Monday, November 30, 2009
Believing in God, as I do, though. I always believe God sends the kids into my classroom and my life for a reason. Tempted as I am to roll my eyes over all the extra work; I am happy to have another one if and when they are sent to me.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
All this to say that travel has made me a much better teacher of Social Studies. It would be even better if I could bring my students with me, but my instruction is much more authentic having been there myself. Don't you think they should pay for all teachers to travel Europe?
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I am going to take down my little fall leaves that are up in my classroom and replace them with "Winter" decorations. Can I be honest for a minute: I really just want to have a Christmas tree at school! I don't think (yes I could be wrong) that I have any kids who don't celebrate Christmas this year. I really don't get why it is such a dirty word anyways.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
My state is currently the second lowest in education funds of the fifty states. We do what we can in the schools, but we also have one of the worst education records in this state. This year, the state just hasn't passed a budget at all. We've already faced rifs, class size increases, the loss of soft capital, and the loss of aids. I like to think that our state is doing what they can in hard financial times, but when I saw this video on the news yesterday, I just shook my head.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
1.)Amanda Who understands everything I teach (whether I teach it well or not) and didn't know it before she came to me
2.) Aaron who is so cute when he smiles and can laugh at himself when he does something ridiculous, which he does almost every day
3.) Casey who loves Math and makes it more fun to teach
4.) Ray who is in her own world, but learns things slowly and gives me big reason to celebrate every time she does
5.) Rylee who has been through so much but tries hard and never seems to be frustrated
6.) Alex who is a role model to his classmates and is still popular
7.) Alissa who never complains and loves everyone
8.) Becca who gives me hugs every day and smiles every few minutes
9.) Dominiqa who turns in beautiful assignments and tries hard even though she could pass without it
10.) Jackson who will always struggle to learn, but has a heart of gold to make up for it!
11.) Macy who tells other teachers she has the "smart teacher" (I think my reputation could use a little p.r.)
12.) Sonya who keeps working on her assignments even if she is last to finish
13.) Cassandra who tries the tears (knowing that they won't work), but gives them up and laughs about it just as easily
14.) David who gave his whole heart in the third grade musical, but made me laugh so hard I was crying (even though I had strep throat)
15.) Max who has a beautiful imagination
16.) Lexi who draws pictures of me with big eyelashes and pretty clothes on all of her spelling tests
17.) Victoria who makes beautiful progress lines in all of my progress charts because she is so eager to learn
18.) Bella who loves to help
19.) Ying who can't speak English, but brightens the whole room with her courage
20.) Bailey who thinks in her own way, and makes me have thoughts I didn't have anyway
21.) Xander who can't sit still, but solves three digit math problems in his head and gets 100% on every spelling test
Thanks you guys for making this a great year so far!!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I never thought that I would be the type to keep an anonymous blog, but I never thought I would be embroiled in politics and so obsessed with work that I would need a private pedestal to say what I really think. I think most of us who go into education just want to help people, and that is what I wanted. Now, though, a year and a half into it, I think it is time for me to ask some hard questions. Am I really helping anyone? Is that still why I'm doing it? So, I've decided to embrace my second love outside of teaching: writing. This blog will chronicle my journey into a second year of teaching and my true answer to the hard questions.
I started this blog because I needed to work out some difficult issues without fear of giving the wrong answer. Now, two and a half years into my career as a teacher I am in a very different place, but this blog has helped me sort out difficult questions.
Personally, this blog has been a journal that honestly chronicled my thoughts and feelings about my job. Oddly enough, we spend more hours at work than anywhere else, but we don't have a lot of time to honestly reflect on how issues at our jobs affect us. Writing honestly about my struggles (and this year has been filled with a lot of them) helped me deal with issues that I don't know how I would have dealt with otherwise. Reading other blogs also helped me gain a greater perspective about the field of education as a whole. I have only worked for one school, one district, and until this year one principal. I had a hard time gauging if I was having one bad experience with one principal or if this was the norm. I think I have found that the answer was that not every situation was a bad one but part of education is sticking with your job even when it is a bad situation and takes its toll on you. Reading other blogs helped me think about my own situation far more reasonably. It has also been great to have encouraging comments and to know that readers have followed my journey with me. Thank you to everyone who reads this blog. I hadn't thought that much about people reading this when I first started writing, but that has been such an encouragement to me.
Now, in my second year of blogging, as I think more about people reading my blog, I want to say what I hope readers will get out of it.
I hope that if you read this blog and you are new to teaching, like myself, that you can be encouraged. There have been times that I was really discouraged as a teacher; there were days I had to just try to keep my head held high and make it through. It is hard to start out teaching and all the pressures don't make it any easier. A lot of people in education don't like to talk about their failures and struggles; I hope if you read about mine, it will give you courage to face your own struggles.
I hope if you read this blog and are a more experienced educator it will inspire you to support your colleagues who are new to teaching. In my teaching career, there have been people who I will always remember for helping me learn, grow, and just for encouraging me; unfortunately, there have also been people who were very discouraging and made it much harder.
I hope if you read this blog and you are not an educator it makes you think about the human side of teaching. Teaching is a career that asks you to put your heart out there. In a world where legislation demands that teachers take responsiblity for every student failure, it takes a toll on our hearts. I never understood how hard it would be to struggle with issues like child abuse, poverty, and illness until I started teaching. It is a hard calling to keep caring even when it hurts to care.
BFFs team has been great while I have been so sick. They covered for me when my sub was there. I also got a hilarious e-mail with a picture of me drinking emergen-c on Thursday night before the musical with accusations I was home with a hangover and was actually watching New Moon on Friday. I was actually supposed to go see it after school on Friday, but was home with strep instead.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
It has to be said that my students this year are great little dancers. When I taught fifth grade, the attitude factor was so high that it took away from the quality of the musical. The third graders try hard though. Don't get me wrong, I already think my head will explode if I hear the songs one more time (unfortunately, I will hear the songs three more times tomorrow during the two dress rehearsals and the final performance, so this is not good).
I really do like the musicals though. Kids are funny and cute when they are trying to sing and do hand motions.
P.S. The kids are not singing praise songs to Obama. It had to be said. There are still normal school musicals out there.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I put an activity on my smartboard with frogs jumping along the number line. The kids were doing the subtraction and moving the frog along the line to jump on lily pads. "Kiss it; maybe it will turn into a prince" the kids cheered to me as I moved the frog along. Maybe I should have listened!
Our school had a lockdown drill today. You have to lock the door to your classroom, close the curtains, and stay on the other side of the room until it is over. The drill took place while my kids were at art. "I may just be on lock down all day," I e-mailed the other teachers.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The truth is that I might have thought about downplaying my score or recognized her feelings a year ago, but now I empathize. For once in my life, I had to learn what it is like to try your very best at something and still fail miserably. Don't get me wrong; I fail miserably in my personal life ALL THE TIME, but until last year, I had never ever failed in any academic or career venture. That carries it's own unique brand of suffering and it made me a better person and teacher to experience that.
It's paradoxical, but as teachers sometimes our greatest successes and strengths are our handicaps. Our weaknesses and failures are often the keys to reaching students.
When I started teaching, I didn't get it. I had a very difficult time helping students with learning difficulties because I had no first hand experience with frustration in learning. Of course, my learning abilities drove me to want to be a teacher, but they made it hard for me to teach. Mrs. Bear helped me to understand students who learn slowly and differently. Her learning disability gave her insight I never would have had.
My failure last year made me feel what students feel when they can't learn something even though they try hard. I had never felt that before. Tonight was the first time I realized what a profound effect that had on me.
There are a lot of reasons I wish last year never happened. It will probably take me years (if I ever get it) to restore my confidence in myself as a teacher. Tonight made me realize, though, that in the long run, I might be better for going through all of this. I was forced to make some changes I needed to make.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
In other news, we caught a rat. Literally. It was on the roof.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Our professor assures us that this midterm will be hard and we won't do that well. Everyone else is all stressed out and studying. I feel like it would be a bigger gamble to waste my day studying when it might not be hard. I figure that I could study hard for the final if necessary to make up for a bad grade, but I could never get my wasted day of studying back.
As an undergraduate, I was so studious. I always thought that my personality was kind of an overachiever. I don't think that is true, though. My personality is more like a workaholic. Ergo, because my job fulfills that part of my persona, I am no longer motivated to put extra work into graduate school.
What did I do with my free day? NOTHING.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I got into a situation with one of the kids on the primary playground about two weeks ago.
One of the rules for the primary playground is that the kids can't go up on the hill at the far end of the field. I spend every Thursday morning telling kids to get off that hill--it's awesome.
One kindergartner was on the hill and I motioned for him to get down. He looked right at me and walked on up the hill. I went over to him and told him with my authoritative voice to "come down immediately." He looked at me and walked away. I said, "hey come here, now." Then he starts running away from me. By then, my blood was boiling and I was trying to catch up with him just so I could get his name and give him a behavior write-up. Then, the bell rings, and he goes running up to HIS MOM.
"Is this your son?" I asked her.
"Yes," she answered, "I was watching to see if he would respond to you." I really don't know how to answer a parent being this ridiculous.
"I told him to come down from the hill, and he ran away from me."
"He doesn't know what he is doing?" she informed me. "He has autism."
"Well, this sort of behavior is an automatic write up," I said, "I am not familiar with his IEP, but I will pass this information on to his teacher and she can decide how to handle it."
While I was talking to his teacher, the mom is standing there with her arms crossed because clearly I am ignorant of what it means to be autistic. Long story short: the kid did not get written up.
I saw mother and son out there breaking the playground rules again today. It just makes my blood boil. I am no expert in autism, but I know when a kid looks at me and decides to the exact opposite of what I say.
There is no way I am taking this kid and his mom when he is in the intermediate grades. I will require him to follow directions whether it is difficult or not.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The fifth grade team of teachers I worked with for two years was the most experienced team at my school. I loved working with them because I learned so much and all of them were so mature that we didn't have a lot of unnecessary drama. As much as we all got along, we didn't get together that frequently outside of school. They were all in a different phase of life than me.
I have decided to call my new team BFFs--not because I like them better than my old team but because we hang out together a lot more outside of work. We go to Happy Hour or someone's house. We all have facebook and we text each other. We all like nice clothes and makeup and cute hairstyles. One of my teammates is newly single. She is trying to get me to go on a date with this friend of hers. He's a pro-golfer and she thinks we would be perfect for each other.
We have a lot in common on BFFs Team, but one thing that they don't understand yet is my identity as a Christian. I have said before that I live a rather monastic existence. I live that way because my worldview is securely theistic. They know I go to church and they know I believe in God. I'm not just a church on sunday occasionaly praying Christian, though. Everything I do is informed and motivated by my belief in and relationship with an active God.
I think it is easy not to really notice that I drink but don't get drunk. I think it is easy to attribute my insistence on treating people well to a personality trait (it's not true but it's plausible). It is easy to think my heart for others is part of my identity as a teacher. One thing they will notice are my radically different sexual ethics. I think you know what I mean without me saying it... I don't even know how to approach that either. I can go on a date with this guy, but I know it's not going anywhere because my worldview will clash with his idea of dating. As I get older, I understand so much more why I need to date someone with the same worldview.
The last part I hesitate even to bring up, but it is a hard line to walk when your good friends don't believe what you do. Of course, I worry about their salvation. Of course, I pray that all my friends who don't know God would know him (eternally and presently). Yet, it's not something we can really talk about. This culture says let everyone believe as they do and do not assume you know better. If salvation is faith based, how could I do that?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I have long believed that if there was any man in this world that I am most prone to fall in love with it would be a soldier. Courage is the virtue I admire most in anyone. I was raised by a Southern family. I was raised to admire soldiers and that has never worn off of me. I am only recently coming to see the sacrifice demanded. This is an honest post about Veterans I have known and do know. Thank you to those soldiers and families who make sacrifices.
I met Ty when he was 13 and I was 14. He was a weird kid. The first thing he said to me was, “Look.” He held out his hand, as he said, that and his hand was covered with hundreds of pins woven through the outer layers of skin. I have to admit that there was something I really liked about him even then because he had the guts to be totally bizarre. Everyone at school hated him because he was this weird scrawny guy. I remember being surprised when he actually graduated from high school when I was a freshman in college. Ty was my good friend, though, in spite of our different circles at school.
After high school, Ty enlisted. He was still a scrawny kid. Between my going away to college and his overseas service (in Iraq), I didn’t see Ty for a year. The odd thing was that Ty became a celebrated soldier. When I saw him next, he was 19 and I was 20. He was so different. He wasn’t that oddball, scrawny kid anymore. He was a confident man. He made me seem like a little girl—I am sure I was compared to him at that point.
About a year later, Ty was in Iraq again and something happened. He watched his best friend die. He suddenly wanted out. He was calling his mom in tears and I distinctly remember my mom calling to tell me how worried his mom was.
Ty did get out since then. Actually, he got married. He’s been broken though, and every time I see him that is my first thought. Something in him was a casualty of this war, though he did not give his life. Where did that weird kid go to?
I was in a military family when I was young. My mom has told me many times that the military years were the best years of her marriage. I remember more than she thinks, though, of Operation Desert Storm. I know that my Dad witnessed more than he could handle over there. I know he couldn’t sleep anymore. I was in kindergarten, but I remember the impact on him. I wonder if the sad path he went down was impacted by what he saw.
My friend Jon grew up at my house much like a third brother. He struggled with his family and I guess our family was easier for him to be with. My mom helped him because he needed it. He actually married one of my friends from high school. He tried to be a family man with a normal job for his wife and two young daughters, he always wanted to be a soldier though.
He was in and out of college and every job under the sun. He couldn’t get it together. He joined the military about a year ago and has excelled. His wife told me her marriage is happier now and he is happier. He’s still in training because he is joining a very specialized force.
Things look so good for him, but he will be sent out after he finishes all this training. I wonder what will happen to him. I pray for him a lot.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on foreign policy or even psychology. I just know that a lot of idealistic boys leave war jaded, broken men. We should not forget them in our prayers and thoughts.
Monday, November 9, 2009
I don't know what I was so worried about. My meeting with the principal was short. We talked about the lesson he observed and that was it. He was actually pretty helpful. He did not talk about his personal feelings at all. He did not give me a list of things to improve about myself personally or as a teacher.
I think it is time for me to start letting go of all my worry that is related to my job. I had a bad experience, but it doesn't mean all of my experiences are going to be that way.
In other news, no more roof rat sightings. Although, I was working from 6:30am until 7:00pm. My roommate would have called me if she saw anything, though. She, like myself, is deeply disturbed by our cable climbing friend...
Sunday, November 8, 2009
The old principal gave me this label that I am not a good teacher and even though I don't believe that on one level, I find myself searching for evidence that it is true. If anything this year has brought those insecurities to the surface it is this observation.
Most of the time, I am just relaxed and focused on teaching. Yet, during my observation my mind was going a mile a minute and I was much more worried about what the principal might be observing than about teaching. Then, I get scared to teach normally because I worry that if I handle things to firmly I'll be accused of being too strict again or that if I let things go I'll be accused of being too permissive again.
I have this idea that he is going to be all over me--like the old principal was--and that it is going to make me feel really terrible. Maybe I am just being insecure, but how can I not be? If I spend so much time looking for the label Principal Sadie gave me to be true, how can he not?
I have no reason to think he is dissatisfied with my performance other than the fact that I feel my observation did not go well, but what can I do?
On a completely unrelated side note, I am extremely disturbed because I just saw the first roof rat I have ever seen. I have known for years that this city has roof rats and I heard they were in the neighborhood, but I just spied one climbing the cable cord looped to our balcony. It really makes me want to cry. I have never seen a rat in an establishment where I lived. Thank God it was outside, but what if, what if it gets inside?!!! If I tell my roommate what I saw she will want to move, but maybe we need rat traps on her balcony. Noooooo!
Saturday, November 7, 2009
I have always felt that I am not very good at teaching Social Studies, and in a post-NCLB educational world there is NO pressure to put any emphasis on that (if you are interested in what I mean by that, read this). This summer, in my curriculum planning course, I chose to plan out a Social Studies unit. The main standard in the murky Social Studies curriculum for third grade in my district is the Ancient cultures of Greek and Rome. So, I planned a detailed unit on those cultures. I have been enjoying teaching Social Studies more than I ever have, but I didn't realize what an impact this was having on my students. At parent teacher conferences, all of the parents kept telling me how excited their kids are about Ancient Greece (we haven't started the Rome portion of my unit yet). Apparently, the kids are always exploring Greece on my website at home, and are going home and telling their families all about Ancient Greece.
Anyway, this is just another shameless post to plug Social Studies instruction. It is not a waste of our time! I don't know if other schools are as eager to forget about Social Studies as mine is, but kids love it and it is part of a thorough education. The rest of this post will be directed at anyone who teaches on Ancient Greece. Feel free to steel my stuff. I stole a lot of it off of the internet too!!
Here are some links I use in class and keep on my web page.
You can see a picture of the Greek drama masks my students made at the top of this post. Below is the link where I got this idea from.
I've also incorporated some simple elements. I checked out my schools entire section on Ancient Greece and set up a special topic based reading station. I picked out a few fun videos on discovery video streaming.
Here's the best part: I am not losing my instructional minutes toward Reading. Every lesson begins with guided reading from the textbook. My kids love doing it because they love learning about Ancient Greece.
Friday, November 6, 2009
- I didn't think I'd be having to save my money and worrying if I spent too much money on a cup of coffee or something.
- I didn't think I'd still be worrying about going on first dates.
- I didn't think I would still be eating tons of Easy-Mac and Soda and Candy and the other things that concern me.
- I didn't think I'd still be up all hours of the night writing papers and reading textbooks.
Maybe I have unrealistic expectations. My life is a lot of fun, and I have it pretty good. I don't know; I just always thought being "grown up" would feel different.
P.S. Don't judge me for my music link. This song came out when I was in high school and got me through my first heart break...
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Even my journal, in second grade was overflowing. Not unlike my computer files from college, the countless notebooks I keep at home, and the blog I write in devotedly at twenty-four.
Because I love Writing so much, teaching it is kind of a double-edged sword. I love designing creative Writing opportunities that give students the opportunities to express the nuances of thought and language. Really good ones, at the right level, can hit everyone.
I've learned something, though, in my two and a half years of teaching. Not everyone is born with a love or an ability to write passionately and abundantly. Most kids need very structured scaffolded writing. They need me to give them those formulas and wait for them to expand them.
It's not that I mind teaching that way; there is something extremely rewarding in good teaching too. Good teaching is reaching all the students. My students are all becoming better Writers, but I want them to love Writing and to have it not be labored. I want them to feel about my old friend, Writing, the way that I do. They don't.
I should probably admit in closing this post that it is not Writing's fault I have a headache. It is not Writing's fault the children took over THREE HOURS to complete the test today. It is not Writing's fault I have been at my school over forty hours this week before Thursday started. It is not Writing's fault I am still exhausted.
Writing, I still love you!!!!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
My conferences and school day actually went really well, but seriously that is too many hours in a row in that school building. I was starting to feel like I was in my own personal prison when I was waiting between conferences. Too many hours. AND I still have to teach two more full school days.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I left my house early. I had a parent conference before school and needed to hurry!!!
The stupid new camera installed on my freeway stop flashed at me on the way to work. I think I got a ticket.
My morning conference didn't show up. I rushed around prepping my lesson for observation for nothing.
I was soooooo nervous at my observation. I am a hundred percent sure that was obvious. The kids were not into the story this week and I don't blame them because it was a boring one.
By lunchtime, all this stress was wearing on me, and I was ready to fall asleep.
My first after school conference involved a parent telling me I don't celebrate her daughter's good grades enough. I promised to lower her daughter's grades--just kidding.
The SEI "coach" and translator did not show up for my parent conference with the family that speaks absolutely no English even though I scheduled it with and for them.
Do you ever have one of those days where you just think, "Thank God it's over"?
Monday, November 2, 2009
In some ways, I am a much better teacher than I was when I started two and a half years ago. It seems, though, that my molehill of progress is overshadowed by my mountain of insecurity. One of my parent volunteers today was asking me how I like teaching. For some reason, once again, the words felt caught in my throat.
I have been doing so much better, but evaluation time is really surfacing my insecurities. I am supposed to be observed tomorrow, and I can't visualize myself being successful at all.
I know, if I could relax about all this, I'd do much better. I can't seem to relax, though. I feel like my precariously balanced confidence will be knocked over again.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
I have my formal observation on Tuesday. It is going to be really difficult for me to do well because I will be really nervous.
The funny thing is that I am starting to wonder if any of this really matters anyway. We just got another message from the superintendent warning about the severe budget cuts. I, and all second through third year teachers, may not even be teaching next year.
All these plans that I make go nowhere. I determine a course, but the Lord determines my footsteps.