About Me

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BLOG REVAMP! I am moving to Arizona and starting a new job as a 5th grade teacher in Phoenix with 65% ELL, 95% Hispanic population, and almost 100% living below the poverty line. I hope all are still interested in hearing my wonderings as I begin my career in my own classroom.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Non-idealistic Survival Guide for Teachers: A Comprehensive List

After four weeks, I think that I've compiled a basic (to be expanded at a later date) list of what teachers need to know and be able to do to be successful. List follows.

1. Pretend you know exactly what you are doing at all times.
2. When you need extra time to figure something out, say you're waiting for a respectful audience.
3. Pack delicious snacks to get you through the morning.
4. Pack delicious lunches to get you through the afternoon.
5. Become best friends with people that will be able to help you in the future (librarians, secretaries.)
6. Know how to give the heartbreaking "I am disappointed with you" look to your class.
7. Always have an extra $.75 on you for that emergency bag of Cheetos or Hershey bar.
8. Make one of your classroom rules "Keep your teachers happy."
9. Realize that you will never accomplish everything you plan to accomplish on any given day.
10. When you make a mistake (like a misspelling on the board, or say the name of the wrong country)   just tell the class you were only checking to see if they were paying attention. (thank you Cheryl!)
10. Check the faculty lounge often for the occasional baked goods left in there for the taking.
11. When in dire straits, just send your class to the computer lab and give them a good challenging math game. Oh, and instead of helping them, just say it's an activity that teaches them perseverance and independence. Chances are, they won't know what that means, and will keep working without help from you.

... I'm only half kidding. Or maybe only one-fourth kidding.

Monday, September 20, 2010

hey, let's learn the prescramble for constitution day!

So many parts of this lesson sounded like a great idea. Using the Constitution, on Constitution Day, to give our students a sense of pride for their country, as well as to set the stage for our own "Room 82 Class Constitution." So, of course, we set up the entire lesson. We are going to go over the Preamble in detail, talk about what it means for our country, learn to sign it in some skewed version of American Sign Language (which I am mortified to admit) and then listen to the Schoolhouse Rock Preamble jingle! Perfect. Except not. First, you should take a look at this link. So if you managed to get through all three minutes and nineteen seconds of it, you'd find that the last sixty seconds are devoted to some Elvis-clone dancing and singing. I told the kids it was a commercial.

Not to mention, third graders aren't really familiar with about 70% of the words in our Constitution's preamble. Establish, justice, insure, secure, tranquility, domestic, promote, welfare, posterity, etc. And even if they do have a general understanding of the meaning of the words, it didn't help that I painstakingly chose the version of the Preamble jingle with lyrics, because third graders most definitely cannot read those words! As I stood in front of the classroom trying to convince myself that this was a success (it's music, after all, kids love music) I realized that at least we are trying. At least we are trying to introduce new words and concepts that are more upper level, because we are challenging them to reach upward. Later, we had our students get into groups of four or five and brainstorm ideas for our "Room 82 Constitution." Despite my doubts, it turned out pretty ingeniously.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Single Best Thing

Of course you would expect that my statement will be a rousing, enthused discourse on the beauty of children learning, the fulfillment you feel after a successful lesson, or maybe even how much you learn while you are teaching the little nuggets what they should know as third graders. But no, today I speak of something much more tangible. Tangible, sometimes edible, sometimes a shoulder to cry on. What could I possibly be talking about?

The single best thing about teaching is the faculty lounge and faculty bathroom. Yeah, I said it. The simplest thing you would never realize could make such a big difference in a teacher's sanity. I have to say that when I step in the roomy faculty bathroom, lock the door, and look in the full-length mirror to adjust my dress, not only do I feel like a total badass, but I have those 3-5 socially acceptable minutes where I can cry, laugh, sit and stare sullenly, or just wash my face. Even better, there is a little cabinet for women to put such feminine necessities (sorry, boys) that are so much more comforting than the metal "25c gards" dispenser that you would be stuck using instead.

But I haven't even gotten to the lounge. Thanks to a generous principal, we have a Keurig coffee maker which, if you don't know what it is, please just go buy one and be amazed. There are cute mugs with hearts and bears on them, comfy chairs, recipes that have been shared magnetized to the refrigerator, silverware for common use, and (best of all) chocolates available for cheap purchase for those days when you just won't make it without a Reese's cup.

I could go on, but I think everyone gets the picture of how faculty bathrooms/lounges save the lives of elementary school teachers every. single. day.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Live with Flair: Draw Out Your Inner Teacher

Live with Flair: Draw Out Your Inner Teacher: "The Latin root of the verb educate means 'to draw out' or 'bring forth.' Teachers illuminate the subject matter, but they also bring some..."

Saturday, September 11, 2010


this is why my life is so stressful.

goooood morning vietnam!

I took the time this week to greet my students as they came in the room in the morning and when they would come back from specials or lunch. I made it a priority to call the students by name, give a smile, and ask a question, give a compliment, or help them out with something. Most of the time, the students seemed surprised that I was so energetic and excited to see them.
It is interesting to look at school and teachers from the perspective of a student. They are required to be there, with teachers they did not choose, classmates they did not pick, and academic content that they have no control over. I suppose it is understandable that students come into the room in the morning and claim that they are tired or bored, and I also suppose that it is the exception to the rule to get a big smile back and a hug in return for my greeting.
However, I noticed that as I continually showed my excitement and interest in their lives, I would get more and more return from each child. They wanted to see me in the morning, get a greeting, and it actually seemed to make them be more eager to please the teachers as the day went on. I noticed that after my greetings this week, the students became more comfortable asking me academic questions than they were before. I will definitely be continuing to greet them in such a manner every day. 

teachable moment

we were coming in from recess on thursday, and we saw a baby brown bat curled up on the wall as we walked in. the kids got so excited, that i went to the library and got out a few books about bats. we spent the next 30 minutes reading about them, and it was a lot of fun being able to take something random that we ran into and make a fun lesson about it :)

management pains

Classroom management has been an increasing struggle each day this week. The first week, I am now realizing, allowed for such good behavior because the students were excited and eager to please. Now, as they develop friendships with each other and have a better sense of community, the chatter and lack of focus on the task at hand is increasing. It seems that our positive reinforcement of good behavior isn’t enough to keep them focused on what they should be doing anymore. We introduced one negative consequence this week, called a “boo-hoo room 82” which resulted in one minute off of recess. For some reason, this didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Is it because we haven’t introduced classroom rules yet?
Are there not enough individual consequences and too much group reinforcement/punishment? I am really interested in studying the behavior of my students and seeing as time goes on what is going to work. Maybe this method of management won’t work for our group of kids when it would have worked with another group. Or maybe it’s just an adjustment period and the students will fall into a routine and learn the appropriate behaviors eventually. They are good kids, but it’s just the little interruptions that can take up so much time away from instruction. I want to be able to say that we don’t have to spend the majority of our time using verbal prompts to keep up appropriate behavior. I guess only time will tell, but I’m excited to find out!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

line leading - harder than it seems!

During the first week of school, I found that I had many more responsibilities than I thought I would right off the bat. One of the most thought-provoking experiences of my week was taking the class through the halls to lunch, specials, or recess. I completed this task probably six times by myself and a few times with my mentor. Cheryl showed from the first day what she expected from her students as they walked in the hallways. She used a lot of praise and positive reinforcement but also would stop the students in the hallway if her expectations were not met. I learned a lot from watching her and tried to use many of the same management strategies that she did during walks through the hallways.
            When I would pick up the class or take the class somewhere, I tried a few different management strategies. An effective strategy that both Cheryl and I used was the call-and-response of “Ducks in a row” “Quack, quack, quack quack.” This was fun for the students and insured that they were paying attention. Another prompt that I would use while walking was to tell the students to be looking at the head of the person in front of them. I stopped them at several “checkpoints” each time and had them check themselves for the way they were behaving and standing. One time, I had to pick them up in the lunchroom where it was very noisy. I got their attention by using the prompt, “If you can hear my voice clap once, etc.” I walked down the line to make sure everyone could hear me and waited for their attention. When they did walk quietly and respectfully through the halls, I would smile, give a thumbs up, or give verbal praise. Often, I would publicly compliment them to Cheryl once we got back in the classroom. Even though it sounds simple, it was challenging to lead a line through the hallways. I was never sure if I should be leading the line, or turning around to check on them, or standing more in the middle of the line to have a better check on behavior. It was also difficult to manage the students because they would get distracted, start running, or be too loud in the hallways. I didn’t want to raise my voice in the hallways to prompt them, because that would be a little counterintuitive. This is where Cheryl’s strategy of checkpoints became helpful. When they stopped and lined up against the wall, it was easier to remember what the appropriate behavior in the hallway was. I think that it will be helpful for me to practice leading lines of my students through the hallways and that I will find even more effective strategies as time goes on.

what to do when they just keep saying no? - reflections

What can you do when a student just continually says no? How can you keep the rest of the class on task while dealing with his behavior in a discreet, professional way, while also maintaining the respect you have built up for yourself as a teacher in your classroom? A child in my class has proven to have some difficulties this first week, showing stubborn and oppositional behavior that can sometimes turn violent. His peers have shaky relationships with him, and as a teacher, I struggle to remain positive in the face of his defiance. The student has ADHD, and his parents are unsure about medication at this particular time. We can’t get him to concentrate on any academic subject or activity, and he will not sit still for more than ten seconds before he gets up and walks around the room. I wonder how I would manage this situation if I were the sole teacher in the classroom. To call the principal each time there was an issue would mean that he/she was in my classroom all day long. Discussions with the parents would, of course, be necessary, but tact would make it difficult to describe the depth of the difficulty of his behavior. I don’t know what to do in this situation, or what I would do if this were my own classroom. Hopefully as my relationship with this student grows, we will be able to come up with a behavior plan and work with each other to make the classroom environment more conducive to learning.

i had a wet fart

Second day of school, the last thing I thought I'd be dealing with is an 'accident' just before library. Nonetheless, I was able to keep a straight face when my little friend told me quietly that he'd had a "wet fart" and needed to change his clothes. An awkward trip to the nurse fixed the problem, but I've been the laughingstock of the PDS community since then!