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.