6.30.2010

Reading

One of my hobbies is reading. I have been an avid reader since middle school. My mom would always make us read in the summer before we could go swimming. I would sit and read an entore book before going swimming while my siblings would scream and fuss about having to read for 30 minutes.

Now that it is summer, it is my time to read. I see on other blogs that people are reading educational books, inspirational books and even some kid books for the school year. Nope. Not me. I prefer the trashier the better! Actually, I prefer Danielle Steel, but I am almost through her newest book and then will have to read all the trashy books I have been stacking up. Yes, I am proud to say I have read almost all of the Danielle Steel books. I read a lot of them one summer in summer school geometry. It wasn't truly a math class, or a class for that matter, but I had to take it to get a better grade, so I did. I think in the 2 weeks I was in class I read 4 books. Then I read more in my English class my senior year because there was nothing to get out of that class at all.

Anyway, in the almost 4 weeks I have been on vacation, I have read 5 books. It may not seem like a lot, but I have a hubby and a daughter who rarely let me have an afternoon of peace for reading! I read when I can and then there is no stopping me (unless I fall asleep!). I have 5 more weeks of vacation to read and have "me time". Let's see if I can narrow down my stack of books by the time August rolls around. There is that little thing called PLANNING I still need to do, so....

Happy Reading!

Oh, and if you like trashy and feel like you should be reading something for school, read Judy Blume. Her novels for adults are crazy-trashy and very unlike her novels for elementary age kids...thank goodness!

6.29.2010

Attempting to Plan - Day 1

I sat down at my desk in my office at home and wanted to plan. I had a few moments of quiet to myself and thought that this was as good a time as any to start planning for the next school year. Only, there is one small problem. My desk is a freakin' mess! I have oddles of stuff piles on it. I just move it every once in awhile to get to something I need. And, it's just stuff - school stuff, magazines, catalogs, my daughter's things from school, etc. I have my things I brought home for the summer to go through all neat in a crate. The rest is a huge mess! So, before I can plan, it looks like I need to clean, organize and throw! Oh well, so much for planning today. At least I had the want to plan! :)

6.28.2010

The Starfish Story

While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer still and called out, "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
The old man smiled, and said, "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, "It made a difference for that one."

Author Unknown

6.26.2010

Blah

I have been wanting to post, but for some reason, everything I think of is very depressing. I don't like having negative thoughts about teaching, but that's all I have been having. It's more just the frustration of having to completely change my schedule, away from what works to something new. I've been trying to find ideas for a new science unit we have to start teaching (matter...in first grade?!?!?!?) and I haven't had any luck. And the things I do like are too expensive for me right now. I've never, in my 12 years of teaching, had the trouble of not having the money to go out and buy what I want, but thanks to good 'ole California, I am in that boat right now. Payday is a few days away and boy am I ready! Or I should say, boy are the bills ready! So, I will close with the idea that my frustration will leave soon and then I can try to blog about happier things!

6.24.2010

Why does everyone else they can "fix" education?

Here in CA, we will be electing a new governor soon. I should be excited to see Arnold go, and really I am. What I am not excited about is the fact that a new crop of TV commercials for governor will be coming out (along with commercials for every other job that is up for election this year!). We just had the primaries earlier this month and Meg Whitman won for the Republicans. I still don't really know how I feel about her, other than she's annoying on TV.



The one big thing with her that bugs me, more than the fact that she has more money than the state, is the fact that she touts wanting to "fix education". Everyone wants to fix education when they run for office. But tell me, what needs to be fixed? Saying it needs to be fixed implies it's broken. Now, don't get me wrong, I know education isn't perfect. But when people say they want to fix education, it comes down to one thing and one thing only - teachers. Teachers are the root of all the problems in education if you listen to politicians, or wannabe politicians. I take offense to that as a teacher, and I think others should, too.



When most teachers go to work (face it, there are some who go just to collect a paycheck) they go to work and work as hard as they can given the time, resources and limited supplied they have and make it work as best they can. In California, we are bombarded witih making sure our test scores are higher then the year before. And we do that, with less then we had before. And we do that with more students who don't speak English. And we do that with more students who haven't had a meal since lunch the day before. And we do that with parents who don't give a rats ass about about their child does. And we do it with administrators breathing down our backs telling us what to do , even though they haven't stepped foot in an elementary classroom before!



I don't see how teachers are broken. I don't see how the students are broken. Students, at least in the lower grades, want to please and do what they are told to the best of their abilities. Teachers, for the most part, will do whatever it takes to help students learn the material. Like I said before, we do it with less time, materials, supplies and energy than we had before.



If anything is broken and needs to be "fixed", it's politics. If they think it's so easy to be in the classroom day in and day out, why weren't they teachers before? Or, why don't they go there now and try it for awhile. I dare anyone to come and spend a day in my classroom with my students (preferably the first couple weeks of school) and try and do what I do and then tell me it's broken.



If anything else is broken, it's the people who oversee the distribution of money. This may be the state, the county or even the district and board. I know that the money the government receives for education isn't dispersed the way it should be. We can see this by the salaries the people at the district offices are paid. A secretary in our district was making over $108,000 a year. That's over twice what a teacher gets paid. Now, I know her job is important, but is anyone's job at the district worth $100,000 a year? And why does the PIO guy make more than a principal? Why do we even have a PIO guy? Hmmmmm...and we wonder where all the bad spending is?



I wish people would see that education doesn't need to be fixed. Imroved? Yes, but not fixed. It's not broken. If they want to "fix" it and make it better, fix the parents. Fix the politicians. Fix the spending. Fix the testing. Fix it so students can be successful rather than just judged by a test they are given for a few crappy days. Fix it so students value education rather than thinking it's just another test.



A quick "funny". We were giving our last benchmark test for first grade and a student asked if he had to bubble in the answer. The teacher said of course. The student said something along the lines of "Bubble, bubble, bubble...all we every do it bubble". This was from a first grader. Boy, there's something that needs to be fixed - not his attitude, but the fact that first graders are being tested so much that that's all they feel like they do.

6.23.2010

More change

Our district, like most districts in California, is struggling financially. We get less money from the state, ourpay goes, down, etc. It isn't the fault of the children or the teachers, but we are the ones who have to suffer. Less materials, less supplies, you name it, it's all there - or not there!

The district, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that one way to save money is to have standard schedules. All elementary schools will start at one time and all middle and high schools start at one time. I am trying to embrace this change, but I think it sucks!

Research has shown that high school students would do better if they were to start school later in the day, rather than early. So, my district has decided that middle and high school will start at 7:30! Doesn't make sense. Elementary isn't going to start til 9:00! It is going to make for a very long day. We won't even see the outside of the school til after 3, and that's just when the kids go home. By the time papers are graded, classroom cleaned, etc, it will be about 4 or so before I get to leave. I won't mind it in August when it's too hot to do anything til 8pm, but it is really going to suck in January when it's dark at 4:30. And, to make matters worse, the school I am at is at the base of hill, which means the sun goes down even earlier. I don't know how people in the northern states do it when it gets dark so early in the winter...I like me some sunshine!

Anyway, some of us met today to try and figure out a daily schedule since we are starting over an hour later. Talk about a mess! Just the thought of change is bad enough, but to see it in writing really brings it home. I think we got a schedule hammered out that will work and allow us to keep our schedule the same as before, just moved up an hour each day. I can handle that. I don't like the idea of being out so late, but maybe this is the time I need to get up in the morning and have some "me time". Eh, who am I kidding! I will sleep and hour longer in the morning and be able to stay up an hour longer at night! Maybe this won't be so bad after all!

Random thoughts in the morning

I am into the third week of my summer vacation, and loving every minute if it. I am having such a nice time, that I haven't even opened my bag of school stuff for the summer. I will leave that for July! In the meantime, I will continue to be mommy to my daughter, do all the things at stay at home mom would do and, for me, read, read, read! I am on my 4th book of the summer. It may not seem like a lot, but I have to get my reading in between playing games, swimming or just sitting with my baby girl!

I have been reading some blogs this morning about teaching, and they are all kinda bumming. One poor teacher got moved to a grade she didn't want, against her will. Other blogs talk about how kids will never change, administrators will never change, blah, blah. It's true, but it's just sad. I know I won't be the one to go out and change the world, but I do hope, every year, that I have some small effect on my students and that they remember me. Sometimes I feel I am just a face they see every day for 180 days and then I am gone. Maybe I am, who knows. I still remember my first grade teacher. I remember the classroom smelling like tempra paint and paste. Yum! I remember having to go to "Chapter 1" classes because I hadn't really learned all my letter sounds in Kindergarten (I had hearing difficulties thanks to ear infections...that cleared up just fine!). I just hope my students have some sort of memory of me, rather than "Oh, I think she was my teacher!"

I took my daughter to story time at the library and got a great idea for the first day of school. Even though I'm not planning anything, I'm still thinking about school. I can't ever stop thinking about school, even if I want to. My mind is always going, even at 3 in the morning! Anyway, the theme for the day was pirates. The lady read some story about pirates, they talked about pirates and then they made a pirate hat. I have a book about the alphabet and pirates that I am going to read to my kids, and then we are going to do an alphabet hunt in the classroom, I have a pirate picture hunt and then make apirate hat. When my camera works again, I will post some pictures so you can actually see what it looks like rather than just imagining!

Starting next week (it will be July then!) I will post some tips, ideas and stuff that I do in my classroom to maybe share with others. We'll see how it goes!

Happy Wednesday!

6.20.2010

Sundays

During the school year, Sundays are my planning days. Or, they have been in the past. I would save Saturdays for housework, laundry and family stuff. I would then on Sunday evening, break out my bag of school work. I would do lesson plans, grade any left over papers, etc. I always dread it. It's not that I don't like planning for work, but there are a million others things I would rather be doing, even if it's just sitting down with my hubby to watch TV. There are those weeks in my grade book that are blank. Luckily, no one has ever checked my plans in my 12 years of teaching!

Towards the end of this last school year, I started staying a little later each day. It was then that I would grade papers and do lesson plans. I would do math on one day, language arts another, and so on. I also had library time on Friday that I would sit and do my lesson planning while my kids looked for books. It saved me a ton of time and frustration come Sunday. I felt a little guilty over the weekend that I wasn't planning and figuring out what to do. But honestly, I already knew what I was going to do because it was the same thing I have done for the last few years. Boring, boring, boring, blah, blah, blah.

As I stated in an earlier post, I want to make some changes in my teaching. How I teach and what I teach. It will take some time to figure it out, but I am hoping I can use my time before and after school to be a bit more productive so I don't have to come home and figure it all out. I like having my lazt Sundays if I want them. I like being able to lay on the couch with my daughter while she watches Olivia or Little Einsteins. I like being able to read a book of leisure, rather than writing out what I am doing for the week. So, my goal this coming school year is to have my plans done before I leave on Friday and not have to bring work home with me. We'll see how that goes. It may be a lofty goal ,butone I would like to achieve!

6.18.2010

Students...AKA "my kids"

I've been thinking a lot about the students I have had over the years. My first group of first graders graduated this year. Or, at least I hope they have all graduated. I know it's very Pollyanna-y for me to think they all graduate and go on to college, but that is the hope I have for all my students. When they are with me, they are small 6 year olds with a lot of schooling ahead of them. I have one year to make a difference in their lives, teach them what they need to know to move on to the next grade and be sucessful.

Each year, I get the list of students who are supposed to be in my class. I say supposed to because most of the time, there are 2 or 3 who never show up to be in my class. I hope this happens everywhere, because sometimes I feel like it's just me. When the first day rolls around, I love seeing all the smiling faces, and the crying ones, and know that these are "my kids" for the next year. I have always called my students my kids, because that's what they are to me. I don't try to be their buddy, but I am also more than just their teacher who teaches reading, writing and math.

In my district, a few years ago they jumped on the "PLC" bandwagon - professional learning community. Just thinking those words made me barf a little. I personally believe it's a bunch of crap. That may just be me, cause I know a few people whe think it's great. From my experience, it isn't. In order to have a PLC that works, you have to have people who want to collaborate, share ideas and talk. In my grade level, that doesn't happen. We have teachers who won't even talk to each other personally, much less professionally. Doesn't make for a pleasant work environment, let me tell you! We have a teacher who has gotten all her ideas, blackline masters, etc. from another teacher (from like 20 years ago!) and doesn't feel like she wants to share any information or ideas. Doesn't make it easy to get new ideas and information. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

When my kids come into my class, they are my kids. I am responsible for their learning at school, and in most cases, their learning at home. And, it isn't just academic learning. We have to teach English, the rules, proper classroom behavior, eating behavior, etc. Most of the kids come in with very little knowledge of them, even after Kindergarten. The students have very little knowledge of responsibility or are even aware of what they have. They learn that in class, too. But, when it comes down to it, it's my name on their report card that says I was their teacher. My name that will follow them from year to year, showing what they learned, or didn't learn, while in my care. They are my students who I am responsible for. With the PLC, they would like us to think of all the students as "our students". That's hard when you don't know the students in the other classes or, even worse, when the other teachers refuse to let you even speal to their child (yes, that has happened with 2 of the teachers I am supposed to collaborate with!).

My students are my my students from the moment they enter my class in August until they leave. For some, it's in September when they move to a fancy new school. For others, it's October, or December when they go to Mexico for 6 months. For a few, it's when they begin with my in April after having been to 5 other schools and they are here for the time being. Whenever they come in, they are my kids. And for some, it goes on throughout the years. Not as much as I would like, but what can I do. I hope I make an impact on them while I have them and that they will think of me when they start to do something they thought they couldn't and now can.

As I sit at home during my vacation, listening to Dora in the background, I can only imagine what my students will be like in 7 weeks. My only hope is that they all show up the first day ready to learn. I don't mind if they aren't the highest in class, In fact, I prefer to work with the lower students who need the most help. They appreciate learning more than those who already know it. I don't mind if they don't speak English. They'll learn. I don't mind even if their behavior isn't the best. That is my least favorite thing to have to deal with, but we get there, sooner or later. I just hope that they come in ready and willing to learn.

6.17.2010

Principals

Beginning now, my school has a new principal. It was a little odd how it all happened. back in February, a principal quit, right then and there at another school. So, because one person quit, they moved about 15 people. The principal I had was moved to another site and we are getting a new principal whose school won't be in existence next year. While most people at the site were visibly upset, I didn't share in their pity. It's not that I didn't care for the principal, but I am learning principals are a dime a dozen. I've decided I am not going to call them by name, but rather by number. In my 13 years of teaching, this will be my 8th principal. And, that doesn't count the one who hired me and then left before the school year even started!

In my district, principals are changed more often than curriculum. And, they can't make just one change, it has to be several changes that affect more than it should. But, I am getting used to change and am learning to deal with it as it comes.

My first principal was there for just over a year. I really liked him. He was very present at the school, came through each and every day to all the classes and the students knew he was there. Like many administrators, he got a new job in a different district at the beginning of my 2nd school year. Many people were happy to see him go, but I wasn't. I didn't know any better and thought he was great. I'm sure he had his faults, like everyone else, but I liked him. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago.

My second principal was a real jerk. Unfortuantely, many people feel this way about him. I didn't totally realize it at the time, but now I know how horrible of a principal he really was. He is a smooth talker, part of the good 'ole boys club. He can do no wrong - he just passes the blame to the next person. I was still very young when he started at the school. He looked down upon me because I was young, female and blond. He was a male chauvinist with the machismo attitude to boot. He didn't bother to learn my name my first year, he just called me "the blond one" or "la rubia" to another teacher. He left me alone for the most part. He couldn't bother to show up for observations and do an evaluation the 3 years he was my principal! A new teacher came in who had all the education lingo down and dazzled him with his BS, but I didn't buy it. I might have been young, but I know crap when I hear it. I eventually left the school, along with 17 other teachers. Hmmmm, and the district didn't realize there was a problem.

My third principal hired me to go to my new school. She was there for all of 3 months before she moved to a new district. Like the 1st principal, she was there all the time, in the classes everyday. But, she was ADHD and couldn't focus for more than a minute. I never really got to know her, which was bother our faults. I never took the time to talk with her and she never took the time to talk to me.

My fourth, and longest lasting principal, was a teacher I had worked with the year before. She didn't care for me as a colleague, so I was a little nervous with her coming in. (I got drunk the night I heard it was her!). She is a very type A, anal retentive, control freak. Once she started, we got along OK. Each year was different, and you never knew what to expect. I stayed on her good side, did my job and tried not to bitch about things. She didn't care for the male teachers we had and they got some poor evaluations. I was nervous when she evaluated me, but I got all good marks - meets expectations or exceeds expectations, so I couldn't complain too much. She was there 4 years before they moved her to the high school, which was a demotion, really.

My fifth administrator was actually a vice principal we had for a year. I loved her to death. She was very hands on with the kids, came in and taught lessons and really got to know them. I learned a lot from watching her. She had such a passion for reading and writing. I wish more than anything that I had gotten to work with her more than a year. When I teach, I try so hard to be like her. I want to write her and ask her to come and watch me, tell me what I am doing right and wrong and give me some pointers. She got her own school the next year, and has been at 2 other schools since then. She is a stickler for the rules and standards and the schools she was at don't like to follow the rules. I felt sorry for her when she was at the other schools, but I was doing my own job. She retired this year and is looking to bigger and better things, like all administrators it seems. But, I still try to live up to the standard of teaching that she desired.

My sixth administrator came the last year the school was open. I had actually been involuntarily transferred to a different school (which I hated, but I went into it with a horrible attitude!). I managed to make it back to my old school 6 weeks into the year. My new principal was nice, but I never really got to know her. She came in my room the first day I was there, said hi and then I never saw her in my room again. She liked people who kissed her butt and did what she wanted. I do what principals want, but I don't kiss ass. Never have, never will. She went and took over another school once our school closed. She took half the staff with her (her favorites) and continued on like it was nothing. I was very sad to see my school close, but I wasn't devistated to leave her.

My seventh principal lives in a dream world. He has no real concept of elementary school and especially of what the lower grades do in elementary school. He would ask my kids some of the strangest, way-to-high higher level thinking questions and then chide me for them not knowing the answer. He was also very ADHD and couldn't focus for more than a minute. It was impossible to have a conversation with him. In fact, a co-worker got so mad that he walked away when he was mid-sentence that she threw a marker at him. He told her he was done talking and that she should have been, too. He is very macho (macho-wannabe, actually) and thinks that the women at the site (most of the teachers were women!) were just whiny. But, at the same time, he let a lot of the teachers walk all over him. Many teachers were able to do what they wanted. Other teachers weren't allowed to get away with the same things and his faves. I really tried to like him, but, try as I did, I couldn't. I treated him with respect (which was more than he gave) and did what was asked of me, but I wasn't in the mood to be his friend.

My eighth principal will be starting soon. She has been in the ditrict forever and has been an admin. forever. I think she is on her way to retirement, so I am sure we will have another new principal soon. She seems nice, wants to communicate and keep things pretty much status quo. We'll see how it goes!

From all my different principals, I have learned one thing - they are all different! For some, I think they became principals because teaching wasn't their thing, but what more could they do. I can honestly say I only had one, maybe 2 who truly cared for the kids and how they did. I just remind myself that it will change over time and eventually I will meet number 9!

6.16.2010

So true...

A teacher is a person who never says anything once. Howard Nemerov

About Me

In case anyone actually finds this blog and reads it, here is a little about me. I can honestly use the name "Teacher Stuff" since I am a teacher. I will be starting my 13th year (let's hope it's lucky!) in August. I can't even say "fall" because we start close to the beginning of the month! I have taught first grade for all 13 years. The funny thing about this is that I NEVER wanted to teach first grade. I had my heart set on 4th grade because that is the year I remember being the most fun when I was a student. But, when it came time to get a job, I was told "You'll be in first, second or third, maybe Kindergarten." Then my mind shifted to, "Oh crap! Please not Kindergarten!!!!" I began teaching first grade in July 1998 when we were on a year round calendar. And, that is where I have been for the last 12 years, loving almost every minute of it. I have changed schools few times, some for my own reasons, others for the district shutting them down! Always something new and exciting!

Part of the reason I want to blog is for my own sense of being, for lack of a better word. After this last school year, even towards the end of the year, I was feeling drained, tired and a little bummed. I was tired of what I was doing. Not the teaching part, but what I was teaching. Some people would say it's time to move on to a new grade level, but I love first grade. I love seeing the eyes light up when they "get it". And, I feel like I am really good at what I do. I don't say that to be cocky, but I truly believe I was meant to teach first grade (divine intervention 12 years ago???). Anyway, it got me to thinking that I need to change what I do and what I present to my students. I feel like I have been doing the same things year after year and now I am tired of them. I need something to challenge me and my thought process and creativeness (which I feel is lacking!).

Another reason for doing the blog is to vent. My hubby, however great he is, doesn't like to listen to me complain about school. He says it's pointless, which it is, unless I am going to fight the board and district on their crappy thoughts and plans. (BTW, I won't do that, because I value my job and love what I do and it's how we eat and keep a roof over our heads! ) Being in the lovely state of California, we are still dealing with the HUGE financial crisis. I am glad other states are doing better, but ours is getting worse. And now it's hit me personally. Between the furlough days, no pay raise in a couple years and now a HUGE raise in insurance costs, we are hit again and again. And the district says there isn't a thing they can do (All the people at the district office make $150,000+ compared to my $65,000...huh!?!?!?!). So, I will tighten my purse strings, do without (which is nothing new, I am a mom and a teacher!), and make so with what I have and still do my darndest to give my students the best education they can get!

Maybe someday, someone will read this blog and it can be used for what I want to do - help other teachers share ideas, frustrations and questions. I wish there was a blog like this when I started teaching. My teacm wasn't the most supportive and I felt like I was doing it all on my own. And I was, really. I give my friend a hard time now, since she was my "mentor teacher" who didn't really mentor. She thought I had it all together and knew what I was doing. I guess I faked it well. I cried a lot the first couple years and did what I could. I look back now at some of the things and just laugh at myself for not knowing. I still don't know it all, but I do what I can and hope for the best!

6.15.2010

New Blog

I wanted to start a blog for teachers to share ideas, information, ask questions or simply vent!