Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodnight '09

It's Thursday and in just three days I will have to return to the classroom. I am nowhere near that "zone". I need to get there. Getting there also means I need to adjust and start somewhere other than where I left off. I do not like where I've been the last few months. There have been some good moments and I think my teaching has been very good, but it needs to be better. I want it to be better.

Despite the data-driven methods we are forced into using, I will regain the passion I began with. I have to. Because, if I do not, then it is time to get out. I have some ideas. I've mulled a few things over. I think tomorrow I will venture to school, enter my room alone, in the cold and the silence, and have a conversation with myself about my goals, methods, desires, and passion for this vocation.

I love that every January and again in August, I get to begin, again...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grecian Art ~ sorta

By now you should know that I loves me some wall displays! I rarely have a bare wall. I think it is so important to showcase what my kids do, where they go, what they think and also how creative they are.

Part of our field trip was a an activity. The docent discussed the Grecian art technique of black on red painting and red on black painting. They created their own vases with designs and back in the class room I had them glue them to construction paper. I love how they look!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Field Trip

Our district has cut all field trips but I got mine in just before the cut. I'm so glad too. We went to the Mabee-Gerrer Museum in Shawnee, OK. It was awesome!

The museum is small, but just right for a field trip. Everything on display had a real high "WOW!" factor and my kids were blown away. I forgot my Nikon, but had the handy-dandy iphone. So please excuse the crappy photo quality.

Cuneiform writing ~ We read about this in our first civilizations unit.

Sarcophagus ~ A real one! The kids were so thrilled. But this was the big hit....

This is Tutu. A mummy in Oklahoma? Who knew?! The museum calls itself "Oklahoma's best kept secret" and it is. But I think the secret needs to be told. I am going back!

The docents were wonderful and even sent with me a huge tub full of posters, videos, lesson plans, books, and a game for me to use for the next few weeks. I'm so glad we got to go. I'm go glad I chose a true educational field trip. The trend for field trips seems to be moving towards frivolous things, fun, but certainly not educational. This field trip will carry over into the classroom for the next week and after the holiday break.

Monday, November 30, 2009

She's gone...

I have had many students leave in the middle of the year and I'm usually a little sad, but I rearrange desks, rearrange small groups, and move on. But this time, this one that has moved has left me feeling incredibly sad. I wrote about her here and called her "Precious". She had been absent Monday and Tuesday. She did not show up today and I usually call home on the third day. Before I got that chance, I got the withdrawal paper in my box. I sighed...

We were making headway. She was caught up on work and the quality was improving. She did a wonderful presentation for her country report.

I tried to call mom, the mom who yelled at me over the phone, but got no answer. I worry Precious isn't in a good place. But really, I have no idea... She was mine and I miss her.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Still here... Despite a near death experience

Sorry for the long break. I have been so busy I decided to stay away awhile lest I forget my true priorities.

My Art weekend was wonderful and I have integrated some of what I learned in the classroom. I wish there was time for more but meeting are eating up so darn much time and when we aren't in meetings we are assessing. At least it seems that way.

On Monday I got a taste of Professional Development h*ll. Oh. My. Gawd! I read a lot of teacher blogs and I have read many stories about PD h*ll, but I had never been there. Now, I admit, PD still sucks most of the time, but I always seemed to come away with something. Not this time. Nothing. Zip. Can I count a sore butt?

Late in the afternoon, I decided to take another diversionary trip to the restroom while I was supposed to be working with my group, making up a song about diversity. Yes, I said MAKING UP A SONG! As I walked to the restroom, I passed another group and they were singing "We are the teachers, we are the world" and I thought to myself oh please, just kill me now. When I returned to my group, I alerted them to the fact that they were now officially on suicide watch.

Six hours... I will never get those hours back and they were truly, 100 percent, wasted.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday's and Friday's Art

Yesterday we worked on star books, taught to us by a wonderful gal from the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art in Shawnee. Inside the books we put info cards about ancient Egypt. I'm not sure I can teach my 6th graders these complicated books, but I can adapt it. I plan to use it for our Greece of Rome unit.

Today we worked with sculpy and then we made some hides made of paper. Our morning class was taught by The Philbrook Museum and I need to get to Tulsa and visit that place. This afternoon our teacher was from the Oklahoma Museum of Art and we painted and made pseudo glass bowls. I'm tired! This is more art than I've done in a long time and I love it!

This afternoon I got out and took some photos.

The colors here are brilliant.

This guy was quite far away but entertaining to watch.

The art here at the lodge is amazing. These a few examples. But the art is everywhere ~ even in the bathrooms!

The lake at dawn

When I checked in yesterday I did not have a lake view room. I asked if one came available, could I be moved. They graciously accommodated me and this is one of the reasons why I need a lake view.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Art Integration or four days of paradise

Last year I attended Oklahoma's Fall Arts Institute at Quarts Mountain. Not only were the workshops incredibly fun and valuable, the place is a little piece of Oklahoma paradise.

I learned a ton and vowed to return every year. Oklahoma public school teachers get a full scholarship to the Institute too.

I'll be blogging from paradise for the next few days. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 2, 2009

IT ~ is that you?

For some reason I can read my blogs, comment, and post.

You have no idea what this means to me!

Look for more from room 610, live as it happens! Ha!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Michael Jackson lives, grapes on a playground, and Vampires!

I had playground duty on Friday and took my camera out with me. I love some of the moments I captured. Sixth graders are still just kids after all.

Mr. Googly eyes! This kid is great! He's one of my chess club members.

This one is mine. He is so handsome, even when he isn't Michael Jackson. He is the sweetest boy and so polite, good work ethic, and a mom who makes sure her son is doing what is supposed to be doing.

My little bumble bee.

I cannot imagine being in this costume all day. I'm just glad she wasn't in my classroom!

I'm not sure what this child was supposed to be, but she looked awesome!

My own daughter wore her witch costume to school and she said she had one of the best outfits.

Noodle's entire 5th grade class opted out of Halloween and did a World Series theme instead. She had to wear baseball get up and they had hotdogs. Cute idea, but I think it sucked that my little one did not get a Halloween party or get to wear her costume to school.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's an honor just to be nominated...

The last thing I expected this year was to be nominated for Teacher of the Year at my site. I have felt like I have really struggled and just recently have found my footing.

For the nomination, I have to write about a teaching technique I use. There are many, but perhaps how I integrate art into so much of what I do makes a difference in my classroom. We don't have art at my school so it is up to the classroom teachers to make sure our kids get those skills that the state requires.

I'll keep you updated...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

If you give a teacher her freedom...

The she will take flight and soar.

If you're familiar with the "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" book then the reference will make sense.

I got so many good comments from yesterday's post that I wanted to update a bit.

I went in today and decided to put aside the data and simply teach. I did not record PASS skills nor did I follow my lesson plan. I did not annotate every thing I covered in my small groups and how long they lasted. I simply taught.

I introduced cause and effect be reading to them "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" and had them write their own cause and effect stories in the style of that book. Then they made their own little books. It was wonderful. They were 100% engaged and if I wanted to I could probably jot down 10 PASS skills we covered (probably do that tomorrow). Their books are awesome. We have "If you give a duck a doughnut", "If you give an octopus an oreo", "If you give a tiger tea", "If you give a bear a bagel", and so many more.

Because the schedule was thrown out the window, I was able to bring six kids to my table after our math lesson on dividing decimals. In fact, until lunch, my kids came and went to my table and I helped them one on one or in small groups on math problems. Usually our schedule is so tight that I have little time to do that. English was a breeze and they were so amazing during science.

I think they felt the difference. They were so good today. They even earned "doughnut Friday", which they haven't had except for once this year.

Precious brought in work she did at home and got more done in class. She is nearly caught up. She came up and hugged me at the end of the day. I did not make a big deal out of it but my heart sang. Other than crying in my arms yesterday, she had never hugged me.

Thanks to those who wrote words of support and thank you to the veterans especially. I did talk with a colleague today and she too is a veteran. She repeated over and over to me not to lose sight of the passion I have always had for my kids and the subjects I teach.

Today, it was a good day... I did not soar, but perhaps I flew, just a little bit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Burn out?

Can you burn out after less than four years? I don't think it is true burn out but this year I seem to be drowning. My first year was tough, of course, but I was high on all of the newness, the kids, the classroom, etc... My second year we moved and I started at a new school. It was tough, there were people that did not welcome the new "kids", were less than helpful, but I got through it. I cried a few times, but all in all it was a really good year. Last year was wonderful. I had a sweet class, great parents, and we had some amazing new teachers come in that breathed new life into everything.

But this year... This year is tough and just when I think things are smoothing out a new curve comes in the road. My class is tough, you know that. We have a new principal who I adore but it is a huge adjustment from the awesome guy we had last two years. I think what is weighing it all down is the increase of data, paper work and the redundant records we have to keep. Every meeting we have I walk away overwhelmed because more has been asked of us and nothing has been taken to lighten the load.

We had a data meeting today and we were given more things to do, more records to keep. I left deflated. I spent eight hours at school during my fall break getting 100% organized, copies made, all work graded, lesson plans sketched out for two months, all filing done, etc... I can grade at home and during planning I could handle the little day to day things that crop up. My lunch is usually spent working with kids who are behind or need reteaching.

So I came out of the meeting defeated and not real happy. Also, I had called a parent just before the meeting to talk to her about her daughter who is behind in work. I'll call the student "precious". Mom was angry and gave me every excuse why precious could not get caught up over our 5 day fall break. She told me her daughter would not be going to Saturday school, that it was my job to get precious caught up. She said they had other things they needed to do Saturday.

Back in the classroom I had to talk to "precious". I told her we needed to get her caught up, that mom wasn't happy and I did not want to have to talk to her again and get yelled at. Yep, mom yelled at me. I hate that. I did not expect precious to cry. She said "You're not the only one she yells at!" And she sobbed in my arms. I wanted to cry. I forgot. I forgot no matter how important I think her assignment on Egypt is, she has bigger worries. She said her mom doesn't care about her or her work. I know she's right about the latter; I got that loud and clear. As she cried and we talked later about how we would get her caught up, I couldn't help but think, "Where do I find time just for you precious? I have reports to file, and three levels of lessons on seven different subjects to teach, and t-shirt orders to sort, and online surveys I am required to complete, and graded work to sort, and silly-boy is asking a thousand questions again..."

I keep thinking it will get better... And I hang on...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The fast track

Joanne Jacobs posted an article about alternative certification on her blog. I went that route so I'm not a typical teacher. I'm not even a typical alternatively certified teacher. Most teachers who are alternatively certified are professionals in a career who choose later in life to share their expertise by teaching, most at the high school level. I worked a lot of different jobs before I got into teaching. I was a stay at home mom for many years. I was even in the Army. Hardly a professional, more like a jack-of-a-few-trades.

I wrote on my other blog a little bit about the process I went through. I think it makes me a better teacher. Not better than the other teachers. Just better than if I had strictly went the education route in college.

Oklahoma doesn't allow alternatively certified teachers to certify in elementary education anymore. I got in just in time. Currently I am certified in Elementary Ed 1-8, Journalism 6-12, and English 5-8. I'm testing next month to bump that English certification up to 12th grade. I love 6th grade, but I am beginning to feel I want to specialize. I'm weak in some areas, and have no passion in others. My students deserve a teacher with passion.

Now on to some pictures.

Chess Club starts Monday. I started it last year for the kids who like to play chess. We only compete among ourselves and do not travel. But it is fun and they love it.

We have finished our unit on Egypt and now shift to science for a few weeks. I hate not having the time to teach both subjects.

Their pumpkin poems turned out really cute. It was a simple assignment. The poem had to rhyme and be at least four lines. I cannot believe how many kids agonized over this assignment and how many just whipped it out!

One last thing... We now have to wear name tags at our school. I hate it. I understand why, but I still don't like it. So, I decided to put my whistle and keys on a lanyard and attach the name tag to that. I got the coolest lanyard from LanyardLady. She makes awesome stuff.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Playing to a tough room...

My crew is still a tough bunch. My crew is still fighting the limits but slowly coming around. I'm bending and adjusting and learning.

Last week I decided to strictly teach in small groups to this bunch. For reading and math I teach six at a time. Once a week I teach whole group. While I teach the group of six, others are busy with seat work, novel studies, literacy centers or intervention. I almost feel like I have new crew. Almost, not quite...

Things went so well that on Wednesday we sorted and classified (sort of) snacks foods. They loved it.

Today they got in big trouble in the cafeteria and spent the afternoon in quiet work. No fun-stuff-Friday for them.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I take it back...

My last post, the one about my students melding, etc...

Never mind.

They returned from the weekend ill-behaved, rude and out of control.

It's usually March or April before I find it necessary to give my "come-to-Jesus" speech.

I gave it today.

Is it Friday yet?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just another day in paradise...or room 610

We have been back at it for about a month now and I think we are melding as a class. The fusion took longer this year than I am used to, but it's happening.

They are fired up about Egypt, the Nile River, Pharaohs and pyramids.

We're building our word wall with "wondrous words".

They are making good use of

Grammar lessons are on hold for a week while we enter the writing phase. First they will write a personal narrative. Then they will make it into a small book. Finally I will spend an entire weekend reading 24 five paragraph essays. Oh boy! For the curious, yes, we did just complete our grammar unit in sentences and time order words were the last part of our lesson.

I think these two boys are mad at each other. They keep building walls...

I'm digging the projector and the huge screen despite the stupid place they hung it. My students were drawing on the white boards we got from our last project. They were making graphs.

The best thing about my day is this little 5th grader who gets to come have lunch with me. I like that...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is George Washington still alive?

Asked by a 6th grade girl today. She was serious. She did not know. I'm supposed to teach her world history this year.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Limeades for Learning ~ If you love Sonic

I posted on my other blog Notes from Oklahoma about how you can help me get cameras for my classroom.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

President's Message

Our school district would not allow us to air the President's message to school children. We could show a recorded version with a permission slip signed from their parents. Not surprised by that decision since this is a "red" state, home of that oh so wise (read a$$) Jim Inhoffe. OK, I won't go down that road...

I sent out 24 permission slips and got all of them back. That's a record! Four students were not allowed to watch the speech. I did not get nasty notes or emails like some of my colleagues, but I did get several "Thank you!" notes written on the slips from parents who were allowing their kids to view the speech.

I showed it yesterday afternoon. I have a hard time getting these kids to pay attention for more than ten minutes. They were silent the entire time and hung on every word. I am not kidding! The message was simple "You can succeed. You have something to give to this country. You can accomplish whatever you desire by setting goals." After the speech we set short term goals. We will complete the project Monday by creating visuals (posters) of the path they plan to take to reach their goal.

Sixth graders never fail to surprise me...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wall Displays

I love displaying my kids' work or their projects for all to see. I always have something on the walls outside our classroom. Above is the display I made for the Marshmallow Project.

Last winter my kids wrote poetry about snow and this was our wall display. I added their poems as snowflakes. I wish I would have taken a final picture.

We studied "Love that Dog" to kick off our figurative language unit and they wrote their own poems in the style of "Love that Boy/Dog" and this is how we shared the work.

Every Fall they write a scary story and we create a pumpkin patch to put the stories in. This takes some work, but they love it!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Marshmallow Project

My class this year is truly a challenge I would never have wished for. But, they are finally beginning to settle in, they are beginning to follow the rules and we are starting to get more and more accomplished. As always, I have those few that are so good, so well behaved, smart and patient with the remainder of the class. I know they will not always be so patient so I work really hard to get all the procedures in place and down pat as soon as possible so I don't lose that group to boredom and repetition. Usually this takes just a few days. With this group it has taken two weeks. As I was beginning to think they would never settle in, they did. It isn't all smooth sailing, but it is getting better.

Yesterday I we did the Marshmallow Project. I use this project to foster team work and cooperation. It also is a good tool to tell me how they will manage science experiments in the near future. I did not have much hope for this group because they have such a hard time following directions and they are so social. There are many in this class that are immature for their age and that doesn't help.

The rules for the Marshmallow Project are simple. Use your tooth picks and mini-marshmallows to build a structure. No talking at all.

They worked in small groups of four.

They had about eight minutes to complete the structure. They would have had 15 minutes but they wasted a lot of time while I was passing out materials and trying to get them organized.

Like I said, I did not think they could handle a project like this. I knew someone would talk. But no one did.

This girl started laughing so hard that I did have to ask her to sit in the hall. She is my giggler!

They surprised me. They really surprised me! They were 100% silent and I saw teamwork I could not imagine coming from this group. I saw kids working together and cooperating that can bare stand sitting next to each other.

They were proud of themselves and their work. I praised them to the moon and back.
It was a wonderful ending to a really difficult week. I like that...