3.23.2015

Keep your friends close...

...and your enemies closer!  I forgot that today.  And it bit me in the butt.  My own fault, but I was being stupid and thought my colleague was being genuine, when in fact, that was not the case.  I guess I so badly want us to be a cohesive grade level that I forget that we can easily, and often be stabbed in the back.  Or right in front, as was the case today.  It doesn't make for good camaraderie or for good grade level meetings.

I've mentioned before that we have a grade level that doesn't always play nice.  One teacher, while she loves teaching first grade, doesn't like to be part of our grade level.  I truly feel that she believes she is above us and that she is better than all of us put together.  While I do have my flaws, I know I am a pretty good teacher.  I could do better at things, but my kids learn and I think have fun doing it.  I try not to go around and toot my own horn and I don't talk about how great and wonderful I am.  We have 2 in the grade level who do that, and it gets old quick, but we know they are going to do it and we just accept it and move on with life. 

Anyway, one of my little guys was being assessed for special ed.  His mom is worried that he isn't learning like his siblings did and that he seems to have trouble remembering things.   I see there being some memory issues, but I don't know how to fix them.  Mom requested testing and I didn't say no.  We had his IEP today and he didn't qualify, which I suspected.  I had hoped there would be a little something there he could get the extra help, but I knew deep down that he wasn't low enough to qualify for anything.  He's really low in reading, but holds his own in math.  He's a very well behaved student and is starting to come along in his confidence in class.  And he's great at PE, which I was told isn't important.  Anyway...

I was a little bummed after the IEP (the psychologist who tested him acted like she knows him more than I do after her 45 minutes with him) and feeling like I had let him down.  I mentioned to the backstabbing grade level member that he didn't qualify and she asked what his DRA level was.  I told her (it's low, but um, that's part of why he was tested) and she immediately turned around to 2 of the second grade teachers and told them that I was sending him to second grade even though he was a low reader.  You'd think I was sending up a student who was an ax murder or a student who still wet himself.  He's a great kid! You'd think after some crazy behaved kids, they'd be OK with a good kid.  But because he is low, it's like he has the plague.  I had the 2 teachers literally in my face telling me that I need to get a backbone and stand up to them and retain him.  I don't know if it will work and I truly don't think that's the best thing for him.  Then at lunch I had another teacher tell me that I need to SST him (we already did that earlier in the year) before the year is out to get him retained.  Um, NO!  The 2nd grade team is the SST team and of course they will make sure he is retained.  Not gonna happen! 

I felt like crap the rest of the day.  I really let this bother me.  I wish I was a confrontational person so I could tell me grade level "team" member that she really pissed me off and I feel betrayed.  I wish I could tell 2nd grade off, but they have the principal's ear and they get whatever they want.  Don't ask me why or how, but they do.  It's not fair, but I know that's the way life works.  I did tell the teacher at lunch that I was done talking about it and that I wanted to try and enjoy my lunch.  I wasn't necessarily polite about it, but I wasn't totally rude like they were. 

Hopefully tomorrow is a better day, but I have a feeling that the next 47 days are going to be crazy!  Lucky me.  :(

3.22.2015

Spring Fever

I feel like I say this all the time, but I have lots of ideas to blog about, but never actually do it.  Right now, I don't want to work on lesson plans or laundry or cleaning, so it seems like the perfect time to blog! 

Unlike the rest of the country, we have had spring fever for the last few weeks!  It's has been warm and sunny for too many days.  We desperately need the rain, but since we aren't getting it, we might as well embrace the heat!  I have been getting some things done outside, trying to make my flower beds look pretty again after "winter", or as I like to refer to it, not summer.  I have a ton more to do, but there just aren't enough hours in the week to get it all done.  I feel the same about school! 

We are in crunch time!  We have 10 weeks left.  That's it!  This year has flown by.  It's amazing how fast time goes when you enjoy the kiddos you have in class.  I really love my class this year and am sad that it will be ending before we know it.  I have so many things that I want to do, but the day goes by way too quickly.  Our school day is too short or my liking, but other teachers won't dare to change it.  Our district has the same start and end times for all elementary schools, so we are at the mercy of the district.  The union likes the shorter day, since we don't have minimum days, but every day feels like a minimum day.  I'd like 45 more minutes with my kids.  I could get so much more done!  But, as it is, we are doing well and moving right along in learning! 

We have one more week until spring break.  We are taking a field trip to the bowling alley this Friday.  I didn't plan it and don't really want to go, but whatever.  It's going to be chaotic and loud and crazy.  All the things I don't like!  But, its just a couple hours and hopefully the kids get to bowl.  I know that sounds silly, but we are taking 100 first graders to a bowling alley with 20 lanes, but we aren't guaranteed that we will have all 20 lanes.  I'm picturing 10 kids per lane and it being a nightmare to keep track of.  Oh well...the kids should have fun regardless of the craziness, right?  Then when we get back to school, we will have lunch, finish whatever we need to get done in like 10 minutes and then the kids will get to watch a movie.  I will be tired (and probably really irritated) and it will be the last day before spring break.  I'm ready for a break and will embrace the time to work in my room in the dark and listen to Franklin! 

My new goal is to write once a week.  I might even share a few things I have done differently this year that have seemed to go well.  A few might be stretching it...there's a couple things I have done that have gone well and my kids have enjoyed, or at least embraced!  But for now, I'm going to go tackle the laundry! 

Here's to a great spring week ahead! 

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!