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.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

First Days Exhaustion

Well I successfully survived the first 2 days of school.  Boy, is my body glad it was a short week!  I succeeded in falling asleep on the couch before 9:00 on both Thursday and Friday with Friday leading to a whopping 14 hours of sleep!  I enjoyed getting to know my new students.  I was so impressed by their ability to work quietly within minutes of walking into my classroom.  But I learned that as they slowly became more comfortable with me, they also became more talkative.  There are 3 students I am particularly worried about when it comes to controlling their mouth, but I have set my expectations, consequences, and rewards in place.  Hopefully they will catch on quick.  I know my second graders last year began similar to this, but it is so hard to remember that time after ending the year on such a positive note. 

I actually referred to a sermon I had listened to that morning before school during our discussion on talking out.  Without stating it was a sermon (or a religious topic, at all because of separation of church and state issues) I told my students that I listen to a lady named Joyce Meyer in the mornings while I get ready.  I stated that on this particular day she said something very smart:  On our head we have 7 holes.  2 eyes, 2 ears, 2 nostrils, and 1 mouth.  And we only have one mouth because who knows what kind of trouble we would be in if we had 2.  My students laughed so I took that to mean that they got my message.  I'm hoping that as we get into our academic groove that they will remember this fact and apply it to their lives. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Just My Luck

It has really just been one of those days today.  Here are three reasons why:

1.  Last night moments before bed our lap-top (or should I say my computer) underwent a tragic fall.  This was supposed to fall into our accidental insurance which Kyle had renewed via chat with a Dell rep a few months ago, but it wasn't the case.  When he contacted Dell they told him he did not renew the accidental insurance but purchased a hardware insurance instead, so basically we are screwed.  It was very upsetting because we had the printed off conversation and the reps name that we had talked to but even supervisors were unwilling to help us.  Frustrating!!!

So Kyle decided to try and doctor the laptop himself.  He smartly used a cord to plug the laptop into our desktop monitor so we could see if only the screen was broken on the laptop, and we thought that was going to work, it pulled up the black screen with options like start windows normally or last good configuration.  But when we tried to arrow to our choice the keypad appeared not to work either.  It tried to start windows normally and in the process a blue screen popped up and said Physical Memory Dump...Completed.  Ahhh!  All of my summer preperations for my class were gone!  Total Nightmare!  Let's just say all of this happening before bed did not make for a restful nights  sleep.

2.  We had more back to school pre-service meetings today.  We had a school-wide meeting from 8:30-10:00, then my grade met informally to discuss common rules and consequences from 10:00-12:00.  We were given a 45 minute lunch break and then we were supposed to be back to school for a grade-level meeting with our administrators at 12:45.  My team decided we would eat at the local Mexican restaurant because they always have incredibly speedy service.  Except today.  We were there for close to 15 minutes before our waiter came by to take our drink orders.  Luckily we were all ready and placed our food order at the same time, or we would have really been in trouble!  By the time we all had our drinks we decided we should call the school and let them know that we were  going to be late.  The secretary informed us that the administrators were still in another  meeting so she was unable to deliver the message at that time.  This caused us to make the decision that we would just ask for our orders to go. But the language barrier made this quite the process.  By the time we were given our food, placed it in go boxes ourselves, received go cups, and plastic silverware (each of which took multiple tries by our poor, confused waiter) it was 5 til 1, making us 10 minutes late.  Oops!

3.  After all of our rushing around at the restaurant, and feeling like we were in for a "talkin' to" our administrators were so behind with other meetings that our team hadn't been called to the conference room yet.  We were told to work in our classrooms until they were ready.  They weren't ready until 3:00 (which by the way, was supposed to be our dismissal time)!!!

Nonetheless, the day wasn't all bad either.  Here are three reasons why:

1.  I woke up at my new time of 6:00 on the dot and immediately opened my bible and read one passage of Romans and had a quick moment in prayer.  Then after my shower, as I got ready I listened to a Joyce Meyer podcast on controlling my mouth (always a great message on a day with administrator meetings).

2.  A student who is unable to come to tomorrow night's open house stopped by with his mom to meet me and drop off his school supplies.  He seems like a really great personality and his involved mother seems will be a great asset to the classroom!

3.  Kyle took the laptop to BCS Computers ( a locally owned shop) and the guy is going to be able to recover almost all of my documents.  He said a few photos are corrupt but that the documents all looked good.  Yeah!

It all just goes to show:  When I start the day with the Lord in mind, no matter what negativity is thrown my way, I can end up feeling like I had a successful day!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Behaving Badly

Yesterday was our first day of teacher in-service training to kick off the new school year.  It is typically a day that is not so bad.  We are always served a wonderful breakfast by the district, have a few meetings to pump us up for teaching/ note upcoming changes, and then we eat a lunch served by our town's ministerial alliance. But, this year seemed to have something else entailed.  Evidently a little mess-up occurred in one of the district school's involving section 504 of Title 2.  So after our catered lunch we returned to more meetings, which were to last 2 hours (dismissing us at 3:00).  Our meetings were given by attorneys and were basically a talk on keep you tail covered in every situation, no matter what you may think would actually be best.  Basically we were lectured on what not to do for over the promised 2 hours.  The first lecturer, although she was highly informative, was BORING!!! She had come from Kansas City, which is a little over 2 hrs. from our town, to read from the power-point presentation she had created.  I'm sorry but a room full of educators is capable of reading a bulleted list, so save yourself the trouble and give us either less info on the slides or more in your speech.

After that presenter was finished our Special Education director came onto the stage and introduced the next attorney.  However, this was done in a way extremely rude to our previous presenter, as she stated something along the lines of this next presenter won't make us fall asleep and will really be entertaining... which by the way was not the case.  I'm not even sure if the previous presenter was out of the building yet, which is why there was an audible gasp from most teachers in the room from the lack of tact of an administrator.  Anyway, the next presenter was in agreement that the first presenter was not very good, so she went back over all of the 504/Title 2 information that the first attorney had given us.  By the time 3:00 hit, the lady wrapped up her insight on what to do for Title 2 requirements and I was thinking "Finally, this torture is over!" WRONG!!! That's when the statement of  "But what I'm here to talk to you about today is grievances."  What?! At our dismissal time you are only beginning to discuss what you came here for? You can't possibly be serious!  But she was.

Several things happened during the course of these presentations.  One is that the teachers in the room became very disengaged.  A lot of the information was really about administrative decision and therefore was irrelevant to us.  Second, because of this disengagement the TEACHERS began acting out!  Can you believe what our students would have thought if they could watch us in the same situation.  Teachers pulled out cell phones and began surfing the web, texting, checking voicemail, and one teacher even took a phone call after her phone (which had not been placed on silent!) rang.  The teacher next to me was doodling little pictures and creating a shopping list. I was continually pulling Altoids out of my purse and popping multiple mints so that the strong sensation would keep me awake.  All things that we would never allow in our own classrooms.  And now I almost feel for my students... I now understand not being engaged, and that some things are done so that you simply do not lose your own sanity.  But I'm not going to start accepting these inappropriate behaviors.  I'm going to work even harder on planning engaging lessons and knowing when a lesson is not working and needs to be scrapped.  I'm also going to understand how a simple break to use the bathroom and get a drink or even standing up to stretch for a minute can make a long activity seem to go a little faster.  Changing it up and keeping it relevant .  That's what I'm going to work on, so that my students don't ever feel like banging their head on the chair in front of them like I did (and even pretended to do to communicate with my peers that I was not enjoying myself). 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Food for Thought

During my quiet time this morning my eyes drifted down to the footnotes of my study bible.  I was reading the book of Titus when the word "teaches" caught my eye.  In the footnote it stated that the word which was translated as teaches means more than than the instruction of a child.  It means instruction, encouragement, correction, and discipline.  Which adds so much depth to the field I was called to!  I'm not just an instructor.  I'm an encourager, a corrector, and one who disciplines.  I am a teacher, someone making a difference in the world!  Thank you Jesus for the guidance to this understanding of my calling.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reflection Before the New Beginning

This morning one of the first thoughts on my mind was that I'm not going to like seeing all of my kiddos in different classrooms.  I moved up with them from second grade to third grade, however it wasn't a happy let's loop with my wonderful class but more of a way to reach more students.  In other words, my administrators did not allow even one child that I had last year to be on my roster this year.  Dang!

Since I'm going to miss each and every one of those rugrats I thought I should jot down some of my favorite memories before the new crew moves into my life. 

1. Our librarian, Ms. L, showed my class a Michael Flatley video during the week of St. Patrick's Day.  In order to help them connect to the dancers she mentioned the dancers at our local festival called cloggers.  After this statement by our librarian a boy sitting at my feet turned around and said "I can clog... A TOILET!!!"  I know I shouldn't have cracked up as much as I did in front of him, but that joke was definitely my type of humor! :)

2.  One day near the end of the year a student was wearing a long sleeve shirt over a t-shirt.  When he got hot he decided to take it off and wear only the t-shirt.  However when I looked up from my guided reading group and saw him stripping I said "Hey, what are you doing?" Which then caused him to look down and realize that he pulled off both shirts in the process.  Well this caused him to shriek, grab his shirt, and huddle in the fetal position in the corner of the classroom.  I had to go and block him from view as he re-dressed.  Luckily he was the class-clown type any way and didn't mind all of us having a laugh for a few minutes before returning to our reading groups.

3.  I loved that all of my students were able to understand my sense of humor and the funny looks they would give me in serious situations.  Such as when 2 students were talking in the hallway on a class trip to the bathroom.  When I questioned them about the procedure one student automatically went on the defensive and blamed his friend on talking to him first.  My response, which got smiles from everyone else in the hallway was: "I don't care if President Obama talked to you first.  You are in charge of you, and you know our procedure is to stand silently while in the hallway."

4.  Choral response was a huge portion of our phonics program and to spice things up I would have the children do funny voices while repeating me like quiet as a mouse, loud as an elephant, cheerleader and so on.  Near the end of the year I would throw in random teacher's names to see what the students would do to imitate them.  They did so well with a sugary-sweet voice for our counselor, Ms. W and a deep, stern voice for our principal, Mr. R.  One day I tried the teacher across the hall from us, whose voice often carried into our classroom if the door was open.  Without missing a beat the entire class yelled and stomped their feet as they did their best Mrs. G impersonation.  I think my ears are still recovering!

5. Our principal and vice principal pop into the room randomly almost everyday.  If I didn't happen to see the administrator arrive, because I was reading to the class at the carpet, I would get little fingers pointing in that direction to give me a heads up.  Such sweethearts to keep me informed even though the principals probably didn't appreciate it.

6.  Two of my little guys came into my classroom barely reading at an end-of-year kindergarten level.  One made it to a beginning second grade level and one a middle second grade level.  They worked so hard and became best friends in the process.  I'm going to miss their little reading group terribly!!!

7.  Love notes.  Every time we had an inside recess (which is a lot due to the low temperatures Missouri gets in the winter) my students would create me beautiful love notes in the art area of the classroom.  There weren't many other times we got to do craft projects so it was a favorite choice.  I loved notes that told me I was osim and the bestest, even though I should have been a little frustrated with the spelling and grammar.

8.  I love running into students in public.  My favorite memory in this catagory  was after seeing a student at a high school football game.  I was with my husband, whom he had never met.  The next day during guided reading groups I asked the student to read a few pages aloud for me.  While reading he stopped in the middle and said "So Kyle's bald?" Random, hilarious, and slightly false.  Kyle only buzzes his hair, he's not actually bald. 

9.  The vote of confidence from my administrators.  As a first year teacher I was really honored by the fact that they kept sending new hires into my room to see how things were supposed to look in a classroom at our school.  And these weren't simple walk-throughs.  They each stayed with me all day for close to a week.  Complete confidence boost!

10.  Perhaps the nicest thing that has ever been said to me came from a parent on the last day of school.  Since kindergarten her son had a reputation of being a behavior/emotional problem.  I worked long and hard with him at the beginning of the year and in fact he only was sent out of my room 3 times all school year (and once was by a sub).  On the last day of school his mom thanked me for my patience and caring for her son and said that this was the first time she was actually sad to see the year end for him, because she was going to miss him having me as a teacher.  I'm really going to miss having him as a student too!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Starting With a Positive Attitude

Near the end of the last school year I felt that I was becoming a bit negative with my school environment.  One of the reasons is that a lot of teachers I was surrounded by were constantly complaining about our administrators, to the point that a majority were looking for employment elsewhere.  Constantly hearing this negativity starts to effect your own thoughts about an individual regardless of your own experiences.  Another thing that was causing me to feel negative is that I was asked to move up to the third grade.  I have made it well known to my administrators (and everyone else) that preschool is where my heart is and that I won't truly be happy until that is the age I am teaching, but turns out personal happiness does not trump state testing.  I should have taken the move as a vote of confidence from them but all I could really think of was moving farther away from what I wanted.

But today, during my morning bible time, I came across the verses about servants and masters and realized that I was not behaving correctly in this situation at all.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. (Ephesians 6:5)
Wow.  My negativity and thoughts broke every one of these guidelines for my relationship with my administrators.  I had stopped respecting them simply because they did not cave to my personal desires.  I still had a bit of fear because they do control a lot of what I do but I never portrayed this fear around others which probably hardened my heart a bit. I was absolutely not being sincere of heart, but rather I was following direct commands so as to not get in trouble, not to obey in a Christ-like way.  I gained a lot from this one verse about personal flaws that if I addressed could help me become an even better teacher, and I hope that throughout this new school year I will apply this lesson to every day thoughts and conversations. 

I also feel that it is important to apply the rest of this section to the relationship as well and encourage everyone to read the rest of the verses during their own time of reflection.  I hope that Ephesians 6:5-9 can help you in dealing with your administrator strife and very possibly your role as master over your classroom.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

New to Me

I have been reading a lot of great teacher blogs over the years and now that I have my first year under my belt I thought that I too could share my experiences.  I've been busy trying to get my classroom organized, clean, and ready for students this week and definitely want to share a classroom tour but until that is finished I thought I'd repost a random list about myself that I created on facebook in February 2009.  I updated some of the information so that this will give you a taste of who I am as a person.

1. I have had the name of my son picked out for the last 4 years. I better have a boy!


2. When I start reading a good book I usually can’t participate in life until I’m done. I read each Harry Potter book completely the day that I got them, and over Christmas Break read the entire Twilight series in 5 days (and it took me so long because I was trying to track down the next book each time I finished one).

3. I HAVE to follow rules or I feel really guilty. If I catch myself speeding I usually slow down to below the speed limit to make up for it. (Unless I’m running really late).

4. Kyle was the first and only boy I’ve ever kissed.

5. I love board games and get really mad when people are not as engaged in playing them as I am.

6. I’m very shy and soft spoken, but have strong opinions that I’m usually shouting at you in my head.

7. I like to live vicariously through television shows. Since I don’t like breaking rules I usually like the shows where characters are naughty.

8. I prefer the company of preschoolers to most adults. For this reason I will still sit at the kid’s table at family events.

9. I always planned on becoming obese, but have now decided that it wouldn’t be very fun.

10. I wish life were as simple as the Andy Griffith show, which I love.

11. I keep waking up in the morning with the songs my kindergartners sang everyday stuck in my head. I would like for this to stop.

12. I can name a majority of the WWE Monday Night Raw wrestlers. I wish I couldn’t, but almost six years dating Kyle has led to many things.

13. I probably laugh at the dirty jokes you tell me, but have to ask Kyle at a later time what they really mean. Some of you are really sick by the way.

14. I have a mother who is almost completely deaf, that I used to mouth off to all the time as a pre-teen, but now I’m a good kid.

15. I am extremely lazy. I usually wait for someone else to get up and then ask them to do something for me before doing it myself. Sorry guys!

16. I had a crush on the same guy from second grade until freshman year of high school and have a stash of notebooks that have Mrs. Brittany Davenport written all over them to prove it. Ironically that is what my name is, even though I’m married to  a different guy.

17. I like Dance Dance Revolution and Rock Band, even though I suck at both of them!

18. I would love to have three kids, except the thought of childbirth makes me want to vomit.

19. I hate feet! And don’t even think about touching me with yours now that you know this. I’m not afraid to hit, and I hit hard, just ask any of my friends.

20. I have extreme patience that sometimes works against me. Once when I had a doctor’s appointment it was scheduled under a misspelled name and the receptionist asked me to have a seat while she checked with the doctor about squeezing me in. An hour later I decided I better check in with her and she had completely forgot about me and I had to come back the next day!

21. I have to wait until the absolute last minute before I do anything. No matter how important it is. I must have the pressure of a deadline in order to function.

22. I hate listening to voicemails, so just don’t leave them. I usually won’t even check them, I’ll see your missed call and just call you back.

23. I hate the sound of my own voice when I see videotapes of myself. How do you guys listen to me all the time and not want to claw your eyes out?

24. I cry a lot. Except at my own proposal, which really was tear worthy. Sorry Kyle!

25. I’m pretty sure I have ADD, but since I did so well in school my teachers just didn’t notice. But chances are when you talk to me, my mind is somewhere else completely. Especially if you are boring.

Well I hope that helps!  Hopefully you didn't learn more than you wanted to!