Monday, September 30, 2013

Those that Love Writing, Teach Writing

I meant to write this post on Saturday, and then I didn't.  So, I just figured I'd write it yesterday.  But didn't.

So, today...I'm going to write the post.  

It's not like it's any special post, just what I consider an appropriate post for a person that wakes up at 4:30AM each and every morning JUST so that person can write.

On Friday, it was a professional development day for me.  The entire 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade group of teachers from the district were signed up for a Writer's Workshop workshop.

This made the 6th...maybe 7th Writer's Workshop workshop I've attended since beginning my educational path 6 years ago.  Every time I had to attend some form of PD workshop for college credit, I opted for Writer's Workshop.  And then I found that the schools I student taught in or worked for after college sent me to similar workshops.  So, if I don't know how to do Writer's Workshop by now, then I never will.

Writer's Workshop is a FANTASTIC model for teaching writing.  It focuses on students becoming authors, rather than just learning how to write.  It's about the craft.  The creativity.  Putting ideas and thoughts and stories and imagination on to the paper.  Then, and only then, are the fundamentals of writing addressed...and only one at a time.

Kids are not asked to write to prompts (for the most part).  They are not expected to write a certain amount of paragraphs.  They aren't even expected to write using proper spelling or punctuation, at first.  It's just about instilling a love and passion for writing.  Right up my alley.

There's just one problem with attending the workshops created for teaching Writer's Workshop.  They don't actually teach teachers HOW to put Writer's Workshop in to place.  And that's a big problem for teachers who aren't big fans of teaching writing.

Take the workshop from Friday, for example.  It was an OK workshop.  However, had I not attended a workshop that was almost identical just a couple of months ago, and several more before that, I would have no real idea what the purpose behind the workshop was.  And it was one, and is one, of the biggest complaints that I hear from teachers who are interested in teaching Writer's Workshop but don't know how.

Rather than teaching teachers how to put Writer's Workshop in to practice, the PD workshops focus on what Writer's Workshop is and why it's important for students.  

That's great.  But, one question that is on the lips of almost every teacher is HOW do I get my kids to write?  

I am a firm believer that teachers learn by doing.  Take becoming a teacher.  For three years, I sat through classes and listened to lectures, read text books, and wrote papers and lesson plans based on educational theory.  However, the first day I walked in to my student teaching classroom, I didn't really know how to be a teacher.  That came from doing.  Being in the classroom.  Seeing how kids respond, taking their interests and levels in to account, and just doing it.  

Sitting through a six hour workshop being told how important writing is, won't teach a room full of teachers how to use Writer's Workshop.  They need to do.  Be lead how to instill.  Be shown what a mini lesson looks like, be shown what a writing conference looks like, be guided through a unit of lessons using writing examples.  Just telling teachers what the model of Writer's Workshop should look like doesn't help them one bit when it comes to putting it in to practice in their own classrooms.

Teaching writing is my "thing".  However, I will say, that had it not been for the fact that I was fortunate enough to student teach in a classroom that used Writer's Workshop, I may be a little lost about putting it in to place.  Even after attending 6 or 7 Writer's Workshop workshops.

Not all teachers love writing, which is where I find that the PD workshop we attended missed the mark at making teachers feel more secure about using a model like Writer's Workshop.  I have used and still use Writer's Workshop, and my team wonder how I do it.  With so much going on in my classroom, how on earth does somebody come up with time to teach writing...and ONLY writing.  

When I was interviewed for my job, last year, I was asked what my favorite subject to teach was.  I immediately responded with writing.  Duh, right?  A person that loves writing as much as I do must love teaching it.

I couldn't wait to get in to a classroom and put Writer's Workshop in to effect.  The only problem was, last year, I just didn't have the time.  I was a first year teacher, I had different kids for reading, math, and social studies and science.  It was so difficult to just get through the material I was expected to teach, writing had to take a back seat.  


From day one, knowing that this year my class would be self contained, I've started using Writer's Workshop.  And on the first day of school, I had a class of kids that when told they were going to write, complained and whined.  Now, six weeks later, I have kids that would much rather write than do any of the other classwork that's expected of them.  They ask to write when they are done with an assignment.  They ask to write when it's reading time.  They ask to write after recess, during their 10 minute "cool down" time.  They can't get enough of it.  And I've only barely scratched the surface of putting Writer's Workshop in to place.  I haven't even started getting in to the nitty, gritty of teaching them to become authors.  I've just got them to feel comfortable opening up their Writing notebook and writing about whatever they want to write about.

My team wonders, though, how I do it.  Once again, there's so much to do in our already jam-packed schedule, that it seems impossible that I can fit in WW... especially the model that was somewhat shown to us during PD workshops.

And it really does come down to teachers who love to write will teach writing.  

This week, I'm starting a whole new that will better allot for WW as a core part of my day...rather than something I try to fit in when I can.  Right now, it happens at the end of my day, but several of my students are out of the room for interventions and stuff.  So, half of my class don't get the WW mini-lessons.  That doesn't work for me.  Writing is a key foundation in bettering reading skills, so the kids that could really benefit from it the most are missing out.

Starting this week, ALL of my kids will be there for WW.  I'm excited to see how it goes.  My hope is, if I can make this work... I could help other teachers that are struggling with putting WW in to their own classrooms.  Rather than attending another workshop that just tells them what WW is, I could help show them what it is, how to use it, and how great it is for the kiddos....regardless of whether or not the teacher actually likes writing.

Going back to that interview, when I responded with writing being my favorite subject to teach, I remember the superintendent of education telling me that writing was definitely a subject that needed some help.

Maybe I can help.

Writing is like a best friend to me.  I've gotten through some very tough times by putting a pen to paper.  And, even though all of my writing, nowadays, is done on a computer... it doesn't change the fact that writing is so good for the soul.  

The kids I work with need this in their lives.  Need a place to let it all out.  Share their creativity and imaginations.  And develop and discover talents they never knew they had.

And, again, there is countless research that supports writing as a fundamental in increasing reading levels.  So, there's that.  

So, today I get to start my experiment, and see how it goes.  I'm thinking it's going to be great.

Fingers Crossed.

This week is spirit week at there'll be plenty to talk about.

Today is Disney Character Day.  Fun, right?

And you know that this "Queen" of spirit week is up for the challenge.  That's a little hint on what I'm dressing up as.  There will be pictures to share tomorrow....

Have a great Monday!


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Quickest Weekend Ever!

I can NOT believe it's Sunday already.  This weekend has flown by in the blink of an eye, and I have nothing productive to show for it.

Which would be fine, except the fact that I have a bag FULL of work to do...and only a few hours to do it.

I've spent the last couple of days talking about Peanut's heartbreak.  But, so much has been going on right along side that.  

Friday, the kids got to stay home while I attended a Writer's Workshop workshop...more about that later.

Yesterday, Peanut had a volleyball tournament.  And that's my topic for today.  Still about Peanut, but something a little more positive and fun.

We had to be there at 7:30AM, meaning leaving our house around 6:30AM, and the going in expectation was that we'd be out of there around noon.  

Going in expectation was wrong.  WAY wrong.

The tournament got underway at 8:30AM.  There were eight teams competing, and they were broken up in to two leagues.  Each league competed and then the winners from each league would play each other dependent on their final ranking.  So, the first place team from our league would play the first place team from the second league and so on.

Peanut's team played first, and the games were super exciting.  They won their first game, lost their second.  So, they finished the set with a win and a loss.  

They got a break for a set, while two other teams competed.  

Then, they were right back out on the court.  They won both games in that set.  So, their standings moved up to three wins, one loss.

Then, they had another break.  And then another set.

Unfortunately, they lost both games in that set.  Putting them on the chart with three wins and three losses.  

The team that beat them in both games hadn't lost a single game.  So that team was going to be competing for the championship against the first place team from the other league.  But, it came down to the last set of the regular games to determine who would be competing for second place.  Peanut's team ended up tying with the team that won the last set, so they looked at points.  Unfortunately, Peanut's team didn't have enough points... so the other team got the chance for the 2nd place championship game.  Which meant, Peanut's team had to compete for the last time for 3rd place.

By the time the championship games got underway, the girls were exhausted.  They'd played three games with only a few minutes break in between.  Their legs were sore, their arms were sore, and they were ready for the day to be over.

And I truly believe it was because of how tired they were which caused them to lose their championship match.  

By the time we walked out of the school, it was 2:30PM.  They had been playing ball for five hours.  No wonder they were exhausted!

One thing I was happy about was the fact that Peanut got to spend several hours NOT thinking about her break-up.  She was so nervous about people asking her questions and in turn making her get all upset explaining it.  That didn't happen.  She was able to stay focused and let the games let out some of her aggression.

Before heading home, Peanut and I decided to stop for a quick bite to eat, make a run to the grocery store, and then head on home... to sleep.  And we did.  Both of us slept for a good couple of hours once we got here.

By the time we woke up it was 6:30PM and dinner was ready...and I didn't feel like doing much of anything for the rest of the evening.  

Today, I have to go grocery shopping, do my laundry, AND get all of my plans and grading done.  It's going to be a busy, busy day.  So much for getting some rest on the weekends!

Which is why this post is so quick and to the point.  I don't really have any time to really sit and write out a whole bunch of stuff.  

Tomorrow morning, I've already decided that I'm going to share my thoughts on the workshop I attended on Friday.  That was the plan for yesterday and today, but with my lack of time... I decided to write about my crazy life instead.

And that crazy just keeps on it has to right now.  Nothing will get done while I'm sitting here... so toodles for now.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Today is Saturday, Right?

It's currently 5:11AM, and my alarm was set and first went off at 4:30 this morning.  Which is the time I usually get up when I'm going to work.

But, it's not a work day.  It's Saturday.

So, what the heck??

Well, apparently, getting up at 4:30AM isn't just for teachers who blog.  It's also for mothers who have daughters that play volleyball.  

That's right.  I'm up at this ungodly hour because Peanut has a volleyball tournament this morning and we have to be there by 7:30AM.  And it takes almost an hour to get to the high school where the tournament is taking place.

Not only did I have to go to work on a day when my kids all got to stay home, but I also get to spend my Saturday sitting in a gym.  For around five hours.  Fun, right?  Sitting on those bleachers is usually painful enough after one volleyball game...not sure how I'm going to feel after sitting there that long.

While I'm cursing and stomping my foot like a spoiled little five year old about having to get up so early and spend my day watching volleyball, I'm also super relieved that I'm doing it.  Well, not that I'm doing it... that Peanut is doing it.  She definitely needs something to focus on today, and take her mind off of her recent heartbreak.

She spent the day with my mom, yesterday, and I received word while I was at work that she was doing much better.  She hadn't slept much the night before, had been up early talking to me, but had then taken a shower and gotten some sleep.  When she woke up, she was able to manage to eat and laugh a little.

That was how it was when I went to pick her up last night.  In the car we talked, and she told me that she'd spoken to her best friend on and off all day, and that he had really helped her keep her mind off of stuff.  She got a little tearful in the car, sharing some of the sweet words of encouragement her best friend had given.  

It made me really think about how lucky she was to have such a good friend.  Especially of the opposite sex.  In fact, they had started out as really good friends and then tried a brief attempt at dating.  It hadn't worked out that way, but they were lucky enough to rebuild their strong friendship after the fact..and he is now a very important person in her life.  She shares everything with him, and he is the one person (besides me) that she can really count on.  We had a long discussion about how much she appreciates him in her life, and that is important for her to know that she can have such a strong friendship with a boy and it not be anything more than said friendship.  

One thing about her relationship with her recent boyfriend that she didn't like was the fact that he didn't like her being so friendly with an ex.  It actually put a strain on Peanut's relationship with her best friend.  And she told me that if she should decide to date again, it was her top priority that a new boyfriend would be OK with her best friend being a guy.  

She's learning already.  Using those mistakes and lessons from the past to move forward in the future. That's my girl.  As long as it's not for a while.

On the way home, we had to make a stop at Walmart to buy stuff for her tournament today, as they are putting on a spread for the players, coaches, and bus drivers.... breakfast and lunch spread.  Each player was responsible for buying a few items for that spread.

However, I did what any other person does when someone close to them is hurting...especially over a heartbreak.  I bought Peanut a tub of ice-cream.  She thought the cliche was humorous, and selected her ice-cream with the complete and utter intention of using it for what it was being bought for.

In fact, when we got home, I didn't even have a chance to get it in the freezer before she was preparing a bowl for herself.  

The family all decided to sit down and watch a movie.  Despite the fact that it was already after 9PM, and Peanut and I were getting up at the butt crack of dawn.  Hubby had gone out and rented Epic.  A family friendly, funny movie.

The movie was great, but neither Peanut nor Jelly made it through the entire thing before falling asleep.  When the movie was almost over, I woke Peanut up to go to bed.  She went, but as the movie was wrapping up, I heard a familiar sound coming from her bedroom:  Crying.

I went in to Peanut and found her lying on her bed in tears.  Being alone in her room had been hard, and the silence had just ripped the scab off her very thin scar she was starting to form.  

I just decided to lay next to her and hold her.  Let her let it out.  Rub her head, make soothing sounds, and hope that it would help.  Eventually, she just cried herself to sleep.  In my arms.  


I don't think it fair nor right that a 13 year old girl should be going through these kinds of emotions.  She's so young, so fragile.  To think that she's had her first experience at love gives me the heeby jeebies.  But, then I know that I was in a similar situation when I was her age.  Older than my years, more mature.  When I gave myself to a relationship - either a friendship or a boyfriend - it was everything to me.  And if I wasn't at the control seat at ending the relationship, it felt like my whole world was ripped out from under me.

Just like she feels right now.

I could tell her that she's too young to worry about stuff like this.  I could tell her that she's going to have lots of boyfriends and just as many heartbreaks.  I could tell her to just forget having a boyfriend altogether for a few years and focus on other aspects of her life...and I have... but it doesn't help the pain that's she's feeling right now.

Being a mother is tough.  I know that.  I've known that since the first day I became a mother.  But, the tough parts came from nursing a sick child, watching them and helping them through losing sporting events, teaching them and nurturing them through difficult situations at school, to be tough but kind, to be fair, to play nice with others.  Not mending broken hearts.  That wasn't on the agenda.  Not this early.  

And that's why I'm glad that we'll be out today, with Peanut focusing on playing ball and being a part of a team.  To know that her mother is in the stands cheering her on, rooting for her.  The one person that will never turn her back away from her, deliberately hurt her, or ever make her feel alone.  

That's something positive for me to focus on during all of this.  That it has brought Peanut and I closer. We were already very close... but to know that I'm the one that she can cry to, cry on, cry with.  Talk about anything and everything with.  Knowing there is no judgement, no lectures, no harsh words.  Just an ear for her to vent in to.  A few words of advice.  And lots and lots of love and support.

It's those things that make the toughness of being a mom worth it.  My baby girl needs me, and I'm there.  Period.  

OK, time to get ready....


Friday, September 27, 2013

Time is the Healer of a Broken Heart

This morning's post was supposed to be about something different.  I'd already decided what it would be about by yesterday afternoon.  But, it's amazing how events unfold that set your whole day on to a different path, and end up in a place you just didn't expect to be.

I'm supposed to be leaving for work in a little over an hour.  There shouldn't be a problem with that, because the kids were all supposed to be here.  But, Peanut and Butter aren't here.  Which means Jelly is here, and I can't leave her until Hubby gets home from work.  And he was supposed to be home from work by now...but they decided he's not going to get off early after all, and won't get off until 7AM.  I should already be on the road by then.

Hubby has come home early every night this week.  It figures this would happen.  After the night I had last night, I should have known this was going to happen.

When I got off work yesterday, I headed off to watch Peanut play volleyball.  The minute I got to the gym, I knew something was wrong with her.  She had that look in her eye that if she came to me and said anything, she'd burst in to tears.  

I chalked it up to the possibility that the coach wasn't going to play her as often, or she wasn't playing her position... something to do with volleyball.

The game started, and man did her team play hard.  They managed to get their first win of the season, and I couldn't be more proud of them.  They did an amazing job, and Peanut played and made some amazing shots.  

When it was time to leave, Peanut came to me and told me that she hadn't heard from her boyfriend all day, except for one text message "This is hard".

She was unsure what to think, and he hadn't responded to any of her texts back.  So, she was a little upset.  We decided to go and watch her best friend play football.  He'd been begging for her to go and watch a game, so she figured it would help keep her mind off of boyfriend issues.

It wasn't until the drive home, after, that Peanut's boyfriend finally responded.  They texted back and forth for a little while, but Peanut was becoming more and more upset by the messages she was receiving.  He was being vague.  He wasn't answering her questions directly.  She started to realize that he might be hinting at the fact of breaking up.

We had to stop at Walmart on the way home, and while in the middle of an aisle, Peanut broke in to tears.  Loud, panicked, sobs.

I knew what had happened.

I got her back to the car, and she decided to call her boyfriend.  The drive home after that was heartbreaking.  Listening to her reason with him.  Begging him to change his mind.  Asking why and not getting a response.  Until he finally said his last goodbye...and she crumpled in to a heaping mess of heartbreak.

I will say, that having my child's heart broken as I'm driving down the road is one the hardest things I have ever been though.

When I got home, I jumped out of the car, sent the other two children in to the house, and held on to Peanut.  I held on through her fighting me, yelling at me, pushing away from me....until she finally broke, and she collapsed in to my arms.

Here was my baby girl.  Only 13 years old.  She should NOT be feeling this way.  She should NOT understand what heartbreak is.  She should NOT have her heart broken.  

But she was..did.  

She had felt her first feelings of love, and had it ripped away from her...and was left to try and fathom what she did wrong, what she could have done differently, and how it was possible to feel so much hurt for losing a person.

All I could do was hold her.  There were no words that would help.  There was nothing I could do to fix it.  I just had to let her let it all out...on me.  

And I wasn't helping much.  The hugging was definitely what she needed... but it didn't last long.

She started to pace back and forth stating it wasn't happening.  It couldn't be.  It was just a sick joke.  He couldn't really hurt her this way - for no reason whatsoever.

Then anger came.  He was and did do this to her.  How could he do this?  And the yelling just started fuming from her mouth.

Then came the bartering.  She would do anything to get him back.  If she could just see him, that would make it better.  She needed to talk to him, tell him that she would change, she would make things better.

By this point, I knew that I was losing control of the situation.  I knew of only one person that could possibly help in this situation.  And I texted her best friend's mom, and asked her to have him call Peanut.  And he did.  Within two minutes.  

I made her answer the phone, even though she didn't want to.  And she then let out her frustrations on to her best friend.  But, within a few minutes, she started to calm down.  Whatever he was saying to her was working.  Whatever he was saying was getting her to take a few deep breaths, slow the sobbing, and just talk it out.

And, then she was back with me.  My Peanut.  The normal, broken hearted, Peanut.  The anger was gone.  The bartering was gone.  The denial was gone.

It was at that moment, the sadness sunk in.

We spent a little while longer outside, just talking.  I managed to finally get her to stop crying...for the most part.  I told her that a nice shower would help, but she asked if she could call my sister and talk to her for a while.  I told her that would be fine.

I got on the phone and spoke with my mom at the same time.  I expressed my own heartbreak for watching my poor, baby girl go through so much.  I was still trying to wrap my head around the whole situation.  Peanut has had a couple of boyfriends in the past couple of years.  When I think of "boyfriends" of a pre-teen and early teenager, I don't associate this much hurt and anger.  It's puppy love.  Cute crushes.  Quick relationships, and even quicker break-ups.  But, it was obvious that my Peanut had definitely had strong feelings for him.  They'd been dating for 3 months.  He'd spent a lot of time at our house, her at his.  Even though they lived so far apart, I had made sure to provide transportation to and from his town each and every weekend so they could spend some time together.

My mom made the suggestion that Peanut spend the night at her house - with my sister.  Being that I was going to be gone today, she didn't think it a good idea for Peanut to be home without anyone to talk to.  She needed someone...and my mom was right.  It hurt to think that I couldn't be that person here for her, but I thought that my mom would definitely be a good back-up. 

So, my mom took the drive over with my sister and picked up Peanut.  But, then Butter decided he wanted to go and spend the weekend with my brother.  Being that Hubby was supposed to be home by 5:30 this morning, it wasn't going to be an issue.

And that's where I am at this moment.

I woke up to a text message telling me that Hubby's work schedule had been changed and he wouldn't be getting off work until 7AM.

So, I now get to be late for work.  And spend the day worrying about my baby girl.  

To add fuel to the fire, Peanut has a volleyball tournament tomorrow.  We have to be there by 7:30 in the morning.  She has to face her friends, focus on playing....all with her mind off somewhere else.

This is tough.  Being a mother.  Trying to mend a wound that only time will heal.  

I never expected this moment in her life to come so fast.  I knew it would come, eventually.  But not at 13.  It's too young.  

But, it's here.  And she'll get through it.  She's gone through 3 of the 5 stages of grieving:  Denial.  Anger.  Bartering.

Now, it's just getting her through the stage of sadness...until she can hit acceptance.  And move on.

It's going to be a long, tough day..that's for sure.  But, then it's the weekend.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Guess Some Fears Just Can't Be Conquered

I'm not sure how many people that read this blog know that I LOVE to sing.  

Not only do I love to sing, but I'm actually pretty good at it.  Well, I'm pretty good at it as long as nobody else is around to hear it.

And I don't mean that in a "I sing like a cat, but as long as no one knows any better I'm going to tell them I sing great" kinda way.  I mean, when there's nobody else around - excluding my kids who get to hear me sing all the time when we're in the car - I can carry a pretty decent tune.

There have been a few occasions where I've stepped out of my comfort zone and tried to break my immense stage fright.  And it really is immense.  I get shaky, my stomach starts hurting, I get cold sweats, and just the thought of singing in front of people makes me want to puke.

I have found that there is one situation where I can somewhat "manage" singing in public...and that's if the crowd is so loud, I can hardly be heard.

Take karaoke for example.  While I was in college and went out with my friends pretty frequently, I started singing karaoke at a small bar we used to go to.  The first couple of times I did it, it was nerve wracking.  But, I found that the louder the bar was, the better I sang.  And the better I sang, the more comfortable I got doing it...and it became a regular feature to our nights out.

The first time I decided it would be fun to try and sing for the school I work for, it wasn't pretty.  I was so nervous that the singing sounded more like fingers down a chalkboard.  However, I decided to give it another go during summer school...after persuading the kiddos in my classes to scream and cheer for me as loud as they could WHILE I was singing.  And that time it was MUCH better. 

During the summer school talent show, I performed "The Cup Song" with two Jr. High students who asked me to sing while they did the cup accompaniment.  I started off nervous, but as soon as I opened my mouth the kids started yelling and cheering.  That got me a lot more comfortable, and I was able to carry the tune all the way through.  It was an awesome experience...and one that made me think I was getting over my stage fright.

I was wrong.

During the first week of school, Mrs. P. approached me and asked me if I'd be willing to do another version of the Cup Song with lyrics that she had written herself.  The lyrics were about our school.  

I agreed.  I figured I did a pretty good job at summer school, I could do it again.  She told me that she wanted me to do it for the first Terrific Tiger assembly of the school year which just so happened to be yesterday.

Being that one of the girls that did the song with me during summer school didn't actually attend our school, Peanut was recruited to take her place.

We practiced together several times, and when I sang in front of the two sounded really good.  I was ready.

Then yesterday came.  The minute I walked in to the building, my stomach started doing that tell-tale churning.  My palms started getting all sweaty.  For the first thirty minutes of school, I couldn't stop shaking.  It was time to face my fear, once again, and get up in front of the entire school and sing.

As Mrs. P. introduced us, there were a few claps from the kiddos.  And then silence.  Not a single sound as the three of us took our places in front of the entire school.  I was so freaking nervous by the silence, I almost couldn't stand.

I took a few deep breaths, and gave the girls the nod to begin.  I could tell from Peanut's face that she already knew how bad I was struggling.  The girls started their cup routine, and then it was time for me to sing.  The shaking could be heard through my voice.  I just couldn't stop.  I was so nervous...and it made for flat singing and weird looks from the audience.  I noticed the looks the kids and staff were giving each other.  Not mean looks, I think more looks of confusion more than anything else.  It was as if they were wondering why on earth I had been selected to do something like sing in front of the entire school when I couldn't carry a tune for anything.  Other looks were from those who heard my performance during summer school and were now confused as to why I sounded so terrible.

All in was a disaster.

The girls were awesome.  They did their cup routine perfectly.  Unfortunately, I couldn't match their expertise.  The song ended, and we received a few supportive cheers...but I also heard some laughter and comments as I started to walk away.  And I ended up walking back to my spot by my kiddos just wanting to crawl in a hole and never coming out.

For the rest of the day, I was met with awkward compliments.  People tried to be nice.  They tried to compliment me on a job well done.  But, younger kids are less skilled in the "if you don't have nothing nice to say" routine.  They were honest with me.  They told me how nervous I sounded, how strained the singing was, and how awful it really sounded.

I'm such an idiot sometimes.

I've made the executive decision that it's time to hang up my attempts on trying to break my fear.  It's just not going to happen.  I'm going to stick to singing in my car...and that's it.

No more volunteering to sing at school assemblies.  No more agreeing to sing if asked.  No more believing that it won't be as bad as I think it will be.  Because it will be.  And then I just make myself look like a teacher who thinks she can sing - but can't.

And the part that frustrates me the most is that I actually can sing.  The few people that have heard me sing, when I wasn't crazy scared, have agreed that I can absolutely carry a tune and have a great voice.  Just as long as it's not in front of a crowd of 400 students and the entire faculty and staff of our school.

So, my last attempt at trying to do something I really love doing and conquering a fear in the process is over.  I've learned my lesson the hard way, and will just walk away with my tail between my legs.  Thankfully, my singing will be old news in a few days, so I'll be able to move on and just forget it ever happened.  

On a positive note, my class did MUCH better in their special's class yesterday.  They had a substitute, which made me a little nervous, but I was informed that they were all very well behaved and I gave out a few homework passes to those kids who went above and beyond during their time away from me.

I will point out that the one and only time I've had a sub this school year, my kids were rockstars.  My sub told me that she most definitely would LOVE to sub for my class again because they were so well behaved.  So, at least I have that to be thankful for.  While many classes will act out for substitutes, my class won't.  That's a relief.

I've informed them all that each and every day, I will hand out ONE homework pass to a student that has done their absolute best in the specials classes.  Just one.  Each specials teacher will have the task of selecting that lucky student.  And if it's the same student each time, so be it.  

I definitely think that positive reinforcement will be the way to go.  Those kids covet the homework passes.  Even though I don't give out much homework, there's one assignment each week that the kids all know is coming - and will do anything to get out of.  And that's writing all twenty of their spelling words in sentences.  They all hate that assignment... but as long as it motivates them to try and win homework passes, I'm going to keep assigning it.

OK, time for me to get ready for my last school day of the week.  

The kids are lucky enough to have a day off tomorrow.  Me?  No.  I have a day long professional development day.  I'll be attending a Writer's Workshop workshop.  It'll be about the 12th Writer's Workshop workshop I've attended in the last few years... but writing is my most favorite subject to teach, so it's always nice to get more stuff and information to teach it with.

Have a fantastic Thursday!!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This is Why I Have to Be Careful When Blogging

I've said it once...I've said it a thousand times.  

Sometimes, there's some major downfalls to being a public blogger.

And when I say "public", I mean that people know the face behind my blog..who I really am...and usually who I'm talking about or what I'm talking about.

I can't get on here and air my frustrations in private.  Private bloggers have that perk on their side.  They can write their blog without much fear or worry that people reading will figure out who's being talked about... because nobody knows the identity of the person doing the blogging.

I made my bed and had to lie in it the moment I chose to post my face on my blog, and then share that blog with my Facebook world.

One of the other downsides is the fact that when I do air my frustrations, stuff can often get misconstrued, and it ends up making people that I'm not really talking about look bad or fingers get pointed at others...when it's not really my intention going in.

I'll use yesterday as an example, because I need to address that situation head on.

I have shared, a couple of times now, about a few minor issues I've had with my class when they go away with other teachers.  

I've vented those frustrations only because I've received some negative comments about my class, and it angers me.  Only because I know that they are amazing kids, and I just wished that they wouldn't let themselves get a little out of control when I'm not around.

I like to think of this blog as a place that I can share about my life as a teacher.  Both good and bad.  I know that there's not a single class on the planet that can be perfect ALL of the time, and there are certain situations that cause frustration.  Maybe I shouldn't talk about that stuff on here, maybe I should just keep it all positive and happy.  But, then that really wouldn't be me.  I'm not one to shelter my feelings...and there's usually a lot of support and advice that I can get from other teachers that read this blog.  I know what I can and can't talk about.

And maybe, my post yesterday, was one of those that should have just been left unsaid.

Yesterday, I got a little advice...but then I almost considered deleting the comment.  That comment was left by my friend, Cathy.

NOT because there was anything wrong with the comment.  Cathy knows me, personally.  She knows my passion for teaching.  She knows my motivation.  She knows how much it means to me to be the best I can be for my kids ALWAYS.

When she wrote her comment, I know 100% that she had no ill feelings or meant for her comment to say anything negative towards others.  She was just stating her point of view and opinion on the situation.  She's an education expert.  She was one of my professors when I was learning how to be a teacher, and I know that if I need any advice... I can most definitely turn to her.

The problem with the comment, though, was that it could be taken in a negative light towards someone I work with.  And I in no way, shape, or form EVER want to say anything negative about any person that I work with.  I work with an amazing group of teachers and staff...and think they are all well equipped and trained for their jobs.

Cathy knows that my classroom management is one of my top priorities...and one of my biggest strengths.  My classroom really does function like a well oiled machine.  Kids know what's expected of them.  They know how to behave.  They know that I have their best interests at heart, and getting the very best out of them is what I want.  Always.

So, when I'm dealt with a situation like my class not being their very best for other teachers, I can understand why looking at the other teacher's classroom management might come in to question.

But, I want to take this opportunity to say that I in no way, shape, or form blame the classroom management skills of my peers as the cause for issues that arise when my kids go to their specials classes.

If it was just one teacher that had the issue, then fine...maybe I would.  But it's not.  It's all four teachers that my kids visit each and every week.  Some teachers have more trouble than others, and I think that has a lot to do with what special is involved, NOT the teachers teaching them.

I'd like to use yesterday as a good example of that very statement.

Yesterday, my kids had P.E.  They love P.E.  It's probably their favorite of all the specials.  It's like having an extra recess, to them.

When I got to the gym, the coach told me he needed to run a quick errand, and asked if I'd stay with them for just a few moments.  I did.  I got the kids started with some exercising, and waited for the coach's return.

When the coach got back, I moseyed over to the other side of the gym where a class of Jr. High kids were having P.E. with the Jr. High coach.  I talked to some of the kids, I talked to coach.  I stood there for a long time chatting, because the Jr. High coach also happens to be Butter's football coach...and there was a game last night.

As I was standing in the gym, in perfect view of my class, their coach had to get on to them several times about following directions, listening when he was talking, and to stop arguing.

I looked in their direction each and every time the coach had to raise his voice...and was met with several pairs of concerned eyes.  My kiddos all saw me there watching, yet it didn't really change their behavior AT ALL.  Once they saw me watching, they quietened down, or started listening, or whatever... but that only lasted for a few minutes before the coach was having to give another reminder.

So, even though I was present and observing the behavior of the class while with another teacher, it still didn't really affect the way they behaved.

Watching them, I also started to come to some conclusions about their behavior.

They go to specials right after recess.  They are super charged and fired up from spending 25 minutes playing.  They don't really have that much time to calm down before they are shuffled in to a classroom to start learning, again.   

They have also spend their entire morning working HARD.  Math and language arts are the classes before lunch and recess.  Those classes require a lot of brain power, focus, and paying attention.  So, when lunch, recess, and then specials's like they get to let their hair down and enjoy themselves for a little while.

I don't think my kids are misbehaving in their specials on purpose.  They are just having a hard time adjusting from play time to class time. 

Not that I'm giving them excuses.  It just means that I kinda, sorta have a handle on what might be causing the behavior issues.  I just, now, have to figure out the best way to solve the issue.  And, with the specials teachers and I working together... I think that we can help remedy the situation.

The coach also informed me yesterday that it's not JUST my class.  It's tough for all of the 4th grade classes.  Which makes sense.  They are all in that same "we just had recess and haven't calmed down" state of mind.

I've got a plan that I'm going to try out, and pray that it works.

But, until then, I wanted to come on here and clear the air.  Explain my side and thoughts a little more clearly.  

I could have just deleted yesterday's post and left it at that.  But, again, that's not who I am.  Being a teacher has MANY more perks than it does difficulties.  But, the difficulties are usually a big part of getting to the it makes sense to share the difficulties when they arise, so that I can have the sweet satisfaction of sharing the successes...once I've figured out how to get to them.

And this will be another situation that will have that outcome.  Eventually.

Right now, though... I really need to go and get ready for work.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I Just Don't Get It

Yesterday was another tough one.  Day, I mean.  

Long.  Tiring.  Draining.

And it was only Monday.

The sad part about it is that the day only drained me because of problems I'm having when my class leaves me.  When they go somewhere else...away from me....and I honestly don't know how to fix it.

My morning, yesterday, was OK.  The kids had to take a math test, and they are always stressful.  I really thought I had a handle on how much they've learned these past five weeks, but the tests never show that.  I mean, don't get me kiddos did MUCH better on their post test than they did on their pre test, but as I grade I often wonder what happened to make them miss the questions that they did.  The wording, perhaps?  The fact that the questions are mainly multiple choice, and it's easier to just pick an answer than figure out the actual problem?  I don't know.  

At the end of the day, the tests do offer some insight to areas I still need to focus on..and that's the point for them, right?

Then, lunch and recess come and go...and it's time for my kids to head off to their specials destination.

Before they go, I give them another "talk".  Similar to the one I gave them on Friday.  About how they represent me when they are with other teachers, how I expect them to treat those teachers better than they treat me, how good and hard working they are for me and how I want the other teachers in the building to see that for themselves.

I leave them in their specials class feeling positive, confident.  They'll do better.

Then, I get back there an hour later, only to find the specials teacher just about ready to pull his hair out.  He's been trying to get them quiet so they will clean up ready to leave, but it's not working.  The minute I walk in, silence falls across the room.  He looks at me with frustration in his eyes.  It's been a rough class, he tells me.  He's had several kids that just wouldn't do what they were asked to do, wouldn't stop talking, and it's been a very frustrating hour of trying to get anything done.


Being that I'm a firm believer in not holding a whole class responsible for the actions of a select few, I ask for specific names.  I want to know who the one or two kids are that had been causing so much difficulty.  Then, he gives me SEVEN names.  SEVEN!  Seven out of the nineteen kids in the room have made his hour almost impossible to teach anything.  Almost half the class.

More than half the names he gives me are the kids that are so good in my classroom.  They work quietly.  They do their work quickly and efficiently.  They keep themselves busy when they're finished.  They don't mess around or cause distractions.  And they have NEVER been in trouble by me.

I just don't get it.

I mean, a small part of me rejoices at the fact that while my kids are with me, they are very well behaved.  It says a lot for my classroom management and the expectations I've placed on them.  When I can walk up to the room they're in, hear the chaos that's taking place inside, and the room immediately silences at my presence...that says a lot for how they respect me.  Or fear me.  I'm hoping it's more respect than fear.

But, I'm not really sure how I can uphold those expectations when they are elsewhere.  Giving them harsh consequences apparently doesn't work.  Giving them long speeches about my expectations of them, and how I want others to see them doesn't work.  I guess all I have left now is rewarding the kids that do what they're supposed to when they go away from me.

Which is a trend I'd rather not start.  I don't like rewarding kids for behaving like they're supposed to.  I like rewarding kids that go above and beyond, try hard, and don't just do things because they know there's candy or toys or homework passes in it for them.

Which is something I've worked hard to instill since day one.  I hand out homework passes for excellent work.  I give rewards out when the kids have no idea they're coming or what they're being given for.  I don't like bribery, and the kids seem to like the surprise that comes from being given a reward when they had no idea a reward was an option in the first place.

I don't know.  I'm sure I'll figure something out.

I know that this all bothers me so much BECAUSE my kiddos are so good.  I mean, if I had problems with them all day, I wouldn't be surprised in the least that other teachers had problems with them.  If they were naturally loud or rambunctious, I could understand other teachers having trouble getting them to quieten down and focus.  But they're not.  Not a single one of them.  

I've received so many compliments from teachers who pass by my room or come in to my room while my kids are hard at work.  They are quiet (even when they don't have to be), they are working hard, they are working cooperatively without arguing or fighting or cheating.  

Today is a new day, however.  

A day for them to start over.  A day for me to start over.  Plus, they have P.E. as their special today...that's always pretty good, because they get to run around and burn off some energy while they're in there.  

I know that Me from last year would have gotten pretty mean with the kids by now.  But, I'm not going to. I just won't.  Tough?  Maybe.  Stern?  I guess.  But mean?  No.  Won't do it.  They don't deserve it, no matter what kind of complaints I get about them.  I don't want "mean" put in to my description list this year when other kids in the building think of me.

I want to end this year knowing that my kids got through doing and being who they are not because I was mean, but because I pushed them, made them want to succeed, and giving them all the tools to do so.

And I will.  I know I will.  I just have to get over this little bump, and it'll be smooth sailing from here on out.

I know it.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Ready for Another Crazy Busy Week

Today kicks off the beginning of a short week.  Not for me... but for the kiddos.  On Friday, they won't be going to school.  I will be, and I'll be spending the day at a Professional Development Workshop.

Before I can think about getting to Friday, though, I have to think about getting through the rest of the hurdles standing in my way.

Tonight, it's an away volleyball game.  Tomorrow it's a home football game.  Thursday it's a home volleyball game.

So, three of the four school nights... I'll be traveling to games, and getting home super late.  

Awesome, right?

This week I also have afternoon car duty, which means I will have to figure out a way to get all of my stuff ready to go before I head out to do it.  In order to make it to Peanut's game tonight, I will have to leave the school by 4PM.  Sometimes car duty doesn't get over until 3:45PM.  It will be quite the mad dash to get everything packed up and out the I don't end up arriving late to Peanut's game and have her mad at me for the rest of the night.  Tomorrow night, I volunteered to work the ticket counter at the football game, so I have to be there by 4:30PM.  Luckily, Thursday, I don't have to be there until that gives me at least a little time to pack up before I head out.

I was really hoping that after my restful weekend, this week wouldn't be too much of a challenge.  That was until I went to bed at 10PM last night, and couldn't sleep.  I drifted in and out of sleep until midnight, and then again until 2AM.  Then I was awake for almost an hour...and drifted back again for another 30 minutes.  I looked at the clock again at 3:56AM.  My alarm goes off at 4:30AM.  And wouldn't you know, that last time I looked at the clock was when I actually went to sleep.  When the alarm did wake me up at 4:30, I hit the snooze button several times.

And the sad thing was, the not being able to sleep was my own fault.  I thought it was a smart idea to drink a cup of coffee at 9PM.  It was getting pretty chilly outside, and I thought a nice cup of vanilla caramel coffee on the porch would be a nice way to relax by myself before bed time.

A few months ago, a cup of coffee right before bed would NEVER have kept me awake.  In fact, I drank about a pot of coffee each and every morning, and during Fall and Winter I would drink another pot of coffee in the evenings.  But, when I started losing weight again a couple of months ago, I cut my coffee intake down to one cup a morning during the week and two cups on the weekend.  I've now cut the caffeine down so much, that it's started to affect me if I drink it any other time but right when I get up.  

Lesson more coffee before bed for me!

So, now I get to head in to this week sluggish and sleep deprived.  Which I should really be getting used to, because it's how I've spent the last couple of weeks.

I really don't have much more to write about this morning.  My mind is kinda fuzzy...and I don't want to sit here and just keep rambling on for nothing.

Have a good Monday, everyone!!


Sunday, September 22, 2013

All This Technology Goodness


Oh yes! That, my friends, is a look at my iPad home screen now that IOS 7 has been installed.  And to many of you, you may want to skip this post because it won't really mean a whole lot.  Especially if you're sitting there asking yourself what on earth an IOS 7 is.

And that's not a dig at anyone lacking technology knowledge, it's simply stating that if you don't own an Apple product, you might have no idea about what I'm going to talk about.

So, for the first time since owning an Apple product, I'm extremely excited about the fancy new make-over they've decided to give to their gadgets.  It's user friendly, sharp looking, and extremely helpful when trying to be organized.

I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas morning while my iPhone and iPad updated last night.  I'd seen posts start to appear on Facebook about others getting their new toy...and I wanted mine.  And I sat, kinda patiently, waiting for it to happen.

When they were done, I was ready to start exploring.

So, I guess if you haven't already figured it out, this post is basically just going to be my first impressions of IOS 7.  Here we go...

My first encounter came from a tutorial giving me a heads up on the new security features that have been installed.  I had the option of setting a passcode before, but now it's become suggested that I use one.  So I set one up.  I had to enter in my Apple ID and was informed that NO ONE would ever be able to use or change any settings on my phone or iPad without that password.  That's also very handy for the Find my iPhone/iPad feature that's installed.  Without my password, there's no way to turn it off.  Which is really nice if someone decides to take off with either of them....or if I misplace one of them, which is probably a lot more likely.

Once I got through the security steps, I was greeted with my new homescreen.  And I think it looks pretty fancy.  The folders are now all like mini home screens.  I no longer need three folders just for games, because all of my games can fit in to one folder...there's NO limit to how many apps I can put in to one folder.  That's a huge incentive for me... because I have A LOT of apps on my iPad, and I'm one of those people that likes to be able to find them and not dig through several folders until I locate the one I need.

I also discovered that I can now access most of the settings right from the home screen, without having to go in to the Settings app.  It looks like this...


With just a swipe of my hand, I can see that fancy little tool bar pop up on the bottom of my screen.  And from that tool bar, I can control the volume, the brightness, turn on Bluetooth, Airplane mode, and Wifi.  I can also put my device to sleep or lock the screen.  And those are really handy on my iPad, because I use a case that basically turns my iPad in to a laptop...and I usually have to take the iPad out of the case in order to access the lock button.  Not anymore!!  I also have instant access to my photos/camera and the clock app.

On the iPhone, on the same tool bar, they have included the calculator app and the flashlight app.  That's really smart.  I don't know how many times I've had to figure out where my flashlight option is, in the complete dark.  Or having to go through folders to find my calculator.  Now, it's right at my fingertips with a quick swipe from the home screen.

The other big update that has gotten me super excited is the release of iTunes Radio.  I played around with the new feature last night, and I found that it's almost identical to Pandora.  Yet, I can do a few extra things with the iTunes version.  Apple wasn't stupid when they put this feature together.  There are hundreds of pre-made radio stations to choose from that cover just about every genre of music.  And when a song plays, you get to see the album art and are given an option to buy the song with just a few taps on the screen.  Smart.  No more having to search through iTunes to download that one song you love..the minute you hear it, you can buy it.  And if buying it right then isn't what you want to do, you can add it to a Wish List for later purchase.

The added features that make me think I might prefer this option over Pandora are the "Do not Play this artist" feature and the "Play more like this" feature.  

When a song comes on, you get a couple of options.  You can request that more songs be played just like it, or you can ban the singer from showing up again on that station.  Hubby got all giddy with that option, because he can type in the words Justin Bieber and know that he will never have to worry about being tormented with the one singer that makes him want to dig his eardrums out.  And I'm pretty sure he'll be adding Miley Cyrus and One Direction to that list as well.  

While the radio has TONS of pre-made stations to choose from, you also have the option of creating your own stations.  Just like Pandora, you type in an artist and set up a station.  You can also add different artists to the same station, if you want a station that will play a variety of music.  

I use Pandora quite a bit at work.  My work station is Enya radio.  It plays soft melodies that help me stay focused while working, and I play it while my kiddos are taking a test of reading quietly.  It seems to help them focus, too.

I do have a couple of Pop and Rock stations on Pandora, but I don't like to play them when the kids are in the room because Pandora will sometimes play songs that aren't censored.  Now, with iTunes Radio, I can customize a station where I won't have to worry.  I can ban certain artists from showing up, and there are lots of "kid friendly" options available in the pre-made stations.

In fact, as I was playing around with the radio last night, I wondered why on earth I'm paying $15 a month for Sirius radio in my car.  And then it hit me that Sirius comes through satellite, where as my phone has to be connected to 4G to be able to play.  That wouldn't be so bad, except half of my drive to work is through a "dead zone" and so the iTunes Radio wouldn't really help me for my morning and afternoon commutes.  Maybe if cell service becomes available in those areas, I might ditch Sirius altogether and just use the free iTunes Radio.  OK, they have a few commercials here and there, but one 30 second commercial every 5-10 minutes is livable.

All in all, I'm really happy so far.  I downloaded all the App updates that went with the new operating system, and they all seem to be a lot more streamlined and user friendly too.  Facebook looks completely different, once again.  But, it seems to be a little easier to navigate through it.

I'm sure, as the days go on, I'll discover new tools and maybe even discover a few flaws...but for the time being, I'm just going to take advantage of what IOS 7 has given me and figure out the best ways to put the features to good use.

But, right now, I have to think about getting ready for some grocery shopping...or we won't be eating this week.

Have a great Sunday!!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Just Another Beautiful Saturday

Oh my goodness...what a breathtakingly beautiful morning it is this morning.

The weather feels like Fall is slowly starting to wake up, and Summer is slowly starting to fall in to her slumber.  The temperature this morning was in the upper 50s, and it's barely in the 60s now.

I could get used to sitting on the patio with my coffee in this type of weather, I tell you what!

Yesterday, it rained for a good part of the morning, but had stopped by the time recess rolled around.  I'm a firm believer that unless there's some torrential rain, heat wave, or below freezing temperatures outside - we do recess.

The temperature at our 11:30AM recess time was 67 degrees.  And the whole time, there were kids complaining about how cold it was.  Well, they were dressed in shorts and it probably did feel a little chilly to them.  But to me, it was absolutely beautiful and PERFECT weather for recess.

We're getting the pool all cleaned up and will be hopefully buying the chemicals today to close it for the season.  It's about three weeks overdue.  Even though the weather has been swim worthy the last few weekends, the pool hasn't been used...and it's just been sitting there eating money with the pool pump running.  Its time to call it a season, and just wait until next year to enjoy it again.

Today, after I've exhausted my time writing my blog, drinking my coffee, and enjoying the peace and quiet of the patio, I'm going to be paying some bills and probably sitting at my computer for a while to get some work done.  Or, we'll go grocery shopping.  One or the other.  Probably both.

Peanut and Butter are both away this weekend, so it's just Hubby, Jelly, and I at home.  The house is quiet.  And even though I said last weekend that I couldn't take another weekend of just sitting at home... I'm not really sure what to do this weekend.

My first thought was to take a trip to the pumpkin patch.  It's a beautiful day for it, and the pumpkin patch close to us is a full blown day long trip.  Corn maze, hay rides, petting zoo, stuff for the kids to play on, stuff to make, etc.  But, I just visited their website and found out that they don't open until next weekend.  Blah.  

So, maybe with Peanut and Butter being gone, it won't be too bad to limit our time away for grocery shopping and just enjoy the rest of the weekend at home.  

It's not like I don't have plenty to keep me busy.  There's tons of grading to be done, lesson plans to write, and grades to enter in to the computer.  If only I could set my office up on the patio, it would be perfect.  That's the only sucky part about having a laptop that needs a's no longer portable, so I have to use it as a desktop.  

This whole week has been pretty awesome.  Not too much has been crammed in to my schedule, and it's gone by rather smoothly.  I haven't lacked any sleep.  My kiddos have all been pretty good at school.  My children have all stayed out of trouble (as far as I know..HA!).  

I did have to get a little mean with my class yesterday afternoon, which really ticked me off because it's been such a good week.  

For the third time this week, my class's specials teacher told me that my class had been super difficult.  Too much talking, not doing what they were asked to do, etc.  Which totally blows my mind, because they are so good for me.  But, I guess being so good for me comes at a cost.  They've got to let their crazy out somewhere.

I warned them both other times this week that I better not get any more complaints.  I hold them to high standards in the classroom, but even higher standards when they are away from me.  They represent me and our class...and it's my mission to be the best behaved class in the entire school.  When a teacher then turns around and tells me that I have one of the worst behaved classes in the school...that gets me pretty upset.  And I made sure my class knew it yesterday.

Due to the fact that it was the third time for receiving such complaints in a week, I laid down the law to them yesterday afternoon.  Friday afternoons are usually a pretty upbeat time in my room.  We work in groups, do some kind of hands-on project, finish up anything we need to do, and then spend the rest of the time reading or writing... or basically just "hanging out" until that final dismissal comes.

Not yesterday.

They had to spend their entire afternoon working on a science test.  Once they finished their test, they were to sit and read.  In silence.  An hour and forty minutes of absolutely no talking, unless it was to me.  It was torture for me, so I can only imagine how they felt.  

One student completely blew me away by how he decided to spend his time after he finished the test. He approached me after I'd noticed him writing for a while with a piece of paper in his hand.  He asked me if he could take the piece of paper to the specials teacher that had made the comment about us being one of the worst behaved classes in the school.  I asked to see it, and it was a letter to apology letter.  All on his own, he had decided to try and make amends by writing a very heartfelt letter.  I told him how much it meant to me that he had chosen to use his time for that purpose, and how proud I was of him.  I let him deliver the letter to the teacher.

And, once again, another reason why I know how awesome my kids are... I just wish they'd show that awesome off to everyone else!!

Before dismissal time, I asked them all how much fun it had been to sit that long without being able to talk.  They didn't like it.  I then gave them the lecture about how I like to treat my students they way they treat me.  Meaning, I don't automatically DEMAND respect from them, I have to respect them for them to respect me.  And they don't just show respect to me when they are with me, they also show it by behaving when I'm not around... showing how well behaved they can be, following directions, and treating any other teacher, staff member, or administrator even BETTER than they treat me.  

I told them how much it means to me that any person can look upon our class as the best class in the school, because that's what they are.  They are smart, and well behaved, and I love to brag on them and receive compliments about them.  And that behavior ALWAYS gets rewarded.  But, in the same way, the opposite also has to happen.  There are consequences to their actions, with or without me.

I told them that Monday would be a brand new would be all left behind us, and we'd start over. They'd get their chance to show the specials teachers just how awesome they are.  

As they left for the day, almost every child gave me a hug and told me that they were sorry and that they would be better next week.  The hugs and apologies meant a lot to me.  They really are an awesome bunch of kids...they just need a little more guidance from me.  And I'm going to make sure to pick up some goodies for them this weekend so that I'm ready and prepared for the good news I KNOW I'm going to get next week after they've gone to specials.

OK, that about wraps up my week and my plans for the weekend.  I guess I should probably get around to putting the wheels in motion.  

Have a great Saturday!!


Friday, September 20, 2013

A Good Day For a Little Crazy

It's Friday.

Everyone knows that just being Friday is a cause for celebration...a reason to let your hair down and have a little fun to end the week.

Today just isn't any ordinary Friday, though.  It's the first "Spirt Day" of the school year...meaning, my first time to break out of my "professional shell" and get a little crazy.

Being less than an hour away until it's time to get ready, I'm still not sure what I'm going to do.  I have to show my school spirit for the first home football game.  That means dressing in a lot of black and red.  But, there's also a contest for the "Most Spirited Teacher".  

Yeah, that has my name all over it.  

I would normally be a lot more focused and prepared for such a day.  But, about 2AM this morning, Jelly woke me up crying...and that's because she'd woken up and the house had been pitch black because our power had gone out.  We had some really hard rain last night, and apparently that caused some power issues with the entire town.

I don't know what it is about there being no power in the house, but the silence is almost deafening.  It interferes with my ability to sleep.  Once Jelly made me aware that there was no power, I was wide awake.  

I spent some time laying in bed thinking about what I could do for spirit day.  Maybe some side pony tails with red and black ribbons?  Maybe find my big black scarf and decorate it with my red, fuzzy belt? Maybe go REALLY wild and sport some bright red lipstick to work?

Then, my mind started wandering to other places.  

Out of nowhere, I was hit with this massive sense of loneliness.  Something, I realized, that I've actually been feeling for a while... but just haven't given myself the time to think about.

Due to the crazy schedule I've been keeping, lately, I just really haven't had much time for anything but work and sports.  I spend my evenings, alone, in my classroom.  I pick up the kids, come home, and spend the evenings alone.  On the weekends, I haven't gone out to do anything...and have just spent my time on my blog, working on my computer, or going out for a walk...alone.

And the kids have been here.  It's not that I'm all by myself all of the time.  At work, I get to spend time with my colleagues.  But, it's hit me that I really haven't seen my friends in a long time.  The last couple of times I've seen my parents they've been quick trips.  I spoke to P-Momma on the phone the other day, and it feels like an eternity since I've spent anytime with her.  Hubby is in bed or on his way there pretty much every evening that I get home, or I don't see him at all because we pass each other from me getting home so late and him heading out to work.  Last week, I didn't see him at all from Sunday night until Friday evening.  

Even though none of this is new to me, and I've grown accustomed to my crazy life...when there's no power and no sleep, it can wreck havoc on the mind.

I think a lot of my melancholy feelings come from another disappointing situation where I thought I was making a new friend, only to discover that it's more politeness than friendship.  I made a friendly connection with someone a couple of weeks ago that I've been acquainted with for a while, but it's only ever been polite "hi" and smile interactions .  We started talking one day when running in to each other.  Since then, we've talked quite a bit when I get home from work, texting each other.  It started with me asking a simple question via text message, and we just struck up a conversation.  The next night, another conversation..and by night three, we were having a good laugh and sharing stories about each other over the phone.  But, the last couple of times I've ran in to the her, it's different.  Since we've started talking more, I've seen her a few times with her friends.  I ran in to her on Wednesday.  But, when I approached her, there was a weird sense of it's OK that we can talk via texting, but not really meaning that we're now friends... especially when she's around her friends.  And since that interaction on Wednesday, there has been no more text messages.

Ugh, I hate sounding like a teenager that's pouting because she doesn't feel like a part of the "cool crowd".

I've shared before that I struggle with making close friends.  I have two people in my life that I consider to be "close friends", and now that we all have teaching jobs in different schools, we hardly get to see each other.

I figured I'd make close friends at work.  And, I have with my teaching team.  I can talk to them about anything, they genuinely seem to like me for me, and I don't feel the slightest bit uncomfortable around them.  But not in the sense that we're spending time together outside of work.  They all have their husbands and children and stuff to keep them plenty busy when they are away from school.  But apart from my team, I often feel like an outsider looking in to the groups of close knit friends that are constantly clustered around the school.

I go to sporting events and see people I work with, all sitting with their friends and family.  I watch on Facebook as several people I work with post pictures of fun times they are having together on the weekends.  I see general conversations taking place around the school, and just making my presence known is almost an immediate trigger for they all go off on their separate ways.

None of them are mean to me or rude.  In fact, they are all genuinely nice to me when they are around me.  I just feel awkward when I'm around them... because I know that I don't fit in.  Or not that I don't know, that I don't feel like I fit in...maybe that's a better way to say it.  

And I know that a lot of that has to do with still being pretty new to the school.  A lot of the teachers I work with have been working together for years.  And when push comes to shove, the honest truth is... I haven't really gone out of my way to try and fit in with anyone or put myself out there for friendship.

But, this is a story I've told many times before.  

And I couldn't have been more happier than when my power came back on at 4AM, so I could get out of the funk that I was feeling and focus on the day ahead.

Yeah, it's tough being a social butterfly that flies solo.  But, it is what it is and I don't need to be stressing out over something so stupid.  OK, so I mistook a few texting conversations as a developing friendship.  It's not the end of the world.  Life will go on, I will still be me...and I can just let it go and have a little fun and forget all about it.

Which is exactly what I'm going to do today.  

One thing I do know is that the kiddos at school have all gotten to know me pretty well.  I was met with several questions yesterday about what I was going to wear today.  They all anticipate that I plan to put up a good fight for Most Spirited Teacher.  They know that getting a little crazy doesn't bother me in the slightest, and making a fool of myself is just a part of my job description.  I consider it one of the perks, actually.

Yesterday was actually a really good day.  It started off with one of the Jr. High kids bringing me a Snickers bar to school.  I made a lot of close relationships with some of the Jr. High kids during summer school, and those relationships have just continued to grow since school started.  Even though I don't get to see them very often, I make it a point to say hi to them in the mornings and before they leave at the end of the day.  It touches my heart when I know that even though I was never their teacher in elementary, they really feel a connection with me.  And I have a king sized Snickers bar to prove it..HA!

I, also, had my first evaluation from Mrs. P the day before, and I got to meet with her yesterday to hear how I did.  It went amazingly well, and she seemed pretty pleased with what's going on in my classroom.

My kiddos worked really hard all day yesterday, and in fact..they have all week.  Since getting pretty tough with them on Monday about how I was no longer going to tolerate the lack of organization nor the lack of independence that they had, they've really taken off at following directions and being more organized.

All in all, a really good week.  And I couldn't ask for a better way to wrap it all up than for me to dress all crazy for Spirit Day.

Which I better get to doing, or there won't be any time left to Fab myself up.

Have an amazing Friday!!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Those Moments That Make You Realize Why Teaching is So Important


I shouldn't really have to tell you what teaching means to me.  I blog about it enough.  I think pretty much anyone that has spent any amount of time here on this blog will understand that teaching has been a life long dream of mine, and my love for teaching really doesn't have much to do with the actual "teaching" part.

I've shared how teachers are one person with many faces - caregiver, nurse, counselor, referee,  parental figure, dream maker...and the list could go on and on.

Many teachers I've worked with, when asked the question as to why they wanted to be a teacher, don't usually respond with "I just love teaching math" or "I want to teach kids how to read" or "I've always wanted to spend my days standing, and getting covered in white board's the best!"

No, teachers usually become teachers because they want to have some kind of impact on the lives of their students.  They want to work with and help children.  They want to be a figure of trust, love, and care.

I've shared all of those reasons here before.  I've shared stories about how in the past few years I've had moments of pure exhilaration and pure heart ache.  How I've definitely felt the pull of heartstrings from both the good and the bad.

But yesterday, for the first time in my very short teaching career, I got to experience the pure, unfiltered, buckle at the knees, make you cry like a baby situations.  Those that I've heard about but wondered if I'd ever have to worry about or get to experience.

And the answer is YES.

Without going in to too much detail, I can tell you that yesterday I made a connection with a child that travels much deeper than just being a person he can trust.  Or that can put a smile on his face.

I became the person that made a child feel safe.  Loved.  Cared for.  When he truly believe none of those things to be true from anywhere else in his life.  He felt abandoned, didn't know which way to turn, and just...well...needed me.  Needed in a way I've never, yet, felt in a classroom.

The need that brings on stomach clenching sobs that can only be calmed by being held in my arms and reassuring him that I'm there for him and that everything is going to be OK.  The words have little effect, but that hug...that sign that I've got him in my arms and won't let go until he's ready?  It can work miracles, and make a boy who feels like his whole world has come crashing down around him...know that someone cares, and that in that moment...everything really IS going to be alright.

To cry for and with a student is a very new experience for me.  It's not the first time I've had a student have the worries or problems expressed to me yesterday, but it's the first time I've had a student come to me...needing me.. because of them.

And I can tell you, there's nothing that can reaffirm everything you believe in more than a child that comes to you when they truly need you.  It reaffirms all those open statements I've made about loving my students as if they were my own children.  The way I reacted and responded to the needs of one of my students yesterday tells me that statement is oh, so true.  I really do love each and every one of these kids, and will do anything for them to make them feel safe, loved, and cared for.

It was the way I started my work day, yesterday... but it definitely wasn't the last situation for the day.

To keep the feel goods flowing, I got to come face to face with a child yesterday who actually thanked me for being hard on her.  

I know that sounds petty.. big whoop, right?  

But, from this particular child, being thanked was a MAJOR deal.  And I wasn't just given a quick "Thank you for being tough on me" either.  She expressed and shared her pure feelings of appreciation   in a simple way - but for this particular student, in a way that, once again, got my tear ducts nice and full.

This student has her own set of struggles.  I know all about them, and she knows it.  But, not a single moment since school started have I ever taken it easy on her or coddled those struggles.  I have held her to the standards I give all of my students.  I have pushed her.  I have been tough on her.  I've not let her quit.  And each time that she's done exactly what I expected she would do - succeed - I've celebrated with her.  

Those are all new feelings for her.  She's spent a good majority of her school life being allowed to give up when times got hard.  Challenge and opposition are very new concepts for her to handle.  And it's caused some very tough moments between us.  

And yesterday morning, when once again she was on the verge of throwing in the towel and calling it quits I scooped her stuff up, moved it to my desk, and told her she wasn't going to quit on me... I was going to get her through it.

When she sat down at my desk, with that grumpy face I've grown to love, she looked at me kinda weird.  I asked her what was wrong.  And here's the groundbreaking conversation:

Student (angry tone): "Why don't you ever just let me quit?"  

Me: "Because you're not a quitter, you're a fighter and I KNOW that you can do this".  

Student (angry tone):  "But it's hard, and if it's hard I don't have to do it"

Me:  "Not when you're with me. When it's hard, you don't get to give up anymore.  That's why I'm here... I'll never make you do it on your own.  I'm supposed to help, but you have to learn.  And I'll help you learn, but I'll never let you quit.  I will never make you do something I don't think you can do.  And guess what? I think you can do everything that every single student in this classroom can do.."  

Student (giving me a weird look):  "You're going to help me?"

Me: "Isn't that what I've been doing since you came in to my class?  Have I ever made you do anything without helping you?"

Student (softer tone):  "No.  But, I'm not good at math.  I can't do it.  And if it's too hard, I don't have to do it.  Why do you make me do it?"

Me:  "Really?  Then explain to me what you've been doing since school started, because I'm pretty sure you've been doing math every single day."

Eye roll.  Silence.  We begin working, and I begin explaining how to do the problems, and she gets the first few questions right.

Me:  "See!  You CAN do math!  That's awesome...and all I did was ask you questions.  You figured them out all by yourself!"

Student (looking at me with a smile and tears in her eyes):  "Thanks, Ms. [Jo].   My mom told me you were a good teacher.  Guess what?  You are."

Me (laughing):  "Thank you... for not quitting and working so hard."

Student:  "You're welcome.  I'll keep trying hard, I promise.  If you promise to keep helping me?"

Me:  "Of course!  That's why I'm here."

Student:  "I guess I'm happy that I'm in your class, now.  You're not really mean, you just want me to be smart..right?"

Me:  "Honey, you're already smart.  You just have to believe that."

Student: "I think maybe I am.  I think maybe you're going to help me be smarter.  I'm not really that scared anymore."

Me:  "That's awesome!  And remember, if you do get to feeling a little scared, I'll be right here to help you through it.. OK?"

Student:  "OK!  Now, can we finish my math?"

And that, my friends, is a conversation for the record books.  

Helping a student conquer a fear, reinforce that quitting isn't allowed and that I'll be there to help her all the way through...that's all she needed.  For so long, she's felt like she wasn't capable.  And I was able to provide a small sense of security in herself.  

I truly believe there's a reason I get the kids in my class that I do.  They are put there for a purpose.  Each and every one of them.  

And no matter how frustrated I sometimes get.  Or how scared I get about meeting all of their needs.  I just have to remember that I can and WILL let these kids know that they are special to me...that I'm there for them...and I will everything in my power to push them as far as they can go.

Man, I love my job!