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, November 8, 2011

What is this and how did I get here?

I didn't know what it was going to take to get me back on this website and clicking away at the keys about my teaching experience. It's been 15 weeks and I have probably had a range of emotions similar to pregnancy. Many have tried to say that your first year of teaching goes along a predictable path of ups and downs (see above image) but I'd be more likely to say I go through that mountainous emotional terrain weekly.

Every time I sat down to write it seemed like there were too many things going on in my head to be able to get it all down quickly enough. Today, I got so unspeakably frustrated that I had to share with SOMEONE what it's like to teach in a poverty-stricken, southwestern urban 5th grade class.

Our school has a pacing guide for teaching specific skills. Each week we concentrate on a skill, and at the end of teaching it, we give an assessment that helps us determine in what areas we need to continue our instruction. (For example, last week I taught my class of 28 to identify components of main ideas and supporting details in an expository text... 7 of them passed.) I am expected to teach language arts for 1.5 hours per day, math for 1 hour per day, writing for 40 minutes, and re-teaching for 40 minutes..  When you take out lunch, specials, and recess, that leaves about 20 minutes for social studies and science. (My kids didn't know what the Constitution was, or that Pennsylvania was a state. I haven't even opened a science book.) 25 of my students are of Hispanic origin, and over half of them speak Spanish at home. I teach entirely in English, as the wonderfully informed citizens of Arizona have decided that Structured English Immersion was the way to go (Do the research and form your own opinions.) I have students reading everywhere from a Kindergarten level up to about 6th grade, and I have students in math who don't know how to multiply. There are a few who cannot even construct a simple sentence.

We are supposed to have 84% of our kids reach proficiency on 5th grade state tests by the end of the year.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lift your scissors in the air!

Orientation. Noun. (Or-ee-ent-ay-shun)  
1. Repeating all college education courses during four six-hour days.  
2. Hell
3. An opportunity for every new teacher to eagerly explain why their student teaching experience has prepared them better for the position than me.
4. Experienced teachers "modeling" appropriate teaching strategies - 'If you agree with this statement, please raise your ruler in the air. If you disagree, raise your scissors.' WHO TELLS KIDS TO RAISE SCISSORS IN THE AIR?!
5. Great breakfast every day. And sales pitches from local teaching stores who provide you with goodies. Geez it's like Pavlov's dogs, if we mention 'Lakeshore Learning Center' enough times and give them cranberry muffins, maybe they'll come spend their meager paychecks here!
6. A way to make you crazy excited to get out of there and into your classroom. :D


There is no such thing as a cold shower in Arizona summertime.

When you leave your coffee in the car for 3 hours, it gets hotter, not colder. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What is art? My 3rd graders share.

"Art is a patient message. Art is mixed emotions."-MM
"Art is a peace of color and picture it is also beautiful it also
  takes time that is how its beautiful and crafty."-AA

"Art is neat because people opin up art museums so people can see neat pichers that people make." -RL
"Art is something that you can make by yourself of with other people. Art can also be music with other people or by yourself." -AH

"Art is to have lots of patience. And lots of work!" -HM
"Colerfull and it helps you learn. It is fun and relaxing." LL

"Is to draw something creative and they are all amazing with pictures." -AS
"Art is a picture or a painting. Art is a talant you can do. Art is a specle thing you can do." -JB

"Art is spontanies, pashonit. Also art makes you think!!! It's very cool!!!" -AS
"Art is crafty. Art is hard. Art is fun. Art is time to work hard." -TS

"A picture made of paint, crayons, pencils, markers or colored pencils. A mixture of colors to make something or a random mixture." -GP
"The point of art is that someone is trying to tell you something. Or art could show your passion." EC

"I think art is a masterpeace of color, uneek pictures, and freedom." -LR
"Art is about haveing fun feeling good and bring your pictuer out of your mind. Being fun too. -AS

"Art is colorful, crazy, fun, amazing." - CT
"You have to have pationts when you are doing art. Art is when someone makes a picture or build anything in the world pretty much." - GC

"It is a fun this you can do and it's a picture with point and people like to look at your creation!!" -AW
"Art is a messy thing that is some times crazy." -AF

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's a circle story.

Kids know more than we give them credit for. When reading Peter Reynold's The Dot to my third graders, they informed me very confidently that it was a circle story. I stopped, and realized that these students were on to much more. The story is about a young girl, Vashti, who thought that she couldn't draw. Her art teacher, a wise woman, told her that all good art starts with simply making a dot. After Vashti made her dot, the teacher then solemnly told her to sign the paper. The next week, that same paper was framed and hanging above the art teacher's desk. Vashti then realized that she could make much better dots than the first one she'd tried, so she began a series of paintings all related to dots! At the school art show a few weeks later, when her art was being displayed, a young boy came up to her. "I can't even draw a straight line," he said sadly. At this point, I had several students call out 'it's a circle story!' I wondered for half a moment what that was, and then realized. They knew that the girl would make the little boy feel like an artist. She would do the same thing for him that her art teacher did for her.

Isn't this true in real life? History is one big circle story. A bad influence on a child leads to a child growing up and doing the same things. People repeat their mistakes. But for now, at least, these kids have the innocence of knowing only of the circle stories in picture books. The ones that are cyclically good. I hope they can stay that way for as long as possible.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm that teacher that pokes a kid and says, "YOU'RE IT!"

I have a lot of experience babysitting. I have watched kids for friends of the family, as well as had consistent summer jobs babysitting. For the first time, I’ve noticed something very interesting about the similarities and differences in being a babysitter and being a teacher. For example, I have a tendency to act like a kid. I like to run around and play games, act goofy, make faces, etc. and this has made me a very popular sitter to have around. And camp counselor for that matter. But as a teacher, I’ve missed this. Being a teacher sometimes means being the ‘bad guy’ when it comes to classroom management or having those difficult discussions at morning meeting about bullying or less than desirable behavior in the classroom.

Although I enjoy these additional responsibilities, as well as the academic ones, I have also noticed that I miss out on being the kids’ friend. Is this something that all teachers go through? And how do I know what the right measure of friendship/silliness can accompany being a classroom teacher? During my word study lesson on Thursday, I was tackling the –er and –est endings. I used some examples by showing students that were tall, taller, and tallest out of a group. We then did an old, older, and oldest with a student and the two teachers. This activity was a lot of fun, because the students got to call their teachers ‘old.’ Of course, we had fun with it too. However, the next day when grading their homework, I noticed that many of the students (more than usual) had missed some of the biggest concepts and rules involved in that lesson. Is this because I made the lesson too fun? Was it a distraction to the real information that needed to be learned? I struggle with finding a balance between being the teacher and being goofy and having fun with my students. How do you know where to draw the line?