Monday, February 28, 2011

Fractions Game Plan

Preface: My posts are usually narrative, but this post is going to be analytical. A lot of the challenges I face, as a teacher, and you can read about here are managerial and personal and people-oriented. This difficulty I am having teaching fractions is an instructional challenge. Sometimes those are like second nature to me because of who I am and what I do, but tonight you can see my thinking on this.

What are my primary objectives for this group of students?

*My students' knowledge of basic fraction vocabulary (half, whole, third, numerator, denominator, equivalent) will be automatic.
*My students will have a thorough knowledge that fractions are equal parts of a whole.
*My students will develop concrete strategies to reason about fractions.
*My students will be proficient in the process of comparing fractions by drawing accurate representation of fractions.

What makes fractions a challenge with this group?

The standards suggest that my students should reason abstractly about fractions, but in this particular group of students there are a significant number that are not yet able to do that. My challenge becomes to give them concrete strategies to deal with abstract processes. (Understanding why 2/3 is less than 3/4 is abstract, but there is a way to make it concrete.)

My students lack the foundational knowledge and skills they should have entered third grade with as it relates to fractions. They did not come to me able to name fractions or recognize them.

So, what is my plan?

Automatic Vocabulary Knowledge: I am going to use short repeated phrases and motions to reinforce vocabulary at the beginning of every lesson and to remind students throughout the lesson. Here is the repertoire.

Class, what is a fraction?
A fraction is a part of a whole number, Miss Understood.

Then, I will put up a slide that says 1/2; 1/3; 1/4; 1/5; 1/6; 1/7; 1/8; 1/9; 1/10; 1/11; 1/12. The students will count through these fractions out loud with me before we begin the lesson.

Every single time that I say the term numerator at any point in a lesson, they will have to say, "Numerator, number on top, target number," with a motion. Every single time I say denominator, they will have to say, "Denominator, number on bottom, total number," with a motion.

Concrete Strategies: I already have my speech planned, and it is going to work because I tell the kids I have this year all the time that this or that isn't hard and they will see. As we go on in fractions, I will say the following, "Boys and girls, I always tell you that the things we do aren't that hard if you pay attention and keep trying, but I will tell you something new today. Thinking about fractions is really hard, but I will tell you a secret to make it easier. Whenever you see a fraction imagine food. You can pick. Imagine either a pizza or a cake and we'll look at it in terms of the pieces and the part you get to eat." I am hoping that with this line of thinking being encouraged over and over again they will be able to look at something like 2/3 and 2/4 and see why two big pieces are more than two smaller ones.

Proficiency in the Process of Comparing Fractions: We are going to repeatedly practice drawing fraction boxes and using them to compare fractions. I will grade their work on neatness and showing equal parts. I will repeatedly remind them that if they don't draw these accurately this won't work.

As far as helping them develop a conceptual framework for fractions, I want to make it relevant. I'm going to play a game with them called fraction scavenger hunt. I will make a worksheet that says things like 9/24 of our class are this gender, 10/24 of our class have this color of hair, 2/24 of our class wear these. I'll put my attendance roster with pictures on the smartboard and the kids will use their knowledge of numerators and denominators to figure it out.

This is my game plan and a lot of it came out of the comments I just read. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE HELP!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Need Some Blogger Wisdom on Fractions

To me, fractions is the most difficult math concept to teach in the intermediate grades. I thought it was the most difficult standard when I taught fifth grade and in third grade I find it even harder.

I am not going to lie, I think our standards on fractions in this state are not developmentally appropriate for third grade, but I have to teach them any way. My third graders have to compare and order fractions with unlike denominators, find fractional sets of whole numbers, and solve problems involving fractions with unlike denominators (they're supposed to reason through this, not convert fractions yet).

Now, it was hard for me last year and my class was soooo much easier to teach. People, I am scared to attempt these difficult concepts with these difficult kids. I can tell you right now, the curriculum alone will not be sufficient to teach this group of kids--it will go right over their heads! So, does anyone have advice, tips, tricks, maybe prayers for teaching these fraction concepts to a really low group including many students with learning disabilities? Please, if you do, help me, I need it!

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I am so college right now. My good friend's house was foreclosed on this week, so we are taking on a third roommate. I spent the day reorganizing to clear out the coat closet and starting to move everything in the office to new locations. The office will be our new roommate's room. It does have a half bath, but she'll have to use the showers in mine and my roommate's rooms. The office doesn't even have a closet!

Actually I am starting to feel like Cinderella's evil stepsister or Harry Potter's aunt and uncle who made him live under the stairs as I am getting her room ready. It's just that the two Master bedroom's are so spacious and the office is one step up from a closet.

I am excited for my friend to move in, though, and she is paying a little bit of rent which will help us out financially. I wish we had a better room for her, though.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What I Know

It's Thursday. That means a lot of my colleagues across the country--and maybe the world--are stumbling over to their couches with bags under their eyes feeling exhausted and wondering how they can keep up the pace for another day. I wonder if anyone else turns on the news only to hear incessant complaining about lazy teachers. I wonder how these television personalities who still have energy left at 5pm call me lazy.

I turned off the television and logged onto facebook. The parents of my little nonreader had posted a picture of he and I from the first day of school. That was six months ago now.

I remember very clearly the first weeks of school with him. I remember him tracing the alphabet above my white board with his fingers. I remember him laboring over each letter, one by one. I remember him failing every test of basic literacy.

Here we are six months later, and his life is headed in a different direction. He isn't reading at grade level yet, but he is reading. He's receiving resource services. He's receiving pull out literacy services.

As a teacher, I am constantly having unattainable goals put before me. In fact, by the measure of No Child Left Behind my work with nonreader is a failure because he will probably still score novice on his standardized testing. As a teacher, I've often felt like I am sinking under the heavy burdens placed on me.

So, what is success? By the rif rubric, it is going to meetings and serving on committees and years spent in the classroom. By accountability, it is my students scoring proficiently on state testing.

I promised myself that he would read before he finished the year with me. I promised myself not because it was a smart goal, not because I wanted more points to keep my job, not because I wanted my test scores to go up, but because here was a child who needed something I could give.

As I looked at the picture of us on the first day of school all the noise of what's wrong with teachers and education dissolved. It was quiet in my heart and head and I knew once again why I keep doing this.


I am getting that cold everyone is getting. Last night, I went to bed ar 8:00. I just want to fall asleep right now.

If my health was the deciding factor, I would call in tomorrow and try to sleep it off. BUT it is not. I have no sub plans written. I just got an e-mail bout how tomorrow is a "high absence" day and seven teachers are already out; they are concerned if anyone else is out that the spots won't fill. That means my kids would probably be split among the other teachers. So, I'll be there tomorrow. Tired.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Moral Compass

On Friday, we had a flag raising ceremony at my school, in honor of President's Day. It's a mystery to me why we plan the floor map of the ceremony in a way where 90% of the kids can't see. We do that, though, every year. All the classes march out in lines. They are positioned so that the line leader can see, but no one else (excepting the very tall) can see.

Before we went out, I warned my class to stay in line and be respectful. This class was the first class I've ever had that didn't follow that request. There was about ten of them bound and determined to push and shove their ways to the front. When we got back, I pointed out that it was quite a poor display of citizenship. They looked at me in disbelief, "But, we couldn't see."

I could almost imagine some of the gods of education weighing in on this incident.

Piaget would tell me that nine-year-olds are in the process of dissolving egocentric thinking. I should have them role play and think about the perspective of those they were pushing. I should point out that others could not see, but chose a different way.

Maslow would tell me that I failed to put my students in a position where their needs were met. They were justified in a way because they were trying to observe the ceremony. I didn't meet their needs.

Gardner would tell me that this group needs to develop interpersonal intelligence. I should do some teambuilding activities and involve more interpersonal skills in our daily routine.

Pavlov and Skinner would probably tell me to train them better. Good line, reward, repeat...

Dewey would tell me to create an opportunity for them to discover a better way. We should plan a new floor map, write a what if essay on everyone pushing.

What did I do? I told them that it was selfish. Maybe, Piaget, you're right, they did it partially because they are in the process of developing a wider perspective that considers others. Maslow, it's true that the plan was poor and that's on me or the school. Gardner, they certainly need to develop interpersonal intelligence for life and for the class. Pavlov, we will certainly practice the line. Dewey, they should discover a better plan and not have me give it to them.

I try to incorporate the vast amount of information in my head given to me courtesy of the gods of education. Sometimes, though, I just want to call of the wisdom of what they did in the "good old days." People, children or otherwise, should be decent and think of others. If kids still need to learn that and their parents won't teach them, we should teach them. We shouldn't apologize or excuse bad behavior.

I don't think kids today are bad kids, but I think a lot of kids are being sold short on moral wisdom. We're so afraid of overstepping our bounds and telling them what is right and wrong, we're so afraid of rocking their world by introducing an idea that is not developmentally appropriate, we are so afraid of putting our moral judgements on someone else, that no one teaches right and wrong.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fairy Tales

Dear Education Reformers,

Somewhere there is a school where Snow White is teaching her seven "dwarfs." They come to school every day with freshly scrubbed faces and new pencils and homework they gave their all. They place an apple (no, not a poisoned one) on her desk. All of her students learn what she is teaching and no one is ever left behind.

People think that working with children is a fairy tale or at least that a competent teacher would make it into one. My experience working with children is more like really juicy reality tv. Sometimes it is moving; sometimes it is funny; sometimes it is heartbreaking; it never follows a straight line.

I am so tired of fairy tale politics.

Many of my students do not have it easy. They come to school in dirty clothes, with hungry stomachs--if they come at all. They come to school angry about whatever is going on at home. They come to school tired. Many of my students face obstacles on the inside. Letters reverse themselves as they enter my students' minds. Mental impairment can make a student younger on the inside than on the outside.

Don't think for a second that I don't feel the struggles of my students. Don't think for a second that I don't fight for their success. Don't think for a second that my mind is on making my own job easier. I just know that there is not an easy answer.

Your quick-fix solutions are making it worse.

Because of your fairy tale philosophy, you have taken all accountability away from students and parents.

A school should be like gym, where we help students work towards potential and their effort leads to success. You've turned our schools into hospitals where we treat deficiencies in education. Our students become like patients; it's our job to make sure they get educated even if they just lay there. Lack of education is not a disease; it's an opportunity!

You wonder why our highest achievers don't do more. You wonder why our students aren't prepared for their future. You wonder what is wrong with the teaching methods or the tests or the curriculum. The problem is how you saw them. You didn't BELIEVE in them.

You demanded hard-working teachers, but you didn't demand hard-working students. You can continue to pass more legislation about teacher accountability. You won't find your fair tale because it is just fantasy.

It's not fair. Some students will have to work ten times harder than others. Some will learn their lessons the hard way. It won't follow a perfect line of progress.

If you want to fix education, change the what you're searching for. See the opportunity where you once saw the deficiency.

Yours Respectfully,
Miss Understood

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Am Not Feeling So Smart Today

Wednesdays are early release days for the students. We usually have a lot of meetings filling Wednesday afternoons, but today our meeting was short because the speaker cancelled.

We all had more time than we are used to, so we were having a "team meeting" in superstar teachers classroom. At this "team meeting" we were generally talking about the latest gossip and they were goading me about Mr. Substitute and how he is subbing for Miss New2OurTeam tomorrow.

I was telling them that I can't go out with him not only because I think he is gay, but also because he wears weird costumes, in public (YEAH). Anyway, they wouldn't believe me. "I'll show you," I told them, "on facebook."

Well, of course facebook is blocked by firewalls on our school network, so I got out my phone to show them. I showed them, I really showed them, and I was feeling superior as we got back to the gossip.

The gossip was that Mr. Kindergarten, a new teacher at our school, got engaged after three months of dating a girl he met on line. This had been announced by his teammate today at the short meeting. Apparently, he didn't want anyone to know he got engaged, but too late for him because we all know now. He is a bit, um, odd aside from this whole thing.

So, as we got back to the gossip, my teammates were like, "Hey, look up Carlos Kindergarten on facebook, so we can see his fiance." He's not my friend on facebook, actually I don't think we've ever had a conversation in real life, but I decided to look him up anyway.

So, I typed his full name, Carlos Kindergarten, into my facebook search bar. Well, as soon as I typed and entered it, I realized that I didn't type it into the search bar. No, I typed it directly onto my wall. Yeah, Carlos Kindergarten's name right onto my wall which went directly to the newsfeed where all my friends from Fun School can see it.

Worse than that, I couldn't delete it; because while my phone can access facebook, the delete function doesn't work on my phone. Mrs. Partygirl, another teacher on BFF Team, immediately got out her new phone and commented on my post. She wrote, "Don't be sad, Ms. Understood." Which was just great because the announcement about his engagement had just been made.

In the end, my post was only up for about an hour. Mr. Bull, my former fifth grade colleague lives in the on campus apartment and he let me use his computer at his house to delete it.

Seriously, though, I'm pretty sure some people saw it before that. Plus, I don't know Carlos Kindergarten, but I get the impression he would not have a good sense of humor about this.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

All I Want to Do Is Throw Angry Birds

Is it wrong that after a day of building young minds all I want to do is destroy structures by hurling birds at them from a sling shot? Why would I like the sound of breaking glass? If I had some birds and a sling shot would I be willing to throw actual birds into actual structures? Are angry birds simply a manifestation of the daily frustrations I am powerless against? Why do I suddenly have the urge to break a dish? Could this be an example of my inner Hulk? Did I catch anger management class?

How do I beat level 3.15?

Do you think playing Angry Birds is a legitimate excuse to miss work?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Revenge of the Secret Cupid

Well, I can't say I didn't get annoyed today. The Hulk was the Hulk all day long. But, I can say that I did not raise my voice and that we actually had a lot of cooperative work today. The kids really enjoyed the conversation heart data and pictograph activity and the story we are reading is a fun one as well, so I think that helped me enjoy Valentine's Day in an elementary school more...

I did find one reason to get really excited to go to school tomorrow. It doesn't really have to do with kids or teaching, but what are you going to do?

I have a prank in store for my next door neighbor. Oh yes, exactly the same neighbor who was pranking me exactly a year ago with all the secret cupid stuff.

Today, after Superstar teacher left, I snuck into her classroom and opened up the wire board in her computer table. I plugged my reciever for the wireless mouse into her computer, and hid my wireless mouse underneath her computer table to charge. The point is that I hooked up my wireless mouse to her computer and smartboard.

Now, every day at precisely 9:25, my class combines with her class to do the phonics program. It's a scripted program that she's bee trained on and I haven't, so she teaches both classes through the five minute routine every day. Tomorrow at 9:25, I am going to have some fun. While she is setting up, I will sneak over and get my wireless mouse. I'll use my coat to hide what I am doing and control the smartboard while she is teaching. At first I'll just move it and make her think that her smartboard is acting up, but then I'll use my mouse to access the marker tool and start writing messages, like "shhhh." The trick is going to be not laughing, that's how I could really mess this up.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lessons for Education from Grey's Anatomy

Don't judge me for this or do, I guess it's okay; but I've been walled up watching reruns of Grey's Anatomy. I don't know, do you ever have one of those weekends where you don't want to see anyone or do anything? Really, do you, because I am starting to think that I am weird, but I blew off a lot of stuff this weekend. It's just that my soul felt quiet and I wanted to be alone.

That's really not my point, though. My point is that education should take notes on training educators from the way surgeons train.

1.) Watching each other is a good thing.

In Grey's Anatomy, they are a teaching hospital and they have this gallery where residents and interns watch attendings perform a variety of procedures. I was writing here about how I was listening to another teacher conduct a parent meeting and learning a lot. What if we all just went into a gallery and watched when someone was going to do something extraordinary, like teach comparing fractions to a group with many learning disabled students?

I was at school this morning with the Breakfast Club (that's my name for the group of teachers who go in and finish working on Sunday morning at my school every week), and I went into a fifth grade teacher's room. We were talking about teaching prefixes, suffixes, and root words. I showed her a graphic organizer I use with a tree and she had never seen it. (I'll put a picture if anyone wants to steal it.) It made me think, though, about how many other great things are out there that we don't know that other people do.

I wish that we all watched each other like surgeons. In teaching, though, at least for me, we are a lot more skeptical when someone enters the room while we are teaching and they're just there to watch. We feel like they are there to judge us.

2.) We ought to have a residency.

Student teaching is kind of like an internship, and it does help. I think, though, that those early years of teaching would be much better if they were like a residency. I really wonder how it is going to work for new teachers when "teacher accountability" cracks down even more. When there is no learning period, how do you become proficient? That issue is close to my heart because when I first started teaching I was certainly labeled by my administrator as a bad teacher. I was told that "the kids don't deserve to have you as a teacher;" maybe that was true. I definitely had a couple of years where I learned a lot and made mistakes, but I almost quit because no one was giving me time to learn. Maybe I should have had a couple of years where I had a lesser role and learned before being on my own. Now, I can look back and see what things I did wrong, but I can't fault the twenty two year old rookie because I had so much responsibility with very little support or prep.

3.) We should all have sex in supply closets to relieve stress.

Okay, not really. I imagine that this doesn't actually occur on real surgical floors, but it does on Grey's Anatomy. There would be actually a lot of problems with this in a school. I mean, the male to female ratio is very off. Supply closets are really small.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I Hate Valentine's Day!

I hate Valentine's Day! I know, you probably already have me pegged as being bitter because I am single, BUT I actually don't hate Valentine's Day because I am single. I hate Valentine's Day because I'm a teacher.

Some teachers tell me that they like Valentine's Day in an elementary school, but I don't know what they are talking about. What part of already hyper kids jacked up on sugar and foaming pink from the mouth is supposed to be fun?

I think that is enough of my complaining, though. I am struggling a lot recently with having a good attitude about my class. My friend was joking on Friday about my yelling, but it was a wake up call. If my friend has noticed it, then it has gone way too far. I also know that I have been feeling extremely frustrated with these kids.

I was realizing at the end of the day on Friday that I have been far too annoyed for the second half of the day, when one of my crazy eight came running back in the room. Honestly, I was going to get onto him for coming back and running when he ran up to me, threw his arms around my neck and said simply, "bye."

I've been feeling sorry for myself because what did I ever do to deserve all eight of the crazy eight and their parents? It's the wrong attitude, though. Even the crazy eight don't deserve a teacher who doesn't really like them and doesn't really want to be there. For better or worse, in sickness and in health til death do us part--just kidding, but really we're not going to part until the end of this year.

So, I am taking this weekend to sort of regroup. I need to not only start my day on Monday excited to be there, but I need to end it that way as well. So, I am spending more time planning instruction I can get excited about. It's funny but as a teacher you sometimes have to plan the best lessons for the worst kids. Not only because those kids most need to be genuinly engaged, but because when you have a group that is not fun to teach it's a lot easier for you when you teach in a way that is fun.

So, I asked myself this weekend, what can I do that is fun for my class? I decided to make their Valentines by hand this year. So I made each student a Valentine. I cut up a Walgreen's Valentine's Day add and I glued adds on the Valentine and wrote a Math "riddle" (isn't that much more fun than problems) for each student. On the inside, my cards say "if you can solve this riddle and show me how in this space, I will give you a special Valentine's Day treat." My treat is a Valentine's Day pencil and eraser because we are always running out of pencils and erasers. The kids will start their day by finding my valentine's in their boxes.

I also bought boxes of candy hearts to do the data collection and representation activities. I wrote up a new seating chart because the kids have been asking. I got new stickers for grading work this week. I can do it. I can have a better attitude about this.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Anonymity and Honesty

There are only a few people who actually know me who also know about this blog. No one who lives in even the same state as me knows about this. No one in my family knows about it. I stay anonymous because I want to write about the good, the bad, and the ugly in my life as a teacher. I can't do that publicly.

I have a lot of fun writing here because I know people are going to read it, but I don't have to worry about hurting feelings or stepping on toes or seeming like the perfect teacher who has everything figured out or seeming like a responsible adult who has everything figured out. It also helps keep me honest with myself.

For example, people ask me all the time, "What made you want to be a teacher or why do you teach?" It would be easy enough for me to keep giving a canned response like, "I just love the kids; it's sooo rewarding; or I always loved playing school." By now, I would probably convince myself of whatever I say, except that I am always writing to my secret internet friends about how I am not so sure that I want to be a teacher even after four years and how I am not sure what possessed me to ever become one.

That's also why I've been writing about my faith. Sometimes it is easy enough for me to say what people want to hear, but I admit what is bothering me here. Even when I pray, I could try to say what I think God wants to hear, but I remember that aside from His being omniscient I keep a written record of what I am really thinking.

So, thank you to all who read this. Most of you I don't know, but I get to share my life with you in a way I can't share it with a lot of people.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You're My Hero

I never asked to switch grade levels. Actually it was no secret here or in my real life that I did not want to go to a younger grade level. There are still a lot of things I miss about working in an older grade. The best thing for me, though, about the switch is that I have gotten to learn from two really experienced third grade teachers. They've become two really good friends as well, but I know that for my career which is just starting (I totally cringe when I say that) I've been so fortunate to learn from people who are well into their careers and really good. For the rest of my career, I will be better because I have worked with them.

Anyway, I say all this because I was listening to my next door neighbor handle a parent meeting today, and she is just so much better than me at handling that. Really, I need to learn from her how to handle parents. I won't let kids walk all over me and I know how to work with my colleagues, but I get nervous and don't do well with difficult parents.

Partially, I get intimidated because I am almost always the young one in the room. Partially, though, I just don't know how to handle it well when parents are being manipulative or dishonest or unreasonable, and the reality is that those things happen.

My superstar neighbor had this parent trying to blame her because the child was behind. Now, a little background information, is that this woman hadn't returned superstar teacher's phone calls, progress reports, refused to attend conferences, and doesn't answer e-mails. So, superstar teacher called her on the carpet. She didn't sweat it at all before the meeting and she was professional without being manipulated or allowing a parent to treat her rudely.

I know that I have it in me to be more like that, but it's been difficult. Listening to her was the first time I realized how it should look when I am dealing with an adult being dishonest or manipulative.

Unreasonable parents just can't always have their way. This year I've been having to e-mail the Hulk's parents his behavior chart because they feel that his self-esteem will be ruined if he monitors his own behavior. I know that this plan is terrible and that it would be better for the Hulk and my class if he were accountable for his own actions. Instead, I am constantly hearing complaints of "unfair treatment" from the Hulk's parents.

You know, my superstar neighbor would not have let this situation get to this point. I really need to learn to preempt things like this better. I know what to do, but I just sometimes don't do it when it comes to the parents.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

Well, you've heard me throw a lot of love out for my school administrators and occassionally my school district, but lest you think I am wearing rosey glasses, read on read on.

I went to the board meeting tonight. (I know, it always gets me riled up.) The strange thing is that usually there are only a few teachers at the board meeting, but tonight, tonight there was a lot of teachers at the board meeting. A lot...

Why was there a lot of teachers at the board meeting? Well, remember the "rif rubric" that I might have been a little upset about. (Didn't I hide it well?) Anyway, part of the wonderful "rif rubric" said that teachers get 1 point per board meeting attended. This was the only eligible board meeting between the announcement of the "rif rubric" and it's impending due date. Suddenly, the board meeting looked like a sold out Radiohead concert.

This all seemed pretty reasonable to me, because what else are you going to do sitting through a board meeting means a better chance of keeping your job.

I was sitting near the front with some other teachers from my school because I was early--like always. We were sitting where we could hear the conversation of upper level administration in the district. A particular administrator, I am going to call Administrator Antoinette, was clearly angry. She was angrily repeating, "their only here to get a point!"

(Ummmm. Yeah, we are only there to get a point. What on earth else do you expect when you dangle people's livelihoods in front of their faces and make them compete with a lengthy rubric based on points?!)

It irritates me because Administrator Antoinette probably makes the salary of at least three teachers, but she doesn't have to fill out a rubric to get points to determine how worthy she is to keep her job. She doesn't have to worry about if she will be able to pay her bills next year in the event of a rif. She doesn't have to get up and go to a school at 5:30 tomorrow and deal with a room full of kids all day. She doesn't have these worries, but she has no problem judging people who want to come to a board meeting because it might mean keeping their jobs. It's just not right.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Don't Want to Look, but I Always Do

E-mail makes me a slave to my job. I don't want to look at it, but I have no self-control. Every time that I am on my computer (even worse when I am separated from my computer I look on my phone), I always end up opening work e-mail.

There is never anything that I need to know, but it bugs me what could be in there. Actually, I have some level of anxiety every time I open my work e-mail (which is really the only e-mail I check) because I just think there will be some problem.

So, rain or shine, weekend or week day, night or day, I will probably find out whatever thing I don't want to know about if you e-mail me.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Supermarket Superbowl

Okay. Full disclosure, I did not meet that guy tonight because he couldn't make it to the party and I didn't go either. I also didn't tell my other friends who wanted me to go to their superbowl party. You know what I did? I went to the grocery store--and it was awesome!

You probably think that I'm being sarcastic, but I'm not. I really hate going to the grocery store when it is crowded and whether I go on the weekend or after work it is always crowded. One day that is a good day for going to the grocery store is the superbowl, if you don't care about either of the teams.

I had the world's fastest grocery shopping experience today and it was awesome.

Sometimes I go by the store on my way to work at 6:00am. It was so much emptier today. Amazing.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

More Unpublished

Ha. I have a secret trove of unpublished entries. This post was meant to be one of them, but it turned out more generic than I thought, so here it is.

I have a date on Sunday. Maybe and sort of... Maybe, because it may or may not happen at this point. Sort of because it is more of casually meeting a friend of a friend at a superbowl party--but then again it is a friend of a friend who wants to meet me. In any case, people tell me it is a date and maybe it is.

The guy in question seems nice enough. My friend tells me he is smart and quiet--two qualities I can appreciate. Apparently, he is an engineer, he never swears, and is not a player. The swearing thing has been highlighted for me because as far as my general acquaintances know I never swear. I do actually swear if the occasion calls for it, but in my opinion the occasion is rare.

I don't know, though, I don't really want to follow through and meet him. I kind of hope that my nephew will come and I'll have to cancel or he won't be at the party (which is still a possibility). I mean, the guy sounds good in theory, but making it real is scary to me.

A very similar situation happened to me at the basketball game the other night. I met this guy and he was nice and I talked to him most of the night, but when he wanted my number I just didn't trust him enough to give it to him.

I have blamed my lack of relationships on my workaholic ways on not meeting people and I don't even know what else. I always have something some rationalization, but I'm not being open and it is time for me to change. I mean, I quit the dating site, not because I couldn't find anyone to go out with but because I didn't like dating a lot of guys I don't know. I refuse to meet anyone when I go out. If I'm going to refuse to be set up or meet someone in public, then I've pretty much eliminated all options. The logical conclusion is that I cause the problems that I have.

P.S. Kelly Clarkson is not my general musical taste, but the song seemed appropriate.

Leadership Qualities

Our administrators had some sort of training in qualities of leadership from Gallup this week. Yeah, I know. I think that administrators' time is better spent in their schools than in silly trainings too. Really, why don't they do all of these trainings in the summer when school is not in session but they are still working? That mystery aside, though, it was interesting to read what strong leadership qualities our administrator has (he sent his results to the staff in an e-mail).

I thought it was interesting that one of his strengths was relator. That is what I have seen in him. He really tries to build relationships with employees and listen and relate to them. It's made things much more pleasant around our school.

He also challenged us to think about our own strengths in leadership and sent us the list of leadership areas. I don't think of myself as a leader because I prefer to be in the background if at all possible. I'm not really a follower, though, because if something doesn't make sense I will not do it even if the majority of a group is doing it or someone tells me to.

When I think about how I could be a leader at school, I have to think outside of my classroom. In my classroom, I have to be upfront directing and inspiring--not because it is my nature, but because it is my job.

Outside my classroom, though, I tend to be more of an observer and absorber. I pick up concepts, ideas, and even systems really quickly. Usually, when something new is introduced at a staff meeting, I am planning the idea or strategy in my notebook while everyone else is still trying to figure it out. People will be getting mad because the presentation was unclear but it always seems crystal clear to me.

I think my other strength is communicating. Even when I was in college, I spent a lot of time presenting the material from courses to my classmates. When I was in introduction to philosophy, a lot of my classmates were really confused. I used to have meetings with most of my class and re-explain the content. I didn't actually need to study for philosophy because it was my best subject, but I met with these "study groups" because I knew they didn't understand the material and I knew how to explain it so that it would make sense to them.

Currently, I am the person who people come to after the latest and greatest thing is introduced to us to say, "What the Hell is rti?" or "What do these concepts on the cgi rubric actually mean?" Whether I agree with the strategy or not I'll be able to help people understand what we are being asked to do. If I agree with it, I will even explain why the idea makes sense, and usually get the person on board.

I never really thought about those two qualities as leadership but the Gallup survey calls them analytical and communication. I guess if you look at leadership as the times when others turn for you to direction, then those qualities would qualify.

There was also some value in thinking about strengths in leadership. I am aware of my deficits. Things like having a commanding presence or empathy or probably even relator don't come naturally to me. I have to work on them, but as I thought about what does come naturally to me, it made me think about how I could actually use those qualities to be a better leader.

I know that I have to be drawn out. I will not ever volunteer my analysis of a situation or idea. People come to me because they know me, and they know I have the capability to process all the information they give us and spit it out in terms that make sense, but if you don't know me, then you probably won't get my help because I hate to attract attention to myself.

I think one professional goal I could have outside of the classroom would be to be more involved in committees or processes that need someone to help the group process the vast amounts of complex information we use to make decisions.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Things That Help Me Get Unannoyed

I never explained the title of my post yesterday. I called it unannoyed because I realized it was taking me a little bit longer to get unannoyed every day. My personality is very easy going. I feel happy 90% of the time generally. I realized yesterday that it took me three hours after work to no longer feel irritated.

Today, I resolved that I was not going to let them get to me enough to ruin my day or ruin my evening. I did really well. I didn't start getting annoyed at all until the end of the day. Oh, the crazy 8 were up to their antics, but I just didn't get bothered by it. We worked silently when they were arguing or tattling. Instead of getting mad that they weren't working together the way I wanted them to, I just celebrated the fact that they were still learning in spite of themselves and the room was peaceful in spite of their contentious natures.

I also chose to focus on the bright spots in my class. Yes, there are some kids who have great potential to ruin my day and subsequently everyone's day, but I do not have to allow that to happen. There are also some really nice kids. I got a new student last week and she gave me the cutest letter today.

Then, after work I went to Happy Hour with my coworkers. Don't worry I was on good behavior this time. It is still quite early and I had only one glass of wine. But, I realized that it is destressing to be around my school staff. It's interesting because my job is stressful, but the great teamwork is soothing.

So, that is how I plan to make it to May!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I just need to vent. The crazy 8 are really starting to get under my skin.

It started before I even saw them today. I went out to pick them up on the playground where all the classes line up before school, and three boys were literally screaming and running the opposite direction of all the other kids in the school. When I got them inside, I had to start off my day reaming them.

They ended up spending almost the entire day working in silence and independently. I hate to do that, but I cannot get these kids to do anything together without bickering and fighting and tattling. When it's quiet it's peaceful and we are learning.

Admittedly, I was really tired, but right now I just have to think about my job day by day. If I think of the months I have left, it is going to drive me crazy! Last year, I told you all how I didn't want to give up my class because of their sweet personalities. This year I can't wait to pass on my class because of their bad bad temperaments.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's Cold

Okay, I know that it is blizzarding all over the rest of the country. I know there are snow days all over and below freezing temperatures. But, I live in the desert. We're not used to this. None of us knew what to do today when the high was 47! When I took the kids out to parent pick-up today, I said "Put on your jackets because it's still cold!" They all looked at me in disbelief. After all, it's never cold here in the afternoon.

Tonight, I went to the basketball game which was a lot of fun. The kids asked if they would see me on tv. I told them to look for me right next to Steve Nash. The game was fun and everything, but it is 10:15. Way past my school night bedtime... Tomorrow it is supposed to be cold again. The forecast for me is cold and tired. That could make for a long day!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Today I walked into a teacher friend's room. I meant to ask her about the colored printer paper she kept in her room (we all share it), but that's not exactly what came out of my mouth.

"D-d-d-d-do you have colored paper in the cab-ab-abinet?" I stuttered.

If that was an isolated incident, I wouldn't even worry about it. However, my speech problems seem to be following a pattern: the quality of my speech is decreasing in direct correlation with the time I spend with this particular class.

I think it is supposed to work the opposite way. I am supposed to speak correctly and enunciate and use correct syntax and they start to increase the quality of their speech. Instead, I am speaking more like them every day.

Here are some troubles I've had recently:

*Finding the correct preposition is really hard for me. I'll say things like, "Everyone sit on your desk, in your desk, at your desk, by your desk."

*Sometimes I use words that aren't words, and then my statements usually dwindles into a question. "Picks up your book and--pick up your book? What was I saying?"

*Sometimes I can't remember simple level 1 vocabulary. "Please get your notebook, paper, clipboard, I mean binder--binder!"

Today, when I found myself stuttering after school, I realized I had hit a new low. Generally, I am pretty well spoken. Yeah, I am so detailed in syntax, I would make sure to use "me" only as an object, direct object or indirect object and "I" as a subject. Yet, listening to the speech I hear every day all day is starting to effect me.