Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thumper Rule

From a young age, one thing was clear: I liked to talk.

When I started teaching, I did a lot of talking. I talked at my students and aimed to talk with them. I talked about my students with other co-workers to make sure that I could get them what they needed to be successful in my classroom, whether it be tutoring, testing, counseling, clothes or food. I talked to my parents. I talked with my students parents. I talked with my teacher roommates. I talked in graduate school classes. There were many days I was just tired of talking. And, at the beginning, I did a fair amount of talking on this blog.

I have tried to keep my posts honest and positive. Recently, I've had more and more friends comment that I haven't posted as much. In keeping with the Thumper Rule, I haven't said much about the past school year and the reasons I chose to leave my TFA placement school.

Ultimately, there wasn't just one reason and it was harder than I thought it would be to leave. It had been the only place that I'd taught and I really fell in love with some of the students and families I worked with. It still warms my heart to get text messages and photos telling me how my students are doing this year. 

Which is why it broke my heart that, despite the efforts of some amazing educators, the school makes headlines for this

Am I surprised? Unfortunately, no. Am I saddened? Yes. 

I have lots that I could say about it. There's a lot that I want to say. But ultimately, it accomplishes nothing. If anything, it makes me want to go to my new principal and simply say thank you for taking a chance on me. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Change: By the Numbers

Teachers are obsessed with data. Ask any teacher about their class and they can regale you with hilarious stories, sad stories, bizarre and strange stories. Qualitative data. In recent years, education has emphasized quantitative data. Well, here goes.

5 different principals
4 years of teaching
3 different schools
2 different grade levels
1 very tired teacher

This past week, I was out on Wednesday for a training. I got a call from one of my teammates. After three weeks of school, the numbers were in: We didn't have enough students enrolled to keep all the teachers. 1st and 2nd grade had the lowest enrollment. The principal was asking for volunteers to transfer to one of the schools with high enrollment in need of additional teachers. 

I had a sinking feeling after I hung up the phone. Could it be me? I teach first and was one of the newest teachers in the building. On Thursday, my principal called and asked to see me. Even as an adult, I still get that sinking feeling when I get the call to the principals office. Although I had to wait another 30 minutes, I knew it could only mean one thing. No one had volunteered to transfer and so it was going to be me. 

Within the hour, the transfer was complete. I'd gotten my first choice school from the list of places in the district that needed additional teachers. I'm incredibly fortunate -- it's still first grade and it's not all that far from my house. 

On Thursday after school, I went over to meet the principal and get a tour. On Friday, I started packing up my classroom (managed to get all boxes packed and moved to the new school by Saturday). I had to let my students know that I wouldn't be coming back Friday afternoon. Last year, I had an offer to switch to a charter school at this point in the year. I turned it down because I couldn't imagine leaving my students, even after a few weeks. One year later, and I had to do the same thing.

People keep asking me how I feel. Honestly, I don't know. It's all happened so quickly that it's been hard to grasp that I left one class of students on Friday and will have a completely different class at a completely different school...on Wednesday.  

In looking to leave the school where I started at, I wanted to find a place where I could work with the same student population but a different staff culture. I wanted a place with staff stability and a place where people could balance working and having a life. Having a family. Keeping that in my head has been what's made this process all that much easier. Instead of just one school where I saw that, I get to now see that in action at 2 schools. 

It took me a week to set up my first classroom. I have 2 days next week. I'm oddly calm about the whole thing. Perhaps its because so many people have been supportive. My new-old co-workers, who helped me pack up my things and shared their experiences of being in the same situation. My new-new coworkers, who have been so welcoming. My amazing boyfriend and friends who helped me move things into the new building over the weekend. My parents, who have listened from a thousand miles away and helped to keep me sane as I figure out how I am going to make it through this transition emotionally, professionally and financially (moving is expensive!). I have a feeling I'll be trying to work Donors Choose a lot more this year to make sure I have everything I need for my new kiddos!

Here's to yet another new adventure, whatever it may bring!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Twas the Night Before School

and all through the apartment, the teacher was wondering where summer went.

Although it feels much much to early to be back at school, I've actually been moving into my new school for the past week and a half. My new school may be only 3 miles from my old one, but so far it's been a world of difference. We came back early for Professional Development sessions and have had hours in the afternoon available to work with the team and set up the classroom. I'm so excited to be in a professional environment that is supportive and encouraging of the teaching style I want to develop.

Take a peek in my room!

Welcome to Room 113!
This is probably the cleanest this will ever be...

Books! Look at all those books! My team has been so wonderful in passing along great texts for Read Alouds and for  independent reading. We still need books -- check out my donors choose project here

After 3 years of teaching, I'm able to repurpose materials from my old classroom setup. This will be my first time with tables instead of desks -- the cubbies used to be my shelves for Guided Reading. Yeah Target Itso brand for having interchangeable parts

I'm pretty nervous but excited. I've already met 3 of my students at Meet the Teacher night. My roster now currently has 17. 17! That's six fewer than last year. Trust me, that's a significant change. I'm going out of town this weekend to see 2 of my most favorite people in the world get married so I'm trying to get ready for the first day AND next week (tomorrow is like a soft opening -- half day and then return again on the 5th).

And now for the shameless plug. I currently have a project on Donors Choose and time is running out of time for funding! Check it out

Here's to hoping that the number 13 is lucky this year!

Monday, April 29, 2013

I've been holding it in...Boys stink

As any teacher will tell you, each class has a different personality. You may teach the same grade for 30 years, but each class will have some characteristic that makes them different from the one before or the one after. My first year teaching my 4th grade girls drove me crazy with their cliques and mean girl attitudes. There was a stretch in there where weave was rolling down the hallways like tumbleweed after a girl fight. One girl latched her nails into another girls weave and managed to lift her off the floor. At the end of that year, I thought "Man. Eight years of all girl's education did not prepare me for this. Bring me a class of boys." Well, ask and ye shall receive. My second year in 4th grade was probably my favorite overall class, although it wasn't without issues. I had some sweet boys, a lot just full of anger.

Well, this year my boys are full of something but it sure ain't anger. 

Boy #1: Mark
Each morning, we have a whole school assembly. Classes line up around the gym, cheer, sing, and get ready for the day. Last week, I approached my early arrivers and was overwhelmed with a smell. Not a smell, a STANK. All the kids were giggling and looking around when I noticed that little Mark's backpack was wet. And leaking. As I approached his backpack, he got really defensive of it.

I try to model the right kinds of behavior for my kids but I just couldn't hold it back -- when I opened his backpack, I had to gag. A pencil had punctured a chocolate milk carton he had placed in his backpack. Based on the smell and texture of the milk, there's no way that that he'd picked up that milk that morning. I tried to see if there was a way to clean it out, but I couldn't keep it open long enough to clean it out. I hate throwing away my kid's things because they place a lot of value on material things, but this was past redemption. 

Boy #2David
I've been having an issue with my little friend David. He's incredibly talented at mimicry. However, recently he's decided the emulate The Hulk, complete with grunting and attempting to lift things like classmates. Needless, sometimes it's difficult to keep the other kids from paying attention to his antics. Just when I thought we had been making some progress, he's developed a new skill.

He has learned how to make himself throw up and has done it daily. For a week. 

Boy #3: Gerald
As I was getting David settled in his time out at recess, a gaggle of girls ran over to me. "Ms. A, Ms. A, Gerald's peeing on the tree!" I looked at another first grade teacher out on recess duty and we just kind of stared at each other like "Is this real life?" Gerald was hiding on the playground at this point. I managed to take his hand and walk over to the tree and, undeniably, there was a wet spot that stank of pee. The conversation went a little like this

Ms. A: Gerald, what happened here?
Ms. A: Who peed?
Ms. A: Gerald, did you pee on the tree?
Gerald: I peed on the tree. It needed to grow.
[It needed to grow? This was not what we covered in the unit on living things]
Ms. A: Did you not use the bathroom before we came outside?
Gerald: I didn't have to go
Ms. A: Why didn't you come find me?

Needless, this was one of the more strange parent phone calls I've had to make. As he was crying on the phone with his mother, I wondered: How many people saw him? How many of my students saw him peeing? Oh god, what kinds of calls am I going to be getting from parents tonight?

Then, I realized I'd held his hand.

Boy #4: Kenneth
My class is a mix of 1st and 2nd graders (although more heavily on the former).  Normally, it's not a big deal but we're doing standardized tests and they have to be separated. When Kenneth returned from his testing, my co-teacher told me that there had been an accident during testing. Seeing as most of the kids haven't taken must standardized testing, my initial reaction was that perhaps something was wrong with his materials that I'd given to Ms. T

My curiosity got the better of me and I went to ask Ms. T about what happened. Turns out that while Kenneth was testing, the proctor noticed something unusual and called Ms. T over. Kenneth had peed his pants. Not just a little woops, but dripping down the chair and puddling on the floor. Apparently they had to call the janitor in the middle of the standardized test. Yet another reason why small children should not be getting standardized tests.

So there you have my evidence. Mark. David. Gerald. Kenneth. Conclusion? Boys stink.