1.28.2014

How did that happen?

I've been thinking of this topic a lot lately.  I'm hoping it's just an issue we have at my school and even at others schools in my district, but when did parents get so much control?  When were parents allowed to dictate every move that a principal or a teacher makes?  And why has my principal allowed it to happen?


I have some students who still do not know or care about how to follow the rules.  They are defiant, rude and just plain mean.  And they are 6!  I know this comes from the home, but they have no remorse and are not shocked or surprised when they are in trouble.  They laugh, they make jokes about it and they back talk.  It's hard to get through a day without having to talk to at least one student during the course of each particular lesson.  I feel so sad for my kids who truly want to learn and who behave well.  I feel so frustrated at the parents who allow their children to behave this way with zero consequences at home and I am mad at the administrators who allow the children to continue to behave that way without any consequences at school. 


Last week when I was gone, my students were not great for the sub.  They were pretty bad.  But they do know how to behave when they are supposed to.  I took recess and lunch away from them (they still ate, just not with the general population) and they missed out on a lot of fun.  I even had a parent come in and observe her child.  This week, they are all behaving better.  The naughty ones are still naughty, but not as bad.  Yesterday, tho, we had a fire drill with 10 minutes left in the day.  The students were reminded beforehand of what proper behavior is during a drill.  One of my students decided that didn't pertain to him and held up my entire line so he could talk to the boy behind him.  I was livid!  I spoke with the parent after school (whom I had met with on Friday for 90 minutes) and told her that the behavior was unacceptable and that today he would have to go visit the principal.  I know not much would happen, but I need something here, folks.  I gave the principal a heads up last night, so she was prepared this morning.  Well, guess who was in the office DEMANDING that he child be moved from my class?  The parent who wants to defend her child's actions as OK because there was another child involved in the talking and I didn't punish him.  In my defense, I have to pick my battles with the other child.  This one had been behaving fine til about November.  Then he thought it was cool to be bad. 


Anyway, the parent was DEMANDING that her child be moved to another room.  We only have one classroom available where students can go and it's not a room I would send any student to.  The parent decided that if she didn't get her way, she was going to go to the district office and file a complaint against me.  I've never had that happen and it makes me so sad.  But, the principal stood her ground and told the parent she wouldn't move the child, BUT he isn't supposed to be at our school anyway, so she is more than welcome to take him back to his home school.  And that's where he will begin tomorrow.  I'm sad to see him go because I think he is a good boy who wants to be liked by the bad boys.  He has a very crazy home life (shocker!) and there is no consistent discipline.  I honestly doubt that his dad even knows what's going on.  I don't think it's my place to tell him since I just met him on Friday. 


But when did parents decide that they don't need to parent their children, but then complain when others try to do their job?  I know my child isn't perfect, but she knows that when she is at school, she had better behave.  She knows that when she is in public, she better behave.  She knows the rules of how she is supposed to be in different places.  And if she were to do something wrong at school, she would be punished BEFORE I got the whole story rather than me defending her behavior.  Is this what has led to our children feeling entitled to everything under the sun?  Is this why they need to be rewarded for every little thing they do?  Is this why they are defended for hitting someone because the other person MUST have done something wrong first?  I don't get it.  Where did society go so wrong?  When did society begin to think it's OK to do wrong because they can justify every single thing as being OK?  I don't get.  I just don't get it. 

1.26.2014

From horrible to good

Last week should have been an easy week.  Monday was a holiday, Tuesday and Wednesday I had training and that left Thursday and Friday to teach.  It ended up being a craptastic week!  My kids were so horrible for the sub.  It's embarrassing and disappointing to know that they can't behave when I'm gone.  The upside if there is one, is that they can't behave when I am there.  This is a group that doesn't really care if they are in trouble.  I have one boy who will probably grow up to be a sociopath.  When he gets in trouble, he laughs about it and thinks its funny.  It's heartbreaking, really, but I don't feel like that when he has pushed my buttons all day.  And it's not just him!  I have 4 boys who are constantly doing something naughty, sometimes 2 of them together to be awful.  Like throwing woodchips at each other on the playground.  Or putting soap in each other's faces in the bathroom.  Each day is a new adventure in crazy!


So on Thursday and Friday, because I had so many kids who were bad, I gave up my recess and lunch time to spend with them in the room.  They had to be with me all day.  They do have "time out" on the playground, but it's just a bunch of kids standing the wall, talking and playing with each other.  One of my kids who was in trouble took it upon himself to dismiss the kids from time out because he thought they were all done.  (He also used the f word one time on the playground, but justified it because "he's a man and he can say those words.")  To keep my kids from getting into more trouble and to keep me from losing my mind, they stayed with me.  My BFF came and had lunch with me.  At the end, she said she didn't know how I did it, that my kids were so horrible for me, even with another adult in the room.  I told her I don't know either, as there were tears in my eyes.  Sadly, this group has reduced me to tears many times after school.  I've always been known to have good classroom/behavior management, but not this year.  I haven't figured out what it is that gets them. 


Going to the office doesn't do any good.  They talk to the principal, but there are no ramifications for their actions.  They may lose recess, but they still get to sit and talk with their friend who they got in trouble with.  They may have to call home, but most of the time the parents don't answer the phone.  It's loads of fun!  I did send home a pretty harsh letter to the offending kids' parents.  They had to have it signed and returned on Friday.  Of the 6 kids, I've met with 4 of the parents already.  One is supposed to come in tomorrow, though I am not holding my breath, as they have cancelled many appts they have made with me.  The other one I have never met and figure I never will meet them.  It's just not a priority to them.  Which is why their children are in this situation as it is. 


To reward my good kids, they all got a brand new fancy pencil on Thursday.  They also got to do an art project on Friday as well as an ice cream party on Friday afternoon.  One of the naughty's told me it wasn't fair and that I was mean and stupid.  Awesome.  His mom doesn't really care or want to fix his behavior, even though she will cry in our conferences and tell me she can't fix him.  We have 85 days of school left and I am counting down each and every one.  I will be so thankful when this year is over. 


But, I am also hopeful that at least one child who was in trouble last week will be well behaved this week.  I am hopeful that we will get a lot of learning done this week and have a little fun in the process.  We have a lot to cover in the next few months and I am stressing over it.  I need to stop and smell the roses before I go crazy and take my class with me.  After having a meltdown yesterday (think exorcist), I am ready for a great week this week.  All negativity behind me, I'm ready to go and get things done this week with decent behavior.  If not, I will start suspending kids since my principal doesn't really believe in it.  Something's gonna give and it won't be me anymore! 

1.21.2014

Information Overload

We had day one of our 2 day common core training.  My brain is so fried that I can't even begin to comprehend what it is I'm supposed to know.  I just feel like I am doing everything wrong.  As I stated before, I have been teaching so long under the testing regime where we were on a deadline for everything, that I don't know how to handle the idea of a little teaching freedom.  Before, we were supposed to follow the curriculum exactly as I was, do not deviate from the teachers guide, do not do your own things, do not collect $200 if you pass GO!  Now, we are told to use our curriculum as we see fit, do what you want (as long as it meets the standards and multiple standards at once, mind you) and make sure it's noisy to show that the students are actively engaged. 


Honestly, I didn't care for the morning part of the training.  Part of it was I don't care for one of the trainers.  She can not present well and I tune her out.  The other trainer is OK, but still not too lively.  The afternoon trainer was better.  But we spent almost 2 hours on Thinking Maps.  I grew up in the time of graphic organizers.  According to today's information, graphic organizers are bad, thinking maps are good.  It's like trying to teach an old dog who isn't that old but is totally set in their ways new tricks!  Again, my mind is racing. 


After being given the task of creating all 8 thinking maps for myself, I see them being useful in the class, after a long time of working with the kids to create them together.  I will go back on Thursday and try to do a thinking map or 2 with my kids and start introducing them now.  Mind you, we've had trainings before, but there was never a big push to do them.  I guess there is now, as we will have district people coming to look in our rooms to see if we are incorporating them.  That and the technology piece that we don't have yet!  Yippee! 


If nothing else, today was a wake up call that I need to change what I am doing and give myself permission to change things up.  I don't need to be on the same page as the others, as long as I am working on standards that will help my students be successful.  I'm not excited about thinking thematically, as sadly, my brain does not work that way.  It never has.  But I will do what I can to get it there.   

1.20.2014

Last week got me thinking...

Going back to school last week kicked my butt!  I am still tired from the week!  But, I will have a couple more days before I have to be "on" again.  I am going to our district training for Common Core.  And I don't want to go!  The people in the district who do our training aren't the greatest.  3 of the 4 trainers we are having are administrators and haven't been in the classroom in a very long time.  One of them is a 3rd grade teacher and everything she shows is geared to 3rd grade.  I went to a writing training last month and kept hearing "You'll have to go and tweak this to make it work for your grade level."  Argh! 


Last week when we got back into learning, I began to realize just how not with it my kids are.  There are some areas that they are still really low in and it got me thinking.  Over the last few years when the focus has been on the testing, we have been told to basically cram it all in, move on and follow the pacing guide.  Everyone should be on the same story and same math lesson all the time.  So I did that.  And sometimes we were ready and sometimes we weren't.  Sometimes we had good understanding and sometimes we just glossed right over it. 


That's how I felt about this last week.  We officially introduced digraphs this week.  We have gone over them with sight words and stuff, but we were really to focus on them.  After the initial day of instruction, I didn't pay much attention to them because I figured we had it.  We knew them all.  We could hear the difference between /ch/ and /sh/.  We knew that "thumb" starts with /th/.  And then I gave them a picture sort on Thursday.   And I realized we don't know our digraphs.  HOLD THE PHONE!  We have to stop for a bit and review.  Only I won't be there this week to help them review and I can't let a sub start the next story and teach them long a!  It's not going to happen.  So then, using my best teacher judgment, I looked at my own personal pacing guide that I spend weeks on over the summer and update it through the year to make little changes and thought "Screw it!"  I will need to update it again as I decided to NOT go ahead this week and just move on to the next story.  I will give it another week of review.  Actually, it'll be 2 days of review and I will give them their spelling test on Thursday.   We will begin the new skills on Thursday and take next week to cover them as well...and maybe even the week after that.  I want the kids to understand what it is we are doing and not just gloss over it anymore! 


This year, my class is lower than my classes in years past.  They don't get it as easily as other classes have gotten it.  It doesn't click as well.  My kids are moving and making progress, as there are more kids in my "higher" groups than in the "lower" groups, but they aren't at a "higher" level necessarily.  They are "high" for this group of kids.  With the testing pressure off of, I now feel I can take a little more time with things and slow down.  Stop and smell the roses if you will.  We've always been so concerned with finishing the curriculum by the end of the year that we move on when kids aren't ready.  Now, before you go and say I'm a horrible teacher for moving on and leaving kids behind, please know I didn't.  Every year, I have a group of kids who don't get it no matter how slow we go.  I still have kids who are at a beginning kinder level in first grade.  They should be in kinder this year and they will repeat first grade next year (as long as I have my way!).  I work with them in reading groups and give them as much extra help as I can and try to pull them up as quickly as possible, but sadly, they get 0 help at home. 


So today, as I was taking my daily walk (with my new little puppy!!!), I decided to stop pressuring myself to go so fast through the curriculum.  I have decided to stop worrying about where the others are.  They haven't worried about where I am, so why do I worry about where they are?  I have decided that even if we don't finish the basal readers, that's OK.  I can give them the phonics, reading and comprehension skills elsewhere.  I know that's one of the goals of Common Core, but it's hard to move away from my comfort zone and give up what I have done for so long.  It worked before, but it's not working now.  I need to change, as I see this wave of lower/more needy students continuing.  I need to change my ways in order to help them better.  It's going to be hard for me, but I need to be better for them. 


And, maybe along the way, we can take a different path in our learning and do something different for all of us.  Who knows...the possibilities are endless and my mind is racing! 

1.14.2014

Exhaustion

I always forget how tiring it is to go back to work after a break.  I am totally exhausted!  Wiped out!  Ready to hit the hay.  And it's only Tuesday!  It's going to be a long week.  But I'm glad I'm back to work.  I have a ton if stuff to do and a whole lot of teaching and learning that needs to happen in the next 93 days!  

My kids regressed a lot this break.  The students who were making progress, but were barely hanging on for dear life fell behind the most.  Te ones who were at grade level are still there or just a bit behind. Te ones who were really low are still really low.  We've got our work cut out for us, but I'm up to the challenge.  

Today we spent over an hour (luckily they were totally engaged) talking about/reviewing nouns, verbs and adjectives.  We did this instead of reading groups.  Something had to give today and that was it.  The kids have a good grasp on nouns, a decent idea of verbs and they are stumped with adjectives.  Sadly, teaching adjectives and how to use them is not my strong point.  I need to get better at this skill.  Tomorrow we will sort some words and see if we can get them in the correct group!  

In math, we are talking about tens and ones.  Today I gave my kids 10's and 1's blocks.  We've been working with tens and ones throughout the year, but this is the first time they have had the blocks.  I decided to give them a number and they had to show me in their blocks, but keep it a secret from their table mates.  They had a blast and thought it was the best thing ever!  We had to hurry to complete the math paper as we were running out of time.  Oops!  We will continue the game tomorrow since they had such a good time.  

I wish it was about 8:15 so I could go to bed.  But, I still need to help my daughter with a project, do dishes and grade papers before I can head off to dreamland!  Next week will be a little easier since we have Monday off and we will have a week under our belts!  

1.12.2014

Sunday Blues

Well, it's official.  Vacation is now over.  I have my lesson plans done, my stuff is packed up and ready to go and my clothes are in the process of being laid out for the week.  I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for heading back to work.  And it's not quite working.  But, it is time to go back, get back into a routine and get back to doing what I do well - teaching my little firsties. 


I'm still "old school" and I hand write out my lesson plans.  It helps me remember what I am doing during the week.  I basically write them down and then I don't have to look at them again.  I may have to this week as there are some new things I am doing that I haven't quite got engrained into my brain yet.  But I am excited to be trying something new. 


Which goes back to me being "old school".  I am still trying to wrap my head around CCSS.  I have taught the same things and the same way for so long, that I am not comfortable stepping outside my comfort zone.  But I'm trying.  I have been toying with the idea of doing away with spelling tests.  They aren't 100% CCSS friendly, and I don't know if the kids really remember the spelling rules once the test is done.  I keep going back and forth.  Any insight on this?  Same thing with word walls.  I have always had a word wall in my room until this year.  I took it down in favor of an anchor chart wall, but I see my kids' writing suffering.  In years past, my kids would go the wall, find the word they needed and then go back and spell it correctly.  Now, they don't even try to sound it out and I get crap in their writing.  I have taken down the anchor charts (and need to find them a new home) and have things ready for the word wall, but them someone told me not to put it up so I haven't.  I think I need to use my judgment and just put the darn thing back up.  I will feel better and I think my kids will write better.  Any insight here? 


This week we will jump into the world of digraphs.  I really like the story in the anthology (Moving Day).  We will talk about antonyms, sequence of events, compare and contrast, fact v. fiction and more.  On Friday, we will do a directed draw of a hermit crab.  I love this week!  We will also continue working on writing a good personal narrative.  In math, we venture into tens and ones.  I'm hoping we have a good understanding already, but that we can also have a little bit of fun.  Who knows!  And we will cap it off by talking about winter - something we don't have here in So Cal.  It's supposed to be in the upper 70's and lower 80's this week.  But we can pretend that we're in the snow...or at least talk about it anyway! 


Happy Sunday everyone.  Here's to jumping back into the working world and seeing my kids again.  Ready or not, here I come!   

1.05.2014

No Sunday Night Blues for me!

Yep!  I still have another week of vacation to go!  I really enjoy this next week, as my daughter is back in school and hubby is at work.  I get the week to myself to do whatever I want.  I will get to be mommy after school and actually pick my daughter up every day, but I will have 6 glorious hours while she is gone to myself.  I have several goals in mind for the week that I hope to accomplish by Friday afternoon.  While it's a vacation week, I will still be busy! 

* finish deep cleaning my house - it's taking me a long time because I am really deep cleaning
* work in the yard - my yard has been ignored for too long...time to get it looking pretty again
* get lesson plans done for January - at least the biggies filled in!  I haven't decided what I am doing
* get work done for online class I have been ignoring!  It's on CCSS, so I should do it!
* pay my ticket and do online traffic school - I ran a stop sign by my school on a day they were doing a massive sweep.  Lesson learned!
* get a massage - enough said!  This will be my Friday morning I think! 
* work out at least 3 days - starting small!

While nothing on this list is earth shattering, it's the little things I need to do!  Next Sunday I will have the Sunday night blues, but I will also be a bit excited to go back and see my kids.  I'm hoping they have grown and matured a bit and are ready for some serious learning! 

Happy Sunday and good luck for those having to go back to work! 

1.03.2014

OLW: Enjoy

I saw a lot of posts lately with everyone's word for the year.  I thought long and hard about mine before I chose it.  My word this year is ENJOY!  I need the reminder every now and then to enjoy what I have and try not to take things so seriously.  I am bad like that. 

I need to enjoy my family.  I love them to death, but I need to spend time with them and enjoy being with them.  Doing the little things and not worrying about the big things.  My house may be messy, but if I'm having fun with my daughter, then that is worth it! 

I need to enjoy my work.  I love teaching, but the enjoyment has gone from it.  I have been so focused on student behavior and student growth (both of which are less than great this year) that I have forgotten to have some fun in class and enjoy the time we have together.  I will still have the stinky behaviors and lower students, but I want to enjoy being with them and having more fun than we have been having this year. 

I need to enjoy my home.  I get so stressed out when things are unorganized and the laundry is piled high on the couch.  I am learning to let it go.  I will eventually fold the laundry.  It may take awhile, but hubby doesn't mind.  He says it's easier to find what he's looking for on the couch!  I need to enjoy what I have at home and be thankful for all that we have. 

I need to enjoy life.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  Last September when I got sick, it really put me in a funk.  I was in a funk at home and at school.  It really affected me more than I let on to people.  I was feeling sorry for myself that I got sick.  I was upset that I missed so much work and I used it as an excuse for a bit as to why my kids weren't doing well.  In fact, the parents used it as an excuse for their children, too.  I finally came to the realization that I am here now and they have some learning to do!  I was upset that my daughter was away from me for a week, but I look at it that she was being cared for by her grandparents and she got some extra time with them that she wouldn't have had.  I was upset that I was sick and threw everyone's lives into a tailspin, but I'm alive.  I could have died from my illness, but I didn't.  I don't have any lasting effects from it and if anything, I have become a bit healthier from it.  I've stopped drinking soda and have started drinking more water.  I realized I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and go back to living life.  As silly as it sounds, I had to make that decision. 

I realize that not everyday will be rainbows and unicorns, but I can make those days happen more by changing my attitude.  It's something I have to do and will do this year. 

So, with my one week left of vacation, I will enjoy the time I have at home to myself, enjoy the time I have to plan and enjoy the time I have to be a stay at home mom while it lasts.  After that, it will be back to enjoying the craziness of life! 

1.02.2014

January Currently

Wow!  It's crazy to think that it's already January 2014!  It seems like it was just January 2013 a little bit ago!  I for one am glad to see 2013 in my review mirror.  It was not my best year by far, and I am ready for a great 2014!  I'm hoping all the crappy stuff that happened and put me in a negative mood is gone and I am going to work really hard to only be positive in 2014. 
 
We are still on vacation until the 13th of January!  I really do enjoy the extra week off.  My daughter goes back to school on Monday, so I have a week without her at home where I can get stuff done.  I think this year I will continue working on decluttering my house, but I will also spend some extra time working on school stuff.  One of my goals (not resolutions anymore, just goals) is to be a better teacher for my kids.  I think I am a good teacher, but I want to be even better.  I may not have everything looking perfect, I may not be up to date on the latest and greatest teaching styles, but I do know how to teach and do it well.  I have been letting myself get overwhelmed with things out of my control and I have not been my greatest teaching self (or self) lately.  But, I am going to change that! 
 
It has been an interesting couple of weeks of school.  I had big plans, but life had bigger plans.  Like many others, we were down and out with the stomach flu.  It was the worst thing in the world!  My parents and sister were sick, but we were hoping to be spared since we didn't see them while they were sick.  Wrong!  I got sick on Christmas night!  Not the best way to end Christmas.  We had gone up to our cabin for the day and made it home 10 minutes before I got sick.  I then spent all day Thursday in bed.  Hubby had court and so my daughter was home with me.  She kept herself occupied AND fed until my hubby came home.  He made her dinner and then he proceeded to get sick that night.  He was physically sick a lot longer than I was, but he bounced back better than I did.  On Friday, I managed to take a shower, run an errand and then I was done for the day!  Back in bed watching TV and trying to rest.  On Saturday we were all better and were finally able to do Christmas with my family.  Then on Sunday, the stomach flu blessed us with its presence once again as my daughter got it.  She got over it the quickest and I think we are all flu free and back to normal.  My house has never been so Clorox'd in the 11 years we have lived here!  But, if it had to happen, this was the time for it to happen.  We were all home and on vacation, so it was OK.  And, we were with the many other people enjoying their Christmas puking! 
 
Finally, here is my Currently for this month.   
 
 
 
 
Happy New Year to everyone who still may be reading my blog.  I have good intentions to blog more this year, if for no other reason that to put my own thoughts down and out of my head!  Enjoy the last of vacation!