Monday, October 25, 2010

In Your 28 Years of Teaching?

My administrators were really awesome and offered to help my partner and me in math curriculum writing by getting us a substitute for a half day.  I appreciated the offer, but at the same time I dreaded having to plan for a sub.  But it was one afternoon and all he/she would be responsible for was teaching was math and science. 

I have a very well behaved class, because I have so many explicit procedures and routines in place.  According to Harry Wong, my students should be able to run the classroom without me.  I'm beginning to think his lack of elementary experience is causing him to be a liar...

At the end of the day I went back to my classroom, as the sub was walking my students out to buses.  I briefly noticed 3 students name on the board, and a note scratched out on the bottom of the paper.  It was negative so I decided to not be in the room when she came back.  So I went to a coworkers room to discuss what was accomplished on the math curriculum front. 

While doing this I overhear the sub in the hallway discussing how her day went.  The sentence "In my 28 years of teaching..." really did come out of her mouth.  Really lady?  You do realize that substituting is no comparison to your own classroom right?  I was pretty annoyed, and my poor students were the target of all that annoyance. 

I gave them silent treatment instead of greeting them with a good morning.
When announcements were over I rudely called them to the carpet by pointing at the rug and saying "Sit, Now, Silence."
Then I lectured them for 5 minutes on how they had all completely disappointed me.
Then came the threat of no recess if they did even one procedure wrong, no warnings today.

Well they behaved perfectly under my Nazi regime.  They even wrote very thoughtful apology letters to the sub.  I hope she appreciated them. 

After lunch I had cooled down so I began by reviewing what the students noticed about the day before, and then I got the message that math was frustrating because they didn't understand rounding and the sub didn't explain it the same way. 

Poor little dears. I took out my frustrations on them because I assumed that a retired teacher was capable of following my instructions.  I left her very detailed plans, even including language I commonly use in teaching and in correcting behavior.  She had in her possession an instruction manual to behave just like me.  Why didn't she use it?!?!

I guess next time I'm going to remember that I don't use my instruction manual every time either and fortunately Jesus doesn't lash out on me with his frustration.  Next time I'm going to remember that I do have a great class.  My coworkers reminded me of this.  They also reminded me that sometimes the retired teachers feel their way is better, and that it can have negative effects on a classroom. 

I'm sorry for the way I acted in the situation, but at the same time it grounded me.  Now I have just another example/reason to pay attention to that instruction manual. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Didn't we discuss the meaning of emergency?

Today was our first official day of guided reading.  Our school is starting late this year, way too late in my opinion, due to a change in how we are supposed to implement our lesson plans.  So last week was the first time I met with some of the students.  We drilled procedures and routines.  What we look and sound like at silent reading, and computers, and guided reading groups.  What we look and sound like during the green light, the yellow light, and the red light.  When we may ask the teacher a question.  Yada yada...

I also led this group in an in depth discussion of "emergency".  This discussion must take place because only a true emergency may interrupt my time with a guided reading group.  So we discuss that there are 2 types of emergencies:  bathroom and medical.  In my classroom a bathroom emergency is defined as "If I don't go to the bathroom right now there will be a puddle on the floor" and "Oops, I didn't make it and there is a puddle on the floor."  The kids laugh at this definition but they can connect with it.  Medical emergencies are defined as "I crying from intense pain." or "This blood is making a mess of my materials and me."  Again some laughter, but message received. 

Or so I thought...

Today one student sat at her desk with her hand raised for her entire silent reading station.  She had to go to the restroom.  Clearly not an emergency because sitting at your desk with your hand raised for 20 minutes means there was no puddle or the threat of one.

Another student came to me with a terrified look on his face and a particular odor.  "I wasn't trying to wait.  It just sort of came out."  So a real emergency and he waited until the red light to come and tell me he had soiled himself. 

Tomorrow, a review of emergencies may be in order.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Finding the Enjoyable Moments

Some days it's nice just to think about the times I laughed with my kiddos.

1.  As I stood in the hallway waiting to pass out lunch cards to students coming out of the bathroom I heard an eruption of laughter from the boys bathroom.  Since I have a very strict set of hallway and bathroom procedures in place and the principal was walking toward us down the hall, I quickly walked into the doorway of the bathroom ready to lay down the law.  But when you walk in to see a third grade boy rubbing his head and staggering back to his feet you just wait for him to explain.  And when he informs you that someone must have locked the door and then crawled back under, which caused him to head-butt the door on his attempt to enter the stall, you have to giggle too.  Quickly followed by the reminder that it is best to open doors with hands not heads, of course.

2.  It's never too fun to have a walkthrough, it does give you a bit of a rush, but at the same time I really just enjoy the uninterrupted moments with my students.  It is really not fun to see an administrator walk in while you are struggling to make a Smart Board activity work the correct way.  However I brushed it off and allowed my students to laugh with me by stating, "Well Mrs. P this number is just not dragging the way it is supposed to so we are going to have to think on our feet!"  The kids really enjoy when something does not go as planned!

3.  I always love funny kid quotes and almost daily have them as my facebook status, but this one is good enough to share twice.  "Hey Mrs. Davenport!  Don't only boys have Jack Apples?"  "You mean Adam's Apples?"  "Yeah, that's what I meant."

Gotta love the laughter!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dysfunction with a capital D

It seems that the third grade team at my school is plagued with dysfunction.  No matter what steps are taken to prevent it.  On a team of 7 teachers only 2 are from last year's batch.  This is due in large part to the administrators weeding out what they would call "unprofessionals".  If you were unable to collaborate with colleagues and show that you could properly manage a classroom then you were unable to stay on the team.  Of the 5 that are no longer in third grade only one is still employed at our school.  That says something for the tremendous amount of pressure the third grade team is under. 

For background this is our 2nd year of not making AYP.  So the focus is all about raising those ridiculous test scores.  Last year's team worked really hard despite all the dysfunction and managed to raise math scores 11%, but Communication Arts went down a few percentages.  Basically we were told to revamp the math curriculum to make even larger gains this year while establishing the same results in Communication Arts.  What this entails is making a 10 point assessment for every one of the Missouri Grade 3 Grade Level Expectations.  Math was the focus of our school last year and the second grade team I was on was wonderful because we would divide up the GLEs for the quarter and get all the assessments done in 2 evenings.  Then we were able to backward plan for each concept.  So call me crazy but I had assumed the third grade team I had been moved to would have had all math assessments finished.  Which is why I felt comfortable volunteering to write the lesson plans, pacing guide, and curriculum map for that subject.  I like math and with assessments already done my life wouldn't have been that difficult.

But assessments are sadly no good.  Another teacher (who was on my team last year) is also planning with me for math but it is still a huge task and a minor irritation.  We have basically had to do the same job twice for 2 different grade levels, only this time we are not members of a team that functions like a well-oiled machine. 

Enough of the pity party.  I have told myself that I am not going to be a complainer this year.  (Only my poor hubby can tell you I'm not making adequate progress toward that goal either!)  Not that I was a complainer last year, in fact I don't think I did complain much until I was told I was moving to the third grade.  I guess maybe it was my attitude that set me up for failure but I am trying to overcome. 

I love teaching and I love kids.  I know that I'm there in that classroom everyday for a reason.  I'm going to keep my eyes on Christ and make sure that his plan is what I'm focusing on accomplishing.  If I do this everything will fall nicely into place.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Why are you thinking about recess/lunch/the bathroom? I'M TEACHING!!!

Isn't it lovely when you are in the middle of a lesson that you spent a long time planning and making perfect just to have a child (who you called on to answer a question or add thoughtfully to the discussion) ask when it's going to be recess, or what's for lunch today, or can I go to the bathroom now?  I always feel like pulling my hair out because: the schedule is posted at the front of the room; the menu is printed in the newsletter, read over the announcements, and announced on the way out the door for lunch; and we go to the bathroom right after both recesses, during center time, and other independent work time.  And one off task question always snowballs into every child thinking about that question. 

Well it isn't lovely. But, how many times do we do the same thing when God is trying to teach us?  This really hits home when you read Matthew 16: 5-12.  Basically, Jesus is trying to warn the disciples about the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. In this speech Jesus refers to the false teaching as "yeast", which translates to the disciples as a carefully chosen word to hint at the fact that they forgot to bring the bread.  Only this was not the case at all.  Jesus was legitimately teaching with a solid warning, but once one disciple thought about lunch and murmured to the others a statement along the lines of "Shoot, we forgot bread and it's almost lunch time and Jesus is ticked about it." it spread like wildfire.  Soon no one was hearing about the false teaching until Jesus reminded them that he was more than capable of supplying lunch.  "Hello guys! Remember me?! The man who feeds thousands from a few loaves and fish!  Really? You are worried we are going to miss a meal?" 

So maybe Jesus isn't as sarcastic with his disciples as I sometimes am with my students, but I know we were both feeling exactly the same.  The only difference is that I probably am the cause of that feeling for Jesus and yet I want to pull my hair out when my students behave the same way.  It's time for me to suck it up, brush it off, and get back to the teaching.  Redirect and teach!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Brain Talk

How I learned my new information:  This morning I was listening to a Joyce Meyer pod cast and I heard a piece of information that I thought really applied to educators.  I also feel that it was the main piece of information that I was supposed to hear from the discussion because shortly after the neuro-scientist stated the fact the video quit loading correctly and I had to just give up on hearing the end or I would have been late to school.

What I learned:  Anyway, she was talking about how the brain builds synapses and that the connections from new information are not applied to your brain until 4 days after the new information is learned.  So the quick response that we sometimes want from our kiddos is not even scientifically possible the day after we introduce a new concept. She also stated that if something is learned the wrong way by your brain it takes something like 21 days for your brain to reprogram the information and have it be readily available. 

How I'm going to apply it:  My principal had often cited similar information to me, but along the lines of it takes 100 times of practicing correctly to unlearn a mistake.  I really liked hearing the information in terms of days, because it made it more specific to me.  What I think I can do with this information is encourage my grade level team to not gloss over new concepts, that we deem as "easy".  No matter what the difficulty level, if it takes 4 days for our brain to readily process and apply a new concept we do not need to assess any sooner than that 4 days.  Also I am going to learn that even if I reteach and reassess a concept in a short time frame (which there are usually 2 days allotted for this in our pacing guides) I should check back in with the child close to a month later to make sure they are truly grasping a concept.  It may make a lot more work for me, but let's be honest I became a teacher for the kids.  If I'm not making sure I'm doing everything I can and applying my new learning to them then I am failing them.

P.S. I wanted to post a link to the video but the webpage is down at the moment, which may have started this morning when I was unable to finish my podcast.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Note To Self

When quickly taking individual pictures of you students make sure you are actually taking the time to focus the lens.  Blurry pictures do not look nice for the year-long hallway display and you will be too cheap to retake and print them again.