Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I know you are a vice principal now, and I can't think of anyone better for that job. In some ways, I imagine that vice principal is a harder job than principal. It is a fine line to be able to support a principal and still be accountability and a voice of reason when necessary. I know you will be so good.
I know you less than everyone else I've thanked, but that is why the help you gave me meant so much. You had nothing to gain by helping me. You weren't afraid to tell the principal her evaluation of me was wrong. I know that was a risk for you.
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
When I first met the three of you, it was hard for me to resist the urge to call you Mrs. and Mr. instead of using your first names. You all seemed like real teachers, and I had been a student for sixteen years. You are all old enough to be my parents and it would have been really easy for you to just roll your eyes when a twenty-two year old novice teacher joined your team. I expected you to feel that way, and I wouldn't have blamed you.
You never had the attitudes I anticipated. You all treated me like an important member of the team, and you believed in me from day one. You have been and always will be that voice in my head that told me I am making a difference and should keep trying.
I remember on the day when the principal told me she was making me move to third grade and I was so sad watching all three of you fight back tears. I know, Mrs. Bear that you were crying in your room later because you didn't want to make things any worse for me. You guys moved all my stuff and kept being great teammates to me even when I wasn't your teammate anymore.
I like the team that I am on now and they've been great to me as well. My new team thinks that when I came to your team two years ago that you were so lucky to get me out of all the new hires, but I know that your faith in me is what made me learn so much. I also know that I owe you three a bigger thank you than I'll ever owe them because you had me when I was learning and struggling. I always hoped that I would be a good investment for our team because I would continue to grow and learn; as you know, it didn't work out that way. I'll continue to have new teammates and do different things throughout my career, but you three will always be a part of that because I try to be a little like all of you in my teaching.
Monday, September 28, 2009
At Meet the Teacher, when I first met you, I was at a crossroads as a teacher. I wasn't teaching a gradelevel I wanted to teach. I wasn't feeling confident in my abilities as a teacher. I was passively planning to do my job because I couldn't think of a better option.
I remember when you walked in that hot, August night. You looked so little to me! I remember I was talking veraciously to you, and you were looking at me with your curious eyes. The words I was saying were nonsense to you, and you were so scared to enter a world where nothing made sense. It was your first year in the country and I knew you would remember it forever.
I went home that night and I cried. How could I be there for your first year in this new world and fail to give you and our classroom my whole heart? I knew I couldn't do that. Thank you for helping me change my mind.
You came to school not even knowing your name in English. You wore a brave smile every day. You helped me remember why I want to do this.
Now you are speaking short sentences and reading little books. You smile and wave and greet me with my name every morning. Your Uncle is always thanking me for my patience with you. I know, though, that no matter how much you learn this year you taught me more.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
If things are hard and you feel really frustrated with your situation or your class, don't beat yourself up about it. Sometimes things are hard and it's natural to feel frustrated. The trick is to never give up. You're probably not a saint or a god and you will make mistakes and you might not wake up every morning and think, "I can't wait to see the dear children." It doesn't mean your a bad person. Really, I was beginning to wonder if I even liked working with kids, but after getting out of the stressful situation I realize that the kids were not really what was stressing me out.
Stay around positive people. The thing that really kept me from quitting was the people who looked for the positive in education and in others. It is tempting to find complainers and go on and on about your woes, but it certainly doesn't cure them. Sometimes, last year, I just had to listen to people who had nice things to say because I really didn't feel that way myself. I am glad I put their words in my head because they made me question my beliefs that maybe all this isn't for me.
Put negative words behind you. I am not saying that you should ignore all criticism. I do believe that all criticism has some truth and we can and should learn from it. Sometimes, though, people say really hurtful things. Unfortunately, the world of education is often a very mean spirited place. It is political and there are people who will step on who they need to in order to climb the ladder. Sometimes, you have to learn from people like that how you can improve and then forget that you ever knew them. I am still working on this one myself. Even if I just learn from the person who really hurt my teaching spirit that someday twenty years down the road if I should happen to be overseeing people who are learning this profession that I should invest a little kindness, it will be a good lesson.
Well, I am about done writing for tonight, but I do have one more celebration. This blog has really been a chronicle of my teaching journey as a young and inexperienced teacher. I started it as an outlet when I was having a hard time. If you read all my posts about administration they are not positive because I did not have a positive relationship with my former administrator. Unfortunately, administration was my most frequent post topic. I also had a huge category of posts labeled discouragement because that is where I was at. Yesterday, I had more idea posts than administration posts for the first time and tonight is my first encouragement post. That shows something about where I've come from and where I'm at now. If you're not feeling joyful yet, don't quit. Journeys aren't worth much if you quit. I think I always knew that my journey hadn't ended yet--even when I really wanted to quit. I am glad that I am still on this crazy journey. I hope this really is encouraging!
Saturday, September 26, 2009
- The class will answer, "yes" in response to my saying "class." This idea has been good. I still miss my little bell because I didn't have to say anything, but I like changing up the way I say yes. My class likes this too.
- I will train my class to be chorally responsive and answer things in unison. I absolutely love this. It makes all the kids engaged. It puts vocabulary in their heads and mouths whether they like it or not. My kids have actually taken it upon themselves to answer with motions too. It has also taught them manners. Frequently, they all say something like, "Round to the nearest hundred, Ms. Understood." How polite, to answer adults with their name! This is a dialogue I always expected kids to have in their heads but by making it an expectation that they answer out loud it is a great form of assessment.
- The classroom rules will be short sweet and repeated with motions regularly. I like this a lot too. Lots of times if a kid gets out of their seat, I just say, "Class, what is rule number three?" They enthusiastically respond, "Raise your hand, before you leave your seat."
- I will have the kids do motions with learning. This has been a huge success as well. On Thursday, Mrs. Bear brings her fifth graders in to do a buddy activity. She was addressing my third graders and her fifth graders about the parts of speech. I was kind of watching in the back. She asked my third graders about each part of speech (nouns, adjectives, verbs, conjunctions and adverbs). My third graders answered her in unison with motions and then individuals elaborated. This strategy has really hit some learning modalities that are hard for me to hit otherwise. I am so not a kinesthetic learner, but a lot of my kids are and this is helping them.
- I say, "teach" and the kids respond "okay" and teach each other as a review. I haven't used this part of power teaching much. Honestly, the noise level bothers me personally. I think now, though, that my kids are so used to using motions and answering chorally that I am ready to use this more.
Power teaching has improved my whole group teaching dramatically. I think it has to supplemented with small groups, practice work, and text book instruction; but it is an excellent addition to my classroom.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I can't wait for the movie, but the trailer makes me cry.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Anyway, I am going to try to go visit him. As much as I was stressed out last year, I've always cared about this kid. I'd like to help if I can. I even feel guilty for the fact that my self-esteem is a little bit repaired by the trial of him and his new teachers, but at least it is hard evidence that I was not just a bad teacher.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Here is how the game works:
One student goes out in the hallway, while I and my class set up a task for them. We did things like writing on a whiteboard, pretending to read a book, and pressing play on a cd player. The student from the hall comes back in the room and the whole class hums. They hum louder as the student gets closer to accomplishing the task. They hum more quietly if the student gets farther from the task at hand.
It was so much fun--even for me. It was also a great team builder because it is really an example of the whole class thinking with one mind. I highly recommend this game.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Hit the snooze
Hit the snooze again
Hit the snooze three more times
Rolled out of bed
Brushed my teeth
Brushed my hair
Brushed on my makeup
Drove to work
Filled up my coffee cup
Ran some copies
Wrote up my schedule
Ran some more copies
Filled up my coffee cup again
Ran out of time
Ran out to pick up my class
Heated Up My Easy Mac
Trained a Parent Volunteer
Brought the Class Back Outside
Showed Up At the Staff Meeting
Listened to Some Stuff
Looked at the Clock
Looked at the Clock Again
Listened to Some More Stuff
Checked the Clock about Eight More Times
Left the Meeting
Mrs. Dear told me that Mrs. Bear found out today that her husband has a tumor today.
Sent Mrs. Bear a Text Message
Checked My E-mail
Looked Through Some Papers
Packed up my stuff
Waited in Traffic
Heated up my dinner
Wondered how much gets lost in busy days.
Prayed and Slept Soundly (okay this is still to be done...)
Monday, September 21, 2009
Yes, I need a good, quiet therapist who listens to me without trying to change the direction of my rant. That is why sometimes this blog is perfect! See, if this blog were really a therapist it would tell me I am using humor to deflect serious issues that need to be addressed. Wouldn't that be annoying?
Anyway, here is my issue: whenever, I struggle with any lesson for any amount of time I feel so insecure about it. I used to be able to struggle with something, evaluate the situation, and change my course of action from it. Now, I struggle, beat myself up about it, and worry that it will happen again and be worse.
Objectively, my year couldn't be going more smoothly. My class is really good. The day usually goes by quickly. I see evidence that my kids are learning a lot. Yet, all it takes is one bump in the day to bring up my insecurities. Ironically, if anything is crippling me as a teacher it is my preoccupation with what might be crippling me.
I don't know what it is going to take for me to feel secure. Would I feel better at a different school, farther removed from the ghosts of last year? Would I feel better if I went back to teaching fifth grade where I've always thought I belonged?
I know that it is something in me that has to change and I'm not sure any outer change will help. I don't work for the person that was making me miserable anymore. I actually like my job again, but I want to be as confident as I was before all this.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
- Right now, my class is 70% female. This may change because I am currently the smallest class and will get any new students that come, but right now my class is 70% female.
- My class does not have a lot of extremely high or extremely low achieving students. Almost all of my students fall into the partially proficient range according to last year's testing. I don't have anyone qualifying for IEPs or Gifted Services. I do, of course, have one language learner qualifying for an ILLP, but since there is no language pull out program she is still with me all day.
- I have a lot of visual and a lot of social learners.
I kind of knew all of this, but it was interesting to analyze and look at the data on it. Although, I did take a lot of Sudafed before attempting to do this...
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I am also reading The Aeneid right now which is all about great leadership. Alexander the Great actually carried a copy of it everywhere he went! So, below are some random thoughts and quotes on leadership.
"Such were his words and his face was a mask of hope
That hid the terrible boding in his heart." --Vergil The Aeneid
This one made me think about what a hard time I had being a good leader last year when I was struggling with the principal. Sometimes your job as a leader is to protect those you lead from the things troubling your own heart in whatever capacity. This is easier said than done, though. Trust me.
"To teach her I had to follow
And when she learned I had to let go." --Wyatt Prunty
I love this quote because teaching and leading are so much about knowing when to let go. It is very hard to first show someone the way and then get out of their way. I imagine that this is something like what parents must feel as their children grow up.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Two weeks ago, I left my meeting feeling extremely guilty for allowing things to run the way they did. I learned from my mistake, though, and this week I did what I needed to.
Am I afraid that my teammates will turn on me if I show my true feelings about the way they treat other teachers? Yes. They hated the girl I replaced and I am not vain enough to think that they wouldn't hate me too. Yet, I know what I always know: I'll sleep better at night if I do what is right even if there are consequences for me.
AND maybe there won't be consequences for me. I have a positive relationship with my teammates and hopefully I can maintain that without compromising my own ethics. I really like all of them and they have been very kind to me, but I won't be a part of bullying other teachers. I just won't do it.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The Psalms say that the righteous among us are like the first gleam of dawn. How true!
Those who respect their superiors.
Those who protect their charges.
Those who care about other humans.
If those people don't remind you of a shining new day, I don't know who would.
How does this relate to education? I was just thinking about the many relationships we, teachers, incur. I was just thinking about how amazing the teacher who was truly righteous would be in those situations.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I admire people who do the right thing when the cost is personal. I admire the unselfish. I admire the people who risk what they value for others. I admire people who play the fool if that's what kindness demands.
I especially admire people who do these things in situations where I couldn't.
So, thank you, to the person who did the right thing today with no hesitation. You make me want to be more than what I was this last week.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Anyway, Career Ladder is a project you have to do if you want to make a little more money... I mean be a better teacher (or so they tell you). Part of the project involves writing a very long paper. It takes a lot of time (even for me and I am a very fast writer). I, like most teachers in this state, have accepted the fact that you have to do Career Ladder and put in these hours to make the money. The Career Ladder project has always been built upon the understanding that teachers will do x amount of work to make x amount of money. Of course, Career Ladder preaches that Career Ladder is just incentive for good teachers to do what they already do, but let's be honest: most good teachers do not voluntarily write a 20+ page paper in an extremely strict format.
This year, the contract has changed. Career Ladder has just informed us that we will still need to do x amount of work, but they will not be paying us x amount of money. How much have they reduced our "incentive"? They can't tell us. Not even a ballpark figure...
So, they're asking us to complete these insidious projects on the good faith that we'll be justly rewarded one way or the other. We do all of this work and they'll let us know how much we'll be paid at some point. It makes me mad because I wouldn't quit and be out 2,000 dollars; but if I'm already out 1500 dollars, is it worth all this work to make 500$ more over the course of they year?
Neat trick, huh?
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
35 X 6 =
10 x 6 = 60
10 x 6 = 60
10 x 6 = 60
5 x 6 = 30
60 + 60 + 60 = 180
180 + 30 = 210
35 X 6 = 210
As you can see, a child who understands this has a thorough grasp on the concept of multiplication. As time goes on, kids are supposed to derrive a strategy based on the distributive property. Below is an example:
44 x 28 =
(40 + 4) (20 + 8) =
40 x 20 = 800 40 x 8 = 320
4 x 20 = 80 4 x 8 = 32
800 + 320 = 1120
32 + 80 = 112
1120 + 112 = 1232
We are supposed to avoid the evil algorythm (ie anything that involves carrying numbers) because kids don't know what it is. I'm sure they can't explain why the algorythms work. I would have to think really hard to explain that! Yet, they are efficient. This invented Math can be extremely cumbersome at times.
When I taught fifth grade, I thought it was because the fifth grade curriculum called for big numbers. It's still cumbersome in third grade.
I like investigations as a supplementary tool, but skill and drill is also important at this stage of learning.
Monday, September 7, 2009
I still don't know what I am going to do with some number of students and their grandparents and some number of students without their grandparents. If anyone is reading this and has a great idea, please leave it in comments.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I am supposed to teach subject/predicate in third grade over the next two weeks. The great thing for me is that this year I get to work with empty slates. The fifth graders and Middle Schoolers I have worked with in the past had already had many unsuccessful encounters with this material. The kids I am teaching now don't think that it is hard and confusing yet.
So, I have developed a smartboard lesson, several activities, a buddy project, and am using a video to teach this over the next two weeks. I am going to start out with very very simple sentences. I am going to have the kids diagramming from day one and I am going to make sure each and every kid masters identifying simple, complete, and compound subjects and predicates.
I think I am the only third grade teacher devoting so much time and energy to this standard, but I know that learning this thoroughly now will make the next five years so much easier.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
The title of my blog, however, isn't meant to be taken literally. The title of my blog refers to the fact that I don't feel angry anymore about the situation I wrote about yesterday. Sometimes I write on this blog precisely because I am feeling upset and later on I feel better about things.
Today is the first day of a three day weekend. My job is not stressful this year the way that it was last year, and I have no reason to get worked up over past events that I cannot change.
So, here is a list of things related to teaching that represent the sunshine. As the Beatles would say, "Here comes the sun":
1.) Teaching someone to read is a very satisfying thing to do. My ELL student read her first book on Friday and it was so exciting! Kudos to those teachers who teach a whole class to read every year!
2.) I actually like teaching again. I e-mailed my buddy teacher lesson plans and she wanted to know what I was doing working on the first Saturday of a holiday weekend. The truth is, I was doing it because I wanted to. I wasn't behind. I wasn't feeling pressure. I was excited about teaching.
3.) My life has a lot more balance this year. I've been seeing so much more of my friends and family. I've been reading books I want to read. I've been attending church every week.
4.) My family is doing so much better! My grandad is in remission. My brother and his wife are in the process of buying their own home.
5.) My self-confidence as it relates to teaching is beginning to return. I am still struggling with that, but it is getting better.
The forecast for this year is Sunny!
Friday, September 4, 2009
That being said, when the school gets basically turned upside down by a last minute decision to switch two teachers who didn't ask for it; when I, who have a reputation for being stoic, lose it and cry in front of everyone for the entire last day; people get curious, people start asking questions. People have been talking about what went down. I haven't gone searching for any answers because I just want to move on, yet answers keep finding me. Truth has a way of revealing itself.
Today, I went to Happy Hour with the other third grade teachers and a few others. They all started talking about how happy they were about the big switch. It's nice: They like having me and I like them too. Then, they started talking about the day when they found out about the switch.
APPARENTLY, the former principal walked into their pod and told them, "This is my final gift to you." Nice. So professional.
She first tells me, "I have no choice. I need to do what's best for kids, and your test scores... I'm just not sure how successful you would be... Have a lovely summer and if you want you can even switch your room when you get back to school. Isn't it great news I pushed this through now and you're not finding out in July?" She watched me cry and get so upset. I believe the only thing I said was the word "no" in response to her question if I was okay. Honestly, how the Hell is her reaction to that going to the third grade teachers and telling them this is a gift for them?
She immediately turns around walks across the school and tells that team, "This is my gift to you."
It is a really good thing she is at a different school because if I ever had to hear her bragging about how compassionate she is or her big heart again, I think I would throw whatever was in my hand at her.
I might not have done well in all of my interactions with her, but I had more heart than that.
I know there is no use being irritated with this. I have to let it go, but it sucks. She lied to me so much in ways that really hurt my confidence.
She came through my school the other day and left a note on my board. I have no earthly idea why, because we didn't exactly part on good terms. The note said "Principal X misses Miss Understood and Third Graders." Another lie; no doubt. The only note I want to see from her begins and ends with "I'm Sorry."
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Wednesdays at my school are team time and we have team meetings. One of the items on our agenda was student concerns. Somehow it became venting time for my teammates to vent their frustrations with the resource teacher. I've never had this resource teacher because 4th and 5th grade were a separate program and this year I don't have any students qualifying for resource. Maybe the concerns are completely valid. I also think it is okay to discuss these concerns with gradelevel teammates. The problem is that they published these concerns in the meeting minutes, highlighted the paragraphs, and asked the principal to address these concerns. I just think it is a terrible thing to do, to go over a colleagues head with concerns you haven't addressed to that person.
I tried to get them to soften what they wrote, but I didn't just say what I felt. It didn't even occur to me to do that, and I truly regret not doing that.
Last year, when someone was talking behind my back to the principal (to this day I do not know to a certainty who) I needed a hero to be there and say, "Bring this up to her. It's the right thing to do." I know that my year last year would have been better and I wouldn't be having the internal struggle I am having now if anyone had done that. It's not that there was no one who helped me because there were many people, but whoever was a part of those complaints and gossip didn't and there were big consequences. Consequences I am still struggling with.
So, what do I do now? I can't unsend an e-mail already sent. I can't undo whatever consequences come of this. Do I tell my teammates what I should have told them in the first place? Do I encourage them to address the teacher themselves? I am going to have to do something because I won't be able to sleep at night knowing that I am responsible for doing that to another teacher.
In this profession, we're in it together. We have to stop the gossip. We have to stop looking for scape goats and people to vent on. We have to support each other. We have to talk to people's faces and not behind their backs. I really believe in teachers even the ones who are struggling. There is enough out there to break your heart in teaching and we shouldn't do it to each other.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Testing which affects funding only tests Reading, Writing and Math. You can probably fill in the blanks about why we were told to back off on teaching the required amount of Social Studies.
In spite of all this and in spite of the fact that my new teammates don't teach Social Studies, I still feel the conviction to teach enough Social Studies. Call me crazy, but I think it is just as important that students understand basic Civics and History and Geography as it is that they know Reading, Writing, and Math.
Here's my confession, though. We're a month into the school year and today was the first time I taught Social Studies this year. I told the kids we would be doing a Social Studies lesson. One little girl said in an awed voice, "We get to do Social Studies?!" How sad is that? We really shouldn't take away that subject from our students. What if I'm teaching a future politician? What if I'm teaching a geologist or a conservationist or a writer for National Geographic?
Personally, I just love Social Studies. I am such a nerd I spend hours on the National Geographic webpage every week. I need to be better about teaching it--no matter what I've been told in the past.