Saturday, August 31, 2013

Long Weekend, Bad Dreams, and a Birthday Party!


Do you know what time I got out of bed this morning?  Of course you don't...unless you're somehow stalking me and have some form of hidden camera set up in my house.  Which I know you don't.  That's just weird.

Well, I got up at 10:00!!  Yes.  10AM.  And that's after going to bed at 9:30 last night.  Or should I say, I crawled in to bed...collapsed in to bed..had barely enough energy to put my head down on my pillow.  And I was OUT.

I slept for 12 glorious hours.  Well, almost.  I had a harsh wake-up around midnight, when Jelly woke up crying from having a bad dream.  But I'll get to that in a second.

I needed that sleep.  I woke up this morning, my hair frazzled, lines imprinted on my face from the sheets and my pillow.  I slept HARD.  Which is something I haven't done in a long time.  I always sleep pretty well, but after about 7-8 hours, I'm good.  To wake up at 10 totally dazed and confused...told me that my body was exhausted from this past week.  And I got a good start on making up some of the stress I've been putting on myself.

Back to bad dream.  Like I told you all yesterday, Jelly has been having a hard week with school.  Her first week, she was a rockstar.  No tears.  Pure excitement.  A bundle of crazy after school each day as she recollected every minuscule detail about her day for me.  But, this week has been very different.  She's been cranky.  Moody.  And she has cried before getting on to the bus that takes her from my school to her school.  

I chalked the first couple days up to exhaustion, it's been a tough transition.  Then, a good friend (and an expert in this stuff) reminded me yesterday that Jelly could be suffering from stress.  The demands that Kindergarten has on 5 year olds in this day and age is so much different than when we went to school.  The first week was full of drawing and coloring and play-doh and games.  But, now that first introduction week is over, and the real demands of kindergarten are starting to come to light.

Jelly isn't prepared for those demands.  

She attended daycare from 3-4 years old that was an educational day care, but the majority of the education came from fun learning experiences.  Hands on experiences.  A lot of cutting and pasting and coloring and making stuff.  Then, she attended a pre-k program that used creative learning centers where she learned through play and discovery.  Dressing up, more cutting and pasting, fun songs and dances, building blocks, play-doh, and paints.  

But now, she's gone from all of that in to a classroom.  A real classroom.  Where she sits at a desk or on a carpet.  She listens to directions from her teacher.  She has to follow those directions.  She's asked to do stuff she's not really sure how to do... write, spell, read.  

No wonder the girl is stressed out.  

Last night, she woke up at midnight crying.  That hasn't happened in YEARS.  She told me she'd had a bad dream..couldn't remember the dream, but was still pretty shaken about it.  I held her, calming her down.  It took everything I had not to cry with her.  My baby is really feeling the heat from her new situations...and there's not much I can do for her except hope that over time, she will start to acclimate to what's going on.  She's super smart, and I know that she won't have any problem with the stuff she's required to learn... but I can't explain that to her.  She doesn't get it.  She just knows that her new school is a daunting place, right now.  It's just going to take some time getting used to.  In the interim, I just have to help her as much as I can with the demands and reinforce that she will be OK and that it will get easier to except the stuff she'll be learning.

So much has changed even since Peanut and Butter went to kindergarten.  I've been in the know all this time, and now I'm finally starting to see how these demands of starting the learning process much earlier affect 5 year olds.  Pretty scary stuff!

Thankfully, Jelly will be able to forget all about that stuff today.  She got her first invitation to a birthday party from a girl in her class.  She's super excited about it..and that makes me happy.  Even though the birthday party is at a park, when it's 100 degrees outside.  Oh well, getting all hot and sweaty and possibly a little sunburnt is nothing for my baby's happiness.  She needs a day off to have some fun, play with her friends away from a school playground or classroom.  I think it will be great for her.  Plus, it gives me a chance to get to know some of the parents.  

And, not only do Jelly and the rest of us get today and tomorrow off to recover and recuperate...we get an extra day on Monday.


Yeppers, this weekend is a long weekend.  Three glorious days off instead of the usual two.  

Besides the birthday party, I have absolutely nothing planned for this weekend.  Tomorrow, we'll probably do our usual grocery shopping and cleaning.  Monday, we'll hopefully spend the afternoon in the pool.  

I have some work that I had to bring home with me.. but that won't take much time away from my relaxing weekend.
All in all, it will be good family time.  Jelly needs it.  I need it.  And so do the other kids.  They've been busting their behinds each night at sport practices, and they're both exhausted too.  

Which I think it's about time for me to go jump in the shower to start preparing for my afternoon in the sun.

Happy Saturday!!


Friday, August 30, 2013

That'll Show Me!

I am so freaking happy it's Friday...and not just any Friday.  It's a Friday that kicks off a three day weekend.  Yep, already happy about a day off work.  HA!

Not for the usual reason most people like time off - they can't stand their jobs.  But, because it has been an EXHAUSTING first couple of weeks back to school, and I'm looking forward to having an extra day this weekend to rest and relax.  And soak up the fact that I will only have to stay at work until 6:15 each night next week for four days instead of five.

Of course, I better make the most of it, because the week after the short week kicks off the volleyball season...and I'll be missing my leaving work at 6:15 each night and instead getting home around 9 a couple nights a week.

I'm not the only one to be feeling some of the exhaustion.  Jelly had a pretty rough start to the day yesterday.  For only the second time in two weeks, she cried before getting on the school bus.  She only has to ride a bus from the elementary school to the primary which is a couple miles down the road.  Up until this point, the bus ride has always been a fun part of her day.  There was only one other incident, and that was only because she didn't get to sit next to her friend that day.  We've taken care of that problem since then.  She told me that she has cried almost everyday at school, because she misses me.  I think it has to do with the fact that she's not getting a nap at school.  In Pre-K, she got a good hour, to an hour and a half nap each day...and now that she's in kindergarten she gets a very small "rest" time..but it's not long enough to sleep.

I think it's just going to take her a little while to get used to the vigorous time schedule she's now keeping.  Other than being tired, she really does love school.  She spent the entire evening, last night, singing the Purple Song.  She definitely knows how to spell purple.

I had a much better day yesterday than I did the day before.  I started my morning as my happy, chipper self.  I didn't mention anything about the "social studies incident".  The kiddos, again, spent the morning working very hard.

I had my first walk-through observation, performed by my assistant principal during my reading lesson.  The kiddos were working in pairs to re-read the story we've been reading.  They then worked together to create sequence boxes of the story.  The kids did a great job...and even though I have no idea what my assistant principal thought of the activity (yet), the kids all had a great time with it.

After lunch and recess, the kids had specials followed by computer lab time.  So, I didn't have them in the classroom from 11:10 - 2:15.  When they got back, (which just so happened to be our social studies time) I figured it would be a good time to bring up the situation from the day before.  If you didn't read the post yesterday, the "incident" refers to a terrible situation in which we had a social studies lesson and I basically gave the kids all the answers to the sheet they were working from... yet, because they assumed I was just going to give them 100% for the activity, they didn't do what they were supposed to.  Which ended up in 80% of my class receiving an F for the assignment.

So I told them I had done a little thinking.  I told them that I thought I was partly to blame for what happened.  I told them that I'm not in the business of handing out free 100% grades, and I should never have just given them the answers in the first place.  

I made sure to tell them that I was still disappointed, but not just at them.. also with myself.

I then explained that they had two assignments to complete in the short amount of time before it was time to go home...questions from both the social studies and the science we'd been talking about from the past couple of days.

I wrote the assignments on the board, gave them the page numbers of the questions, and then asked them to get to work.  I told them I would be floating around to help, if needed.

They all sat there looking at me.  Confused.  

I again, reiterated their assignments and asked them to get busy.  Nothing.  So, I asked if there were any questions.  One kiddo raised his hand and asked "Aren't you going to tell us what page the answers are on?"  

I laughed.  So much for the whole spill I had just given them.  Sure doesn't take long to create an expectation from me, does it?

I told them all that I was no longer going to be providing answers, or even the page numbers in which to find the answers.  I reaffirmed that we'd discussed all of the content that the questions covered, and that most of the questions were easy enough to find the answers to.  And then I told them that there was no reason they'd struggle with the questions as long as they read each question carefully....the answers all came from our discussions that we'd had.  There really wouldn't be much looking up of anything, unless they needed to check their answers or spell something correctly.

I then assured them that they wouldn't be answering questions each time we were finished with a lesson...this was just a short review for them to complete.  When we started our next lesson, I'd find other ways for them to show their understanding.  

With some reluctance, they all finally started opening their books and reading the questions.

My honest thought from the get-go was that they would struggle.  They'd get a little frazzled.  They weren't used to this type of situation.  They expected a sheet in which to just plug in the right words, or matching words with definitions, or having to answer multiple choice questions.  The three questions they had to answer for social studies required some writing, some opinions, and explanation.  

As bad as it sounds, my point was to show them that there would be no more skating by or zero thinking involved in anything we did.  And I expected them to fail.  Not because I wanted them to, but because I had an inkling that I had already put a bad precedent in to place, and they wouldn't put any real work in answering the questions.  I wanted to show them how important discussion and participation was to learning...and that the bulk of the learning comes from those things.  Answering questions about our discussion should be easy, but I expected them to panic, get frustrated by my lack of direction in handing out the page to find the answers, and just basically crumble under the pressure of doing something like "Explain the purpose of the three branches of government".  I didn't read the questions to them and explain what each one was asking for.  I didn't give them a heads up to remind them the part of the discussion that each question was pertaining to.  I just let them be...smugly thinking that they'd be lost without me and would forever more be focused and committed to whatever discussion we had in class.

Boy, was I wrong.

The hustle and bustle started of paper being distributed around the tables, books being opened, and then...silence for a few minutes.

I sat at a table and pulled a few students that I knew would struggle with reading the questions.  I sat with each of them and read the questions to them... but that was the only support I gave.  When I finished reading, the three kids went straight to writing.  I sat there, totally shocked about them not only getting straight to writing, but knowing exactly what to write.

I watched intently around the room, waiting for the first desperate hand to raise begging me to offer some assistance.  I waited for the panicked eyes to find me, silently telling me that they had no idea what to do.

Instead, I saw one student lean over to another and whisper something.  Then, I saw that other student say something back...and a lightbulb seemed to magically go off in the first student's brain, and he began thumbing through the pages of his book.  I then looked at another table, and a quiet discussion was taking place there.  Four students were all huddled over their books, one reading from it..the others adding comments as she read.  And then they all started writing.  Another student asking the student next to her what a word was in one of the questions, when receiving his answer he began writing.

Then, as the end of the day started to get pretty close, one hand finally raised.  

"Can we take this home if we don't finish it?"
Not, Do We Have to take take it home if we don't finish it... CAN we.  

I was stunned.  Shocked.  My insides were doing somersaults and flips with excitement.  I thought about telling them that because they had all worked so hard, they didn't have to take it home... but the question had been posed much different than I'm used to receiving it.  So, I told them they could.  

I didn't see or hear one sigh, one eye roll.  I saw a few signs of relief.  I saw a few exchanges of smiles.  

Here I was thinking I was proving some major point, and instead they were all proving a point to me.  They were involved and engaged during the discussion.  They were all quite capable of taking on a challenge of answering essay type questions.  They did NOT need someone to dish out the answers for them...what's the fun in that?

Not only that, but two weeks ago, I had to basically force these kids to work together on something.  Trying to get them to discuss at their tables or assist one another was like pulling a tooth from an alligator.  They would sit at their desks, hands over their papers, giving death scowls to anyone that even thought of asking them a question or asking for help.  

And here I had just witnessed 45 minutes of cooperative learning.  I hadn't told them if they could or couldn't work together.  They hadn't asked.  They just took it upon themselves to help one another get through it.  They had discussed what the questions had asked.  They had shared answers, but not given them.  They discussed the answers, they had appointed a good reader at the table to check the answer.  And they had seemed to enjoy what they were doing.  Not only that, but when realizing they weren't going to have enough time to complete the task at hand...had then asked COULD they take it home to keep working on it.

For the first few days of school, I told them that my job was not to pump them full of information.  When I told them my favorite part of teaching, I had explained that it wasn't about getting the satisfaction of seeing them get good grades, it was about transforming them in to teaching themselves.  I gave direction, but each child in the room would become a teacher in their own right.  Each child had a set of skills that would come in handy to another student in the room.  That my favorite part of teaching was watching them solve problems TOGETHER, overcoming obstacles TOGETHER, and accepting challenges that were thrown their way.

And what do you know?  Only two weeks in, and my favorite part of teaching was rearing its beautiful head.

That'll show me, right?

I now know, that this is going to be one heck of a school year.  These kids will step up to the challenges thrown their way.  They'll embrace their own learning.  And it's time for me to start putting my plan in to action to mix up the challenges set before them....and help them feel those wonderful feelings of PRIDE, PURPOSE, and SUCCESS.

Once again: Man, I love my job!!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Alter Ego Makes Her First Appearance of the School Year

Yesterday started out like all of my other days have started out.  Kids coming straight in to the classroom, getting to work, talking among themselves after they finished with their work.  

The morning was really good.  The kids worked really hard through math.  Kicked some tail during grammar and spelling, and did awesome on their mini-test in reading.

The atmosphere in my room was a good one.  Happy one.  There was a lot of work thrown their way, which could have resulted in a lot of homework...but the phrase "do it now or do it at home" has really started to get the effect I wanted.  No one wants homework.  

Because my kiddos had put in so much work that morning, I decided to make our social studies time a lot more lax and easy.  We were beginning our topic about the government.  Which, even though I'm not a huge fan of social studies, I really enjoy teaching.  I love discussing the roles of the three branches, and seeing some of the shock that comes from the kids when I tell them that the President really isn't the only boss of the country.

For some reason, kids in the 4th grade are programmed to think that the President is some kind of king.  He is the all powerful.  He makes all of the decisions, the laws, is the judge, jury, and executioner.  So, when I give them the scoop that the President works with two other branches of government to do those things... it's quite a wake up call for them.

Before our lesson, I gave each of the kids a vocabulary record the words that they would need to know from our lesson.  The original plan was that we'd have our discussion, they'd look up the words after, and then they'd turn the sheet in.  But, again, because they'd worked so hard that morning.. I figured I'd cut them some slack.  Instead of them looking up the words AFTER the lesson, I told them that as we came to each word... I'd read them the definition and they just had to find the definition on the sheet and fill in the appropriate word.  Basically, yeah, I was going to give them all the answers.  The only real work they had to do was go down the list of 15 definitions and fill in the right word next to it.  

Our lesson went really well.  I drew a big tree on the board with the appropriate branches.  I wrote the responsibilities for each branch under the heading.  I stopped after giving the definition of each vocabulary word so they'd have some time to fill in the appropriate box.  I read the definition several times, so that they wouldn't forget what I was talking about between the time I stopped talking and the time it took them to find the definition.  The kids were involved in the discussion...sharing their thoughts and misconceptions that they had about the government.

A few times, I noticed that there were a few kids that weren't writing anything.  I reminded them, again and again, to find the definition...even pointing to the correct one for some of the kids... and telling them to write in the word we were talking about.

And then our lesson was over, and it was time to grade our vocabulary sheet and record the grade.  An easy 100%.  But, in my mind, the grade wasn't really related to being able to go through the book and fill in the right was about paying attention and joining in with the discussion and just recording what we were talking about. I figured there was more learning going on that way... yes, by even giving them the answers...than it would have been if I rushed through the lesson and then asked them to do the hunting and finding and reading all by themselves.

But, as I started to collect grades...I was shocked.  First person...missed 5.  The second person missed all 15.  The next person missed 12.  Then another missed all 15.  Then another missed 13.  Finally, calling on the 6th or 7th kid, there were a few kids that had received their 100% or maybe missed one..maybe two because they got two confused.  

By the end of collecting all the grades, I had a total of 5 zeros, and only 5 or six of the kids had received an A or B.  The rest were all Fs.

I was completely and utterly SHOCKED.

How on earth had these kids made such bad grades?  I had stood up at the front handing out all of the answers.  Not only did I give the answers verbally, but I drew a nice graphic on the board that covered about 10 of the 15 vocabulary words.  I had told the kids what page in the book the vocabulary word was on (in bold and highlighted font) when we came to it, in case they needed to see the words and match some of them up.  

And that's when my alter ego...a/k/a Mean Teacher started to rear her ugly head.  I was NOT happy.  In fact, I was down right livid.  Had it been a situation where it was difficult for the kids to find the right words or to read the definitions... then, OK.  Which, for some was the case...which is why I took it upon myself to help those kids out by pointing out the definition on their paper.  Yet, come to find out, most of the Fs came from the kids just plugging a word in willy nilly on the sheet...not paying attention AT ALL to the matching the words with the correct definition.  And all because they assumed that when I said "easy 100%", that I would just give them all 100% without making sure they'd done what I'd asked.


Yes.  A child actually told me that I had said they'd be getting 100%.. so they didn't think they had to put the word in the right spot, and other kids agreed.  

OK, so maybe some mixed communication, now that I'm thinking about it.. but that's not what I was thinking when I heard those words.  I need to do a better job of explaining what "easy 100%" means compared to "guaranteed 100%" which is what they thought I meant.  

That was it.  I went off on my first tirade of the year.

I raised my voice.  I told them how shocked and appalled I was.  I reminded them that the reason I had been so easy with them in the first place was because they had worked so hard that morning...and yet, they expected that meant they didn't have to do ANYTHING to earn that grade.  It was as simple as looking at the board, listening to our conversation, being a part of the conversation, looking in the book if need be, and filling in the blank next to the definition I WAS GIVING THEM.  And that they had thrown in back in my face with an assumption that I was going to give them a passing grade anyway, so why bother?

What made it worse, in my mind, was the fact that there was no disappointment on their faces.  No realization that they were receiving a bad grade when I'd handed them each and every answer.  No signs of remorse or sadness that they had disappointed me.  And that turned my anger in to dire sadness.

That's when the mother/teacher came back out again.  

Mean Teacher was on standby...but I switched my approach to that of sadness and disappointment.  Reminded them that they hadn't only let themselves down, but me too.

I gave my speech on doing everything in my power to make this school year successful and teaching them everything they needed to know.  But also molding them, inspiring them, and challenging them to overcome feats they never thought possible.  I then admitted my own mistake.  Maybe I shouldn't be giving them answers.  That goes against everything I believe it.  No wonder they didn't do the work... there was no real work involved.

That did it.

Mean Teacher doesn't hold a candle to Sad and Disappointed Teacher.

That's when heads started to drop.  Eyes started to swell, just a little.  And realization finally set in about what they had done.

I got the kids going on Writers Workshop...and started to hear a few apologies.  If apologies didn't come in words, it came from those that told me how hard they were working on their writing.. how much they'd important it was for them to write a great story.

We ended our day by me reminding them that we'd start over again today.  It would be a fresh start.  I would think about better ways to make the lessons more engaging...and fun.  But, they were to come back knowing that working hard was expected ALL OF THE TIME.  I had high expectations for each of them, and in order for me to do my part...they had to be my partners.  Right there with me.  Giving me all they've got.

And today we'll see if that's the case.

I have thought about my mistakes.  I've come up with some ideas to change my style.  Or really, going back to my roots.  I did that same lesson last year, and when one of my old students came to visit me after school she asked if we had made the tree posters that went along with the branches of government lesson.  And it hit me.  There are SOOOO many other ways to teach these kids vocabulary.  And I just have to keep working hard finding those alternatives.

Teaching isn't about's about encouraging, inspiring, and motivating.  

Sometimes, I forget that.  But, I'm going to make it a point to fix it.  Now.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Apparently, I'm the Only Person to NOT See the VMAs


Sunday night, while apparently the entire country was watching the VMAs, I didn't have I couldn't watch.

Which, from what I'm hearing, was apparently a blessing in disguise.  

My Facebook feed, every social media and news outlet in the world, and several conversations at work  have been lit up with the diabolical and disgusting performance given by one Miley Cyrus during the event.

When I first heard about it, my first reaction was to assume that people were overreacting to nothing.  That she probably took the stage in a skimpy outfit that wasn't considered "appropriate" for the young audience members that were watching at home with their families.  

Surely it couldn't be as bad as everyone was saying.

Dads writing open letters to their daughters threatening severe punishment if their own daughter acted that way, news media calling her "attention seeking" and "the making of a porn star", and seeing people refer to her as a "spoiled, trash brat", "slutty", and "totally looking ridiculous..the very opposite of sexy, which was what she was attempting" peaked my interest.

Was her performance really so bad?

Last night, I got my answer.  After all the hype, I just had to see what it was all about.  So, Hubby looked it up on YouTube, and we got our answer.

Simply:  YES!  YES!! It really WAS that bad!

Hubby could only stomach 2 minutes of the 6 1/2 minute video before handing it off to me.  I watched, gawking at the screen the entire time, wondering what on EARTH that girl could have been thinking?

I've heard plenty of people say that she was trying to make a statement that she's way past her Hanna Montana stage.  That she wants to come out as an adult, a woman, no longer that cute girl that tweens watched with wonder and awe.  

She got her wish, alright.  But, did she really have to go to such measures?

When she was using a foam finger to fondle herself, and sticking it between her legs to air hump fans below,  my stomach twisted in knots.  My first thought was "My daughter used to worship this nasty girl!  What the heck is she thinking by acting that way?"

Ahh, Mommy Moments, got to love them, right?

And don't get me wrong.  I've often disagreed with certain opinions about performances.  It doesn't bother me to see a young singer in hardly any clothes performing on stage.  I don't get all disgusted and bent out of shape about showing too much skin or making a performance a little older than what probably should be done. But, what she did in that performance?  DISGUSTING!!

All I saw when sitting through that torture was a desperate girl starving for attention.  Like she doesn't get enough.  But, does she really want THAT kind of attention?  I guess bad media is better than no media, right?

And, Taylor Swift in the inset picture up top is pretty much what all of America did when watching her performance.  She represented the masses by making it perfectly clear:  We Just Don't Want to See That!!

I'm not sure if she was trying to pull off a tribute to Madonna or Britney Spears (which is something else I've read)... but it failed miserably.  I'm pretty sure both Madonna and Britney are celebrating after seeing that debacle.  They are calling up all of their friends and family asking "Do you still think my performances were that bad now that you've seen Miley Cyrus in action?"

And the answer is: No.  Madonna and Britney are now tame kitties compared to the lioness of nasty that has now taken the throne.

I have to agree with one concerned father when he said in an open letter to his daughter (via a blog I read this morning) that this is exactly what happens to a young girl that lives in a world where she thinks everyone hangs on every word and picture she ever put out there, raised in a home she probably never heard the word "NO", and still complains that life doesn't treat her fairly.

So, people still look at her as the cute gal that once stared on a Nick show.  SO WHAT?  That doesn't mean others don't listen to her music.  Are those young girls not good enough fans?  Not good enough to Miley, apparently.  

She wanted to broaden her horizon.  Get an older population rooting for her and "accepting" her as an adult.  Well, she should be careful what she wishes for.  Because now, she's got an adult reputation a nasty, desperate, spoiled brat who will do anything for attention.

Tsk, tsk Miley.

I guess the good thing that came out of all of this is that parents won't have to spend much time threatening their daughters... because if the opinions of Miley's performance from the teen girls I've talked to the past couple of days are anything like the rest of the country's teen population...parents have nothing to worry about.  When teen girls are able to show their disgust towards her performance... there's still hope in the world. 

And that's all I have to say about it.  

Have a good Wednesday!!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back Up and Running!!

Well, my internet is finally back up and running.  I was finally able to upload the blog posts I wrote yesterday morning only ten hours ago...but that's only because silly me went off to work without taking my iPad with me, so I could upload them once I got to work.

And now I've just realized that it's only been ten hours since I got home from work, and a little over an hour from now I'll be heading out back to work.  Feels weird knowing I spend less time at home than I do traveling to and from and being at work.  

I got the kids' sport schedules all put on my calendar yesterday, and Holy Cow!  I am going to be one busy mother during the months of September and October.  Peanut's season starts September 12th and Butter's starts the 17th.  One week later, I'll be attending three games a week for three weeks, then two games, and then the last game of the season will be October 22nd.  

I may need to take out a second mortgage on the house just to cover the gas for my car.  Not just my car, but Hubby's car too.  Because on several nights, there are conflicts in which I'll be at a game and the other child will need to be collected from practice.  So, Hubby will have the job of picking that particular kid up.  Then I just have to pray that I can make it home in time before Hubby has to go to work.

Thankfully, it's just until the end of October.  Then I'll have my life back.  I'll be able to leave work at a reasonable time and not have to spend a gazillion dollars a week on gas so that I can drive all over Southwest Missouri.  Unless, of course, the kids decide to play basketball.  Gulp!

Yesterday was a crazy, busy day in my classroom.  Because I had so much trouble staying on schedule and fitting everything in last week, I made it a point to get EVERYTHING in yesterday.  Which ended up making me feel like I was running around like a decapitated chicken.  And that's minor compared to how my poor kids felt.  By the end of the day, I promised them that I'd re-evaluate my plans for the rest of this week...and I'd not be spending any more days cramming their brains so full and piling on so much work just to meet my lesson plan requirements.

In my opinion, it does no good putting that much on their shoulders in one day.  That don't have the ability to absorb that much information, or keep up with that many demands in terms of work.  I'd much rather cut the work load in half, be behind, and know that they are learning what they need to learn.  Just because I cover all of the standards in the set time period does NOT mean that they learn the objectives connected to them...especially if we're racing through them at lightening speed.  

And I have so much on my to-do list for the two hours I spend after work, while waiting on the kids to get back from practice.  Yet, I never manage to fit it all in.  I have so many ideas that I want to start implementing in to the daily schedule, that will help with getting my students where they need to be, but the time just seems to fly by.  By the time I wade through all of the paperwork that's piled up, once again, on my desk, and enter in grades, and prepare absentee work packets... time's up.  And before I know it, Peanut and Butter are back and ready to head home...and I leave feeling like I didn't accomplish anything.

By the end of the school year, last year, I'd finally grasped using my time wisely and was able to get a lot of work done without having to spend two hours in my classroom each night.  Yet, apparently over the summer I completely forgot how to do that.  And so I'm starting back at square one to figure out exactly what it was that I did last year that enabled me to get so much done in such a short amount of time.  Now that I have nothing but time at the end of the day, why is it I'm still so frazzled by my ever increasing work load?

It's OK, though.  I know I'll get there.  Back to school is always a crazy time...and it takes me a few weeks to adjust.  I'll find my bearings, again...sooner rather than later this time around, though.

I might need to make a to-do list for my to-do list.  Maybe setting up certain days to work on grading and paperwork, and certain days that I just focus on the projects I want to bring to life.  

An idea I might try today, maybe.  We'll see.

Right now, though... I should probably think about going to get ready for work.  My coffee cup is empty, which is my cue to head on in to the house from my patio and start preparing for my day.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Life Without Internet or TV

I'm writing this post at my normal time...around 5AM.  Except, when I'm finished, I won't be able to upload it to my blog like I usually do.  And that would be because I don't have any internet right now.

Yesterday afternoon, while I was working at my computer on some lesson plans, our doorbell rang.  I got up to answer it, and it was a man who told us he was the neighbor's son.  He had been mowing his dad's yard, and had accidentally ran over some wire that looked to be cable or phone wire.

Don't ask me how he ran it over.  I guess the wire from the cable box to the pole wasn't buried or something... because he completely mangled it.

Anywho, at first, we thought it wasn't our cable wire.  I had been working on the internet right up until he rang our doorbell, and we don't have a home phone line.  Our internet is delivered to us via our cable company.

The guy apologized profusely, we told him not to worry that much about it, and he left.

We walked back inside...and when I saw the screen of my computer, realization hit.  I saw that big, annoying message on my computer screen:  Page can't load, no internet connection detected.

I had one of the kids go and check their TVs, and sure enough... No Signal Detected.

Dang it.

Of course this had to happen early Sunday afternoon...when there's not a chance in Hades to get anybody out to fix it.  Hubby called our cable company, and the earliest they could get someone out is today (Monday) between 1-3PM.

So, since it's happened, we've had no TV service or internet.

I tell you what, we haven't had the best of luck when it comes to our new neighbors.  Sure, they are nice enough... but since moving in, we've had two of their trees destroy different parts of our back fence during storms...during different storms at different times...and now mowed over cable lines.  

During times like this, I remember why Hubby didn't want neighbors when it came to buying a new house.  That's because we have never really had the best luck when it came to neighbors.  In our old house, when we first moved in, we had two sets of neighbors that fought constantly..and there was always cops knocking on our door because they had either gone to the wrong house, or they were asking us if we had any information regarding the neighbors' little disputes.  When one of the neighbors finally moved out, the neighbors that stayed would never fix their fence that held in their horses...and it was not uncommon to wake up one morning and find a huge horse or two standing in our front yard.   

I tell you what, even though I don't really watch much TV, not having internet sucks big grasshopper balls.  Especially when it's my morning ritual to get up and type up my blog.  I'm scared to death that I'll get all of this written, and it won't save because it can't be uploaded and I would have written it for nothing.  

Not only that, but it totally messed up my Candy Crush playing.  

I've spent over a week trying to clear a level that would take me to the next "world".  I kid you not, not even five minutes after the whole neighbor visiting ordeal, I passed the level.  And, because of having no internet... I couldn't get my phone to sync to my Facebook account so that I could ask for tickets to help me unlock the next world.  I downloaded a new update on Saturday, and I guess it somehow messed with the connectivity between my phone and Facebook when I'm not on a Wi-Fi connection.

Talk about ticked off.

I'll openly admit I'm addicted to Candy Crush.  I have figured out that even though I only have 5 lives on my phone... I can get additional 5 lives playing from my iPad and another 5 playing on the computer.  I usually spend a good part of my evenings going back and forth between my iPhone and my iPad to get lives.  Unfortunately, with no internet, I can't play on my iPad...but I can play on my phone because I have 4G service.  

It was after 9PM last night before I finally got my phone to sync up and realize that I'd received the tickets I needed to unlock the next levels.  

For the time in between losing the internet and getting my phone to allow me to play Candy Crush, I did what any normal person would do in the event of losing their main sources of entertainment... I opened up a book.  I read for a while, then took the kids swimming for a while.  All three kids and I played in the pool until after 7:30 last night.  Then it was inside for showers and getting stuff ready for school today.  I decided to read for a little while longer before it was time for bed.

I really hope that my cable company makes it out here today to fix our stuff.  I don't like not having internet.  We use it to watch TV on Netflix.  I use it to play Candy Crush and blog.  Hubby uses it to play his games.  And while I shouldn't be so dependent on the internet to provide so much entertainment for our family... I do...and miss it dearly when it's gone.

Well, I had better get to getting ready for work.  Hopefully this won't all disappear the moment I close my iPad down..and it will save this post for later.

Fingers crossed.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Getting Good Use Out of My Sam's Membership


 Hubby and I have had a Sam's membership for as long as we've been together.  Mostly because Hubby was working for Walmart when we met, and I started working for Walmart soon after.  Once I left Walmart, I gave up my membership and we both just used his.

In the 8 years we've been together, Sam's has been a place we go on the hunt for one particular item. Or a few things here and there.  We've NEVER gone to Sam's and bought a whole bunch of stuff at one time.

The closest we got was going there before July 4th to get stuff for the family barbecue... but even then we just bought buns and hamburgers.  All the other fixings we bought from Walmart.

It just hit me... using these store names, I'm going to end up getting bombarded with Spam.  Hopefully my Spam filter is really working.  

Anywho...last school year, the kids weren't very happy about the school lunches.  They taste OK, it's just that they don't get enough food.  When the kids were playing sports last year (Peanut for volleyball and track, and Butter when he tried out for basketball even though he didn't make the team), they both complained of headaches and not feeling well after practice.  And I put it down to the fact that they hadn't eaten enough.  

So, this year, I decided with now three children in school, it might be better if they started taking their own lunch.  With lunch prices being $1.65 per kid and breakfasts being $1.30 per kid...the money can really start to add up.  For the kids just to eat lunch, I'd be spending $100 a month.. and for the kids to have both breakfast and lunch, it would cost around $175.  I was positive that I could use that money, less actually, for the kids to take their own lunches....and have more food to eat.

Which is where our Sam's membership finally came in very useful for the first time in eight years.

I decided that if the kids were going to be taking lunch every day and eating breakfast before they left AND wanted a snack of some kind before their sport was time to buy in bulk.

We took the trek to Sam's yesterday afternoon and for the first time EVER, left with a full cart.  I was able to get chips, crackers, peanut butter, breakfast bars, granola bars, Pop Tarts (kids must have variety..LOL), and stuff for them to drink that should last almost the entire month...and spent about $100.  All I have left to buy, now, is bread each week.  We also picked up a 4lbs ham at Walmart for $ there is meat for sandwiches if they want that instead of PB&J.

So, I spent quite a bit less money... but now get to choose the food my kids eat each day...AND there's much more of it, so they are fed appropriately for their vigorous activity that takes place after school each day.

We've managed to get ourselves in to a nice routine each morning preparing lunches.  I worried a little that it would mess with us getting out the door on time, but each child takes on getting stuff ready for their own lunch...even Jelly has a hand at fixing her own lunch...they grab something to eat for breakfast, and we're out the door.  No fuss.  No hassle.  On time.

I kinda like the feeling of having those few minutes together in the kitchen each morning.  All the kids are helping each other, and making sure everyone has everything they need.  It doesn't happen very kids all working together and helping each other, that is.  So, if that's how we get our day started each day, I can kick my day off in a great mood.

Alright, that's enough rambling from me for one day.  

Time to do laundry and clean my house!!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Being a Sports Mom is Enough to Make My Head Spin


It's been a full week since my kiddos have started attending their sport try-outs.  Butter for football, Peanut for volleyball.  Both made their teams.  

That means, until the end of October, both children will be off to practice each and every week night until 5:30PM and I won't be leaving school until 6PM.  Yes, even on Fridays.

Thrown in to that mix is the games.  Each child will have games in towns all over southern Missouri.  Butter's will be almost every Tuesday, and Peanuts will be almost every Thursday...and some Mondays...and some Tuesdays.  There are a lot more volleyball games than football games.

I got a tiny glimpse of what it's like to be a sports mom last year, when Peanut started her volleyball career.  Several times I drove for any where from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours to watch her play her games.  I enjoyed it.  It was fun.  It did a number on my gas budget, but seeing her play a game she obviously loved made it all worth it.

Now, this year, I get to feel that joy twice over.  Butter will be playing his first competitive sport EVER.  Peanut played softball during her 3rd and 4th grades.. but Butter hasn't been involved in a sport since the short stint he did in Tee ball when he was 5...and that wasn't a "competitive" team.

There's just one tinsy, tiny problem.

With two kids playing do I juggle game nights with practices? How do I juggle game nights when both kids have games?  How do I make sure it's fair and try and balance myself out so that I can be where my kids need me to be...when they are both off in opposite directions?

Enough to make my head spin.

Getting my hands on the schedules for both teams was a little daunting.  I haven't, yet, sat down and looked at the overlaps.. but I know they are there.

There will be nights when one has a game, but the other has practice...and in order to get to the game, I need to go before practice is over.  

There will be nights when both have a game.  I guarantee that on one of the nights Peanut has a Tuesday volleyball game, Butter will have a football game.

Honestly, I hadn't thought about the possibility of scheduling conflicts before encouraging both kids to move forward with their desires to play competitive sports.  It didn't occur to me that I'd be running all over Missouri several nights a week, and trying to figure out how the other child will be collected from practice.

The only way around it is to have Hubby help out.  Which means adding even more dollars to our slim gas budget.  

I need to sit down and create a calendar, and make a plan.  Figure out the conflicts before they get here.  Set up a plan so that we are ready and prepared for the nights where I have to be in two places at once.  

I know I will figure it out, and it will end up OK. I might not get to each and every game, but the kids will understand...and as long as I'm there when I can be, they'll be happy.  

I have a little over a week before the games start, I've got some time to work out the kinks and make sure we're in for smooth sailing and sport watching fun.

The things parents do for their kids.  Right?

OK...time for me to grocery shopping....


Friday, August 23, 2013

No Boring Weekend Planned This Week

I'm starting to think that it will be quite possible that I start every Friday post between now and May with... Is it Friday already?

Another week almost gone, in the blink of an eye.  Where does the time go?  

My first week back has been amazing.  My kids are finally breaking out of their shells, and the noise level in my room has gone from crickets to a low hum.  Slowly but surely the kids are starting to find their voices, feel a little more relaxed in my presence, and are actually answering questions and talking among themselves when I give them that option.

Their behavior is fantastic.  If I step out in to the hall for any reason, or if my kids come in to the room before me, I have found that they sit in silence waiting for me.  I've actually had other teachers think that my room is empty because they are so quiet even when they think I'm not paying attention.

Despite how quickly my days have flown by, and how much fun I've had with my kiddos each day, I'm still exhausted.  The first full week back is such a transition... and not just for the kids.  I'm finding that the piles of paperwork are growing larger by the second, and even though I have two and a half hours after school each day to work on it all... There's still so much paper EVERYWHERE.

This weekend, I'm not bringing any of it home.  I've made the executive decision that I will NOT spend my weekends doing any work.  I'm in my classroom until 6PM each and every evening, and if I can't get it all done then... it will be waiting for me bright and early the next morning.

This weekend, unlike last weekend, I will not be sitting around the house all day doing nothing.  I will be getting out and doing our weekly grocery shopping.  We are desperate for groceries.  For the past few days, we've been scrounging up whatever's in the freezer to come up with dinners for us each night.  Thankfully, I'm blessed with a Hubby that can get pretty creative with a very limited supply of ingredients.  

Also, the weather this weekend is supposed to be back in to summer-like temps, so I'm hoping that Hubby will clean up the pool so that we can all go swimming.  He's been running the pool pump each day to keep the chemicals up, but there's a lot of debris that needs to be vacuumed out of it.  

I have a lot of laundry that needs to be washed, and a house that is once again in dire need of a scrubbing.

Going back to work has jolted me back in to the realization about how little time I have to get my normal "mommy" jobs done throughout the week.  Poor Hubby has been doing the bulk of the cooking and cleaning of the kitchen each night.  When I don't get home until 7PM, he has dinner waiting for us..and I'm just too exhausted after eating to even think about washing dishes.  

Even though I'm putting in 12 hours a day, I forget that Hubby still works.  All night long.  I just expect, because he's home during the day, that he'll pick up the slack of the work that needs to be done around the house.  And it's not fair.  

I have to come up with some kind of plan so that he's not playing housewife all week long... just because I don't get home until late.  I'm also not holding my children accountable for anything - and they are the reason I'm not getting home until 7PM each night.  There's no reason they can't unstack the dishwasher each night..even if that's all they do.  Hubby can cook, Peanut or Butter can unstack the dishwasher, and I can restack and wash any leftover dishes.  

That takes care of the kitchen, but the rest of the house... even though Hubby is the only one here during the day...gets so darned messy going a whole week without any love.  

The bathrooms end up looking like disaster zones.  The living room gets caked in dust and cat hair.  The hallways are covered in dirt from sweaty, dirty kids coming home from sport practices each day, and the laundry hampers are bursting at the seams.  

There's just not enough hours in the day, is there?

It'd be nice to think that I could come up with a way to not have to spend a good part of my weekend cleaning... but the truth is, that will never happen.  I just know that there's no way in Hades I'll come home from work and start cleaning my house.  I'm just too dang tired to even consider that a possibility.  

So, if each and every weekend I have to spend a couple of hours deep cleaning my house.. so be it.

My parents are going camping this weekend.  We could have gone.  It would have been nice to get away for the weekend, without having to worry about anything.  But, the list of stuff that has to be done around the house and the empty freezer and cabinets trumps the desire to have a weekend away.  If I went away for the weekend, I'd come back to no clean clothes, a still dirty house, and no food.  Can't have that!

So, we will have to sit that excursion out.  This time.  

But, it's OK.  I'm perfectly content making small sacrifices like that for the sake of having a clean, happy home.  I'm perfectly content with working long hours all week long, coming home exhausted, but then spending my weekend making up for it.  It's the life I chose for myself.  I'd much rather have my kids play their sports and keep me at school until 6PM each night and spend my weekends making up for it, than keeping them from doing what they want to do.

It's the mother I always said I'd be...and I'm keeping my word.

I will make it through today.  I will wake up tomorrow morning whenever I feel like it.  I will spend the first part of the day cleaning, and scrubbing, and washing.  I'll spend the rest of the day out grocery shopping.  And then it's home to the pool and some quality family time.

See....there's still enough time to enjoy some family time!

Right now, though, I need to think about getting ready for work.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

There's Nothing Like a Good Challenge

I can't believe it's already Thursday.  Time sure does fly when you're having fun.  Or when you're working your behind off.

My week has been but I've definitely been working my behind off.

I've discovered a lot in these past four days.  About my class.  About the kids I'll be teaching this school year.  I'm adjusting to life having my class all day long without switching for math and reading in the mornings.

All of my life, I've wanted to teach a self-contained class.  Meaning I keep my babies all day long.  I don't share them with the other teachers.  I don't get other kids from other classes.  My class is my class.  Period.  

That's what I get this year...and I'm very happy about it.

What I'll also be discovering this year, though, is the challenge that comes with having kids covering all spectrums of levels and needs.  And having to meet all of those needs and levels. 

We had our first class placement test yesterday.. for reading.  That's a test that's administered that gives me some idea of the reading levels of each child.  The information I received from that test was astonishing.

I have kids that range all the way from a kindergarten reading level up to a high 4th grade level.  That's four different grade levels of reading needs.  Meaning, it's my job to bring up those lower readers to where they need to be, and challenge those readers that are already where they need to be so that they can continue to improve their reading skills.  

Getting those test results shed some light on some of the challenges I've been having this week while introducing some of our topics.  What I took for nervousness and kids that are just extremely quiet, is probably more accurately focused on kids that just don't know what I'm talking about.  They can't just look in their books to get the answer, or comprehend the information I'm giving them.  

This afternoon, another test will be administered to give me the some insight to the levels in terms of math.  Their grade level equivalency of their math skills.  

Moving in to Common Core, where the math is more focused on critical thinking and working through word problems, I already know that it will be a challenge for the majority of my class.  That's not even taking reading levels in to account.  The shifts in content coverage between the grade levels will have dramatic gaps for the kids the first few years...and my kids will be introduced to stuff this year they've never seen before, and haven't been prepared for.  It's going to be tough for the kids that are on grade level.  I can't imagine what it's going to be like for those kids that are so far behind.  

But you know what?  That's just a challenge I'm eager to face and take on.

Last year, I was in a similar situation.  It was my job to work with the kids that were below grade level.  Quite a bit below grade level...or what we call "below basic".  The difference was, for math and reading I only worked with the kids that were on that level.  And I'm happy to say that I did what I needed to do.  I'm not a miracle worker, but I was able to bridge over a lot of gaps.  The kids left my class much less behind than when they first came to me. 

This year, I'm faced with the same challenge...except I get to throw a few different levels in to the mix.  

One huge mistake I did make last year was bringing all of the content down to the level of my students.  At the time, I thought that made sense.  If they couldn't handle the content I was teaching, it only seemed right to make it a lot easier...bring it down to a grade level they could handle.  While it did boost my kids up and make them feel successful, I was doing them a disservice.  I was ultimately filling them with false hope.  They believed they were doing the work of a 4th grader, when reality...they weren't.  I stand behind my reasoning, but just not my follow through.  While my kids did make awesome gains, I couldn't get them all some of the extra help they needed because my data showed that they were succeeding on grade level.  The grades and test scores of my kids were good, so there was no way I could ask for interventions or retention, if needed. 

This year, the goal is to bring some aspects down to their level... but not all.  Intervene with filling some of the gaps, but holding them accountable to the standards of 4th grade.  What I learned last year is that handing out success doesn't do them any justice.  In order to truly get them to where they need to be, and getting help to do that if they need it, will require me grading them and testing them on grade level.  

I will just have to find other ways to help them feel the success.  And that part I know I can do.

One thing I will always do with my kids is be honest with them.  I'll lay it right out there for them.  I don't sugar coat anything.  I tell them where they are, and vow to stand by them, support them, and do everything in my power to help.  I will find time to work with them one-on-one.  I will ask for help so that they can receive interventions.  I will make full use of my co-teacher so that she can add even more assistance.

Having the class I have is exactly the type of class I want.

While it may feel very overwhelming at first, I know that my teaching fuel runs on finding ways to truly help my students.  In whatever way they need it.  Whether it be bring them up to grade level, or challenge them to move in to advanced stages.  Just teaching 4th grade content is not my forte.  There has to be some form of challenge thrown in there...or it's just not as meaningful.  

So, it appears I got what I wished for.  And now the work starts.  It truly is my mission, now, to be the best teacher to these kids that I can be.  They will be successful.  They will get the support they need.  And I really will do everything in my power to fill in the gaps and have them leaving my classroom ready for the 5th grade.

Thank goodness I have a whole school year in which to do it.

Happy Thursday!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Something I Never Thought I'd Complain About...

Being a parent for 13 years and a teacher for one...although having worked in schools for the past couple of years...there are certain things I've learned that I should never and would never complain about.

Kids that pick up after themselves.

Kids that voluntarily help other kids with problems.

Kids that amuse themselves rather than drive me nuts asking me what to do every 5 minutes.

Kids that ask to help with stuff like cleaning, carrying stuff to and from the car, and organizing.

Kids that ask for extra work or if they can read when they are done with their work.

I would never in a million years complain about this stuff.  And for the most part, I've been blessed to be surrounded by kids that do all of those things.  Not always my own biological children...I'm still working on some of these things with them.  But, my class last year and the kids I've worked with in other schools have often met all of these criteria.

There is one thing that I would have added to that list a mere week ago, had I been asked, that I can no longer add to that list.

That would be.... Kids that are too quiet.

Yep.  You heard me.  Kids that don't make any noise.  None.  Nada.  Absolute silence and crickets.

To most parents and teachers, kids that are basically silent would be a dream come true.  Never having to quieten them down.  Never having to wait for the room to get quiet before you can talk.  Never having to do the God-awful ssshhhhing sound I hate so much.

I've even said silent prayers in my own house asking for these very things.  Praying that my kids would stop arguing for five minutes.  That they would just find something QUIETLY to do.  

It's even why I get up at 4:30 each morning... so I can have some peace and QUIET before the kids get up.  Because I know the minute they do get up it will be "Mom, have you seen....?", "Mom, should I wear...?", "Mom, what are we having for lunch today?", "Mom, she won't get out of the bathroom", "Mom, I can't find any socks"....and... you get the picture, right?

But, after the first three days back to school, I have found that this very thing is something I spent a good part of the day yesterday complaining about.

My new class doesn't talk.  

To many teachers, I've been handed the holy grail of classes.  The class that most teachers would kill for.  The class that teachers dream about, and then face the harsh reality that their own class is the complete opposite.  My kids are still a little shy, sure... but usually after a couple of days they start to warm up.  But, even on day three... I couldn't get a peep out of them.  And while most teachers are telling me to count my blessings and be thankful for such a quiet group of kids... I find myself wanting to pull my hair out.

Why?  You ask.

Because, I like a classroom that's buzzing with excited classroom chatter.

Don't get me wrong.  I'd much rather have a quiet class than a class that's constantly yapping, and I can't get a word in edgewise.  But, not silent.  I can't handle silent.

I do remember on the first day of school, last year, when I told my class that once they finished their bell work they could sit at their desks and talk with their friends before the day got started... those kids took full advantage of it.  It took a few days for them to get what volume level they could chat in.. but after a few days, they spent each and every morning talking with their neighbors and table mates.  During class discussion times, I had to draw names from a bucket.. because every kid in my class had something to add to the discussion or wanted to share what they'd learned.  When I assigned group work, my kids loved it...and worked together having amazing debates about their own ideas and thoughts on the assignment.  And this was all pretty much from day one.

This year, however? None of that.  

When I told them they could talk when they'd finished their morning work...they just sat there.  In complete silence.  Something I thought would pass on day two...didn't.  Then on day three...still silent. Even after a few friendly reminders that they didn't have to be so quiet... I wanted them to have some social time.  Crickets.  Buzzing of the computers.  No talking.

Yesterday, I posed several questions during our lessons.  Not a single hand went up.  When one hand did finally go up and I called on him... he sat there and looked at me.  "Urm, I forgot" was the response I finally received.  When I didn't get any volunteers for answers, I told everyone to discuss the question at their table.  I stood there for a few seconds and the kids just stared at one another.  Not a single one willing to make the first comment or move to try and answer the question.  

During writing time, I asked if anyone wanted to share their writing.  Several hands actually went up for that.. but when I called on someone to read what they had wrote, they asked me if I would read it.  They weren't comfortable reading it out loud themselves.

I did start a new hand gesture feedback system yesterday morning.  The fist to four.  It's basically where I ask a question and the kids rate how well they think they know the answer.  A fist being that they'd never heard of what I was asking all the way up to a four which means they are basically an expert and could teach the class about it.  

Now, my silent class LOVED this and picked it up very quickly.  They have no problem showing hand signals for their thinking...and are even very honest about it... but when asked a question, they freeze up, recluse, and want no part of having anything coming from their little voice boxes.

I have never seen anything like it.

My teammates have told me that the first day or so, their classes were similar... but they have all found that day three is the magic number.  When the true colors start to emerge, and each teacher shared that they had to quieten their classes down more than once.  The teacher next door to me had this problem from day one.  She says that several kids in her class haven't stopped talking since the first moment of walking in to her room.

I think they got the class rosters mixed up.  I'm pretty sure that was supposed to be my class...and she was supposed to get my silent babies.  She likes a very quiet classroom, I like a classroom that's full of discussion and sharing and working together.  Not noise... a buzz.  A clear cut sign that kids are working their thinking out together.. working as a unit...helping each other.

It would be one thing if the kids in my class had never seen each other before.  Starting out totally new.  I could understand that maybe they were afraid or nervous because they didn't know anyone.  But these kids were all together last year.  The funny part is, even out on the playground, I see them hanging out together.  Kids from my class playing together... but not loudly.  There is no yelling at one another or hollering across the playground or loud laughter erupting from them the moment they set foot outside.  Even on the playground, my kiddos can be picked out by the lack of noise they are making compared to the other 50-60 kids around them.

So, now I have a new challenge on my hands.  To break the shells of my silent little darlings.  To drag them out of their quiet, timid little selves.  To initially force, and then hopefully nurture them in to being in a classroom where they can talk, and share, and laugh, and debate, and MAKE SOME NOISE.  

And, I NEVER thought I'd have that as a challenge on my hands.

What a crazy notion.

But I'll do it.  Because there's no way I can spend a school year in silence.  That's just not how my classroom works.  And next year, when their next teachers are complaining about how they never stop talking... I'll be proud.  

I'll think to myself... YEP.  I did that.  And be totally OK with it.

Have an awesome Tuesday...


Monday, August 19, 2013

Here We Go With Week #2

Well, this weekend was probably the most boring weekend I've had in months.  Since I pulled in to the driveway at 9PM on Friday night, I didn't leave it again until 7PM last night...when it was time to go and pick up Peanut from her friend's house.

I don't recall the last time that's happened.  

Even on weekends that we have nothing planned, we usually end up making a Walmart run or something.

And honestly?  It was kinda nice.  A great way to get my head in the game for this upcoming week.  

Of course, it drove Butter stir crazy.  That boy just isn't made to sit around the house.  He can only stand so much of playing his video game, riding his bike, or shooting some hoops in the driveway.  He wants to be on the go pretty much all of the time.  We finally have a house that offers a huge front and back yard (that is finally mowed) and he can't find anything to do to amuse himself. 

Had it been warm enough, it would have been a great weekend to spend in the pool.  But when the temps are barely making it to 80...which doesn't happen until late in the afternoon...Hubby hasn't been as vigilant about cleaning out the pool everyday.  I'm not even sure the pool will be used anymore this year.  By the way the weather has been acting, summer is pretty much over and we're taking a quick run in to Fall.

This week, however, will be full of plenty to do.  It's the first full week back at school...and the first week both Peanut and Butter start their athletic schedules.  Peanut will be trying out for the volleyball team, and Butter will be playing football.  Peanut made the volleyball team last year, so I'm hoping the same happens again this year.  Butter is lucky and doesn't have to worry about making the football team... the coach keeps all the players.  

At the end of school each and every day, Peanut and Butter will load up on a bus and be taken to the high school...which is in a completely different town.  That's where kids from all of the jr. high schools in the district come together to form the sport teams.  They practice until 5:30 each and every day, and then get delivered back to me at my school via bus around 6PM each evening.

That makes for a long day for all of us.  But, I also love the convenience of it.  They can still participate in sports without it costing me a fortune in gas to drive them back and forth to practices.  The only downside is that I have no choice but to stay at the school until 6PM each and every night.  It's too far for me to drive home and then go back to get them.  I do get plenty of time to take care of my stuff in my classroom, though, like preparing for the next day, grading papers, and filling out any paperwork that needs to be kept up with.

My only concern this year would be Jelly.  Last year, she stayed at daycare.  I would run and pick her up between 5 and 5:30, which only left me a short time to keep her occupied until the kids got back.  This year, because she's now in "big school" she gets delivered to me at 3:30 each day...and then I have to try and keep her amused until 6PM.  Thank goodness for SmartBoards and Netflix!  I can set her up a cozy space on the floor with the use of beanbags and pillows, throw on a cartoon on the SmartBoard, and she will stay pretty quiet for a while.  This week, I'll also be spending about an hour in the gym each afternoon working she'll be able to play around with a basketball or a jump rope or hula hoop while I'm walking and jogging.  Fingers crossed she doesn't go stir crazy...and make me stir crazy in the process.

Back to school is a big adjustment for everyone.  Both Peanut and Butter are going from sleeping late, lazing around all day, and having fun to full days at school followed by 2 hours of vigorous exercise.  Jelly is going from spending her days doing the same things, and moving in to days full of school work and then spending 2 1/2 hours at school with me.  By the time we get home, everyone is just tired and cranky.  It will take a while to adjust, but in no time...we'll be accustomed to the new routine and schedules.  It's just the interim that we have to get through.

I am fully prepared for my first week having kiddos in my classroom.  I can't remember exactly how I felt this time last year, but I'm sure I was pretty nervous about it.  Being that it was my first year, and I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do or how I was going to do it.  This year, I'm ready, prepared, and totally at ease with what is about to come my way.  My lesson plans have all been written, my materials are ready to go, and I've spent the weekend running through procedures and protocols in my head that I need to go over with the kids.  

The first full week back is always pretty crazy.  Beginning of the year tests have all been scheduled for this week, and will give me a better understanding of the needs in my class.  Throw in all the pretests that have to occur for starting our various units...and by the end of the week, the kids are tested out.  Not the greatest way to spend their first week back, but once they are all out of the way... the real fun can begin.

Speaking of which.. I better go and get ready for all that fun.

Happy Monday!!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Exactly My Thoughts!


I saw this picture on Facebook this morning, and immediately had to save it.  The amount of times I've said these very words, or very similar words to friends, family, and students.

In fact, I gave a mini speech about this very thing during the first week of school last year and fully intend on giving the same speech again this coming week.

Working in a highly diverse and low income school comes with it's fair set of challenges.  Kids from families who have overcome major hurdles and struggles just to make it to this country and provide a life for their children that is better than whatever original country they came from.  However, some of what parents and families consider major victories, are often perceived as major setbacks to the children.

What I mean is, a family lives with another family in a small home.  There is barely enough money to make ends meet.  But there is food on the table each night, and running water, and electricity.  There is not any money for long school supply lists, fancy tennis shoes, or name brand clothing.  That stuff comes from donations and local thrift stores.  The heads of the family feel blessed that they have a lot more than what they are used to having.  The kids feel like they are poor and are ashamed and embarrassed about their living situation.

Unfortunately, there are several kids that school supplies and clothes are the last thing they are thinking about.  They leave the school each day wondering if there will be food for them when they get home, or water, or electricity.

For some of the kids, coming to school is an escape.  A place where they can actually be a kid.  Laugh, play, enjoy the company of children their own age.  Not having to worry about babysitting or cleaning or preparing food for other children in the home while the adults are off at work trying to make enough money to live on.  

And for many of these children, when asked about their futures, the answers are often pretty grim.

On the first day of school, I ask each child to fill out a survey about themselves.  The generic sort of stuff - things they like, don't like, favorite foods, candy, games, and I always include the question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

I found that last year, I had the occasional teacher, one doctor, and one business owner.  The rest?  Working at the local chicken plant, or local grocery store, or local restaurant.  

Not that there's anything wrong with those professions...but these kids truly believe that's pretty much all that's available to them.  Many don't think of college or leaving their small town as even the slightest possibility.  Their job will to be to help their families, and do what their families do now.  The limit for them is the city limit.  Period.

So, that's why it's so important for me to give them this little speech.... 

I tell them about moving to America.  For me, it was somewhat of a reverse situation.  In England, I thought we were happy.  We had the latest and greatest clothes, toys, and electronics.  We went to good schools and lived in a good neighborhood.  And then one day, my parents told me I was leaving my home to move to a brand new country.  At first, I was excited, but when we arrived... I wondered what on earth my parents were thinking.

I explain to the kids that the town we moved to is very similar to the town I teach in.  Small population. A few businesses strewn about here and there.  The main source of employment coming from a factory that makes engine parts.  The nearest large town was 30 minutes in one direction and almost an hour in the other.  We had to live with my aunt and uncle for a while, and then moved in with my grandparents.  Being the oldest, it was my job to take care of my younger siblings while my parents worked long hours trying to make enough money to get us our own home.  And when my parents were able to get us our own place, it was a small low income house.  Definitely not big enough for 4 children and a new baby that had just arrived (my baby sister).

I explain that up until that time, I had always wanted to be a teacher.  But, my hopes of reaching that goal started to disappear when I saw how much my family had to struggle.  I started to think that I wouldn't be able to go to college.  That I would forever be stuck in that small town.  Except there was one place that kept my dream alive...and that was school.  Going to school was where I could see my friends, not worry about my home responsibilities, and do things I've never done before... like play a musical instrument, use a computer, and act in plays.  

It was a teacher that kept my dreams alive about one day becoming a teacher.  He encouraged me, challenged me, and uttered those words in the picture to motivate me.  And I made the decision in 8th grade that no matter what my home life was like, I would one day break free of this town, go to college, and become a teacher.

And it wasn't all smooth sailing.  I had some obstacles along the way.  But, I kept those words in my head...and no matter how hard things got, I always reminded myself that I made my own decisions.  I was in charge of my future and how it played out.  I couldn't use anything as an excuse... but myself.  

Everyday since that time, I have reminded and keep reminding myself of that.  It is now my job to be the teacher that inspires my students to do the same.  Break free from the mentality that their town is as good as it gets.  That the chances of college, and a fancy career are not possible.  I want my kids to see what the world has to offer, and make their place in it.  To dream big, and know that dreams can actually become reality.

But it all starts with their choices.  Their decisions.

Give me all you got.  Failure is not an option.

If they think they can't do something because they're not good at math.  I'll teach them.  If they think they can't do something because they can't read very well.  I'll teach them.  If they think they can't do something because they're not sure what they need to do to get there.  I'll show them the way.

That's my job.  Inspire.  Motivate.  And turn dreams in to reality.

Teaching them stuff is just others believe I do.  Yeah, I teach them how to do math problems and how to comprehend something they've read... but I also show them how that "stuff" will help them in the future, how it holds the key to their dreams, and that I can only show them so much..  the rest is up to them.  
And one day, my hope is that I start getting notes in the mail... invitations to college graduations, birth announcements, emails about being offered a teaching job, or a doctor's job, or being accepted to a fancy law office, phone calls about new start-up businesses being ventured in to, tales of exotic travel adventures, or philanthropic endeavors.  

My hope is that 20 years from now, I won't drive through that town and know most of the faces.  And if I do, I can feel at ease that the person I see wanted that town to be their home, the place they raised their family...their own choice.  

And that's why that speech is so important.

It's those simple words that lead me to where I am today.  And it's those words that will hopefully lead my students in to tomorrow.