Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Today I had one of those moments where I forgot. It happens every once in a while. Sometimes the weight of all the non-child things that we deal with every day just gets so heavy...I started to feel like Eeyore always did when he'd walk around the Hundred Acre Wood and that little black raincloud followed him, raining on his head all day. Sometimes, it's all just overwhelming.
I went to go talk to my teammate, who sweetly went on a mini-quest for some chocolate to cheer me up (though all he ended up with was granola--it's the thought that counts, right?). And as lovely people are wont to do, he reminded me of the thing I momentarily forgot--my Reason.
The Reason I wake up at 5 every morning and stay at work til 5 most evenings. The Reason I can stand in the doorway at 7 am with a smile on my face. The Reason every day is filled with songs and smiles and random dance breaks. My Reason is my children. I love them more than anything. And no matter what happens outside of class time, no matter how dark or how heavy the cloud over my head sometimes appears or how hard that rain falls, all my children know is that their teacher loves them, they are awesome readers, writers, mathematicians and thinkers, and every day is one big dance party. And that's all they need to know.
When I remembered that, and looked into their sweet, smiling faces after lunch...the cloud lifted and the sun came out. So much better than chocolate--my children are my happy pills.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Training and things have started for me this week, and at first I was feeling like this:
but it turns out it's a blessing in disguise. I'm slowly growing more accustomed to getting up in the morning, without the shock of going straight from sleeping in to getting up at five. And today we picked up lots of goodies on the way out of our meeting!
Cleaning my classroom, clearing the walls, organizing my materials and documents has started to get me back in the mood.
Like the rain makes my mornings gets my day off to a relaxing start and brings life to the plants in my garden, I'm slowly beginning to feel refreshed and energized for a new year. It's going to be a good one.
I have mountains of crayons. Literally boxes upon boxes of the things. So many, in fact, that at the end of last year I just got a bunch of plastic bags and told my first graders to go to town and just take them home. That worked out okay until someone took all the crayons at her table and left her little crying friend with an empty bag. I was shocked. Didn't we JUST read Compartimos todo (We Share Everything)? Has Robert Munsch taught you nothing?
Alright, alright. In hindsight, I should have distributed them in a bit more organized way. But I really just needed to make room for the millions of new crayons still sitting in my storage closet. Maybe they'll be prizes or something?
I went to the office to say hello to everyone. I decided (unwisely?) to ask our lovely office lady (what is her title again? I think Queen of Organizational Awesomeness or La reina de la oficina would work) for my class list. I know it's two weeks til school and I might not actually know for sure who I've got til Labor Day, but I just wanted to mentally prepare myself for what I'm going to get. And what I got was
I know that for some of you, this is nothing. For some of you, you've had 30 or more before. But I saw that number and I'm pretty sure my hair stood on end.
29! My first year in first grade two years ago, I had 26. And I'm pretty sure that by November I only had 3 strands of hair left. (I've been wearing a wig ever since...shhhhh don't tell my kids!) Granted, those little darlings went on to second grade and bring joy to their new teacher's lives (and by that I mean they are all wearing wigs now, too. We look FABULOUS).
Que Dios me de gracia, paciencia y fuerza...
So while I was bouncing with excitement (read: wallowing in my misery) at the news, I took a look at the class lists for the two fifth grade teachers--32 and 32. At first I thought, Meh, you have big kids...you'll be fine. And then I remembered that one is a first year teacher and one is a second year teacher.
I think this year will require lots of support (read: trips to happy hour).
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Friday, July 27, 2012
Anyone remember these Chatty Cathy dolls? The one on the left looks sleepy...I bet she goes to an early start school like mine (sorry sweetie!) The one on the right looks a little smirky...I bet she's trying to figure out if you saw what she just did to her neighbor (or her crayons).
My students LOVE to talk. Often times, I'm excited to hear the amazing academic conversations they are having or the ideas they are bursting with excitement to share. And then there are times when I look at them and grit my teeth to prevent myself from saying "BE QUIET, doggone it!! It's NOT your turn!" But then I have to remind myself that when I was in first grade, I drove my own teacher batty with my constant talking.
(You know what they say about karma...darn.)
But then again, look at me now. I get paid to spend the entire day talking to little people and big people. So now I look at my little chatterboxes and say to myself, "You're going to be a teacher, and you're going to be a lawyer and you're going to be a motivational speaker, and you're going to be the president..."
There's got to be a good reason for it, right? If my students have been blessed with the gift of chatter, I might as well embrace it.
Unfortunately, after a weekend trip to a friend's wedding and some busy/tired days afterward, I'd missed 4 Zumba classes in a row. I felt like I was melting into a puddle. So I broke down and went to the gym on a non-Zumba day (inconceivable!!) and lifted weights (not because I actually like it, but hey...gotta stay in shape).
This morning I was thinking about my week, and somehow got confused as to whether I'd worked out Tuesday or Wednesday (anyone else sometimes forget what day it is during the summer?). I lifted my arm and said OUCH! Yep, I did...but the more I work out, the sooner the pain goes away and I get back into my exercise groove.
Then I thought to myself, do our kids ever feel like this? I recently had one of those experiences where I'd taught them a concept and we'd been over it and over it and over it and over it...and yet and still, my assumption that they would definitely know what they were doing was apparently off-base. It's amazing to me how quickly they forget things sometimes. And in those moments where I think to myself, "WHAT? But we've been doing this since September! It's only been three weeks since we last reviewed it, and they've already forgotten? HOW?!"
It's moments like that where I have to remind myself that if I can forget what day yesterday was as quickly as this morning, my students can forget their vocabulary words or how to show their work on a story problem or the parts of a plant or what a living thing is or the difference between fluency and accuracy. And you know what? After a brief period where I really thought I'd have to stop and reteach it all over again, my kids hit their stride like little runners, and everything I'd taught them showed up, slowly but surely, on their papers.
It may take a little longer than I'd like or expect, but if I give them time, it all comes back to them.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
I have no experience with or training in Responsive Classroom outside of the Morning Meeting Book (a good one, I like it), so when it comes to collaborative vs. authoritative management techniques, I'm a little outside of my box. But this time around I thought I'd try something new.
My chiquitines were on their way to lunch. Yesterday two of them had to take a little thinking break after their behavior yesterday. So today I reminded them to make good choices and be good listeners while they were in the lunchroom. After lunch, I went to pick them up and was informed that over half of them had NOT, in fact been on their best behavior and had made some quite unfortunate choices.
In the past, I might have sent them to time out, or taken away some recess time, or imposed some other consequence on them. But today, I decided to try the "let's figure this out" solution.
So we sat down, and I asked them to tell me what happened, and then I cut them off when they started accusing each other. Then I asked them for ideas as to what a good consequence should be when they make these kinds of choices. They came up with some interesting ones:
-everyone turn your card (I still use a card system, yes)
-only the ones who were in trouble turn your card
-everyone play but the ones who were in trouble go read a book (I vetoed this one; reading is fun--it shouldn't be a punishment. They agreed)
-sit in silence at their tables (they decided this was a bad idea because they would be tempted to play with the things on their tables)
They closed their eyes and voted, and decided they should sit in silence til the end of recess (actually, it was literally half and half, so I broke the tie and decided on 5 minutes of silence). So that is what we did.
It was really interesting listening to the kids decide for themselves what their consequence should be. Lots of debating, thinking about the implications of each consequence. You could tell some of them were voting down specific consequences because they wanted to get out of them, but for the most part, the kids were really thoughtful throughout the process. We actually spent more time talking about our problem than sitting silently. All in all, I think I liked the process. I'll probably use it again in the future for large-group issues like this...if their behavior improves.
Let's hope things go better tomorrow...
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
And on days like today, it kind of is.
My kids and I read Pastel de Truenos (Thunder Cake) by Patricia Polacco today, looking for words written in all caps. Then they did a little hunt with a partner in an independent book, looking for more words in all caps and figuring out why the author decided to write the words that way. Turned out that most of the time, they were sound words. KABUUUUUUUUUUMMMM!!!!
On a totally unrelated note (or so I thought), we started writing class after reading, and talked about what good writers do and how to confer with the teacher. Then my kids bounced off to their seats to write exciting stories about their 7-year-old lives. I was conferring with one student when another said, "Look, Ms. M, I wrote a lot!" I glanced at her paper and saw the word SPLASH! written with big exclamation points after it. I told her how cool it was that she used a sound word and how I could just hear the water splashing in my head, and I could tell it was a swimming story even without reading the rest of it, and could she please keep using cool sound words in her writing? Grinning from ear to ear, she nodded yes and kept working.
As I made my way through the rest of the students, reading their stories and conferring with other writers, I discovered that several other students had included sound words, words in all caps, and exclamation marks in their own writing. I was actually a little bit shocked. Lucy Calkins has an entire unit on taking cues from published authors and trying some of what they do in our own work. I hadn't taught my kids to do this. I hadn't suggested or even mentioned it--we just studied it as readers and why it's done, and suddenly my kids were taking cues from this author and treating her as a writing mentor, all on their own. Their intelligence and initiative is awe-inspiring.
On days like today, SPLASH! really does feel like the coolest thing I've ever heard. I can't wait to see what they write tomorrow.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Now, she works hard on all her work, every day. Today she was so excited and proud to be finished, I taught her to air five!
Yo sí puedo: the most important lesson my students learn all year.
A few minutes later, she came back with this:
I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful picture.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
|luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Thursday, April 19, 2012
|Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Kids are so funny. No wonder Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby had a whole show devoted to the hilarious things they say.
Since Earth Day is this Sunday, and I wrote this Earth Day unit last year for my Masters' class that I really liked, we've been learning about the environment these last two weeks. We've been learning big, important words like medio ambiente (environment) and contaminacion (pollution) and vertedero (landfill) and reciclar (you can guess that one). All very exciting stuff. Naturally, after learning several new vocabulary words, my kids sometimes get them confused. Or just the whole concept itself.
Today I asked R, "What does recycle mean?" I'd taught it to her earlier in Spanish but asked this question in English, so I was curious what she would do about the words she didn't know. She said, "It means you throw trash away. And then it goes to a fair and they make paper." A fair, huh? (She meant fabrica, the Spanish word for factory.)
Later, A came in and told me they'd recycled their trash after lunch. I asked, "What will happen to it now?" She said, "They're gonna take it and make more food." I told her that they can't make food out of plastic, at which point the other kids laughed. A, however, disagreed with me. "They're gonna make new food," she told me, insistently. I hope that plastic food is part of a toy kitchen set...
Well, they got the concept, at least. Landfills are gross, recycling means making new stuff.
Happy early Earth Day! I'm so excited to watch The Lorax tomorrow. (Quite possibly moreso than the kids themselves.)
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Some days,.I'm pretty sure that the entire Youtube video "Stuff Teachers Say" could have been filmed in my classroom, quite possibly in the course of one hour of regular class time. If I had a penny for every time I've repeated myself today, I'd be the richest teacher who ever lived.
"Stand up. Sit down. Stand up again, QUIETLY. Sit down, QUIETLY. Walk. Go back and walk. Go back and walk. Go sit down. Get started working. Tell him to stop. Open your book. It's time to read. At work time, I expect you to be working. Open your book. Go sit down. That's not how we do that. Do it again. Do it again and do it correctly." And on, and on, and on...
I was chatting with a teammate after school, telling her how bad I felt that my college student volunteer had to watch me do this today. I want to always be that teacher that inspires her volunteers to say wonderful things like "I want to be like you when I grow up." I had one say that to me a couple of years ago. I want to be back in that moment. But alas...not today.
As I was sharing my frustration, my lovely teammate responded most insightfully and encouragingly, "That's first grade. This is what we do." And she's right--we do. We deal with management issues. We tell our kids to go back and practice correct procedures. And if we have to, we say the same thing over and over until they get it. My awesome mother concurred: "She's seeing real first grade. So now she'll know what it's like and how to deal with it when she gets there." True. All very true.
Sit down QUIETLY. Go back and walk. Open your book. Pick up your pencil. Do it again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Teaching comes in many forms, and for me, that means coaching in addition to my regular classroom time. I have a co-coach that works with me at group practice, and he's been gone for the past two weeks. It's been tough without him, but I'm managing.
Last year, we tried holding workshops where we'd take the large group, split it into two parts, and work with the kids separately. I tried doing it myself last week and it ended up being difficult to manage and less than successful. Determined to make it work, I adjusted my strategy today and made practice more interactive and engaging for everyone, and the team members who were excused early actually seemed sorry to leave! Better still, we were able to finish in less time than usual.
I was talking with my mom about how I was feeling quite efficient and productive after practice and how it was a big improvement on last week. She replied, ”You're really good at reflecting and adjusting.”
A high compliment for a teacher! After all, isn't that what we do every minute? We gauge how well our students are understanding and responding to what we are teaching them and we adapt accordingly. We reteach, demonstrate in greater detail, stop and do some jumping jacks, shift gears, simplify or increase challenge, add scaffolds and support. We are constantly taking the pulse of our class and making adjustments accordingly. To do it well is to do our best.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
I have to blog this because I laughed out loud as I was reading it.
I'm working on my Capstone and I'm studying conferring, and I'm reading this book No Better Way to Teach Writing, which is about how a group of Australian teachers. After listening to Donald Graves and reading one of his books, they decided to implement Writers' Workshop, which they called "The Conference Approach." One teacher highlights her struggle to let the child lead during a conference, allowing him to teach himself rather than just telling him what to do:
"Wait," I said. "Where is that part in the story?"
Irritated, he looked, then said, "I haven't wrote that yet."
"Well, where would you write it so the reader knows your story is about a car race?"
He picked up his pencil and wrote the sentence--at the end! Into my impatient mind flashed the uncharitable thought, 'No, dimwit, write it at the beginning.' But I managed to stay silent...When he finished, I asked him to read it back.
...he said..."That sentence doesn't make sense there."
Isn't it amazing what can happen when we allow children to take the lead in conferences? Providing lean prompts, asking good questions, directing children to notice and consider pertinent aspects of their own writing...because she let him figure out for himself that it didn't make sense, this student learned a skill that he could use in subsequent pieces, all on his own. He learned the importance of telling the reader what his story is about, and how to use an arrow to insert information that is missing from the beginning or middle of a piece.
Holding back our own ideas and letting children lead in conferences...so difficult, but so powerful.
Friday, January 20, 2012
Debating how thaw out this frozen moment in the conversation, I rephrased my question. I said, "I noticed that you wrote that word, and then you went back and changed it. I just want to know what you're thinking. Can you tell me what you were thinking?" He then informed me that he was thinking, "...that it was the same as this word (he pointed to a word in the previous sentence). And I already said that." He changed "and we played the played" to "and we played the game", which made perfect sense. I then complimented him for independently going back and rereading his work to make sure it said what he wanted it to say, and I told him how smart that was and that good writers always do that. By the end of our conference, he was smiling and happily writing again. We didn't have time to get to a teaching point, but I didn't care...that was enough.
Friday, January 13, 2012
I have the greatest kids in the world. I really do.
After two weeks of vacation, it was hard getting up before sunrise and driving to work again. It's always a bit of a rough transition getting back into the swing of things. But it's times like that when I remember that I love my job, and that's why I do it.
I love that nearly every day, someone draws me a picture. I love that half of the pictures say "I love you" or have hearts somewhere on them. I love that my kids jump up and down and squeal and wave every time they see me, even if the last time they saw me was literally 2 minutes ago. I love how when I take them to science or music or gym, they stop and hug me goodbye, even though they know I'll be back to pick them up in an hour.
As I was walking my students to the buses after school, one of them bounced off toward his bus (I was going to say walked, but this one, if he were a cartoon character, would be Tigger). Then he suddenly stopped right before he reached the door. He turned around and said "Bye, Ms. M!" then ran toward me, arms outstretched in a goodbye hug. I smiled to myself as we hugged and he turned around and ran back to get on the bus.
We don't get paid much, and politically, this is a rough time to be a teacher. But when I see their sweet faces first thing in the morning and bask in their random hugs throughout the day, it really is worth it. I love my job.