Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Walking On Sunshine


I'm having a hard time deciding if yesterday actually happened or if I just slept so well that I dreamt the whole thing.  Not in the sense that the day was hazy and hard to remember, but because it was so freakin' awesome, it's hard to believe that it actually happened and wasn't just some vivid dream that is making me question if I was awake while it all happened.

Which is kinda weird, because only 24 hours ago I was writing a post about my extremely CRANKY day I had the day before.  

Maybe the promise I made to myself about not having another day of being so cranky and being a lot more happier sunk in, or maybe it was the extremely peculiar but awesome behavior from my students.. but yesterday, I really did spend the day walking on sunshine.

Just like I said I would.  And, it really did feel good.

It's crazy to know that I went from being THAT cranky to being THAT happy in a matter of 24 hours, but I did.  I managed to do it.  And, hopefully no one is now wondering if I have some kind of split personality disorder.

To recap, Monday was a tough day.  Not because anything specific happened making it a tough day, but because I was suffering from some sudden onset of Cranky Pant Disorder, and I was like a bear with a sore head pretty much all day long.

It was so bad, I sent out a letter to parents explaining that I was going to be getting tough with my grading procedures.  That I had grown tired of the nonchalant attitude I was getting about not finishing or turning in homework and assignments, and that I would be putting a lot of weight this semester on effort and participation with my grading.  I explained how students would be receiving zeros for not turning in assignments, and they should expect to see failing grades if their child wasn't doing the work that was asked of them.  I then attached said letter to the progress reports I send home weekly, and out of twenty students, ten had F's highlighted on the report card.

And, if I really think about it, the crankiness that I was experiencing on Monday was probably stemmed from what I said in that letter.  I was growing EXTREMELY tired of the lack of effort demonstrated by several of my students.  I was getting more and more frustrated by the not paying attention, asking questions that had no relevance to the material being covered, not following the directions I had given, and the shrug of shoulders when I asked where an assignment was or why they hadn't done their homework.

I truly believe that I had psyched myself up with the crankiness in order to have the guts to write that letter to the parents, and be prepared for any lash back I may receive.

But, do you know what happened yesterday?  

For the first time since the school year began, every SINGLE student returned their black folders (which is the way I communicate with parents each week).  Not a single week has gone by where at least one or two or five students have "forgotten" to bring the folder back or have brought the folder back unsigned.  Until yesterday.

Every SINGLE student returned the letter I sent home, signed by a parent.  

Every SINGLE student returned the failing progress reports I had sent home, in which I required a parent to also sign to acknowledge they were aware of the grades their child was currently making.

And it was from that moment that I knew I was going to have a good... no great day.

During math, my kids were alert and actively participating in the discussion.  We were starting the process of dividing with remainders, which can be a pretty tough concept... especially if the child doesn't have a very good understanding of multiplication facts.  Which happens to be the case for several of my kiddos.

But, you know what?  They knocked it out of the park.  We discussed.  We did examples together.  They were all eager to share their answers and how they figured the answers.  They didn't care if they got a wrong answer, and actually used the wrong answers to ask amazing questions on how to identify and correct where they were going wrong.

I was completely shocked and amazed.

During our reading block, the kids all, again, actively participated in the class discussion.  We had some great laughs over some of the examples I used for incorrectly using past, present, and future tenses.  Examples I had seen with my very own eyes from their writing.  Even though I didn't mention any names, several of the students identified themselves as the culprits I was using for my examples.  

When the kids were asked to make predictions about the books they had selected to read this week, they all discussed their thoughts with each other and the reasoning behind their predictions.  I didn't get a single "I think this book is about a bear in a house because the book is called A Bear in a House".  Instead, I got reasonable, descriptive predictions based on clues given from the cover of the book.  "I think this book will be about a boy who travels with animals who are his friends, and they have adventures as they float down the river because on the cover there is a boy on a raft.  On the raft there are different animals and they look like they are friends because they are all smiling at each other."


During writer's workshop, I had kids share their ideas for the books they are creating.  We're currently working on writing a pourquoi tale - which is a story that explains something in nature.

One student is writing about rainbows.  She explained to me that in her story, rainbows used to live in the rainforest, because there are a lot of colors and a lot of rain in the rainforest.  Then, the rain stops coming to the rainforest, which makes the colors start disappearing from the rainbow.  So, the rainbow starts talking to a cloud, and the cloud asks the rainbow to visit it in the sky because the cloud is lonely.  When in the sky, the cloud gives the rainbow rain, and they become friends so the rainbow decides to stay with the cloud in the sky.  So, that's why rainbows are in the sky.

Another student is writing about a battle that ensued between hurricanes and tornadoes.  They used to be friends, but kept having problems with both being on land.  So, they had a fight and in the end the tornado won because it's winds are stronger, and it makes hurricanes stay over water and tornadoes get to stay on land.

Another is telling a story about why elephants have long trunks.  And she explains that elephants used to have regular noses, but they ate way too much and got too fat to be able to bend over and pick up their food.  So, they asked God to make them smaller so that they could reach their food and water.  But because the elephant kept eating too much, He "cursed" the elephant by keeping him fat but giving him a really long nose instead.  

And I could keep going with these.  They are truly fascinating.  Way above and beyond my expectations.  Pourquoi tales are pretty easy to come up with, but a lot harder to make in to a story.  Especially with the level of imagination and creativity that I saw and heard yesterday.

I'm very eager to see how their ideas translate to the picture books they are all making.

During indoor recess (we had an arctic cold front going on, so it was too cold to take them outside), most of my kiddos opted to work on homework while watching/listening to the movie I was playing.

After recess, the kids all joined in with a great discussion about sedimentary rocks.  We talked about fossils and how the rocks are made and how the rocks turn in to soil and how scientists use sedimentary rocks to figure out the age of certain animals.  And again, they were completely in-tune and asking amazing questions about what we were talking about.

In the middle of our science discussion, we had a tornado drill.  One that I completely forgot that we were going to have.  Usually, I prepare my students any time I know we're having a drill, but I hadn't said a word about it to them.  While I was getting over the initial shock of the sound of the alarm, and realized what was happening, they had all grabbed a textbook and had lined up at the door ready to head to the bathroom.  When in the bathroom, they got straight down on the floor, assumed the position, and I didn't hear a single peep out of them until the "all-clear" was given.

I even had another teacher come look at them in there, because I've never seen a class of kids act so quickly and perfectly to the situation.

So, with all this, there's no wonder I was walking around on sunshine all day.  I don't know who those kids were that came to my classroom yesterday, but I LOVE THEM and hope they continue to come see me each and every day.  It was a complete night and day transformation from the previous day.  Which was the motivator, I'm sure, for the complete night and day transformation to my mood.

I have absolutely no idea if the transformation stemmed from the letter I sent home, and them receiving a stern talking to from their parents, or if they were just amazed that I had called their bluff and really handed out the F's I said I would, but either way... it looks as though it may have worked!

Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I was able to experience an entire day of teaching bliss.  Perfect students, perfect learning, perfect atmosphere.

I don't expect each and every day to be as perfect, but if the majority of them are even half as good as yesterday was, I'll be spending the rest of this school year walking on sunshine.

And, now it's time to get ready for another amazing day.  I'm excited, ready, and eager to get in to my classroom and have another day of AWESOME.


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