2.08.2017

When it finally comes together

This has been a strange year.  Nothing has gone according to plan.  Nothing has been as I had planned.  It's just been a funky year.  Add in new kids every few weeks, a heater and AC unit that hasn't worked right for 6+years (it blew up in August and then totally froze over 2+ weeks ago) and having to travel to other rooms to "teach" just make for a funky, funky year.

This year has me wondering if I can do this for the next 21 years.  That's how much longer I have to teach - 21 years.  That seems like a very long time.  I have never, ever been one to toot my own horn and talk about how great I am as a teacher.  In fact, I'm always looking at what went wrong.  I am a true pessimist...it's what drives my hubby batty.  I have felt off all year, which has me doubting myself.  I don't like how things have gone, but I don't know how to fix it.  I know people say not to complain about something if you don't have a plan to make it better, so I have been racking my brain to find ways to make it better.  I don't know how.

Student behavior is the biggest issue we have at school.  We have many, many students who can not, will not, do not follow the rules, behave, etc.  They do not seem to think the rules apply to them or they are truly defiant and make it a point to do whatever it is they are told NOT to do.  We do not have an administrator who will do their job to get behavior under control.  There are many students who are on "behavior contracts", but all that means is they have to check in with the office staff (our admin is gone a lot) at every recess, lunch and after school and if they have so many smiley faces, they get a sticker.  They earn enough stickers and they are given a reward like Pokemon cards (which aren't allowed at school...) or something else.  If they are naughty, there is no consequence other than no sticker.  I refuse to send my kids to the office for behavior.  They do not need to be rewarded for their bad behavior.  My kids who are good all the time are rewarded for their behavior and there are consequences for poor behavior.  But, the ones who do not behave aren't motivated to do well, nor do they really seem to care if they move their clips and earn no reward.  I don't know a good idea for the school-wide poor behavior, to help it improve.  Our admin says we follow one particular "plan", but it isn't working.  They have to know that deep down, but they have "checked out" and really just sit in on IEP's.  There is little else going on in terms of administrative work.  It's very frustrating.

I have also had the revolving door class.  I have now had 7 new students this year.  2 students moved in the last week and a new one started yesterday.  My newest one is very sweet and smart!  It's a big change from all the other new ones.  All my others came in below grade level - they all came in lower than where they should have been in August!  It's hard to play catch up.  The parents have all been surprised their children are low, even though the report cards from the other schools all said they were low.  It feels like I take one step forward and 12 steps back.  Add in that each new student coming in is an EL and the requirements for them keep changing as the weeks go on.  It's hard, but we are doing the best we can.  And by we, I mean my students and I.

Today, I asked my kids to do their math on their own.  I realized I have been doing a lot for them.  I didn't mean to, but with a new program, and I still learning what I should do, shouldn't do, etc.  I wanted them to work on it on their own to see what they could do.  I almost cried when all but 4 of my kids could successfully do it on their own.  I wasn't giving them enough credit and when I did, they rose to the challenge.  During reading time, I was listening to them read our story for the week. Some weren't perfect, but they were working so hard.  I had that moment today where I saw all my hard work pay off.  All my students' hard work was paying off.  They were showing me what they know - and it was a lot.  It showed me why I do this, even when it's hard and it's frustrating and I feel like giving up.  It gave me a little extra spring in my step today.  I was proud of them.  I was proud of me for getting them to this point.  They've worked so hard and it shows.

In 2 weeks, I am taking the week off to go on vacation with my family.  I feel guilty, but this year, I also feel like I need some time away.  I need time away to regroup and de-stress.  I need some time to be with my family and also to miss my kids.  I need to be excited to see them again.  I need a little time away to focus on me and not feel like I have to decide between my sanity and my grading (which is piling up).  Once I come back, I will have 6 weeks until spring break.  I am looking forward to a busy 6 weeks of testing, report cards and a little fun with my kiddos.  I feel like I'll be a better teacher with taking some time off.  I need to remind myself that it's OK to miss school (I'll leave everything planned out, so they aren't on their own) and take care of me so I can be a better teacher for them.  It's a hard feeling to get past.

I feel at peace today, knowing my kids have really made great growth.  They aren't necessarily at grade level, but they are working hard and making progress, which is what matters.  A lot of them have really started to become more confident in their learning which makes them work harder.  It makes my teacher heart happy!    6 more days of teaching and planning and prepping and I will be enjoying the warmth of Florida.  I am looking forward to a week of uninterrupted time with my hubby and daughter to relax and reconnect before getting back and tackling the rest of the school year with a refreshed spirit.

Here's to finishing the rest of the week strong and happy!  

1.07.2017

The Back to Work Blues

My Christmas vacation is coming to an end.  Tomorrow is my last day off.  And I am feeling sad.  I don't like feeling sad about going back to work, but that's how this year has been. 


I've got all my stuff planned out for the next couple of weeks and I hope and pray that it actually goes the way I have planned.  There is so much I need to get done and I need the whole class to follow along, pay attention, and learn.  I wish 6 year olds would just "get it" and understand that we are trying to help them, not "torture" them with "boring learning stuff" like I've had a student tell me this year.  Really makes a girl feel good, you know?


I watched an webinar this morning about art and am excited to go try a couple things in class.  If I only take one thing away from it, it is that I need to let me expectations for art go away.  That doesn't mean to let things go crazy, but to understand that each student will produce their own piece and I need to accept it for it is - their work.  I always want (and expect) their art to look great, but this year I get a lot of not-so-great art and it hurts.  Hurts my pride a little that they can't/won't do better.  Hurts that they are OK with putting out less than 100% effort on a piece.  Hurts that they don't have pride in their work, or even know what that means.  It's things I need to work on before I can expect them to grasp it. 


I have tomorrow to gear up for the challenges of the second half of the year.  I honestly don't know who will show up on Monday and how they will be.  I have had the revolving door, so I am not sure who is coming back and who will be moving on to another school in another city.  I have my ideas, but I could be surprised and they all will return.  One never knows until Monday morning.  And even then, that doesn't mean anything - several families take an extra week (we already have 3 off) and spend more time in Mexico with family.  And this Monday is supposed to rain, so that means even fewer kids at school - we get rain so infrequently that parents don't send their children when it rains.  Well, this year we have had many rainy days compared to the last 6 years COMBINED, so that equals a lot of days off!  Yikes!


Well, it's time for me to finish up my work here, then head to the couch for a little veg session.  My daughter is at Nana's for the night and hubby is catching up on work at the office.  A quiet Saturday night at home before the hustle and bustle of the week hit. 


Happy Saturday!

1.05.2017

Planning Ahead

I am still on break for a couple more days.  My daughter had to go back to school yesterday, so I had the house to myself (well, me and the pets).  I pulled out all the stuff I brought home to do over break, laid it on the couch and then proceeded to watch TV and play on my phone.  I did get some planning done and made some (more) changes to my yearly plan. 


Every summer, I plan out my year.  I put in everything I know I will do and everything I hope to do throughout the year.  It's broken down by week, but it gives me a great visual of what I am doing, how long I am doing it, etc.  I've been doing this for quite some time now and it works for me.  We have been using the same reading program for 15 years, so I know how much time I need, what I can forget and what needs more time.  That's about the only constant in my plans. 


We started a new math program this year, so that has a major learning curve as it is.  Our district sent out a pacing guide, but I didn't understand it (the same chapters were to be covered in each trimester...not standards, chapters).  I originally planned to start at chapter 1 and work through, but my kids needed a break from addition and subtraction, so we have started to jump around more than I had planned.  But giving them something new awakened in them a renewed spirit for learning.  We will jump into measurement next week and see how long it takes to learn to tell time.  I'm scared. 


As I was sitting on the couch planning with my dog yesterday, we were having a discussion (don't judge, you know you do it, too) about the 100th day of school.  I have done the 100th day for years.  I've always enjoyed it and it was a day I looked forward to.  A couple years ago, we thought to change it up and do the 120th day, since our standard was to count up to 120.  2 years ago I did the 120th day.  It was fun, but not as much fun.  It lost it's appeal.  There aren't any books about it, so it's harder to tie in literature dealing with 120.  Last year I had planned to do the 120th day, and I did, but I only put half my heart into it.  I had done stuff on the 100th day (which made some of my teammates mad, although I don't know why.  It is my class after all), so the stuff 20 days later didn't have the same awe.  I've decided to go back to doing the 100th day.  It's a big milestone in class and it's something the kids will like.  After seeing tons of pins on Pinterest about it, I am more excited now than I was before!  So, come January 30, we will party like it's the 100th day of school! 


In the summers, I always try and plan new things to keep from falling into the repeat cycle like so many at my school site.  They do the same thing every. single. year. without fail.  I would be bored out of my mind!  There are some things I do the same, but I like to change things up, find new things to challenge me as well.  I always want to, strive to do art each week.  Like real art lessons.  But then time gets in the way.  Things that must get done, things we are catching up on thanks to crappy behavior or simply crappy behavior that has me on the edge.  I have made a conscious effort to plan at least 1 art lesson/project each week for the next 4 weeks.  It may not seem like a lot, but baby steps.  I'm even fitting one in next week to go with our story for the week that we will do during our intervention time.  While it's not ideal, it's not going to make it or break it for the kids.  In fact, they will have 2 projects next week.  Gotta get those creative juices flowing somehow! 


With my plans done for now, I need to focus on the organizing of all the stuff I brought home.  I don't know what I was thinking, other than I thought I'd spend a lot of time doing school work.  I was wrong, like always.  Instead I've spent time with my family, which is way more important right now.


Happy Thursday!  

1.01.2017

It's been a year.  And it's only 3 months into school.  We just finished our 12th week of school and I feel like I have been put through the ringer.  Between people passing away, my BBF not being at work, the election and everyone's opinion, I feel like I am barely hanging on.  There has been so much going on lately, that I don't know whether I am coming or going.  So glad vacation time is almost here!

I posted last that my BFF lost her husband on the 5th day of school.  She hasn't been back since.  There have been 3 substitutes in her room.  Well, 2 subs and they have hired a full time teacher until (if) she comes back.  Before she got here, I had been making copies for the subs in hopes they were following the plans she had made and were on the right path.  I can't say that happened, but I did what I could, short of teaching her class as well as mine.  It was hard enough teaching my class and doing the plans for the other class.  I did it to help my friend, but unfortunately, others felt the need to take more credit for helping than they deserved.  I didn't do it for the recognition, but it would have been nice to be recognized, rather than have others take credit when they didn't do much other than be in the classroom next door rather than across the walkway (that's where I am).  It's been a lot easier now that the new teacher is there and she can choose to do what she feels is necessary and important for her kids.  They have missed a lot and are behind, but the behavior is what's the big deal. 

Our first graders are a bit different than in years past.  This group overall is quite defiant.  They don't take no for an answer and they do what they want when they want, regardless of what the authority figure says.  My group was a bit rough around the edges when school started, but I got them under control.  We have since gotten a bit out of control, and I honestly don't know when or how or why.  We have had to go back to very strict rules and having to suffer consequences for the smallest things before they get out of hand.  I don't like feeling like this, but I have too many kids that are missing out because of a few that decide they can't/won't follow the rules.  I know we are tired, and we will get back to where we need to be, but darn it, it's hard.  Luckily my class is better than the others, but they still wear me out.  Today in fact, I just left.  I left my room a mess and went home.  I brought work home, but let's face it - it just came along for the ride in the car!  I'm not going to look at, grade it, etc.  I might look at it this weekend.  Or I might just ignore it until I need to really look at it.  Or throw it away. 

We have been working solidly since Labor Day.  We don't have a fall break.  We have Labor Day off, then Veteran's day off.  That's it!  We are tired.  We are run down.  We have been through weeks of coughs, colds, stomach bugs, lice and more.  I guess I did get a day off when I had the stomach flu, but let's be honest...I wasn't exactly relaxing!  I should buy stock in Lysol since we have used so much this year!  We will have Friday off to relax (or do a parade with Girl Scouts), then we have a teacher work day on Monday.  I've gotta be at work, but no kids.  I can handle that.  Then 4 days until we finally get a week at Thanksgiving.  Amen! 

I look back on the last 3 months and know that we have worked hard.  We've had some fun, we've had some hard times, but we have made it out on the other side.  We are anxious for a break, excited the holidays are coming and are tired of the heat (it was 95 today.  In November.  We don't have fall, just dry, burned leaves).  We need to recharge our batteries and take some time to have some fun without the pressures of school.  Until then, we will continue working hard and hoping it sticks! 

Happy New Year 2017!

Happy New Year!  It's safe to say that 2016 was an interesting year.  While it wasn't a bad year for me, it had its ups and downs.  But, I am here to say that 2017 will be a better year, a great year!  One of my goals this year is to be less Negative Nelly and more Positive Polly.  It's very hard for me, as I am a true pessimist, but I need to bring the positive things that happen to light and try to find the positive in as many areas as I can. 


It's safe to say this school year is a bit more challenging than the last 2 years have been.  I was spoiled with students who, while not prefect, were really good.  They liked what we were doing, they really seemed to enjoy learning and behavior issues were few and far between.  This year's class is a bit less interested in learning, their behavior is less than desirable and they don't have the drive the last classes had.  Half the parents don't seem interested in their child's progress or behavior and have excuses for everything.  The other half make sure their child is working hard and behaving and are there to back me up.  It's a tough dynamic for sure.  Add in the fact that I am the revolving door this year, so all the new kids are mine.  And they all have come in super, super low.  It's an uphill battle every day, and that really has worn on me the last few weeks. 


On top of work, I was dealing with dental issues since July.  Tooth pain does not make life fun.  Finally before Thanksgiving I had to have the tooth pulled, but that brings its own issues.  Hopefully by August everything will be taken care of and back to normal...or a new normal anyway.  I know this hasn't helped my attitude at school, so I am hoping to be better come the 9th when we go back to work. 


My friend at work who lost her husband on our 5th day of school hasn't come back and is taking the whole year off.  I've lost my BFF at work and it's been hard, but I have learned that I can work without her and survive.  We have worked together for 18 of my 19 years teaching.  It has really changed the dynamics of our grade level.  We had different subs in and out before they hired the temporary teacher.  She was only contracted thru January 20, but I guess it will be extended through the end of the year, if that's what happens.  Our district personnel are not too quick in getting things done this way.  Should be an interesting next couple of weeks! 


My goal for this year at school is to try and be more positive.  I really wanted to be more positive when the year started, but it wasn't possible with this group.  I had to bring back the behavior chart, as rewards weren't enough to keep them on the right track.  They need that visual reminder of how to behave the right way.  I need to breath more, and focus on the kiddos who are doing things the right way, rather than the opposite.  That's all on me, so I need to step up my teacher game! 


A few more days of vacation left, and I will be super busy.  A couple days at Disneyland, lunch with friends, a date day with hubby and a family Christmas party on Saturday (my sister is moving back to the area with her family and they will be coming then), my week is pretty busy, but it will motivate me to get things done...like all the stuff I brought home and haven't looked at yet!  ;)


Happy New Year!

8.21.2016

The best plans don't take life into account

We have been in school for 8 days.  The first 3 days were getting used to a routine. The first day was quite an eye opening experience of what the year would be like.  I went home after the first day scared of the next 179 days. But the next 2 days were better.  We aren't the best behaved bunch, but we are slowly coming along.

Monday last week was a very good day. We had good behavior, got our work done and we were on the way to a great week.  Well, that ended after 2:00.  We left for a behavior assembly at 1:10 and school gets out at 1:45.  At 2:00, my school secretary comes to tell me something is burning in my room. We run in to a room FULL of black smoke. My air conditioning BLEW UP!!!  Full on exploded outside and blew all the burning oil into my room.  I grabbed a couple things and left as soon as I could. I graded papers in my friends room before going home.  I had such a headache and sore throat from the smoke that I felt awful that night.

Tuesday I was out in another classroom.   They were fixing my ac all day, and finally got it to work, but the smell was still awful.  We spent Tuesday and Wednesday out in another room with just a fraction of what we needed to do our normal day.  A lot didn't get done, but we will finish it up this week.

Tuesday, right before school got out, my BTF (best teacher friend) got a call that her husband had been in an accident. She left early to get home, but it was too late.  I went to be with her for awhile, then came back to school to do her lesson plans for Wednesday.  Such an emotional day.  Wednesday wasn't much better, as I spent most of my telling people what happened or answering their questions for her.  I felt so sick and had such a headache that I pawned my class off to someone else and just vegged the rest of the afternoon.  I was still there, just not twaching.

The rest of the week was funky and weird, but we made it through. Tomorrow is the start of another week. It'll be a better week and we should get everything done.  That's the plan at least.  I haven't worked on my plans yet, but I have an idea of what's going to happen this week.  That's half the battle.

7.13.2016

Behavior challenges

After posting on Sunday for the first time in months, I read through some posts that were over 2 years old.  That class was rough.  The year was rough both personally and professionally.  Reading through made me remember some not so pleasant things I tried to block out.  But it also made me see that, even though I was really hard on myself for student behavior (it was horrible), it wasn't me.  The things I had written about student behaviors haven't changed.  The students still have the same, if not worse behavior now.  The same students were still behaving the same way, 2 years later. Nothing has changed, and the kids know they can behave that way and there are minimal consequences.

It made me sad. And mad. And frustrated that things haven't changed, nor will they in the near future.  Discipline is not the strong suit of our principal.  While very caring and friendly, there is very little discipline there.  A "talking to" doesn't cut it.  Missing recess for weeks on end doesn't cut it. Being "suspended" from your home class and spending days/weeks in another class does nothing but punish the students and teacher who are having to deal with the crappy behavior of the suspended student.  Our older students know they can get away with anything and there is little recourse to their actions.  It makes it very hard for the teachers to get tough with kids, as they know its pointless.

In the past, I've always used a behavior clip chart. Move your clip for poor behavior, blah blah. I added spots to move up for good behavior, but let's be honest. It's much easier to call out bad behavior instead of good behavior.  I'm going to change things this year.  I'm going to rip the behavior chart off the wall and throw it away. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, but I'm going to do it. I'm going to go with a ticket system and use free rewards. I'm also going to jump into using brag tags with both feet!  These are all new to me and a bit overwhelming right now, but I think it'll be good.  Focus on the positive rather than the negative and show the kiddos how much fun they can have when they're good.  It'll be a change for me, but one I hope is for the better.

It's my hope that I can have my students behave, learn the rules and follow them, if it's only for one year. Sadly it becomes a free for all come 2nd grade, and then it's a lost cause after that. But for one year, I want students who are kind, caring and rule followers.  If I can teach them that, I've won half of a battle!