetings to organize, but I'm excited about next August.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

memorization

I am taking a class on learning disabilities for grad school and I am currently trying to memorize the definition of a "specific learning disability" according to IDEA-2004. I understand why the professor wants us to memorize it, and why we have to understand the importance of each 'ands, ors, ;, buts, and a's', but really. something feels wrong about spending hours memorizing a long definition when it's for a class on learning disabilities. when we're learning that memorization is not the best teaching technique. when we're talking about best practice. and reading articles about great methods to use other than memorizing. perhaps the professor is actually trying to prove a point... maybe she is just reminding us how terrible memorizing information really is.

blah.

the term "specific learning disability" means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations. such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. such term does not include a learning problem, that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disability; of mental retardation; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage."

that was almost from memory... i'm writing it every place i can.

Friday, February 1, 2008

digital photography

A photographer came around today to take candid photos for our year book. After he snapped a few great ones at my lunch bunch my kiddos asked to see the picture. (Digital photography has not helped us with delayed gratification). As he showed them the picture one of my kiddos shouted, "Hey!! That's ME!! That boy is ME!! In my spiderman shirt!!"

to be a kindergartener.

smiles

At the end of the day today one of my jumpers came to find me. She talked for a little bit about our performance today and how excited she was about it went. I showed her some pictures of the performance and when she looked at them she said, "I only smile for you. You make me smile."

All of those hours after school with the jump rope team, the loud bus rides to other schools, listening to "We like to party" until my head explodes, its all worth it.

100th day!

There has never been a holilday celebrated like the 100th day of school is celebrated in kindergarten. Crowns were made, and glasses were created. Necklaces held 100 fruit loops, and Zero the Hero passed out 100 snacks to each class. Songs were sung and 10 dollar bills were glued to belts to make a money belt. My all-time favorite was the 100 Exercises event created by one of my fabulous co-teachers (and a first year teacher!) The kids did 10 reps of 10 different exercises. The excitment and pride on their faces made my day, and they were maticulously counting the chart to see how many exercises they had left. It was such a powerful learning activity for them as they bopped, air-punched, and squatted around the room.


Happy 100th day! (Only 80 or so to go)

A think tank focused on creative solutions for future problem solvers -tree