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closed this morning

I’ve had some successes since my last post:

I’ve implemented something on Fridays called Ketchup and Mustard Time. I can’t remember if I got this idea from someone – I must have? It’s a chunk of time in the morning (about an hour) where I’ve made a list of the important items students needed to finish this week (usually things I’m usually for casual assessments) and give them time to catch up (get it? catch up/Ketchup?) and complete them. My varied group of students works at different paces and there are times when a student isn’t able to complete something in the original time I’ve given them. I wanted to give them the opportunity to finish for their own sake, and to add to the accountability. When they are done with everything on the list (usually four or so things – so a kid might have two things partially done and two they finished the day it was introduced, for example) they get to have Mustard Time – a light choice time. They can read or draw, play board games or do origami. So far (I’ve just done it twice) I’ve had a fun puzzle sort of packet or activity available also (like Valentine themed cootie catchers were a big hit).

Not only did they get into Ketchup/Mustard time, they loved the choice time and it never got too wild. Maybe because it is in the morning? Maybe because there is a clear list of Mustard activities? I also had one student even tell me that he works harder during the week to maximize his Mustard time. I want to spread that throughout the class to some of my time-killers as well. I want them to realize if they work harder FIRST they can enjoy it later. 

We had the best Valentine’s Day party ever. I’ve been thinking about picking one holiday and really going for it every year, and I think I’m going to do Valentine’s Day. I timed it so we were right in the middle of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and we had a Wonka themed party. It was fun for me and for them. They had such a great time. We did Valentine boxes as a take-home project and voted for six winners in different categories. I decorated to the hilt and hope to invest in some key items (a better working bubble machine and a chocolate fountain!) to be able to use year after year. 

I’m seeing some students more clearly and that lets me meet them with more compassion. One student in my class – N – is a ball of hyper energy and has a hard time focusing. The past week or so, though, after I really let it sink in that he needs to move that body – I’ve been more patient and also better at problem solving. The amount of noise he makes is NOT okay – it distracts us all, and makes it impossible for those near him to work. So I’m trying to coach him in different ways to move quietly and want to get him a squeeze ball or something (I don’t want him to throw the squeeze ball). 


get to the bus!

I had a four day week with two bad days and two good days and this different was all me and my attitude. 

Tuesday was a straight up hard day with my students, but I started both Tuesday and Wednesday already worked up and stressed before the kids even arrived. Just because I was thinking of all the things that could go wrong and all the mistakes I had made in the past and all the mistakes I might make that day. 

And when I realized I was focusing on the behaviors I DON’T want, I tried to change my mind set. It made a really big difference. Don’t get me wrong – classroom management I’m still trying to improve in a major way – but my class is so much more likely to listen to me and want to be a part of what I am a part of when I’m approaching them from a place of calm and positivity instead of a place of stress and fear. Fear makes me so ugly. I mean, it makes everyone ugly, but it really is the emotion that will just wreck me. And I’ve been so ruled by it lately. 

I just hope I can remember this and keep applying it. 

just, the doctor

I had a fascinatingly interesting day. 

Of course, as it was happening I wasn’t thinking of it as fascinatingly interesting, I was thinking it was torture and that I should just give up teaching because I am so terrible at it. And those points are still worth looking into,  but I’m trying to think constructively. 

I had a smaller than usual group today – two kids absent, one of them my big Problem Child. Days without him are usually very different in a real nice, utopian way, but today was not. I also had two kids leave early for various reasons (dentist, eye doctor) and one go home sick. And another student – my super low student who has problem behaviors because of that – was pulled to work with specialist for a large chunk of the day. 

But it was still CAHRAZY. And because it was a smaller group and toned down overall because of that, I really got to see the outlying behaviors of some (two, really) of my other students. I am in a place now where I still DO NOT know how to deal with them, but I have a clearer picture. 

One boy – K – has had bullying and attitude issues all year and I’ve talked to his mom a bunch of times, etc. But today he was NUTS. Just, off the wall. It wasn’t even his usual brand of disruptive, so I’m hoping it was a fluke. Maybe he had a party filled weekend and is having trouble getting back into school mode, I don’t know – and I can certainly be sympathetic to that. We had a chat at the end of the day about coming ready to learn tomorrow and I hope that helps. 

The other, also a boy – N – was doing his usual things but it stood out so much more without  my serious problem student present. He is a kid with a sweet heart and the first time in my short teaching career I have really seen someone with so much trouble focusing or keeping his body still that I wondered about whether medication could help. I get tired watching him – not to mention trying to keep him from getting anyone else off task – and I truly do not think he has control over a lot of it. I don’t think he CAN keep from making those sounds, or moving his body like that, at least not as much as I wish he could. 

I still have a long way to go to master classroom management. And I have to focus and remind myself that if I keep trying, it will come. I hope that is true. I know that I have improved as a classroom manager since last year, but I’m also so much more aware of what could be better than I was at this time last year. As so much more cognizant of the instructional time lost to behavior issues.

My mini goal going forward is to focus on giving myself a bit of a break – and by that I mean still trying as hard but not beating myself up when things don’t go well. I have mornings before school where I fill with dread and a sense of panic just because I’m convinced or worried that the day will go terribly wrong. And I am not the sort of person who’s best comes out under fear – exactly the opposite. I want to keep on taking chances but give my heart the space to have things go wrong and not take it as a knife in the gut. 

Practically speaking, this also means I plan to pull Conscious Discipline back off the shelf and reconnect with some of the important stuff I had internalized earlier this year. I have a lot of great classroom management ideas in my head that people have shared or I’ve read about, but that books feels RIGHT to me personal philosophy in a way other things don’t, so I’m going to make it my focus. 

more bathrooms

I am having a not-the-best week in terms of lesson success – after a chunk of time with great success – and of course it is when things are NOT going well that I am drawn to reflection on my practice. 

And that is a faulty practice! I need just as much to keep a regular mental file of things that worked WELL to go along with the things that DIDN’T work pile. 

So one thing that did work well recently that it would benefit me to remember:

Pairing a math/content lesson with a story book wins this group over in a major way. It would benefit me to really search out mentor texts that pair with math concepts and see if the school library has them or get them from the public library. (I’d buy them if I wasn’t essentially destitute)

And one big thing to remember:

When I don’t really plan my week out over the weekend, things get nasty. I have the habit of spending an evening or afternoon each weekend thinking about the week and writing an overview of the lessons I plan to teach and the other things going on during the week. I don’t write anything big out – it really just looks like notes in a lesson planning book – and I’m reference the larger plan I made for the year (and am always tweaking when necessary) but having those couple of sentences that detail what I plan to do make the biggest difference. 

This weekend was busy and I didn’t get the chance to sit down and do that. And even though I knew we were going to do verbs this week, and start multiplication – not having those clearer notes messed me up. 

And I know myself now as teacher – when a lesson isn’t going well, and I know it’s my fault because of bad planning (as opposed to it just not clicking, etc), I get REAL grumpy and when I get grumpy I get short with my class and when I get short with my class, my least favorite behaviors pop right back up. And then it is a vicious cycle – because that only makes me grumpier. Rinse and repeat! 

Two days left of the week and I’m still more off the cuff than I’d like (you’d think I would have sat down to closely map out today and tomorrow, but NAH, let me just continue the badness!). 


did you get thunder?


I am currently on a “dinner” break (dinner in quotes because I have no food!) on my last day/night of parent/teacher conferences for this fall.

For all the anxiety I have before each conversation – and the days leading up to it! – I really find these conferences SO valuable. Sometimes it is because of the parents you meet and you are like “OH! THAT is why your child is the way they are” (good or bad!), sometimes it is for the insight into what is going on in the child’s whole life (like finding out that mom just moved in with her boyfriend and that child is having some trouble adjusting. Sometimes it is so valuable because I’m able to connect my goals and hopes for the child  with their parents goals and hopes for them, or help support them in something that is important. 

I always start my conferences the same way – I ask about what the student is like at home. I tell them that I know the school version of their kid, but I want to know how they would describe their child outside of school. Sometimes I hear things that just confirm what I see at school, sometimes  it surprises me and gives me some real insight. 

I always end my conferences the same way, too – I ask what 1 hope/wish/goal they have for their child this year. It doesn’t have to be school related, just whatever. This one can be really powerful – last year it totally changed my way of approaching one child when a mom told me that she really just wanted him to feel like he was worth something. He WAS, of course, and I made sure he knew it after that. 

Before conferences I always worry that I don’t have any thing cutesy planned. I love seeing things on blogs or pinterest where they have little treat bags for parents or creative ways of showing student work. Maybe some day in the future when I feel richer or like I’ve got more time I will attempt some of those things (because they are adorable).

I show a little bit of student work but I really just have a conversation with the parents. I tell them what I’m seeing academically and in terms of work habits and behaviors. I ask them questions and I answer theirs. Before conferences begin I focus so much on my notes and the information I have to tell them, but I think I might reframe my thinking and start thinking of conferences as my time to find out what I want/need to know. 

At the end of each day I usually feel really happy and hopeful. It feels so good and right to connect with these people who mean everything to the students I love. 


naturally flavored

A list of only good things!

1. It is SUNNY out. Windy and cool, but there sun is shining (I am obviously not on the East Coast).

2. I started documenting my super special needs students who I believe has the wrong classification and needs more support. Doing this made me feel a little less helpless, like at least it is a small step in meeting his needs.

3. I am tweaking our class schedule because our lunch time changed and the kids really rolled with the punches today for the most part. 

4. I added snack time because our lunch got pushed to later in the day and I was all, “But what do you do during snack time?!” and they seemed to really be okay just chatting and eating. I might build a sharing time into that little period. 

5. It is a short (I am taking Friday for appointments) holiday (Halloween) week! 

6. Did I mention the sun is shining?

the second is

This blog reads like such a downer. 

And it’s true – I’ve been having a tough time of it lately. Real life stuff as well as school stuff is really stressing me out and making me feel crazy but it isn’t all terrible! When I am feeling overwhelmed by my job, one of my responses is to sit down and process those feelings by blogging here which is why there is a heavy weight on OMGWTFHELP posts. 

Things are hard, definitely, but some things are really great. I’ve really set up the Daily 5 and have time for nice 25 minute chunks for guided reading groups. There have been a couple of days after I met with a small group where I was AMAZED and felt like I’d ACTUALLY TAUGHT THEM SOMETHING. What a high! I know I am teaching my class all the time, but the tangibility of working in those small groups is amazing. (See me here ignoring even mentioning that my most behaviorally difficult kids aren’t really able to self manage during this time and I feel very OMGWTFHELP about it). 

I’ve been cutting a lot of extra things out of my life to save on money – the YMCA where I would swim, cable TV, expensive coffees – and I know it sounds ridiculous but it is really adding to my stress level. This school year my whole family (me + spouse + child) was added to my health insurance and it is really hard to make ends meet with that extra chunk out (not to mention we could only afford a really high deductible plan so I’m still paranoid of someone getting sick since we’d pay the first $3k out of pocket – er, and we don’t have $3k).  

WHICH I MENTION NOT TO ADD TO THE WHINING – just to say that my coping skills would be strengthened by quad mochas and 30 laps every morning.