RSS Feed

Well. After all my whinging this morning about how terrible I feel re: my teaching these days, I actually had a great day.

I’m being tougher – it’s coming naturally. I still have huge holes of How To Deal, but if I feel like I’m doing a better job than last year and making sure the majority of my kids are really learning. I know that sounds like a weird thing to say – and I am not phrasing it quite right – but I guess I mean I am forging ahead with a reasonable amount of academic rigor (I say reasonable because I definitely want to amp it up) even though there are some kids (I mean one! really, just one and another on the fence) who are floundering.

I feel like I actually taught a bit today. Having my Guided Reading in effect makes a big difference for that – when I’m with 5 kids at a time I know they are learning even if it’s just for 25 minutes at a time. I know that some of them are definitely putting into practice some of the skills when working independently and I know that others are probably doing it without meaning to mwahahahaha.

The hope that has come with getting guided reading groups under way has me really raring to do a math workshop model. I need to be able to sit down with the 5 or so kids who don’t get place value separately – I don’t want to leave them trying to move forward without that foundation but I also don’t want to stop everyone from running forward who doesn’t need that. Maybe this weekend I’ll think about making that work – and how I can have general learning targets to adjust for small groups in math so we’re all more or less talking about the same (grade level) topics.

Today was not a perfect day by any means – my schizophrenic student is back from the hospital and not behaving entirely different than when she left. I care for, and that’s hard – I think I’ve been kind of pushing her away because it is Too Much. Not only because she breaks my heart, but because it is Too Much in the classroom – I will say what I have said a million times the past few years – I need to master how to have different behavior expectations for different students in class. And by master I mean figure out how it is even possible in these extremes.

I will be honest – I love my building (and my room!) but for next year I am pretty sure I’ll be looking for an opening at a school without a program for kids with emotional/behavior disturbances. My main reason for getting to this point is that I don’t want to burn out on teaching so fast. I love these kids and would like to work with them theoretically, but the inclusion model my district has is so poorly constructed. I can think of a dozen things that would make it better (more staff/IAs, impacted classrooms have lower class sizes/class size caps) but of course there isn’t money to make that happen anywhere (did I mention I am looking for a second job? because I’m interested in seeing my own kid less often, apparently /sarcasm).

I feel like a cad even thinking about it (why pass the buck?) but it is my plan for next year to look elsewhere in my district.

are these your keys?

I am having such a hard week. 

My idea of blogging for a bit as reflection at the end of each school day has (obviously) not been happening, and I hope to start it again. That said, it is not the end of a school day. It is 20 minutes before the bell rings in the morning right now. 

I am feeling: frustrated (that things aren’t going my way). Like a failure (that it is my fault things aren’t working better in my classroom). Overwhelmed (so many ideas from different places that I don’t know where to start). 

All of this comes to a head when I think of The Big Thing: I said yes when they asked if they could move a severely troubled child with behavior problems into my classroom. I said yes because I felt for the kid – I said yes because the sales pitch flattered me – I said yes because it wasn’t working where he was and I wanted him to have a chance.

But I regret it. Because even though I think things are significantly better for this child in my classroom, they are significantly worse for the other 28 students. And that is upsetting and overwhelming for me and I feel helpless. And angry with myself. 

Did I set myself up for another year of constant trials? Another year of feeling like I can never get a handle on things because of behavior issues from special needs students? Another year of letting everyone down every day? 

This week I am feeling like I don’t know how to handle it. Outside of school things are a factor as well – it was my son’s birthday, and I missed him that day so much I may have done some crying when no one was in the room with me (next year I’ll take that day off – last year it was on a weekend).  It’s my anniversary today, which isn’t a problem – but it does serve as a reminder that the balance I wish I had is very far out of my grasp right now. 

I love feedback and help from my principal and other teachers and I have been making a real point of reaching out more. This week I have gotten a lot of ideas from great people, but instead of being thankful for it (which I’m sure I will be eventually) I am stuck on (1) wondering how terrible a teacher they know/assume I am and (2) super overwhelmed to the max by how I could incorporate things into what already feels like a schedule I am falling behind in.

I haven’t done science in two weeks! I intended to launch a real Writers Workshop but I’ve been fighting all year to find a spot in my schedule for it outside of Daily 5 Work on Writing time. 

I just want to lay down and take a long nap. And then wake up and have two days to work in my room — replanning, leveling and organizing my classroom library (which is ATROCIOUS right now, I am so embarrassed). I want a break from being so needed and I mostly want a break from not being able to meet all those needs.

Is it always going to be like this? 

i think i’m gonna

First field trip of the year went well. I am tired and hungry and not in the mood to think about what we’re doing tomorrow, but those are probably all good signs. 

I had a group of parents come and it was so nice and they were so nice. I think I’m going to send them all a note saying thank you. I definitely did that last year at certain times, but I’d like to make it more of a habit. It is really nice when parents help out – and feels like divine intervention when they do things like bring coffee. I am always hesitant about what to do because I feel like there is some sort of code of conduct that I don’t know. I think i am just deciding now to do whatever feels the best/most right. 

Random issue of the day: white drawing paper. I have white drawing paper in my class, usually set out for kids to use at certain times. Sometimes it is for lessons, other times it is to sketch while I read or to have handy for small projects. 

I like the idea of having this paper available. Last year the kids would sketch while I read every day (now less often) and it was a nice, quiet time when everyone was happy and “working” independently. There did end up being a point last year when the paper was being over used – taken in large chunks, maybe taken home. I’m not against those things in nature, but I’m against the habit of taking something without predetermined reason, especially when it is intended for the community. 

This year, I am already seeing that. We just finished our first ream. That is 500 sheets! And yes, some of it I used to print and some of it we used for lessons, but it seems like 3.5 weeks per 500 sheets just isn’t going to work. 

I have some choices and what I will likely end up doing is just having to pass it out when it is a time to draw to make sure it student gets just one, etc. That seems like more work for me. I could also really deliberately teach about taking just one, but I’m not sure how I could make it as clear as I want it to be. 

I could also just say f—- it. I have paper. I haven’t had much of kids drawing when they aren’t supposed to or anything. And if I do, that seems like a separate issue from using too much paper. 

I don’t know. I’m going to head home. I saw a kid with what must be a broken arm today and it looked BAD and I can’t shake the image.

well then, I’ll email you

It feels like a Monday. I can feel it in my shoulders and I could feel it in my exasperated tone this afternoon. 

I read half a dozen teaching books this summer and I think the one that I liked best was Conscious Discipline by Becky Bailey. I think it fits with my own beliefs and personality and has helped me in the moment already a few times. Of course, there are plenty of moments where I really should have pulled it up to the forefront and didn’t – like possibly this whole day. 

Last year I had a million moments where I plum felt like I fallen into a river that was speeding with me along whether I liked it or not. And it is this feeling more than anything that makes me exasperated. And then my exasperation adds to that feeling and it is a cycle of bad teaching. In Conscious Discipline, this would have been a good moment to PIVOT. They talk about pivoting your mind in the book (switching gears, obvs) and all I can do is picture Ross Gellar. I need a picture of Ross and the couch from Friends to stick on the wall somewhere in my room for inspiration.

I think my number one problem today was that I miss my own kid. I left him in the bed this morning with his other parent and I had to pry myself out of that house. I just wanted to stay with him so bad. It is hard to get used to being away from him all day again, after a great summer. It just makes me sad. This weekend I was so clingy that it was a bit ridiculous. I just want to hold him and squeeze him and he is a toddler and isn’t really very interested in staying still. When I got to school this morning all I could think about was him, and I think I might let have some resentment slip into my relationships with my students.  

That made it easier for me to take things personally. I have this one student – totally bright, but must find it physically impossible to listen to me or follow directions. At least that is how it feels. He is constantly bothering the other kids and he also has a naturally loud voice and seems incapable of whispering. And since he feels like talking whenever he wants AND his voice is loud it drives me bananas. Not only is he a supreme button pushed, but I just cannot figure out what goes through his mind. I think my empathy is a big tool for me as a teacher, and I want to relate to him, but WTF? It doesn’t even really seem like an impulse control issue, just that he wants to be doing these things. He is a really bright kid (not amazing genius) so I wonder if he developed these bad habits earlier in his school career because he wasn’t challenged? I’m tempted to ask mom, but he is probably the laziest student I have so I don’t think he’s a good candidate for an accelerated program.

We have our first field trip tomorrow! It is an easy one, luckily. Last year my first field trip of the year was disastrous, but that is a story for another time.

did you hear her talking?

I’m obsessing. 

I’m obsessing about my super low student. I feel like everyone knows there is some sort of learning difference at play here – and though I don’t have all the details, it seems like the family is against the idea of testing or special education help. 

I adore this kid and he is making me crazy. He does a lot of wandering around and has some serious bad work-avoidance habits because he can pretty much literally not do everything that has been given to him so far. He definitely over compensates and is a master of hiding it – he is funny, and communicates well verbally, he has tons of friends and is nice and interesting. 

The class in general is still working towards a place where we have routines in place and I can work with small groups (or individuals). So during whole group math instruction, for example, he is pretty much checked out. When it is time to do some independent work to practice, I can sometimes break it down to one piece and have him work on a very specific couple of problems. He will usually start and maybe do a small amount before he probably gets frustrated and starts to wander. He is the classroom pencil sharpener and I have never had someone so on top of their job. :/ 

I am excited to get started on reading instruction with him, but I am also wary. He seems to know some phonics, but not a lot. We spent a few minutes together today with a level A book that we were able to read working together. It had a pattern, which he picked up on right away – and we talked about picture clues and comparing them to the sounds in letters (z says zzzz, there is a picture of a zebra). I feel like I can’t expect this to go easily, though, because he is so with-it and been at this school since at least last year and hasn’t moved up from that very bottom level.

I also feel bad. He is clearly embarrassed and knows he is low. He tries to hide it in a lot of ways and is mostly successful. He is such a regular 8 year old in non-academic ways that I can tell it will be tough to keep him (as reluctant as he already is!) engaged with the simplest texts. 

I’m flirting with the idea of writing some for him. Maybe using clip art or drawing my own and making something as simple and pattern ridden as we looked at today to start, but in a more comic book style. I think it would go a long way for him to not look baby-ish and theoretically be interesting if it was cool/had an interesting subject. 

I wonder even – and I had this thought teaching ELL too – why there aren’t more books geared toward older kids at low reading levels. Here we are trying to reach the hardest kids to reach and get them interested in something that they don’t want to do and is really hard for them – and we expect them to sit and read books like “I like my toys. I like my doll.” They don’t care about that stuff! 

I also wish there was a bigger (as in more pages) low level/high interest book. I feel like this kid in particular would feel more comfortable holding something that felt like a chapter book, even if it meant he worked through it slowly and it was a lot of (maybe related?) stories put together. 

Arrrgh! I’ll be doing some research (or writing/drawing) this weekend!

long nosed mako shark

We are in the middle (well, it’s Thursday afternoon) of the third week of school.

I’m hoping to start using this space as a real combo of vent of teacher related stuff (FEELINGS) and real reflection on my practice. Ideally, I’ll carve out a small chunk of time each afternoon for a post on daily highs and lows (etc).

I get to school early in the morning. Class starts around 9 and I get to the building somewhere between 6:30 and 7 on most days. There are a lot of reasons for this, and none of them are that I am an amazingly hard worker:

  1. I beat the morning traffic. There is nothing worse than worrying about making it into school in time to tackle my before kids to-do list. I come from the other side of city and have to travel on a much complained about traffic filled route – but at 6:15 it is a BREEZE. Wish I could say the same for the afternoon.
  2. I leave early. School ends around 3 and I am pulling out of the parking lot at 4. I don’t beat the traffic – although I’m sure it gets worse later. I get home before 5, which gives me as much time as I can to spend with my own kid, though it often feels like NOT. ENOUGH.
  3. I am pretty tired out at the end of the school day. All my prep and planning and grading is done in the morning (or on weekends) when my brain isn’t fried and my feet aren’t achey. Since I’m a newer teacher, I tend to need a lot of planning and prep time, so early mornings help.
  4. I like using the copy machine when no one else wants to. In fact, I am spoiled by it. Today I copied after 8am and had to wait for someone and I was so impatient about it.

My class this year is significantly less impacted than last year. Because of that I started off the year feeling amazing, and now I’m settling in to deal with the challenges I do have. Instead of six emotional behavior disordered students like last year (now that I am out of that reality, I am feeling indignant for myself. That was SO UNFAIR! WTF?), I have just one. One I can handle! At least so far, because he is having a pretty good honeymoon period.

I have a couple of chronically disruptive boys and a girl with some severe mental health issues, so I don’t doubt that I’ll be writing about my attempts to figure out how to make that work. I have one student who is homeless and six ELL students, but I have no worries there. I also have a half a handful of students who are academically low for third grade, and one who is rock bottom low. I already am in love with this kid and am desperate to figure out how to serve him best. So far he seems to do a ton of work avoidance (natch) because he literally cannot do a lot of the simplest tasks I ask from my group. I wish there were two of me so I could sit with him all day. Yet he is a cool guy and so reluctant and wary of being seen as getting special help. I don’t think there is a way to avoid this … I think my best bet will just be to teach him as much as I can to bring that gap closer. I just don’t know how to make that happen logistically yet!

Random thoughts: I had moments last year when the students would tell me all about their previous teacher and each time it was like a dagger in my heart. I was sure that I wasn’t living up to their expectations and doing Everything Wrong. This year I’m realizing that the students just are comparing naturally, and this group does it too (if less of it). Not only that, but I’ve heard from both 4th grade teachers that my students from last year are constantly saying, “but last year we did this!” etc.

He found the broom!

I’m trying to get my mind in gear for next years planning. I wanted to sort of checklist or outline to work from, so I separated things into categories:

Physical-

  • Outside BBs
  • Library
  • Teacher desk
  • Desk config
  • Material storage
  • Instructional spaces


Instructional-

  • Pacing
  • Everyday Math/math
  • Guided reading/RW
  • WW
  • Science – subjects/kits
  • Geo/SS around-the-world


Time

  • Scheduling daily
  • Teacher work schedule
  • Teacher routines
  • Class routines


Events/Enrichment-

  • Village
  • Field Trips
  • Patrol
  • Visitors
 
I was thrilled to get this down as a guide. I feel a little more grounded now, like I can tackle the categories and their sections without getting lost in a mess of ideas that don’t connect to one another over the summer. Sometimes my brain feels like a Pinterest explosion of confusion. 
 
I have only two real non-work goals for this summer – learn how to sew a simple dress for myself and have some fun doing whatever I feel like doing. 🙂
 
I am so focused on next school year that the last two weeks of this year aren’t all they could be, instructionally. There is so much! going on at school: we have two field trips, a couple of assemblies, field day and a really fun read-a-thon day planned. All of that going on in the last 10 school days means that some of the instructional (even funstructional) things I wanted to do will have to be sacrificed. I am attempting to talk myself into that fact that THIS IS OK but I definitely have emotional alarms going off. Because I wanted to! I think I even mentioned that we would! 
 
Sometimes I feel like two people trying to talk each other down.
 
The biggest/worst/saddest thing going on in my school life right now is that the close friend that also teaches in my school got a position in a different building. There are some silver linings (she’ll be teaching third grade like me! our classes can be pen-pals! we can plan our years together!) but mostly I am just sad that I won’t see someone every day that I can be the truest, realest ME with. I have literally cried in her room multiple times this year and feel so lucky that I had someone to go to in those moments.