Each Wednesday, some of my student leadership group and I head out at dismissal time to earn a little dough for our school by selling Smencils.
(If Smencils are not on your radar as a fundraiser, you're missing out. Our school sells them for a dollar and is making a KILLING on them.)
(BTW, Smencils did not ask me to endorse them. I am not even on Smencils' radar.)
So anyhoo, my student leaders are out milling around the crowd of parents, enticing children to beg their parents to buy one for them.
As I manned the Smencil table, one of the younger brothers of a girl in our class ran up to me in a panic.
Him: Why are you out here?
Me: I'm selling Smencils.
Him: Oh, that sucks. You used to be a teacher!
Me: I still AM a teacher. I'm helping earn money for our school.
Him: Oh, I thought you got fired.
Way to have faith in me, kid.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Each Wednesday, some of my student leadership group and I head out at dismissal time to earn a little dough for our school by selling Smencils.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Soooooo, my teaching partner was out on the grass doing a little physical education with the kids. He had them lay on their back to do a few leg lifts.
No sooner did they engage their abdominal muscles to lift their legs off the ground that a distinctive sound echo from each one of them.
Every one of them, well, tooted, so to speak.
Stunned into silence, they all looked at their teacher in shock
...and then busted out laughing.
Even their teacher couldn't keep himself under control.
This class is such a gas!
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
We have a lot of large, extended families who attend our school. It's not uncommon for us to have cousins and the like in the same class.
This year, one of our boys in our class is the uncle of one of our girls.
And that niece is a few months older than her uncle.
Well, at dismissal the other day, my teaching partner said to the little uncle, "Take good care of your niece!"
Looking confused, the kid said, "Ooookay," and then looked down at his legs to see what was wrong with them...
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Let's discuss homework for a minute.
To be clear, let's discuss how much I hate it.
I hate homework!!!!!
Well, here are my thoughts. (THAT was a useless line since every post on this blog are my thoughts.)
Let's look at reasons people have given me for homework:
1. Homework is practice.
If a students knows how to do a skill well enough to complete it independently at home, they don't need more practice. If the students don't know it well enough to complete it at home, they need to practice it with me.
2. Homework promotes responsibility.
Responsible students do it. Irresponsible ones don't, and then I have to chase them down and give them consequences for not doing something that I am not there to ensure they do in the first place; eating into my valuable teaching time.
3. Homework is an indicator that we are doing a good job.
Schoolwork is our job. I take that job very seriously, as I know you do too. I will give up prep time every morning before school, every recess and every lunch to work with kids who need extra help. Homework is no substitute for what we teachers can do for kids with a little face-to-face time. My students' success or failure in class is an indicator that I am doing a good job.
4. Homework is part of school tradition.
School is changing. How we teach and what we teach is evolving. As that happens, we need to seriously reevaluate our traditions and look for evidence that they actually improve student performance. If they don't, dump them.
5. We all did homework as children, and it didn't kill us.
Really?!?! I ate an entire value-sized bottle of vitamin C as I child, and it didn't kill me. Should I promote that knucklehead idea too?
Now, you should know that my teaching partners and I do assign homework. Every night our kids must read for at least 30 minutes and study their times tables for 15 minutes. There are no book reports, no worksheets, no spelling words to practice, and no essays to write because none of those activities could be more valuable to a fourth grader than reading practice and math practice. If they just do those two simple things, the rest of the year will be a breeze.
But the parents still feel like we don't give homework.
We've been conferencing this week with them, and every one of them asks when we're going to begin assigning homework.
Which we have.
Since day one.
And we told them about our homework policy at Back to School Night.
And their kids told them in a video we made for Back to School Night.
And the principal told them in the video we made for Back to School Night.
And we sent a letter home about it after Back to School Night.
And the kids write it in the homework planner each night.
But still they are asking where the homework is.
So we reexplain our policy, one parent at a time, and also explain why we feel this is best for their kids.
But they still want worksheets.
To keep their kids BUSY!
Parent: "But what is Timmy supposed to do after school?"
Us: "Read for 30 minutes and practice multiplication for 15 minutes."
Parent: "So, no homework?"
Us: "Reading and math is their homework."
Parent: "Oh, so there is no homework."
Us: "No, there IS homework!"
Parent: "But they don't bring home any worksheets or a packet or anything?"
Us: "Nope, that is not what they need. Reading and math is what they need."
Parent: "Oh, so no homework."
But they want packets that keeps their kids busy, and our type of practice doesn't seem to fit the bill for them.
But I sleep well at night knowing that we are working hard in the students' best interests every day. The parents might want busy-work, but I will not offer that.
What are your thoughts on homework?
Friday, June 8, 2012
The year is almost over for me.
You know what that means.
This will be my last post about lame mile run excuses this year. Hopefully.
This week's winner belongs to a kid who has the potential to be a fairly decent athlete if his mom would just encourage his talents instead of enabling his desires to remain motionless.
...or not. You decide.
Please excused my son angelo from not running today. He has a swallon
tongue finger on his foot and it hurts.
Where do I begin?
Do I address why he has a finger, that used to be a tongue, on his foot?
Maybe he lost a toe and they replaced it with a finger.
Maybe it had originally been replaced with a tongue, but then things began tasting funny (kinda like feet) (or like jam) (or like cheese), and so they replaced it with a finger.
(But then wouldn't things begin to feel funny?)
...and now it's swallen.
Well, either way, I think I get it now. All clear!
Since I devised a theory on that part (no pun intended) of the note, let's discuss the first sentence.
"excused my son angelo from not running..."
Was she really asking me to excuse him from NOT running?
Ssssooooo she wanted him TO run?
On his finger-toed foot.
That is swallon.
Maybe running brings down the swalling in finger-toes.
Maybe THAT'S why they took off the tongue! When he ran, it just flapped around and could trip him.
It was a safety hazard.
Hence, the need for the finger-toe.
AND the need for exercise now. He simply couldn't when he had the tongue-toe, but now he can.
THAT makes sense!
Wow! It looks like she did want him to run.
I toe-tally misunderstood that one.
I hope he doesn't point a finger at me as a bad teacher.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Our fun little guy from this post has struck again.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Well, Howard got in trouble.
He and another student, who rarely gets in trouble, decided at lunch the other day to twist ketchup packets so that they would explode out of both ends onto other students sitting at the lunch tables.
I was disappointed.
To say the least.
And I made it clear.
As a consequence, for the next two days they had to eat in a primary room and then head out to the lunch tables after everyone left to clean all the tables and sweep the floor.
If you're gonna make a mess, you're sure as heck gonna learn not to by cleaning up a mess.
Or everyone's messes.
I also talked to the other kid's mom when she arrived at dismissal.
She ASSURED me this wouldn't happen again.
And I believe her!
Nobody picks Howard up, so I told him that when he got home he needed to write his mom a note explaining what he had done, talk to mom and get the note signed.
I also said that if I didn't have the signed note the next day, I would be walking him home again but this time I would stay and talk to his mother.
Did I believe he would follow through?
Well, I wore sneakers the next day, if that's any indication.
I walked right up to Howard in my sneakers the next morning...
and he handed my a signed note.
HE DID IT!!!!!
He actually did it, and seeing that made me want to cry.
I swept him up in a big hug, gushing over how proud I was of him.
In the past, Howard would have run from his consequences.
This time, he owned them.
This is HUUUUGE for Howard!
I hope this is, in part, a product of all the effort my teaching partners and I have put into trying to convince him that there is nothing he can do that would make us not like him, that we will be fair, and that we are a safe place to land when he makes a mistake.
He beamed in the glow of all the praise. It was true pride that he felt because he made a good choice instead of following his old path of avoidance.
I hope we all try not to focus on the mistakes our Howards make. Our Howards are going to make ten an hour. Let's focus instead on how we respond to those kids. Respond to the kids, not the mistakes. They are, after all, just kids and now is the time for them to make mistakes.
I think it works.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
State testing starts next week! In our classrooms, we've been pumping up the kids, assuring them that they really can do well, and we mean it. They CAN do it.
Our principal held a kick-off assembly to get the students excited about testing. Queen pounded through the speakers and push-up ice cream was handed out to reinforce that we're gonna "push up" to our API goal. The kids loved it.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Worst Legitimate Note to Get a Kid Out of Running the Mile:
Please excuse my daughter from running today.
She has been running with her mother and uncle a lot lately.
As my teaching partner said, maybe we should excuse her from reading because she's been reading with them too.
How about math? Did she do any of that at home? Probably shouldn't do it at school as well.
So we sent her off to WALK the mile instead.
She wasn't happy.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
I never like to get those phone calls from the office that start with:
"Hello Mrs. Lee. There's a parent in the office right now who would like to speak with you."
It's never good.
I start wracking my brain.
Who did I piss off this time?
Was it something I said? I can't recall anything controversial.
Ha! Like it takes "something controversial" to upset some parents.
Goodness knows what I've done this time.
I'll bet it's related to running the mile later this morning. Grrrrr.
What a way to start my morning...
Luckily, I team teach and we do everything together, including placating upset parents.
We three marched up to the office and found the father of one of our most reliable, best behaved, most athletic boys standing there, arms crossed and furrowed brow.
Well, at least I know it's not about running the mile!
Next to him was his son Tim, eyes red from crying and shame splashed across his face.
Me: Good morning, Mr. Johnson. What can we do for you?
Mr. J: Hello. Tim has something to tell you.
Tim: Ummm Mrs. Lee. Remember that test we took on the rock cycle?
Me: Yup. (Like a month ago.)
Tim: Well, I copied one of my answers off of Jimmy's test. I copied number five.
Me: Oh! Oh, ok. Well, Tim... (Holy cow! This sweet kid has been marinating in this guilt for a month!)
Tim (crying): So I tore up my test and want you to give me a zero. I also will accept any other consequences you think are fair. I should have NEVER done that.
Me: Wow, Ok, Tim, what motivates you to bring this to me now?
Tim: I couldn't take it any longer. I felt so guilty, so I went to my parents and told them about what I did. Really, any other consequences are fine. I deserve whatever you think I should get. I was soooo wrong. And Jimmy had NOTHING to do with it. He's innocent.
Me: Well, Tim, I think the zero is more than enough for a guy who clearly understands his poor choice. Frankly, I'm proud of you. Of course not for looking at someone's paper, but certainly for coming to your parents and your teachers about what you did. It takes real bravery to do this. You are a gentleman with true character.
My teaching partners went on to explain how we all make mistakes, but the real lessons come by admitting them. THAT is where real learning takes place. Childhood is the perfect time to make these mistakes. We really were proud of him, and it was important for him to know that.
Tim learned a far more important lesson from one little bad choice than anything I can teach him about the silly rock cycle or anything else in science for that matter.
The life lessons are the most important lessons we teach.
...and we never have them in our plan books.
Oh, and I only lowered his test grade by 2 points, the value of that question. (Thanks for the suggestion, Ma.)
Friday, March 30, 2012
Here's a non-school related story, but humiliating nonetheless.
So I'm walking my dog before work this morning. It's a pretty normal routine for us. My husky and I take a stroll around our condo complex every morning before I leave for work.
We wander around in the dark while she sniffs and pees, and I read the news on my iPhone.
Well, we were stopped at a bush so she could sniff out who had dared to pee on anything in her neighborhood (and I could read about Chloe and Lamar) when all of a sudden her ears perked up.
Still as a statue, her every muscle went tense.
Oh crap. What IS it?
She won't move. She's intently listening to something and won't budge.
Is it a coyote? A mountain lion?!?! Another neighbor recruiting for the condo board?!?!?!?!
Afraid to move because she won't move, I hold my breath and scan into the dark looking for any movement.
And then I hear something.
Faint at first, the sounds drifted to my ears through the darkness.
Yes, they were coming from a nearby open window.
Yes. YES! YEEEESSSSSS!! That oh, oH, OH, OOOOOOOHHHH - pen window!
No sooner was I awash in shame for overhearing a couple, well, coupling, did my dog decide to join in.
I don't know if you've heard a husky howl before, but it's LOUD (and, evidently, encourages local coyotes to join in.)
And, at times, embarrassing...
Like when your sweaty-for-a-reason neighbors throw back their curtains to see you trying to drag your giant howling husky away from their open window like some sort of Peeping Tom and her canine sidekick.
On the up-side, I don't think they'll want pervs like me on the condo board.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
My student teacher has largely taken over teaching. I show up periodically to see if everyone is ok. Yesterday, I popped in just before recess. Marty was the last student to get up from his seat to go out.
He was in no hurry.
When I told him it was time to go have some much deserved fun, he slowly rose from his chair. His walk told me everything I needed to know about why he was still in the room.
(No, he didn't wet his pants.)
Nope, his walk suggested one of two things:
He was an escaped inmate still shackled at the ankles
He had tied his shoes together.
Head hanging low and with a voice filled with shame, he asked if I could help free him from his shoelace prison.
Me: Soooo, you tied your shoes together, huh? (My grasp of the obvious is incredible!)
Him: Yes, Ma'am. I thought I was tying the laces from the same shoe, but I wasn't.
Me: But they're tied at the very ends. Why would you tie your shoelaces at the very ends? Wouldn't your shoes be loose?
Him: Ok. I meant to do it.
Me: I see. May I ask why?
Him: I'm not really sure. Bored, I guess.
Me: Bored with being able to walk normally?
Me: When did you do this?
Him: While I was reading my library book and taking the quiz on the computer, BUT I still read and took the quiz.
Me: Really? How did you turn the pages? How did you type your answers? With your teeth? I mean, this knot is a doozy. No small effort was put into this.
Him: Ok. I didn't read. Or take the quiz.
Me: Instead, you invested a LOT of time doing this? (Pointed at the suuuuper tight knot in his laces)
Him: Well, I tied my shoes together, freaked out when I couldn't untie them and then pretended to read while I tried to figure out a way to break my laces.
Him: I couldn't.
Him: Now maybe you can untie them...
Him: I'll have to spend my recess reading my library book and taking the quiz?
Me: You got it! You see, Marty, despite what your laces are saying about you, you've proven you're a smart kid!
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Howdy! Sorry I haven't been blogging. I'm just not feelin' it lately at work.
I love my kids and I love my coworkers, but I'm just not loving "it" right now. (And I can't even put what "it" is into words.)
I'm not worried though. Soon enough I'll climb outta this dark closet I'm hiding in and love "it" (whatever that is) again.
Here's ELD testing in my world:
I have a cute little kiddo with a great big personality in my ELD class. He's got a great vocabulary and thinks BIG thoughts.
For some very good reasons, he doesn't handle change very well though.
So the kids were taking an ELD test. My student teacher had them start with Part G rather than Part A (for reasons I cannot explain), and my smart little fourth grader completely melted down.
At first, I left him to work through it as best he could, but it soon became apparent (pounding on his desk, throwing test on the floor) that he wasn't working through anything.
Him: I CAN'T DO THIS!!!!! (dramatically slams head down on his arms on his desk.)
Me: Sure you can.
Him: THIS IS CRAZY!!!! (Sounded like "mmmth isthh crathy" because his face was completely smothered by his arms.)
Me: No, it's a test. One that you're going to find very easy. Let's give it a try together.
Him: THIS IS SOOOOOOO IMPORTANT!!!!!!
Me: Yes, it is. (Thinking: No, not really.)
Him: WHAT ON EARTH ARE WE DOING HERE?!?!
Me: That's a pretty deep question. I don't think we have time to explore all the possible...
Him: WITH THE TEST!!! WHY ARE WE STARTING ON PART G? EVERYONE KNOWS YOU START ON PART A!!!!
(If everyone didn't know it before, they know it now. His voice was at DefCon 10.)
Me: OooooOOhh. (insert lie) It has to be that way because that is the order I have to enter the scores into the computer. The "G" stands for "Go!" Crazy, huh?
Him: Oh. Ok!
And off he went on his test, satisfied that there was a logical explanation for the chaos in his universe.
Ahhh, if only all our problems were so easily solved.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Me: Alrighty boys and girls, we are beginning our school-wide fundraiser today. We're selling cupcakes.
Me: We're selling them, not eating them.
Me: Anyhoo, we're raising money to buy more computers for our school. Who would like more computers?
Me: Then we need to practice our sales pitch. After all, we're in competition with those wily Girl Scouts and their cookies right now.
Step One: Appearance. Look sad. Look sad, hungry, and needy. Show me what that looks like.
Them: (Insert faces looking up hungrily at me with sad little frowns and pleading little eyes.)
Me: Perfect. Step Two: talk about the few computers we have now and how little you know about them because you hardly ever get to use them.
Them: But we use them all the time!
Me: I know that, but we can't let other people know that or they'll never buy the cupcakes. Other grade levels aren't as lucky as we are, and they don't have laptops to share. We're doing this for all the other grade levels.
Them: Why don't they do their own fundraising?
Me: Oh! I see. You think because you're in 4th grade and we have a class set of laptops to share that you're all set. Very clear to me now. Tell me, what grade will you be in next year?
Them: Fifth grade.
Me: Does fifth have laptops?
Them: (insert 3 beats of silence) ooOOOHhhhh. We get it now. We NEED to sell cupcakes!
Me: Yup, the only one staying behind in fourth grade with the class set of laptops is ME! Now that we're back on the same page (of serving your future self-interests), on to Step Three: tell them all about how you need to "develop" your computer skills. It will be important for your "future." You'll need these skills for "college." blah blah blah. Use all the buzz words grown ups like to hear.
It IS the 21st Century, after all.
Them: It IS?!?!
Friday, February 17, 2012
Warning: The following post, just like this one, contains adult language and content. If you don't want to be exposed to that, please cover your eyes before you read.
Wanna know what I learned yesterday?
I learned that even our kiddos who really struggle to write a sentence can write a pretty durn good narrative with the right supports in place.
(I actually already knew that.)
Wanna know what I really learned yesterday?
I learned that kids like to write stories about magic wands. Their imaginations explode with ideas. Anything is possible with a magic wand!
Wanna know what else I learned?
Publishing stories online is HIGHLY motivating to students.
(Again, not new learning for me. I'm just using that repetitive line for effect.)
In case you're wondering, we're using www.LittleBirdTales.com .
Kids can write their stories, illustrate them or use digital images, record their voices reading their stories and then safely share their stories via the Web using a hyperlink.
Oh, and it's free!
Back to what I'm learning. Wanna know what else?
When kids draw magic wands, many look just like sparkly penises.
And the rest look like sparkly vibrators.
And it's really fun to send the kids who drew the most phallic-looking ones over to your teaching partner to proudly show off their "magic wands" (that's what she said).
... and watch him struggle to find appropriate ways to compliment their work.
I don't care what other teachers say, THAT is what makes teaching fun!
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Question: If a student only speaks English, however understands some Spanish, and his mother speaks and understands Spanish only, how do you imagine they communicate with each other?
She can't understand the only language he speaks, and he can't speak to her in the only language she understands.
What are your thoughts?
Friday, January 27, 2012
It was a rough week in my teaching partner's math class. Things just never seemed to go his way, and the kids were acting really wacky.
They are generally a sweet bunch, but are our most intensive learners. They're often off task and really struggle to follow directions even on the eleventh (or eleven hundredth) time you've given them.
Hey, we've all had those weeks and those classes.
It's why wine was invented.
So on Thursday he's teaching math to his squirrelly little bunch. They're truckin' along at a dead snail's pace. Students are showing work on whiteboards, and two or three of them are even laying their markers down on their socks (AKA eraser/marker holder) correctly between problems...
Here's his marker and sock:
At least someone was erect and paying attention in that class.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
We run the mile every Wednesday, no news to you, and yet again it brings the funny.
One young man, who generally protests throughout the mile run and often refuses to run, ran the best mile of his life.
He ran a lot.
He ran fast.
He broke a sweat!
After finishing in record time for him, he walked up to me and said:
Him: Well, I guess I might owe the school some money.
Me: Why's that?
Him: Repairs are needed because I was burning up the asphalt!
Saturday, January 21, 2012
We have this big ole writing test here in California that all fourth graders take in March.
(Hey State of California, I have a GREAT idea for something you could cut to save money...)
We try to incorporate writing across the curriculum all year long to develop the kids' skills.
We also begin FRANTICALLY writing essays riiiiiight about this time of year as well...
Expository summaries, narrative summaries, narratives, and response to literature essays are literally pouring out of our heads.
You do get quite an insight into their minds when you're reading so many of their thoughts on paper.
I'm learning that my impression of the inner workings of some of them is spot on.
For example, this week we read a pourquoi tale that tells the story of why the sun and the moon live in the sky. In a nutshell, Sun and Moon always wanted to invite their friend Water over, but their house was too small to accommodate all of him. They expanded their home and invited him, however when he arrived he took up so much space that they had to rise up into the sky to stay dry. Luckily, they learned they liked it up there and have remained ever since.
We used this piece to write a response to literature essay, which requires the kids to identify a theme in the story and connect that theme to their own lives.
My Impression: Her "on switch" remains hidden, and she always seems disinterested. Tough to motivate, but I'm still looking for ways.
Her Sun and Moon Theme: Never try too hard.
Evidence: Sun and Moon tried hard to make their friend happy, but ended up losing their house.
Her Connection to life: I don't work hard at anything. Hard work is too much work. My mom works and goes to dance classes at night, but I like to just want to watch tv.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Well, it's the New Year.
(Did you already know that? You know me. Always full of breaking news...)
Time to make those promises to myself that I fully intend to have no intention of fulfilling.
Seek revenge on people who leave the copier jammed full of half-eaten spelling lists and chewed up math worksheets. You see, our new copier still jams as much as our old copier, but now I can see who logged in before me. Hahaha!! I'm gonna clear out their mess from the copier, like I always do, and shove it right in their...
Stop stealing staples right out of my teaching partner's stapler. I'll be much closer to the supply room in the new year, so there will be no need.
Not leave the editing of essays until I have weeks and weeks and weeks worth of essays to edit; filling me with a temptation to "misplace" them. I have so many essays to read over winter break that I honestly considered telling the kids they got lost by the movers who are relocating us over vacation. (Our school underwent a remodel.)
Bad teacher. VERY baaad teacher.
Devise a way to stop giving spelling tests. I hate spelling test. It tests them on nothing. Sure, they spell ok in isolation, but unless they develop a career playing Words with Friends, spelling in isolation is a useless skill. I'd rather teach the spelling rules, but skip the traditional spelling test. Spelling in context is key.
Maybe they could use words that follow the weekly spelling rules in those essays I'm going to be grading with more frequency?
Stop thinking up resolutions that make editing essays more work than it already is.
Make an honest attempt to fulfill my resolutions.
Stop lying to myself. I'm never going to actually DO these things.
Hold myself to a higher standard than I have in the past. Strive to be a better person and challenge myself to make personal and professional changes when changes are needed.
On second thought, love myself just the way I am.