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a year in the life of a first grade teacher



Updated: 2014-03-18T23:17:05.911-05:00

 



One day at a time

2009-09-21T18:31:25.203-05:00

Coaching is NOT the same as teaching.

I knew it wouldn't be, but I had no idea how vastly different my days would be. I work for a branch of the public school system that services Catholic schools. So I kind of have the best of both worlds - I get paid by the school district but I get to work in the Catholic schools. It's a sweet deal. I'm assigned to 2 different schools... so on Mondays and Tuesdays I'm at one school, on Wednesdays and Thursdays I'm at the other... and on Fridays, all 13 of the coaches are at the office for meetings and prep time.

Some pros about my new job:
  • The commute is SO much better. Both of the schools are 10 minutes from my doorstep, and the office is only 20 minutes away.
  • Since it's a shorter drive, I can sleep a little later in the morning. Always a plus.
  • I don't have to grade tests, plan lessons, go to parent conferences, or volunteer for committees.
  • I don't have to stay late to clean a classroom or run copies... so my day ends earlier than I'm used to.
  • The salary (of course).
  • I go to 3 different buildings a week, so there's always a change of scenery and plenty of new people to talk to.

And, of course, some cons:

  • I don't feel useful yet. This time of year is always crazy for me, but now I'm just kinda hanging out, waiting to get to know the teachers before I start bothering them. I know I'll be busy soon, but for right now, I'm just bored.
  • Since I'm only part-time at both schools, I feel like a visitor. My old job was always my home away from home, so this feeling of displacement is alien to me.
  • And on that subject... I miss having a classroom space. Since both schools are small and I'm only part-time, I work out of the faculty room and I carry my bag everywhere. I'm like a hobo, but with better clothes :)
  • I miss my former students and co-workers VERY much. I try not to think about it... but it's definitely still a hard thing to deal with.

It's an adjustment. I'm not at all unhappy, but I think it will take some time before I'm completely comfortable.




Changes

2009-09-21T18:18:21.649-05:00

Hello, internet!

I'm back... again. Some things have changed since I last wrote. At the end of July, I was offered a position as a Literacy Coach, and I accepted it. The decision to leave the Catholic school was definitely bittersweet. I loved everything about my old job except the salary... but I was ready to move on to bigger and better things. And not just for the money. After I finished grad school and got my Reading Specialist certificate, I started getting a little restless at the Catholic school.

I don't regret my decision to leave, but I do miss teaching. I miss decorating bulletin boards and organizing supplies. I miss chatting with my co-worker friends in the faculty room at lunch. I miss planning first grade activities and reading stories and singing the "Good Morning Song." And above all, I miss the kids. I REALLY miss the kids. I knew that would be the hardest part of leaving. Especially since I never got to say goodbye to the kids. I hate not having closure.

So... about my new job. I'm a Literacy Coach, which means I work primarily with K-3 teachers. I'm a resource for teachers who need new ideas for lessons and activities, I can provide professional development to the faculty, and I can model lessons for teachers. I assist the reading teacher with assessments when necessary and I help the teachers use the assessment data to plan lessons.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.



Must I always be waiting, waiting on you?

2009-06-30T22:54:16.408-05:00

Props to Jack Johnson for the title of this post.

I am still smack-dab in the middle of a job hunt. I don't know if it's this hard for other teachers, or if I'm doing something wrong, but this is the 3rd summer in a row that I've been sending resumes. On the plus side... this year, I had 3 interviews that resulted from resume packets that I sent out last summer. All were district screening interviews, which means if I "pass" I get placed on a list. And if there's an opening, a principal can pull my name from the list and call me for an interview. About a month ago, I had a panel interview for a Reading Specialist position. I thought it went really well, but I never heard back from them. The same week that I went for that interview, I applied for another position within the same district... this time for a Reading Coach position. Yesterday I went for the written portion of the examination for that position. Apparently there were 60 people who applied for the job, and there are only 10 openings. The written exam is pass/fail... if I pass, there will be an interview next week. So once again, I'm waiting to hear something.

I hate waiting.

And the thing is, I'm not even sure if this is the job I really want. A Reading Coach works mostly with teachers... and in this case, the coaches are assigned to 3 or 4 different schools, which means I won't really have a "home." I love reading, and I love sharing my ideas for teaching reading... but above all, I love teaching reading to kids. Am I ready to leave the classroom yet? I really don't know. What I do know is that I can't stay in the Catholic school system much longer. I just can't afford it.

Keep some fingers crossed for me.



No more pencils, no more books... ?

2009-06-29T14:46:53.789-05:00

I know... I know...

I disappeared for a month. Or more. Again.

I had every intention of keeping the blog going, but it's so hard for me! Anyway. The school year is over at last, but don't think that means vacation time! The week after school ended, I spent 4 days in teacher inservice... the scintillating topic was "Creating Quality Assessments." Ooh... bet you're jealous. At least I got paid to go, so it wasn't a total waste. And for two of those days, I got to stay for several hours of summer school training.

The week after THAT (which was supposed to be my only free week until August), I got to babysit my adorable 13 month old godson. His father (my cousin's son, and also my godson) called me in a panic asking if I was free that week. Something about a scheduling conflict and his regular sitter being on vacation. Sigh. Of course I said yes. So I spent 5 days playing with the baby... watching the Sprout channel... changing diapers...

Which leads me to this week and (drumroll, please) ... summer school! Yeah, I caved. I'm teaching summer school. Not only am I teaching at my schoool, but in my own classroom. In fact, I'm teaching some of my former students. Talk about no vacation.

Today was the first day, and it was not without its mishaps. Per the instructions given in the tedious training sessions, I was supposed to test the kids in my group today. Each child is to be tested at their grade level, even if you have multiple levels in one group. Two minor setbacks... I had a K-1 group first, followed by a 2-3 group. All the K-2 tests have to be read to the students. I can't read two different tests at the same time, so that posed a problem. Turns out it didn't matter much, because they didn't send enough testing materials anyway, so I had to go right to Lesson One. Of course, today was the first time that I've actually laid eyes on any of the books (including the teacher's guide), so I had no time to review anything I was supposed to teach. The good thing is that it's a scripted curriculum, which I would normally hate. But it means no planning, which is awesome for summer school.

So that about brings us up to date. I'll make every effort to write more. I promise.



The joys of the job hunt.

2009-05-02T11:21:32.666-05:00

I'm so freakin' lazy about this blog. For the past two years, it's been damn near impossible to sit down and write about my day. I'm trying, though. Really I am.

Anyway... I took a personal day yesterday because I had a district screening interview. I had a screening interview for a different school district back in November, and it was pretty much the same thing: brief interview with random district principal, consisting of a set list of very general questions (managing behavior, creating classroom climate, communicating with parents, assessing student learning, etc, etc...), followed by a 30 minute writing sample in a computer lab (they provide a question, I spend 30 minutes bullshitting an answer). These interviews are really more of a formality. They already have my paperwork packet, which includes my resume, cover letter, references, clearances, certificate and transcripts. They already know that they like my qualifications. In fact, one of the people who interviewed me yesterday said only 15% of applicants make it past the paperwork portion. So this step is really just so the district can say they saw me in person before they pass my name on to the school principals.

I think I did well, though. The downside is that there is no feedback given in this type of interview. If they approve of me, my name goes into a database that all district principals have access to. If there's an opening, one of the principals can contact me.

So as it stands right now, I'm on two eligibility lists already. In one school district, I'm eligible for a position as a reading teacher... however, I've recently been told that the district has cut reading teachers this past year due to funding. I'm also eligible for an elementary position in another district (the one that screened me in November). And as of yesterday, there's a good chance I'm eligible in that district as well (also for elementary). But being eligible doesn't necessarily mean I'll get hired. It's frustrating.

Soon I'll have to start thinking about looking for a summer job. I just don't feel like thinking that far ahead right now.



Two and a half days left...

2009-04-03T19:57:50.940-05:00

... and then it's Easter break! A gloriously long "weekend," with no work from 12 PM next Wednesday until the Tuesday after Easter. That's five and a half days. I plan to enjoy every minute of my free time.

I've reached the point in the school year when I've had enough of the nonsense. This past week, I've found myself repeating rules that were laid down in September. Kids are coming to school without their folder or their take-home book... they're turning in incomplete homework assignments... they're full of ridiculously petty behavior that has "Spring Fever" written all over it. Oy. I had to pull out my "mean teacher" voice a LOT this week. Along with my disappointed face. (If I get early wrinkles, I know who to blame...)

On the plus side, my ADHD boy has been on meds since mid-March, and the change is unreal. He can sit at his desk without tapping his pencil or falling out of his chair. He finishes his work, and it's done neatly! His printing has gone from smudged scribbles to age-appropriate letters. His grades are already improving. He had failed spelling in the first and second marking period, but on the last two spelling tests, he's only gotten one word wrong. Amazing. I'm certainly not a firm believer in medicating difficult kids, but this proves that he just needed something to help him focus. And he feels so much better about himself. It's been wonderful to watch the transformation.

I can't believe it's April already. This year is flying...



A month of no Mondays.

2009-03-22T21:16:29.997-05:00

From a teaching standpoint, I'm not a fan of four day weeks. Sure, I love having a day to sleep in and get my errands done. But I absolutely HATE starting the week on a Tuesday. I feel like I spend my whole week falling farther and farther behind, trying to play catch-up on my breaks. Nothing gets done.

This month has been full of weeks like that. The kids have had off 3 out of 5 Mondays this month: a snow day, report card conferences, and tomorrow is our faculty retreat day. The retreat day is required by the Archdiocese. It's supposed to be a day of rest, rejuvenation, reflection and reconnection. (I went with an "r" theme...) Some years I think it's a waste of time, other years I think it helps to refocus me (another "r"!) for the second half of the school year.

I don't know what to expect from this year's retreat. I think there's going to be a guest speaker of some sort and probably a prayer service. One good thing about this year is that we're not having the retreat at the school. There's something refreshing about being away from the school. Anytime I go to a workshop or seminar that's not held on school ground, I feel like I have a renewed energy about my job. (It doesn't always last, lol.)

I'm trying to go into tomorrow's retreat with a good attitude. Maybe I'll get something out of it this year. We'll see.



music appreciation

2009-03-14T19:49:37.066-05:00

One more music-related story (hey, it's a theme)... And not surprisingly, it comes from the same child that I blogged about yesterday and the day before.

Since we were (FINALLY!!!) done with standardized testing and there is no class on Monday due to report card conferences, we spent today catching up on unfinished work and cleaning the classroom. Today's musical selection was something I dug out of my bedroom closet at my parents' house earlier in the week. I had been trying to locate the movie "Fantasia," when I found a storage box of old cassette tapes. Score! Among them was my beat up copy of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem. I figured it was nothing my kids had ever heard before, so I played it while we were finishing up a writing activity. My little Music Man approached me and asked, "Is this opera?"

Given that Sarah Brightman hits some mighty high notes, it was a reasonable question. (And bonus points to him for knowing what opera is!) I told him it was sort of like opera.

"Ok," he nodded. "It sounds like something they'd play when someone dies."

At this point, I was more than a little shocked. I can't imagine that he'd ever heard Webber's Requiem played anywhere before... it's not very well known, and I don't believe it's ever been used in a movie. But it does have that certain eerie sound to it, seeing as how it was composed for a funeral Mass.

I pulled him aside to show him the cassette cover. "That word requiem is Latin for rest," I explained. "This actually IS music they would play when someone dies. How did you know that?"

He shrugged. "I dunno," he replied. "Just sounds like it."

I think the boy has a real gift.



Fab!

2009-03-13T13:15:16.378-05:00

Today during testing, my kids asked if I was going to put on music again.

"What do you wanna hear?" I asked.

"Beatles," replied one child promptly. (He's the one who requested Vivaldi yesterday... clearly the boy has good taste.)

"I'll only play the music without words during the test, kiddo," I said. "I have the instrumental Beatles that we listened to yesterday."

He frowned. "I like it better with the words," he said.

"I know, but the singing might be distracting during a test."

"That's okay," he informed me. "Me and you are the only ones who know the words, and I won't sing along."

Gotta love it!



Why I LOVE my kids...

2009-03-11T15:14:54.409-05:00

After a long and grueling morning of standardized testing (math section today... UGH), I let my kids do some fun creative writing in the afternoon. One of my girls asked if I could put music on, as I often do while they work. (During testing today, I played Debussy. Yesterday's test called for some instrumental Beatles. We're very well-rounded in first grade.)

"What do you want to hear?" I asked.

"Vivaldi!" requested one boy.

Another boy waved his hand in the air. "And after that, how about some Charlie Parker?"

I was more than happy to oblige :)



In the absence of children.

2009-03-02T14:19:57.127-05:00

Since I have a snow day, I figured it would be a good time to catch up on posting. And luckily, I have something to write about! Every time my kids say something funny, I jot it down on scrap paper and shove it in my teacher bag... where, of course, it gets lost until I clean the bag out. Which is what I did last night. I found several little pieces of paper with stories and quotes scribbled on them. Sigh.

I figured I should actually post them on here to remind myself that my kids ARE pretty damn cute... even the ones who drive me nuts.

So here is today's installment, both from the same girl. She's extremely cute and very bright. She's also one of the few blondes I've taught at this school (our population is mostly Hispanic, so I get a lot of brown and black haired kiddos). Her combination of cuteness and friendliness makes her quite popular with the other kids. Her mom once told me that she "plays" me at home... lines her stuffed animals up and teaches them. I bet that's cute to see.

One day, one of my kids did something that struck me as funny, so I laughed. Blondie smiled and said, "You always laugh. I like when you laugh. It makes me laugh." Which of course made me laugh again :)

Later that day, I overheard her correcting a boy who had used the word "ain't" in conversation.

"Ain't isn't a word!", she chastised.

"Yes it is," her friend insisted.

She shook her head. "No, it's not... my mom teached me."

I didn't have the heart to tell her that "teached" is just as bad as "ain't." Another lesson for another time, lol.



Snow day!

2009-03-01T23:02:38.515-05:00

All weekend long the buzz has been "the BIG snow" headed our way. I didn't think it was gonna happen (why get my hopes up?), but it's almost 11 PM and the snow has been falling for about 5 hours. It's laying on the grass and cars and just barely coating the streets. And as of about an hour ago, the news stations announced that schools are CLOSED TOMORROW!

Part of me is very happy to know about it ahead of time. It means I don't have to set my alarm. I can sleep in a little and not have to worry about getting everything ready for work tomorrow, "just in case." On the other hand, it takes some of the fun out of a snow day... the anticipation of waking up and peeking out the window to see how much snow has fallen, waiting for the radio to say the magic words, "All public and archdiocesan schools are closed." And then being able to roll over and go back to bed.

But either way, it's all good.

I intend to spend my snow day ignoring my to-do list. A snow day is like a freebie, and I think I should take advantage of that. I think I'll curl up on the sofa with a hot cup of coffee, a book, and a warm blanket, watching the snow fall outside. Then maybe watch some bad daytime TV with my lunch (homemade potato soup, saved for just such an occasion). Maybe I'll do laundry, maybe I won't. I've got time to figure it out. It's gonna be great :)

Happy Snow Day, if you've got one!



Phantastic!

2009-02-10T22:35:14.238-05:00

Today was one of those crazy, crazy days where no actual teaching gets done... but it was SO much fun.

Our second grade class entered a contest called Be a Phanatic About Reading, which is sponsored by the Philadelphia Phillies... and they won!!! Their prize was a school visit from the Phillies' mascot, the Phillie Phanatic. If you're not familiar with our mascot, he's kind of a cross between a bird and an anteater... big and green with a long snout and giant feet... I dunno, he's goofy-looking, but he's one of THE icons of the city. Anyway, the Phanatic came to our school today and he brought the WORLD SERIES TROPHY!!! It was awesome.

(image)

The Phanatic paraded through our school cafetorium with the trophy, followed by the second grade contest winners. Then our principal read a book about the World Series parade while the Phanatic acted it out.

(image)
The kids LOVED every minute of it (and so did the teachers, lol). When the presentation was over, each class had their picture taken with the trophy. It was amazing to see it up close.

(image)

I'm glad the second graders won the contest. They were so enthusiastic about books and reading in first grade, and they deserved to be in the spotlight for this.




Change.

2009-01-20T22:01:58.623-05:00

(image) A few notes on today's inauguration... (I had planned on a longer post, but a head cold has my brain a bit addled and I'm heading to bed early tonight.)

~ I had actual lesson plans for today, but as soon as I pulled up Inauguration Day coverage on cnn.com, my kids were flocking to the laptop, hoping for a glimpse of our soon-to-be 44th president. I let them drift over to my desk during centers and writers' workshop, but by snack time I could see that we weren't going to get any book-learning done. I moved the laptop to a desk in the back of the room, hooked up the external speakers, and we sat to watch history unfold.

~ When the motorcade drove past, one of my girls asked, "Why are the cops chasing him?" Cue impromptu lesson on Secret Service Men...

~ During the introduction of former presidents, one student asked if Teddy Roosevelt would be there. Not sure how he knows that name, but I think I confused him even more when I tried to explain why Teddy wouldn't be in attendance.

~ Around 11:30, the whole school went down to the cafetorium to watch the ceremony on the projection screen. I expected the kids to get antsy or bored, but the majority of them sat and watched the whole thing with nary a peep. Impressive.

~ I was pretty sure I was gonna cry... and I did. But not during the oath or the speech (which is when I figured it would happen). No, the two moments that moved me to tears were completely unexpected ones. As Biden was being introduced, the cameras got a shot of Obama walking down the corridor, held held high... as soon as he appeared on the screen, the entire school erupted in applause. It was powerful. The second thing that made me cry was during the invocation prayer delivered by Rev. Rick Warren. At the end of the invocation, he began the Lord's Prayer ("Our Father, who art in heaven..."). Every single one of my students joined him in the prayer. I didn't expect that to happen (and, quite frankly, I was surprised that they were still paying attention!), and hearing their voices got me choked up while I was praying.

So even though our entire schedule for the morning was thrown out the window, I like to think my kids learned a lot today.




Lazy days

2009-01-19T11:52:29.521-05:00

Reason #652 that I LOVE having a day off: I'm spending a lazy Monday morning in my pajamas, drinking coffee and checking up on blogs. Sheer bliss. Anyway, on The Book Whisperer's site I found a link to something called Wordle. It lets you create "word clouds" and then change the font, color and layout. For a word-nerd like me, it's hours of entertainment :) Just thought I'd share the goodness with the rest of you.

And since it happens to be flurrying, I created my first word cloud about snow. Not my best work, but it gives you an idea of what the site does. (Click on the picture for a clearer view...)

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Let the chips fall where they may.

2009-01-14T22:26:01.278-05:00

Kids come up with the best excuses... but this one takes the cake.One of my boys brought a gallon sized ziploc bag to school with two packaged snacks in it (peanut butter crackers and a small bag of chips). He took it out at snack time and asked if he could eat it. I told him he wasn't allowed to have a snack from home at recess time (school rule - kids get pretzel and juice snack), so he put it back in his schoolbag.When it was time to line up for lunch, I saw the same boy in line holding the ziploc bag again. "Are you cold lunch?" I asked. (Most of our kids qualify for the free hot lunch. Others choose to bring a "cold lunch," which is a lunch brought from home.)He shook his head no. "Well, you can't bring a snack if you're hot lunch," I said. "You get a snack with your lunch downstairs. Go put it back in your schoolbag, you can eat it at home."He shuffled into the coat closet and then rejoined the line.When we got downstairs, one of my girls came over and tugged on my shirt. "He's got something in his pocket," she whispered.I called him over to me. "Empty your pockets," I requested.He looked at me and made a show of patting himself down."No... EMPTY them," I repeated.He pulled the lining out of one of his pockets and then looked at me expectantly."And the other one?"He lifted his shirttail and looked down at his other pocket. A red foil package of potato chips was peeking out. He stared at the pocket, then looked at me, then looked back at the pocket. He seemed genuinely surprised to find it there.He then spent about three minutes tugging the bag out of the pocket. (God knows how he managed to shove it in there in the first place.)"What did I tell you to do with your snacks?" I asked."Put them in my schoolbag," he mumbled."And....?""I did," he said. "They fell in my pocket."I had to make sure I heard him right. "They FELL in your POCKET?"He nodded."How did that happen?""I was putting them in my schoolbag, and the chips fell down," he explained."And they fell in your pocket?" I questioned.Another nod."And you didn't know that they fell in your pocket until just now?" I persisted.He shook his head.I took a deep breath. "So, you're telling me that your bag of chips fell out of a closed ziploc bag and into the pocket of your pants, and you didn't notice it until just now?"He nodded.The funny thing is, he stuck by the story for the rest of the day. And he told it without the smiles, laughs or smirks that normally accompany a first grader who pulled one over on his teacher. I don't know whether to be impressed or scared.[...]



I should have joined the circus.

2009-01-12T22:51:28.366-05:00

This year, I have the smallest class I've ever had: 14 students. But there are two boys in my room that have enough energy to make it seem like I'm teaching 20 kids. Very condensed synopsis of the boys: One boy has severe ADHD and has been evaluated, parents were supposed to make doctors appointments and have regular meetings with school counselor, but they haven't followed through. He loves to help in the classroom, but he's extremely disorganized, rarely completes assignments, and is currently failing 2 subjects. The other boy is the youngest of three (his next oldest brother is in high school), mom tends to baby him, he thrives on attention and seems to think that everyone and everything should revolve around him. He's very bright, imaginative and loves to write. Both boys are impulsive, hyper, loud and energetic. They rarely stay in their seats and are often in fights with each other.Both boys have been this way since Pre-K, and I've spent the first 4 months of the year trying to manage their behavior through parent meetings, individualized behavior charts, positive reinforcement, classroom rewards (i.e. extra computer time, class jobs that they enjoy), school-issued consequences (i.e. lunch detention, incident reports), and in the case of one of the boys, an evaluation with the school psychologist.Despite my efforts, not much has changed in the classroom. And now every day I'm faced with a dilemma. There are some days when I see that one of the boys is trying hard, and I go out of my way to encourage him so that he can bring good news back to his mother. Some days I am so frustrated with the CONSTANT interruptions, and I crack down on them everytime they start up. And then there are the days like today... when I feel so bad for the other 12 kids in my room that I want to ignore their noise (and arguing, seat-leaving, calling out, etc) and just teach over it. I know consistency is the key to working with children. But it's starting to feel like I'm attacking them when I single them out for their behavior. On the other hand, the rest of my students don't have behavior problems as severe as those boys. And if I don't correct the boys when they do these things, I might be sending the wrong message to them, and to my other students. And the bigger question... Is it wrong that I sometimes want to ignore them? Does that make me a bad teacher? I certainly don't claim to be the perfect teacher, but classroom management has always been my strong point. When everything I've tried isn't working, what do I do? Is it more important to teach the children who are doing the right thing? Or is it better to interrupt my lessons every few minutes to correct the ones who aren't? Is there something I haven't tried? This is my 9th year teaching and it's still like a constant juggling act - trying to monitor all of my students, praise the good behavior, correct the disruptive behavior, AND teach ... oh yes, let's not forget the job that I was actually hired to do, lol. I have to do all of this (and more) and not lose my cool. Can you blame me if I drop a ball once in awhile? [...]



Get to know Mo.

2009-01-10T22:16:02.261-05:00

Do you know Mo? Mo Willems, that is. He is an amazingly talented award-winning children's author and illustrator. I became familiar with his work five years ago - reluctantly, I might add - after a student brought one his books into my classroom. A book about a rather two dimensional, stick-figure bird, which is entitled Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. And I was convinced (based on the cover and title) that the book would be... well, stupid. As a book lover and future reading specialist, I couldn't waste my time on something that wasn't "quality" literature. But Justin kept coming in with this book, and giggling over it at recess. So one day I picked it up and flipped through it... and laughed right out loud. Since then, I have been on a mission to find everything that Mo has ever written.The beauty of Mo's books is that he keeps them simple, but at the same time, highly entertaining. I read an article where Mo said he want his pictures to be so simple that a five year old could draw them. The books in his Elephant and Piggie Easy Reader series use a limited amount of words, which makes them perfect for my first graders to practice reading. His "harder" books are better for read-alouds, but still encourage lots of audience participation (which my students do gleefully). And the pictures are priceless. Mo does much of his story-telling through the characters' body language and facial expressions.Mo is currently on tour promoting his newest book, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. (Gotta love an author who knows that the word "naked" will cause children to erupt in contagious giggles...) Today I had a chance to see him at a local Barnes and Noble for a reading and signing. He read two books, answered some questions, and then signed books. I was highly impressed - he was as funny and engaging as his books. Unfortunately, flash photography was prohibited, so the pic of him reading came out blurry... I got two books signed... including the book that got me hooked in the first place:If you're a teacher (or a mother of young children), I urge you to get your hands on some of Mo's books. You can thank me later.[...]



Moving on

2009-01-07T23:28:00.274-05:00

I've been back for two days, and I think I'm doing well with getting the kids into routine. I implemented a schedule poster (which I made several years ago and never really used) to plan our day... which reduces the number of times I have to hear the inevitable, "Miss M? When is lunch??" or "Do we have art today?" At one student's request, I write a T next to any activity where talking is allowed (such as recess, center time, writer's workshop). The schedule has been keeping me on track, and I feel like we've gotten a lot accomplished since we've been back.

I'm also trying to get my classroom back in order. With all the holiday craziness, I feel like there wasn't any time to clean or organize or file anything... so my room is filled with piles of papers that need my attention. I figured I'd start with the easiest task - undecorate my classroom. I managed to get all of that done today, which means tomorrow I can start putting up the winter-themed bulletin boards (one for the New Year, one for the snowman theme). I'm glad the hustle and bustle is over, but my room really did look nice for Christmas.

Candy canes made by the kids (a lesson on patterns as well as the legend of the candy cane).

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Poinsettias made by the kids (after reading The Legend of the Poinsettia, by Tomie dePaola).

(image) This is a project I do every year... I send home a plain green Christmas tree cut-out, and they decorate it with their parents. I'm always amazed at how creative they get!

(image) (image) But, all of that is gone now. Gotta make room for the new stuff. I'll post pics of the new bulletin boards once they're up.



Happy 2009!

2009-01-04T17:55:08.757-05:00

Happy New Year!

Since I was on a break from work, I also took a break from blogging... with the exception of my last post about the car. Aside from that, there was nothing really worth blogging about. Christmas was peaceful and uneventful (just the way I like it!) and New Year's Eve was a relatively quiet night spent eating fondue, drinking beer and playing board games with a few good friends. In between, I spent my time catching up on all the things I haven't had a chance to do since the school year started: sleep (I think I took a nap every day, and it was fabulous!), visit friends, clean the apartment, watch bad daytime TV, and read. I enjoyed EVERY minute of it! And most importantly, I don't feel guilty for not thinking about work :-)

The car situation has finally been sorted out. My insurance company deemed my pretty red Toyota Rav 4 a total loss, which I was expecting. I used the insurance money to help get my new car, which is a 2008 Hyundai Elantra. It's also red, but only because they only had two '08s on the lot, and the red one was in my price range. I'm very happy with the car... I had an '03 Elantra before I bought the Toyota, so I know they're reliable and safe.

Well, the last few hours of my break are winding down. Tomorrow I'll be back at work, but without the kids. We have a faculty meeting and then we get some time to work in our classrooms. The kids start back on Tuesday. With any luck, I'll be able to get back on schedule by the end of the week. I think the bigger challenge is getting the kids back on schedule. They've had almost 2 weeks of later bedtimes, TV, video games, and sugary treats. Kinda hard to get back into routine after that.

I hope everyone else has a good week back!



Merry Christmas (?)

2008-12-25T13:18:47.228-05:00

My roommate woke me up at 3 AM to tell me that our neighbors were buzzing our door... apparently, someone's car spun out on the ice and slammed into my car (and the car in front of me). It was bad. Very bad.

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So my Christmas Eve was spent calling my insurance company, taking pictures of the damage, cleaning out the car, waiting for the tow truck, and calling my parents to arrange for a ride. Ugh.

The good news (if you can call it that) is that the police have the guy who hit the cars. He was taken away in a police car before I even got outside. I don't know all the details yet. After the accident, it was about a half an hour before a neighbor came out who knew that the car belonged to me. So she buzzed our apartment until she managed to wake up my roommate, who went out to see the damage before coming to wake me up. By the time I got out there, the police officer was already finished writing up the report.

I have to wait to hear from the insurance company, but I'm fairly sure I'll have to start shopping for a new car soon. Oh, the timing...




The end is in sight!

2008-12-18T22:27:24.882-05:00

Tonight was our annual Peace Vigil, so that's one more thing I can cross off of my to-do list :)

The Peace Vigil is a schoolwide prayer service that we hold the week before Christmas. All of the families are invited to the church to watch each class sing a song about peace or Christmas, and there is a peace prayer in between each song. It's a beautiful way to get in the holiday spirit. My kids did a SPECTACULAR job, and I'm not just saying that because I'm biased. They sang "Keep Christmas With You (All Through the Year)" from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. If you've seen the movie, you know that Linda teaches the neighborhood kids the song in sign language to surprise Bob. (If you haven't seen the movie, shame on you! It's a classic!) In October, I started teaching my students a sign at the end of each day until we knew enough to put together a verse of the song. By the time this week rolled around, they were pros. Tonight they outdid themselves. They were better than they'd been in any of our practices. They sang loud and clear, they didn't miss a sign, and they looked adorable.

Earlier today, we finished decorating the gingerbread house (which is actually Snoopy's doghouse from A Charlie Brown Christmas). It doesn't look too bad.

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Also, here's a pic of the finished potpourri jars. I'm really impressed with the way they turned out. I'll have to keep the idea in mind for the future... maybe Mother's Day gifts or something.

(image) Well, tomorrow is Friday. FINALLY. I'm looking forward to the faculty Christmas party after work and then... the weekend!!!




One day at a time

2008-12-17T21:03:36.244-05:00

I spent the last two days banging out things on my to-do list:

The kids know ALL their songs (for their various performances) inside and out, and even if they screw up, they're still gonna look damn precious :)

The mini potpourri jars for the craft sale at this weekend's Lunch with Santa are done. I glued all the ribbons on today and they look spectacular.

The ornaments that the kids are making for their parents (foam snowman picture frame from Oriental Trading) FINALLY arrived in the mail today. I still need to take pics of the kids (wearing a Santa hat, lol) and then the ornaments need to be assembled. Hopefully that won't take long. They can go home on Monday if I need an extra day or two.

I started the gingerbread house. The walls and roof are in place, and it needs to dry overnight before we can decorate. So far, so good...

(image) I bought the ingredients for my chicken enchilada dip for the faculty Christmas party. I can assemble it Thursday night and microwave it Friday afternoon right before the party.

I bought the gift for the Pirate Party gift swap. The limit was $15, and I think I did a pretty decent job. I got this fleece blanket ($9.99) and a CD of holiday tunes ($5.99... and $2 of that gets donated to Salvation Army). I'm a whole whopping dollar over the limit, but... eh... what can you do?

(image) And - just because I was bitching about not taking time to enjoy the holidays - I decided to use some leftovers in my kitchen to produce these lovely treats :)

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Who can be stressed when there are chocolate covered pretzels in the house?




Tapped out

2008-12-16T22:06:31.791-05:00

I'm not feeling Christmas this year.It's going on around me, but I haven't been able to take the time to enjoy it. I feel the whole "overworked and underpaid" thing a lot more now than I used to, and it's starting to interfere with the things I used to enjoy. Like Christmas. And my job. And my job at Christmas. Our principal has been asking us for a lot lately. I know it's the season of giving... but I feel like I do that all year long. I give and I give and I give. It's the life of a teacher. Especially a Catholic school teacher in a poor parish. I should be used to it, but this year has been harder on me. (And on a lot of other teachers in my school, I'm sure.)Every class has to have a song to perform for our annual Peace Vigil. (Done and done... my kids learned "Keep Christmas With You," from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. In sign language, no less. They rock.) We also have to have a song for our Christmas caroling day next week. (Also done. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Easy and fun.)Lunch with Santa is this Saturday. Each class was asked to make some sort of craft that can be sold at the lunch. My class made potpourri jars out of baby food jars (donated), lace (leftover), ribbon and potpourri (purchased by me). They turned out pretty cute, but of course I wound up doing most of the work to assemble them. Each class also has to put together and decorate a gingerbread house (kit provided by the school) to be raffled off at Lunch with Santa. Sounds like fun, but try doing it with 14 kids in the room. Lol... last year's house was disastrous. I think it'll be easier this year now that I know what I'm doing. But I have to find some way to occupy the bulk of my kids while I let two or three kids at a time put the candy decorations on. Moving on... Our faculty Christmas party is on Friday after work. Everyone was asked to bring either an appetizer or a dessert. We also have to get a gift for our Pirate Pollyanna. (Fun stuff... Everyone brings a wrapped gift and we put them in a pile. Then we each pick a number. Whoever gets #1 picks a present from the pile and unwraps it. Then #2 can steal 1's gift, or pick a new one from the pile... and so on... It always winds up being a really good time.) I'm fine with bringing the food and present, but the Peace Vigil is the night before the party, which means I'll be at work ALL day (from 7:30 AM til at least 8 PM), so I have to make sure whatever food I'm bringing is ready to go by Wednesday night. We're supposed to buy a present for our classroom lunch mother - but I have no idea who she is, since she never shows up. I refuse to buy a gift for someone who doesn't do her job.Each teacher also has an Advent Angel. It's kind of like Secret Santa - we leave little gifts anonymously for another teacher during the season of Advent. Since Advent is 4 weeks long, we usually leave about one gift per week. It's a nice idea, and I usually enjoy it. It's fun to be surprised by a candy bar in my mailbox or a cute little snowman notepad left on my desk. However, it's the 3rd week of Advent and I've only gotten one thing - a bag of Hershey kisses on my desk 2 weeks ago. Money is tight for me, but I've managed to find some cute gifts for my Advent Angel... and I wrap them up all fancy, just to make it more special. I've already left 3 gifts for my Angel. I don't know who has me (obviously), but I'm really feeling underappreciated. An[...]



Out of the mouths of babes

2008-12-15T22:31:43.645-05:00

One of my boys came up to me today and said, "Miss M, remember I said my mom was in the hospital?"

"No," I replied. "Is she okay? Is she sick?"

He shook his head. "No, she's not sick."

He then put his hands in front of his chest and said, "These? They were too small. She wanted bigger."

"Um... what?" I asked.

He nodded and moved his hands out, to indicate a more... busty... physique.

I believe it was the first time this year a child has rendered me speechless.

Parents, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: DO NOT tell your child anything that you don't want the entire world to know. Because your kids? They like to talk.