1.25.2015

Seven Year Itch

I've gotten off the blogging train for the last year and haven't found my way back on.  There are other more important things I need to do that do not include blogging.  But tonight, I feel the need to get things off my chest and out of my head. 


I think I am experiencing the seven year itch.  I have been at my school for 7 years now.  That's the longest I've been at any school I have taught at.  I was at my first school for 4 years and my other school for 6 years (that's the one they closed down and we all had to move to different schools).  It has now been 7 years and I just feel out of sorts.  I feel like a downer when I think about all the things that suck at work.  Our bathrooms are dirty, the school is dirty, half the teachers don't care and complain about the kids non stop.  It's just a depressing situation.  Our principal doesn't take care of discipline, she doesn't make the custodians do their job (obviously) and she lets the teachers do whatever they want.  All she's concerned about is if it looks good on paper.  We sparkle on paper and it looks like we have our act together on paper.  But in reality, we don't.  We do the dog and pony shows when people visit so we look like we are fabulous, but we aren't all the time. 


I admit I'm not great.  I've never pretended to be great.  In fact, I find more wrong with my teaching than great.  But I do try to go in everyday and give my kids 100%.  I'm fighting against students and parents who don't care, students who struggle to learn and I struggle to fight the system that won't help the students who need it.  I try to do better than the day before and make sure that my students are learning something everyday.  I know my weaknesses (writing - I wish someone else would teach my kids how to write, because I suck at it and have for 17 years!) and I work on trying to make them not so weak.  I know my strengths and use those to my advantage to help my kids.  I know my limitations this year and am working to find ways around them, but struggling to find replacement activities and stop feeling bitter about it (no food in class = struggle in math and lack of "fun" activities). 


I was very ready to go back to work a couple weeks ago and see my kids.  I love my class this year.  They are a great group of kids with pretty good behavior, but their academics aren't so hot (some are super high, but the majority are below grade level).  Parents don't, won't or can't help and those who do, will and can make my job easier.  We get little support from the administrator and our kids have no extra help other than me, myself and I (OK, that's not totally true - I do have an aide for 30 minutes a day, but even then she doesn't always do what I ask!).  I came home the other night so upset because I was told by another teacher that one of my students (who I just found out was tested last year but didn't qualify) was just "low and that's the way he will always be."  Um, it's my damn job to help him not be low, not just let him be!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I was so frustrated and worked up about it that I almost applied for a job elsewhere (until I realized I had to be fluent in Spanish...I'm not!). 


I always thought the grass would be greener elsewhere.  I'm not so sure.  Our district is a hot mess with all the admins thinking they are a gift to education and Common Core, but no one does anything that I have seen to be magic.  I'm sure it's the same stuff at different schools, but people have learned to deal with it.  I know some teachers who have been at the same school for 20+ years and others move around.  I have been wondering lately if it's time to move on.  I would have to go by myself this time without my teaching buddy, but I think I would be OK with that.  I need to get away from negativity (I can do that on my own, thankyouverymuch) and complacency and the know-it-alls who make every meeting feel like torture.  Or maybe I just need to let this feeling pass (along with PMS) and stay to myself for a bit.  I need to work with some kids at lunch, so that will be a couple days eating in my room (or outside my room since I can't eat in my room...no food...grrrrr!) to be by myself and away from all the crap. 


I don't know what I will do come May.  There may not be any jobs open to go to (that I would want).  I think we will actually have to lose teachers, so there won't be as many openings.  I just don't know.  My hubby asked me if it was time to change grade levels (I don't think so since I love first grade) and I said I wouldn't work with another grade level at my site...sad, huh?  I just need to remember that I am there for my kiddos and that's all I can do.  I can only do so much for them (including giving up my lunch time) and I can only help them so much.  I can fight like a Mama Bear for them, but when others tie my hands, there's not much I can do. 


On that note, I think I am going to take it easy tonight and maybe crack open a book.  I haven't made time to read in a long time and I think it's just what I need!  That or a lot of lotion!

1.11.2015

Let's start 2015 off right!

Tomorrow is almost here and that means I have to go back to work.  It's a chilly rainy day right now, so the thought of having to get out of my sweats and go to work in real clothes doesn't sound fun.  But it's supposed to be sunny and warmer tomorrow, so that should help with having to go to work. 


I'm about as prepared as I am going to be.  I have enough stuff planned for a full week of 12 hour days!  I know I won't get it all in, but a girl can dream, right?  I have deviated from my yearly plan and am focusing only on polar habitats when we get back.  A little fun for science will be good.  This is on top of reading, math and writing of course!  But I am excited to start something new and get a little fun in.  I also have to do testing, as progress reports go out next week.  What?!  I'm not surprised because this is how it always is.  It sucks for the kids because they have had 3 weeks off and now have to be tested and show what they know when some of them haven't done anything school related since we went on vacation.  Mind you, most kids got a packet home.  There were 4 kids whose parents didn't send the form back, so they didn't get a packet.  I am tired of wasting paper when there is so little of it to go around.  I felt horrible for not sending them one, but I know that none of the 4 would have done it.  :(  And they had 3 weeks of reminders to tell me they wanted one! 


I'm hoping the others completed it.  The principal offers the kids who do a winter packet a cookies and cocoa party.  I had 16 kids take a packet home and I am hoping to have 16 returned to me tomorrow.  That's the deal - they have to give it to me tomorrow when we walk in the door.  Welcome back to craziness! 


As I said, I am as prepared for this week as I can get.  I really hope there are no monkey wrenches thrown into the plans.  I know that 3 of our classrooms were broken into over break, but I don't think too much is missing.  We have a teacher who is out on disability again (they've been at work for 2 weeks this whole year), but the bright spot is, the sub was there from August - December and will come right back in through at least May.  It makes me feel like our grade level is whole again (we've never actually worked with the teacher who is assigned to the class for more than 2 weeks) and we can pick up where we left off.  I just wonder about new kids coming in and throwing things for a loop.  Add that to the thought that they are possibly changing  boundaries next year and moving a chunk of kiddos to a different school.  :(  That makes me sad to think they will be leaving and even sadder when I know my principal likes the idea because we will get students from a higher socio economic area.  I'd rather have the poorer students as they are the ones who truly need our help.  But, I teach whoever is in my room regardless of where they live, what they look like or what language they speak! 


I have some goals for myself at school/work that I will try to keep this year. 
* I need to leave earlier than I have been.  There is no reason I should be at school until 4:00 when we are out at 1:45.  I talk too much!  I need to close my door and get my work done.  3:00 is the latest I should be there ever! 
* I need to get work checked and returned in a timely manner.  I used to do this.  Now I don't.  I got lazy.  Then I end up with a stack of papers on Thursday night to grade.  Yuck! 
* I need to work smarter, not harder.  I'm working on that one! 
* I need to find the spark again.  I had it, I lost it, I found it again and I've lost it again.  Too much drama at school and not enough to feel good about.  I'm determined to change it! 
* Enjoy what I am doing.  Again, I used to enjoy it all the time.  Then the pressure to test, test, test took the fun away.  Now the pressure from the district to do Common Core (without training) has weighed on us.  Well, I'm going to close my door, teach my kids and see what happens!  (They will learn and thrive and be OK!)


I've had 4 crappy night sleeps in a row and I hear the couch calling my name.  Happy January to all and I wish everyone a great Monday!


~Kristen

1.04.2015

No Sunday Night Blues here!

Well, Happy New Year!  I can't believe that it's already 2015.  It's amazing how quickly the years fly by.  Doesn't it seem they go faster and faster each year?  The last half of 2014 went by in a flash and I'm sure the next 6 months will too.  Crazy!


Tomorrow it seems many people have to go back to work.  Luckily for us, we have another week off.  For some wonderful reason, we get 3 weeks at Christmas.  I love it!  I can't complain, other than my daughter has to go back to school tomorrow because her school has to be different and not follow anything the others schools do out here (she's at a charter school and they go the beat of their own drummer).  Other than my sleeping in being over, I still don't have to be up and ready by 7.  I can still lounge leisurely on the couch after I get her ready and out the door.  I can still watch Kelly and Michael and not have to be dressed in real clothes.  I *might* even get a workout in in the morning this week!  It's one of my many goals this year - I always say I am going to lose weight, but this year, I just want to get healthier.  If I lose weight, great, but I'd rather be healthier and feel better.  We bought some new exercise equipment that hubby says he will use, so we will see.  He wants to compete and see who loses more inches and/or weight.  Hmmm....we will see how this goes! 


Now that it's T-minus one week til I go back to work, I am starting to think about how to change things up in January.  I am piloting a new math program and it's throwing me off with my math instruction.  We are only piloting during the 2nd trimester, so I need to be able to jump back in to envision when we are done, but the new math program doesn't line up that way.  But I am still trying to embrace it and work with it and so far, my kids have done so much better on the math assessments and seem to get it.  When we get back, it's going to be addition and subtraction palooza for the next month.  I know my kids are lacking in it, so we are going to hit it hard.  I'm thinking about how to make it more exciting for them (and me).  One idea I have is to spend 5 minutes (more or less) and give each group a quick little group activity to figure out together.  Kinda like a sort/match/etc activity.  I will make 4 for the week and rotate it each day (M-Th).  I haven't thought it all out...it's still a thought in my head! 


I've read quite a few blog posts lately where the bloggers seem restless and looking for a change.  I'm not quite looking to make a change, but I know that our school needs change.  I feel like it's ready to implode.  And I blame our principal.  I've mentioned before that she is pretty hands-off with the kids and not a disciplinarian at all.  Our school is a hot mess.  The custodian doesn't do his job.  Honestly, none of them do their jobs well.  The school looks trashy.  People - teachers and other staff - don't seem to care and it reflects on everyone's attitudes.  The students don't care and it shows in their behavior.  I've never been one to be excited when principals change, but I'm ready.  We need change.  We need some new blood to come in and put people on their toes.  We need someone to make people work.  I'm sure I am guilty of having a not so great attitude, but I really try hard with my students and their parents to be upbeat and positive about the school.  But the parents can see through it and they know there could be changes.  So we will see.  I may have to look elsewhere and see what's open and see where I can go.  (I say that knowing it won't happen!). 


Well, I have a lot to do this week to prepare for the rest of the year.  I think I am going to take some time to reflect on the year so far, make some changes for the new year and enjoy my week at home.  Monday will come soon enough!  Good luck to those going back this week and enjoy for those who are still off!   

11.30.2014

Anyone there?

I wonder if anyone still reads this little blog.  It's been almost 6 months since I posted and tried to start a new blog.  It's just not the same.  I want to blog.  I want to share ideas.  I want to get back to feeling like I can do it; like someone might get a little something from something I might say.  I don't know...no flashy blog, no flashy products (though my old ones are still in my store), just me and my thoughts.  Hmmm...anyone out there?  My curiosity is piqued! 

6.09.2014

Summertime

It's safe to say, I could hardly wait for summer to be here!  It felt like it would never be June.  But, it is.  School's out, my room is ready for cleaning and I am ready for not being at work!  I love my job, but this year about did me in!  With everything that went on with me and my family, it made for one not-so-fun year.  But it's over and I am looking forward to next year.


In fact, I already started planning today for next year.  Awhile back, we met after school to do some collaboration.  We started planning out how we wanted to change things up a little.  This year was an adjustment year for us.  We had a shorter school day (by over 30 minutes!) which really cut into learning.  We basically tossed science and social studies.  I hated doing it, but I needed to focus on reading, writing and math, as the kids were super low for the majority of the year.  And, before you bash me for not integrating it more into my language arts, I know.  That is my weakness and I am going to work on it over the next year.  I am not a thematic person and my brain doesn't work that way.  There are times it's OK, but most of the time, I freak out.  I am very linear.  I know that about myself and I am working on changing it.  (If you ask my hubby, he will say I'm not working to change anything...I am very stubborn and dislike change!).  Anyway, we decided to plan in 6 week chunks.  I am trying to fill it in now, but my brain isn't in it!


I have set some goals for me for summer.  These are all my school related goals.


1. Create some lessons to integrate my science and social studies - there's not more time in the day
2. Plan out some big comprehension units - I saw that my kids were lacking in this area big time
3. Work on trying to implement Daily 5 again - it was a bust last year
4. Create and update my math journals - I love them, but I didn't use them a lot since January! oops!
5. Revamp my schedule - this is more of a fine tuning
6. Revamp my thoughts on homework - what are your thoughts on homework?


Well, I have the next few days at home before we head out for 2 weeks of fun!  We are heading to Disneyworld on Friday night for a week and then we will be spending a week in North Carolina with my father in law and his family.  I've never been, so this will be a new and exciting adventure!  Then I am home for about 10 days before my daughter and I head out to Omaha, NE to visit my sister and her family.  I've never been there, either, so this is a summer of new adventures for us!  When we get home from Omaha, we will have 26 days until the first day of school!  That seems like so little time to be prepared for the kiddos!  But I should be rested and relaxed and ready to tackle it all! 




                                                                                                                         
  

5.18.2014

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Now that Open House has come and gone, I want to start thinking about next year.  I have a list inside a cabinet of some of the things I would like to get accomplished before school ends, all in anticipation of next year.  I feel the need to think ahead rather than focus on the last 13 days.  These last 13 days are going to be so busy and chaotic and crazy, but hopefully they will fly right by. 


This year has been a bit of a disappointment for me.  I had such high hopes for the year, but as my last post mentioned, it wasn't a great year in many aspects both personally and professionally.  I have/had a tough group of kiddos both academically and behaviorally.  Most of my kids were pretty good, but the ones who weren't gave us all a run for our money.  (I had parents at Open House who were NOT in my class come in to tell me what one of my students has done to their children at recess.  If I had a nickel for every time someone mentioned what this child has done, I could have retired on Friday a millionaire!  That's how bad it's been with the behavior of this child - and he's never been suspended and rarely gets punished from someone other than myself.) 


Anyway, I had the best intentions to implement Daily 5 into my schedule this year.  We practiced the groups and rotations for weeks before beginning.  Things seemed to be going well until I decided to really try working with groups during this time.  And then I became the referee.  I had students fighting with each other, students yelling and screaming and students who refused to do what I had asked them to do.  It was ugly.  It was nothing I wanted to be a part of.  I felt like a failure.  Actually, I still do.  I have felt this way all year.  16 years of teaching and I don't think I have really felt this way since my 4th year of teaching when I ended up changing schools.  This class has beat me up.  But, I am going to be stronger from it next year and try again.  I am going to take things even slower and really build a classroom community that I've always had in the past, I just didn't have to work so hard to get it.  I am going to really make sure the kids know what is expected from them every minute of the day and not let them get away with anything, even if it means I spend all my recess and lunch time being the disciplinarian.  I am going to make sure my kids know I am in charge and there will be consequences.  I'm going to do my best to not be sick this year and miss almost a month of school!  But that was out of my control, but that's when things really went out of control.


My students this year do not like writing.  It's the bane of our existence.  They don't like it.  They don't care about it.  They don't do their best.  I've done more this year than in the past and they just. don't. care.  I have 3 kids who LOVE to write.  22 look at my like I have 3 heads and speak Greek.  It's awesomely horrible.  But next year we will change it.  We will take our time with it again.  We will go slow and have some fun with it.  I am going to bring back interactive writing more and let that do for a bit so kids can get used to writing before being made to write on their own all the time.  I need to get parents more involved with their child's writing and get them to support me with their homework and making sure their child does what I am asking them to do rather than having them feel that whatever their child does is worthy of a Pulitzer. 


I have not embraced the Common Core like I should have.  We were not given any direction with it from the district, other than to go forth and do Common Core.  Staff development meetings were useless, as the presenters don't understand Common Core any more than we do and tell us how to do things 2-4 grade levels above our grades.  It was bad.  Really bad.  I became complacent and did what I have always done in the past and didn't push myself or my kids out of our comfort zones.  I try a little more now that the year is almost over, but it's not enough for me to say I did Common Core.  I need to step outside my comfort zone and try new things.  I know for reading I rely to heavily on the textbook, but it's what I know and what I am comfortable with.  My goal is to step away from it a bit next year and try new things to help get my kids really thinking about things rather than just doing things.  I need to integrate my science and social studies more into my language arts, which is again outside of my comfort zone, but if I can make myself feel more at ease with it, then I think it would be awesome and we could have a lot of fun.  Time and planning is what I need to make it happen. 


I am hopeful that next year will be better.  I know I will have some challenges in my room, but they will be different than this year.  I am hoping for a kind, loving class rather than the rude, mean-spirited class I have now.  I hope for students who really want to give 100% and try no matter what rather than students who give me 50% and are OK with it.  I hope for parents who want to support their child's learning as best they can rather than parents who are too busy to answer the phone or return an e-mail.  I have students whose parents I have not met at all this year and there are 13 days left - they couldn't make time to come to Back to School night, conferences or Open House.  I just want parents who want their child to learn and be successful and at least know who their child's teacher is.  I know I am asking a lot for next  year, but it's what I would like.  Please notice I didn't mention that I want my students at grade level - I don't mind getting low students.  I just want students to try hard and work to improve themselves.  I know that's something we need to instill in them and I try to do that every year.  But this year, there were few who took the challenge to work hard and improve as best they could. 


As I finish out this year, I am hoping to enjoy the last 13 days with my kids.  I have had some great kids who have done well and are excited about learning.  I have grown to like my class as the year has gone on, but sadly, I do not love my class like I have in years past.  It makes me sad to feel this way, but it's the truth.  It's not all sunshine and rainbows over here this year and that's a fact.  I can ask many teachers at my school how they feel about their classes and I think a lot would feel like I do.  Maybe it's the students, maybe it's administration, maybe it's us or a combination of all of it.  But I am hopeful that next year will be better all around and a complete opposite to this year! 

5.11.2014

What a Year!

I have been absent from the blogging world for a couple months.  It's just been that kind of year.  I don't have any exciting reason for being gone.  I just didn't have anything to say.  It's been a crappy year.  And it's almost over.  All I can do is count down the days til it's done.  And I'm not just counting down school days, I'm counting down the days until year 37 gets the heck out of here!  I'm praying that 38 is a much better year. 


I should have known it was going to be a crap year when I burst into tears before my 37th birthday.  We were camping and having my birthday celebration dinner and I just started bawling.  I didn't want to be 37.  That seemed so old and so ugh.  It started off well enough.  We went to Alaska on the fabulous cruise.  Great time and great memories.  We were able to travel as a family and do things we never imagined.  Then my daughter and I got to spend some time in AZ, just the 2 of us.  Again, great time with my love.  Then things started to go downhill.  Gallbladder attack just 4 days after I got home from AZ sent me to the ER.  No fun.  Then I had my gallbladder removed a week later.  School started about 3 weeks after that and things were good.  Then I got sick with pancreatitis and then the year totally went to crap.  Out of school for 3 weeks threw everything for a loop.  My students were sent into a frenzy as was I.  I don't think we ever fully recovered this year.  Behavior went from bad to worse.  Parents didn't (and don't) care what their child did nor do they help them at home.  Then the great stomach flu of 2013 hit with a vengeance.  Training in January where we had to be out of the class sent my students further into chaos, with which they never recovered again.  Countdown to spring break left me with taking an emergency day off to help my hubby deal with his family crisis, which turned into my mother in law passing away unexpectedly.  That has lead to trying to deal with my daughter who doesn't know how to feel about it all or knowing how to express herself; dealing with hubby who doesn't know how to deal with it too well and his crazy work schedule and trying to help my father in law with his new found life as a widower.  Throw in my dad and grandmother being in and out of the hospital for various things, my sister moving back to the states and then moving out of the state and its been a year. 


I have 2 weeks left to live with being 37 and I can't wait for it to be over!  We have 18 days of school left.  2 of those days I am not in class.  We have Open House this week, then I have an all day leadership meeting on Friday.  My daughter has a field trip at the end of the month.  Then it'll be 4 short days of school after that before I can say goodbye to this group.  There are a solid group of kids I will miss terribly and that I wish I could have done more for.  Then there is a group that I will be glad to see move on.  They have not made my job easy this year, nor have they made learning fun for themselves or others in class.  Poor administration choices have resulted in a school-wide discipline crisis, which will only get worse instead of better.  I'm sure there is some greater reason to this year being the way it is, but I don't understand it.  It's been a year that I do not want to repeat.  It's been stressful, depressing, upsetting and frustrating.  I don't know if I can see the good through the bad right now, but I know it's there.  I will see it one day.  Until then, I will countdown the year and prepare to move on.  I have a great June and July coming up with lots of fun things planned with my family.  It will be a nice break before moving on to the next year.  Until then, 18 more days...