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.


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!


Back to Blogging

Summer vacation is in full swing here in my little spot on the map.  I've been out of school for 5 full weeks now and have 4 weeks left until I must be back at work.  Chances are I will start making appearances here and there.  I have a tub of things I've already bought (Thank you, Target Dollar Spot!) and some books that my daughter has passed down to me.  She's too big for some of the books she has now, so I get them!  I don't know what I'll do with her books now when she outgrows them...probably donate them to our school library.  Sigh...my baby isn't a baby anymore!

I basically took June off from thinking about school.  While I love my job, I was done this year!  I had a great class of kids, but they were challenging in terms of their academics.  I was pretty much fried when May came around.  I had a lot of PD days this year, which meant a lot of time out of class which meant a lot of lesson plans and a lot of reteaching. I took a week off for a family trip, so that meant lesson plans,  dealing with all the work when I came back, reteaching, parents, etc.  then I missed another week to help my sister when my newborn niece was sick out of state.  I think I missed 20 or more days this year, which is more than I missed when I had my daughter and when I was hospitalized a couple years ago.  It took a toll on me this year and I felt ineffective at times.  Throw in a math pilot again, and it was a funky year.  My kids this year were not great writers. I am NOT a good teacher of writing, and I know it.  I'm trying, but it's so not my forte.  My kids' writing suffered this year, so I really hope they get good instruction next year.  My goal this next year, among the million other goals I set myself, is to improve my writing instruction and have better writers.

We have a new math program this year.  Actually, we have 3 math programs this year.  After 2 years of piloting, lots of arguing and disagreeing, too many meetings and frustrations, our superintendent decided that teachers can choose their program they want to teach.  Yep, you read that right!  There were 3 programs to choose from and each teacher was able to decide what they wanted.  Scary!  We had the choice of GOMath, Eureka Math and instructional modules that were created by teachers in the district.  I piloted both GoMath and the modules.  I didn't care for the modules, as it wasn't teacher friendly (in my opinion) and it didn't meet the needs of our lower students.  It was created by teachers at our higher SES schools and it didn't address the needs of all the students in the district.  I was then torn between GoMath and Eureka math, but I ended up going with GoMath since the Eureka math is free online and I can print out what I need from there.  And, our district person decided that they were going to pick and choose what they felt was necessary from the Eureka math and they said they wouldn't print some of the things I thought would be beneficial, or at least a little more fun.  Oh well, once the door closes, I'm responsible for the little ones in my class, so I can choose what I feel is important!  😉

Now that we are heading into the second week of July, it's time to get serious about planning.  While each year is basically the same as the year before, I like to change things up a bit to keep is fresh and exciting for me.  I have a lot of new ideas that I am going to try to implement, so we will see how it goes.  A few more weeks of sleeping in, relaxing and being able to spend the days with my daughter before we are back in the rat race of school.  Hopefully I can enjoy vacation while getting things accomplished both for life and school.


Time Marches On

Who would have thought that the school year would go by so quickly!  It's hard to imagine that it's the end of the calendar year and soon we will all be enjoying our Christmas vacation.  It really does seem like school just started.  I guess that's a good thing...the year isn't dragging, but I do wish it would slow down a bit. 

This year is going very well.  I have a group of 20 good kids.  They have their moments, but they are 6 and 7 years old!  They are allowed to have their moments, I guess.  We are all making good progress in our learning.  I think I have the highest 1st grade class this year, which is a nice change of pace.  I have never minded teaching lower students, and in fact, I like it, but it has been nice this year to have students that can think and dig deeper into their learning.  I still have kids who aren't able to do that yet, but we are all trying to help them come along.  I hope the breaks help the kids be rested and ready to tackle more learning instead of fall behind like in years past.  Here's hoping it all works out! 

Earlier this year, I learned what burn out feels like.  And I don't like it.  Our district feels the best use of money is to send us to trainings.  Training after training.  I have been to math training, language arts training and ELD training.  I have also been to training to pilot the math program (which didn't prepare me for the math program which has left me staring at my kids going "huh!" more than once.).  On top of all the trainings, we have our meetings at school.  I am on leadership, so we have meetings for that (which are a waste of my time since I am not part of the fab 3) and then staff meetings and then our weekly collaboration meetings which turn into 2 teachers talking about how great and wonderful they are.  We have no real support from administration, and we are left to fend for ourselves.  I have a student who is ADHD and has Autism, but the principal bends over backwards to allow the parent to do what she wants.  The child is more than capable of being in a regular mainstream classroom without any modifications, but the parent wants them and gets her way.  In fact, I can not have the child "suffer consequences" like the other children because "he doesn't understand the social norms and doesn't get why he was in trouble at 9am and had to move his clip and why he can't get a hand stamp at 2pm."  So he gets lots of chances to get his stamp, even if he totally misbehaves and breaks the rules.  He's even told me he can't move his clip becasue he's more special than the others.  Thanks for the back up, mom.  I was told I need to learn to accept his behavior as is and then my life will be easier.  But, I also have a duty to the other students in the class to keep them safe and protected, too.  Just because they don't have a diagnosis of something, doesn't mean they are any less special than a student who has a diagnosis. 

Anyway, this last week off has helped my mood.  I am quite excited to go back to work tomorrow and spend the next 3 weeks having some fun with my kids before Christmas.  We are going to be doing some new activites and have some fun. 

Until next time! 


It came and it went

Wow!  I have officially survived my 18th first day of school.  It's hard to believe that this is my 18th year teaching.  It doesn't seem possible, but when I realize my first class of kids now have kids of their own, it makes me feel old...and I'm only 39!  Yikes!  Where does the time go?

I have ZERO pictures of the first 3 days.  I never took my camera out.  I wanted to, but there wasn't time or I didn't think of it.  I had the best intentions at 4:30am, but then before I knew it, it was 1:45 and the kids were gone!  Maybe this week...maybe. 

I have 19 kiddos on my roster.  18 have shown up so far, and I got an email last night from the other one that they will be here tomorrow.  I guess it's a family court issue, so that will make things interesting.  Makes me sad to know that a little one is dealing with big family issues.  I don't get it, but my parents have been married forever (44 years next month) and my hubby's parents were married forever and all our grandparents were married forever.  Heck, we've been married for almost 13 years!  I just feel bad that the little guys have to worry about their parents' lives and can't enjoy being 6 anymore. 

Anyway, the first day of school felt funky.  I don't really know why, but it did.  It felt all out of whack and I felt like we didn't get anything accomplished.  We went over the rules (again and again and again), did a little tour (even though it was 247 degrees outside) and did a little project.  That's it!  Thursday felt a little better as we tried to follow some semblance of a routine, but even that will be changing soon.  Friday is our PE day, so that took a chunk out of the day and it was another funky day since it was hotter than hades for the kids to be outside.  You know it's too hot when it's 110 at pick up time and it's only 1:45.  Yeah, I don't know how teachers in Arizona do it! 

So far my kiddos seem sweet and eager to learn.  I have a couple of squirrely kids who don't know the rules apply to them yet, but I will get them under control!  I have one on "meds", but I don't know how well they help.  Cute as can be, but ZERO impulse control.  He'll come over in the middle of a lesson and do push ups on the floor, just because.  And he brings a whole new meaning to LOUD, too!  He's super smart, but has no social skills, so that will be our goal this year. 

We are all at about 18-19 kids.  Rumor is our super doesn't want anyone about 24 kids in K-3, so we will see.  I'd like to stay at 19, but I have a feeling we will be moving kids, closing classes and moving teachers to other sites.  :(  It's not good for anyone, and it throws the whole class out of whack when they make the changes.  Our principal has a meeting on Tuesday, so we might know more then, but I doubt it.  They normally wait a month before throwing a monkey wrench into our classes. 

This coming week I need to get my testing done so I know where my kids are.  I know the really high ones and the really low ones already, but I need to figure out the in betweens.  Luckily I think most are pretty solid in their kinder skills and are ready for first grade!  That's half the battle right there! 

Here's to a great second week of school.  It won't be as hot as it has been, so that's good.  It is going to be about 115 today, so I am staying put in my house with the AC on, enjoying the morning still in my pj's.  There are worse ways to spend the day! 


'Twas a week before school started...

...and I might be stressing out a little bit!  I realized there is a box in the garage that I brought home and I don' know what's in it.  I was going to get it tonight and look through it, but I didn't.  I can wait one more day!  I have little piles here and there that are slowly being whittled down, taken to school and put away.  My room is almost done, and as long as I don't mess it up tomorrow, I think it will be about done!  I will put my calendar back up, put a couple more things on the wall, put the junk away from my table and then I can get planning, copying and organizing my weeks.  I say weeks because it's my goal to be about 3-4 weeks planned and prepped at a time.  I can always move things around as needed, but this way, I am more prepared and hopefully not staying late on Friday afternoons. 

I am trying something new this year (lots of new things, really) - math binders.  Our math person in the district is really into Common Core.  He believes that we teach students the answers too much and not how to find the answers.  I can sort of agree with that, but then other times I disagree.  Anyway, they have created/found some masters that are number lines, 120 charts, ten frames, etc that we have copied and will put into sheet protectors and then into binders for the kids.  The idea is that the students will use whatever they want in order to solve the problem.  I can see that being very beneficial, but I will spend quite a bit of time teaching and having the kids working with each sheet so they know how to use them, why we use them and what manipulatives are the best.  I won't jump into my curriculum for a couple weeks, so we will "play" during math time!  I am hoping I can get away from the idea that I must do a formal lesson each day, when I can see the same results with having the kids experiment with their learning.  Wish me luck...I'm a control freak!  Anyway, I still need to put my binders together!  All summer and they are still stacked in the boxes and the copies are elsewhere...maybe in the garage!  Yikes!

I am hoping this week to go into school 3 days - Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Tuesday I have an appointment and it's when I would go to school.  My daughter is in an art camp this week and it ends at 1:00, so I need to pick her up.  By then, no one wants to go work at school!  So tomorrow she and I will go and get a lot done and then on Wednesday and Thursday I will be there for about 3 hours both days.  Friday I mm NOT going in.  Instead I will go get a pedicure with my daughter, do a little bit of shopping and maybe grab some lunch before her 4H meeting.  It'll be our last day of vacation together.  :(  Man it goes by so fast!  She will start school on Monday and I have kids on Wednesday (Monday and Tuesday are get your rooms ready days!).  It'll be here before we know it.  Then it's back to the routines and the craziness of the new year - after school functions, appointments, meetings and life!  Busy, busy! 

Here's to one more Sunday night before the crazy chaos begins! 


How I plan to never pass out math manipulatives again!

One of the things that I KNOW is a huge time suck is passing out math manipulatives.  Counting them out, making sure everyone has what they need and then looking for all the things that are dropped when we aren't supposed to playing with them really eats into the time of the lesson.  Well, I am working on changing that. Enter my table drawers.  OK, I need a much catchier name than that! Anyway, here is my new-to-me organization station for each table.  Ain't it pretty?

Each table has one of these in front of it.  Plus I have an extra one in hopes I can get rid of desks and make 5 smaller groups instead of 4 large groups.  Each organization station (I'm liking that!) has 3 drawers (I found these at Wal-Mart, but I know Target has them, too).  Each drawer will hold math manipulatives, white boards and other items we might need during the day.  I am thinking of putting in bottles of glue, extra pencils and erasers, but I haven't made my mind up fully on that yet.  I may even add some paper in the drawers, but I always have that out and ready for anything we could do.

Here is my top drawer.  Things have been put in there haphazardly for now, as I was in a time crunch when I did this.  So far there is a basket of linking cubes, bags of counters (10 in each bag for now...we will add more later), bags of playing cards, a container of dice and a container of 1's cubes.  I'm hoping the students will choose what they want to use, put it away neatly and keep it organized.  Funny, right?

The middle drawer right now is sad.  It has whiteboards and nothing else.  I don't even have markers in there.  I think the markers will stay at the desks and the kids will be responsible for keeping track of their own special marker.  It could happen.  Last year my kids had their own personal highlighters and they never lost one!  Impressive!  We couldn't keep our crayons, but we never lost a highlighter!

Drawer 3 has some items we will use later.  There are teddy bears (I think I will move those up to drawer 1), tens rods and rulers.  This way almost everything we need is in one place and can easily be reached by the kids.  They will know where to put things away, too!  I think I will assign a table captain each day or week and they will be in charge of keeping it tidy.  We will add items in there as we need them.  I do have some shapes that need to be organized into smaller groups as well as clocks for later.  As I find stuff, I will add it in.  We will see how it works, as it will be a learning process for us all!  

If you're wondering, the tub on top is our recycling bucket. Any paper scraps we have go in there and at the end of the day we dump it into the recycling bin.  It really helps cut down on kids walking back and forth to the bin and leaving a trail of trash along the way.  The students get very insistent that their table mates clean up their mess before going anywhere.  It's quick and accessible for all and makes it much quieter in the room!  It may not be everyone's ideal way of doing things, but it's worked for me!

After working (cleaning) in my room today, I am basically ready to start getting ready for the first day of school.  It feels like there are a million things to do, but it's all the little things that need focus and more than 90 minutes at school.  Next week I will go in for a bit each day and then not go in Friday to enjoy the last day of vacation with my daughter.  Come August 10, it's back to school for us all!  She actually starts that day while it's meeting time for me!  

Here's to a nice weekend relaxing with my little family, trying to stay out of the heat!