Sunday, November 11, 2012

Best laid plans...

Lots of different moments in this past week.  For one, I had parent/teacher conferences.  I saw all but 5 of my kids, but only two of those five were parents I had no communication from whatsoever.  And one of THOSE kids had been out of country for three weeks.  So really, just one.  Pretty good, I must say. 

Overall, I found the evening incredibly positive and energizing.  I think it was the first time ever in my teaching career that I felt ready and significant and knowledgeable about what I was doing.  It reminded me of the very first time I ever had conferences.  I did them with my teaching mentor, dear Mags, love her still- and I was completely blown away by how IN CHARGE she was.  A great commander, but it was so pleasant and helpful, but it was also honest and there was no sugar coating.  This is what is wrong, this is how we're going to fix it, and this is what it'll look like when we're done.  She was magical.  And I felt some of that on Wednesday.

I was also able to use some of the insight I'd gained through an on-line ESOL class and be able to encourage my parents to go ahead and teach their children how to read and write in their native tongue.  So many of them concentrate on behavior, because they know they can help with that, but feel powerless when it comes to the English.  Being able to tell them that they would be doing their children a  great service for the future to make them literate in both languages was encouraging and uplifting, and brought a smile to everyone. 

But working my conferences with a translator at many of them made me feel like I really need to learn some Spanish.  It's isolating to be sitting there and wanting to participate, but having to wait my turn to hear what's being said. I suppose it must be how they feel much of their day in an English environment waiting on a translation.  So I'm going to look into a little language touch-up.

I also got to visit a PYP school this week, take a tour, and have a pretty good discussion on integrating math across the curriculum.  I think the most interesting thing I took away from the day was actually seeing two different classrooms prepare for student-led conferences.  Pretty exciting idea, the student taking on the responsibility to discuss their strengths and weaknesses and lay out a plan to improve or change.  I was talking to a second grader at one point who was filling out his conference plan worksheet.  So here he is- a punk rock kid with a faux hawk and skull earrings in both ears, and he's got listed on his sheet that he is doing a super job at showing caring in the classroom but he's got to work on his risk-taking.  Seriously, kid?  I think you've got that part covered.  But after talking to him for a little, it turns out he was talking about how he needed to be a risk-taker in spelling.  "I won't write a word down unless I know how to spell it, and that makes my writing slow and not very interesting.  So I've got to start taking risks with my spelling."  Pretty cool coming out of an eight year old, I have to say.  Rock on, buddy!

So, of course I had a sub that day.  And in my sub binder it does talk about how we're focusing on the positive and talking about behaviors rather than people.  And then I come back into the classroom and see that there are a list of names written on the board underneath an unhappy face.  And here's a list of notes about so and so did this, and I didn't give any punches to THESE BOYS because blah blah blah.  Really?  Come on!  So irritating.  So, I've gone back to my sub binder file and added in a whole section on how I do not accept shame systems in my room and they are not to do it under any circumstances.  Not that anyone is going to listen, but I want it NOTED.  And then I had to gather up my boys and talk to them and try to smooth out the kinks.  Of course this had to happen to my boys that have very negative feelings about school and I've worked so hard at helping them see the positive.  Booger.  One of them wouldn't even answer me for an hour.  Now granted, he should NOT have been arm wrestling during reading centers- but frankly, if I can keep that from happening on a daily basis, what the heck was the sub doing?  Grrrrrrr.acious.  I should just change that to gracious, and stop being upset over it.  But it's hard. 

But I'm going to move forward.  It was still a positive Friday.  They finished up a small moments piece of writing for me, so we'll be ready to move on to Writing for Readers next week.  And I had a great rotation of reading groups where we practiced using highlighting tape to really zero in on the basics of a passage and use those key words to write a summary.  Got my second quarter math pre-assessment finished, so I;m crunching data this weekend to share with the kids next week.  And we had a great science class watching Bill Nye the Science Guy on magnets.  Lots of times, to be honest, I throw in a video just to be able to breathe after a stressful day.  But I actually did some legitimate teaching with this one.  

Started out by making a big chart of everything they already thought they knew about magnets, and then we watched the first eight minutes of the video.  Checked off any thing that was confirmed, added to anything that needed to be fluffed for accuracy, crossed out anything that was wrong.  And then when we went to the next section of the video, we were watching for items still left unconfirmed and anything new.  Did that three different times, and I have to say, they really paid close attention to the video so they could add something to our chart.  You Tube has the Bill Nye episode sorted into three segments- but it's grainy because of the TV to digital factor.  But, if you don't have the actual show, worth using in a pinch.

Today is my birthday, so I'm going to be getting my Mexican Food and Cake on here soon- and it's also Veteran's Day- so thanks for your service dear people in the military!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Data Wall Worries

I've never really kept a data wall before.  My old school didn't do them when I was there, and then last year at the new school I just was clueless.  But I told myself this year I'd actually do it- but I worry sometimes about how to keep it accurate and respect every one's privacy at the same time.  I don't want any of my kids to be embarrassed by their data.

This is how I ended up doing my reading data:

The blue area is what is considered on grade level at the beginning of second grade, and the green area for the end of second grade.  The X's are each kid in my class, plotted by their DRA level.  So the concentration is not on WHO but WHERE we are.  No one has asked which X is theirs yet either.  In general, I think they know, because we talk about what level we are reading in group, and how we are making progress forward.  So nobody feels like they are stuck anywhere.  It was nice too that in a month we were able to push everybody up one, so I could cancel out one of the boxes with the yellow.  The kids felt proud of themselves for marching the X's along. 

At our school, we have a motto, "We are response-able to to the success of the group."  We talk about how we all work hard at becoming better readers to do our part in making our progress chart march forward.  It doesn't matter where we started, as long as we get somewhere at the end. 

I showed our goal at the bottom, what our chart will look like in June if everyone improves by a year from where they are now.  Personally, I would like all of the X's to get past the green.  I struggle with whether or not is it fair to set a goal for a child below grade level to advance more than a year's worth by June.  I mean, some kids do, that magic reading light bulb turns on and they go like gang busters.  But some kids, this isn't the light bulb year.  So what to do?

We discuss our progress charts during class meetings, and one little boy asked "Can we move our X farther ahead than just one year?  Can I take my X off the chart?"  And yeah, I got nervous- because I didn't want to say to them "some of you can, but some of you can't".  I was afraid for a moment, that if I told him yes, and he didn't progress very far, then what?  But then I thought, if I say no, why should he try?  And then I noticed a lot of WIIIIIIIDE eyes, and a little bit of leaning forward, and I could see it- their desire to achieve higher than what I had suggested was the "norm".  So I just said  "Yes.  As long as you keep trying to become a better reader, then your X will move.  And I will never stop your X.  If you make me need to make a bigger chart, I will make it."  Grins all around.

Do all of them try hard all the time?  Um, no.  They are eight, after all.  But for some, the chart provides intrinsic motivation.  That little boy goes back every once in awhile and taps his X.  I've even seen him drag his finger to the goal line and tap the X all the way at the end.  I think he's decided that one is going to be his.  And I know it will be, he'll decide when.  So I won't worry.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lining Up is a Piece of (Cheese)Cake

There was a post I had read over the summer, or last spring about a song a teacher was using as just a fun moment in her classroom.  Classically, I cannot find the post again or remember the post-er, so if it's you, or if you know WHO, then please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.  Wahoo- I just went all Seussy on that.

Moving forward...

Here is the song by Louis Armstrong:

I have noticed that this particular video always has a commercial before it, just so that you're aware of that.  But regardless, it is a great song!  Granted, my second graders are super music lovers this year, but I think it just has a playful fun quality that any group would enjoy. 

As far as becoming our lining up song, it started out easily enough that it was just a song I played at the end of the day as we packed up and got in our bus line.  And then one day, I said, "Hey gang, let's make a line up procedure with this song to help us with our goal".  (They were wanting to work on making a quick and quiet line that week.  Ah, me.  I just love my class this year.)  So we decided that I would say, "Line Up, Cheesecake."  and they would respond "Gobble Gobble, line up!"  It sort of works out that they get to say those four words, and know not to say anything afterwards until we get to our destination. 

Also, our school taught them in Kindergarten and First grade to walk "with a bubble in their mouths"  while in the hallway.  It makes for an incredibly long line of spectacularly bizarre fish faces.  Smushy cuteness on kindergartners.  Isn't that adorable on first graders! But second graders are sort of, "What the hey?  I know I look ridiculous doing this."  However, adding in this Gobble Gobble cheesecake dealio, they started walking with a bubble in their mouths again.  And I said to one of them one day, "Hey!  Nice Bubble, kiddo!"  And he said, "No, No, Ms. M.  It's not a bubble.  My mouth is full of cheesecake."  And so there we are.  We can't talk in the hallway because our mouth is full of cheesecake.  Works for me.

Loving every minute this year!  Hope you are enjoying yours as well.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Grading My Grading Ability is Greatly Grating

Awhile back I made a new school year's resolution to keep up with my gradebook this year, and not wait until the last minute to do it.  And this was based on how I didn't log in any of my grades last year at all until the computerized gradebook was due to the main office for archiving.  So I was hoping to be organized enough to keep up with the grades as they happened so I wouldn't have that mad rush at the end of the year.  I'm giving myself an S- in this category for my first quarter.  Since, I uh, just entered them all in now and the first quarter ended Friday.

However, I'm not failing myself completely, since for one, I actually have my grades and report cards done FOUR WHOLE DAYS before they are due.  Clearly I've been taken over by an alien.  Gee, I hope she diets and exercises for me before I have to return to my own body. 
Two, because of my awesome upkeep with my daily lesson plans over the last nine weeks, it was quite easy to look them over and see which grades I cared to enter into the gradebook and what date applied correctly.  Super stoked about that.
And three, doing this process this evening at home, made me realize that it would be easy enough for me to do on a weekly basis while I was creating my lesson plans for the week if I would just not be lazy about it.  IF, and JUST, and LAZY being key words for me. Ah well, maybe one day I'll grow up.

Looking back on the first quarter, I've decided to give myself the following grades and comments:
Class Management: S (I'm a helluva lot better than last year, but still room to improve )
Writing: S+ (I am rocking this out this year)
Reading S (But I'm learning a lot with the Jan Richardson Workshops, so perhaps S+ is in my future)
Math S- (I'm struggling with small groups and I'm behind in my pacing.  Boooooo)
Inquiry NS (I am still totally sucking this year.  Gahhhhhhhhh)
Teachery Duties: S (Overall, since I'm rocking keeping up with lesson plans, but I'm an S in general organization, and an S- in grading, so there we are.  Fence sitting.)

I'm not sure how I feel about my report card.  I wonder what my kids would give me?  I wonder what my colleagues would give me? But, it's good to reflect.  It's good to notice my shortcomings.  I might post this near my desk so I can try to focus more this next quarter.  Anybody else grading themselves?


Friday, November 2, 2012

Revisiting the Last Kid Picked

Economics.  I thought it would be awesome at the beginning of the year.  But, sheesh.  I don't know gang.  Maybe it deserves to be the last kid picked.  Maybe it really is the worst player in gym class...

Not to say that the kids did not have  a great time creating the town this year.  And, to be fair, I do have the whole rest of the year to get my act together- but the concepts seem a bit too hard for my kids at the beginning of the year.  So it wasn't as fun as it was last year, and we haven't accomplished as much.

It's a little tough on me too this year since I am hosting an addition five kids during that hour so I'm sporting 28 at the end of the day.  But my teammies who are not sporting the extra five kids are saying similar things.  They did not have as much fun with it this year as we did last year.  So poop.

One thing I did come across this year that was great was this book by Paul Fleischman.  Click on the picture to go to  This was a great read-aloud for actually creating a civilization.  My kids were able to get the whole concept of a main crop after hearing this story.  And it got them excited about the idea of creating a different language and what not.  The book is pretty cerebral though- so it's not a "quick" read-aloud for a second grade crowd.  Much better done over a few days so they can chew over the information.

It did help that we had two weeks of Citizenship lessons before we started.  This economics curriculum is part of my PYP planner How We Organize Ourselves.  They were completely into the idea of community and citizen responsibility as we began this unit.  It also helped that we had been creating class mission and vision statements at this same time- because they were able to apply this to their pretend town.  They did decide on calling the town Super Mooseville, and they chose to have a lake town, which specializes in fish, corn, and mango, and our power is generated through wind mills.  I am hoping to be able to consistently use our town in other curriculum areas as a touching point.  We'll see how that goes.  The kids voted on what they wanted people to say about their town, and they came up with the following.  I had to help them out with the words multi-cultural and globally minded because they didn't have the vocabulary, but it was completely their idea that they wanted a place where no one felt different or unaccepted because of their race or skin color.

This has also helped me separate my kids into three project groups, since they each have expressed interest in one of the three concepts as being of interest to them.  My Clean Committee is currently working on designing a recycling center and plans to actually show it to our county recycling center. 

It's definitely going to be a year long project with this town- and I hope that over time I start to have more fun with it- but at the moment, the momentum is a bit slow.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My Love/Hate Relationship with Small Group Math

To be clear- I LOVE the concept of small group math.  I really do feel it is the best practice for making sure you are reaching your students.  But I HATE wrestling with curriculum pacing.  Small group work takes time.  It is not a bulldoze though sort of method.  But then I'm supposed to complete this entire math text in a very specific amount of time, and have county assessments done on time for data review, and it's sort of impossible to do all that without bulldozing through it.  So, what to do?  Suggestions, anyone?

Mercifully, I have a really good group this year, so when I've had to teach whole group, I haven't had behavioral issues.  Aaaannnd, when I've taught small group, the behavior hasn't been too bad either.  Just a noise level issue we're working on.  But I've been combating that by giving them a partner and separating them around the room. 

We did create an i-chart for math workshop time- kid generated of course, and it has been helpful.  I made a copy of it for each kid to keep in their math notebook.

This is one of the first charts I made this year, so I hadn't transitioned into the eye and ear and heart model yet- but it hasn't seemed necessary to update it to that style at this point.  I probably will for next year though, to keep all my i-charts cohesive.

What I'm working on currently, and hope to share regularly on Thursdays, is my battle with small group and whole group math.  I've been playing around with how to do centers with math, and thus far not found a method that feels successful for myself or my students.  I'm also working on creating partner friendly math kits.  Crappy picture, I know, but I can't find a pic of exactly what I'm talking about, and I haven't snapped a pic yet at school.  But I found these small square plastic lidded containers in the kitchen section of the Dollar Tree.  They are perfect for holding dice for quiet shakers, but they also fit the right amount of bingo  chips, coins for money games, and other little manipulatives that my math series uses for games.  I'm trying to get everything a pair of students would need to play any math game in their space, to fit in a plastic shoe box.  To set up my whole class, I'd only need twelve shoe boxes (which I have) and it would only take up half of my crate storage- which I'm currently using one third of anyway.

I'd really love to figure out a way to Daily 5-erize my math time.  And I know there's different things out there.  But like I said, I just haven't found anything that works for me yet.  If anybody has found a solution, please do share.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Checking In on My Daily 5

If this were a perfect world, I would have nothing interfering with my teaching schedule and could do reading and math all day long without having to worry about anything else.  But I live in a world of state standards and county expectations- so that's all there is to it.  I am making do the best I can though with a foundation of Daily 5-ish choices.

I have one mini-lesson, four reading groups to meet with each day, and nooooooooo transition time.  So it gets a little hairy, and mostly feels like a circus act on a daily basis.  But the world still spins, so must I continue on.

Turns out, I had to make more of a Daily 3 choice chart.  I just grouped items into similar pairs, and ideally, they would choose at least one thing from each category, but I haven't even forced them into that yet.

So I have their student number on the side, and then I put their names in the next column,  In the third column I have which meeting times they are with me or out of the room at ESOL or what not, this helps me know not to call on them for their choice.  To date, we have this process down to under a minute and a half.  I do not wait for them to say "ummmmmm....." I skip them immediately if they do.  That had trained them to know ahead of time what they are choosing.  I just write 1's in their choices for the first rotations, 2's for second and so on.  BkFx is my listening to reading station.  All my CD players went belly up, so they have been watching  and reading along with stories on Book Flix.  I only have five computers though, so there is a limit to who can pick this station at any given meeting time.  And going to the library is the choice I paired with it.  I'm only allowed to send three kids at a time- so I make sure I review the sheet  from the day before and give every student a chance to go over a two day period.

One nice thing about keeping the sheet is that I can see patterns in what the kids are choosing, and have a record of their work.

We also made a couple of different i-charts for two of their Daily 5 choices, they keep them in their book baskets for reference.

Again, both were generated with student input.  They decided on the language, and the rules.  It helped them own it.

Daily 5, overall, has freed me up while I meet with small groups for guided reading.  A time when I do not want to be disturbed.  Thus far, it is by far the best management tool I've ever used.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Writing Workshop Anchor Charts

In the midst of this storm I am trying to maintain my blog schedule.  Which is sort of nuts, as power outages are imminent.  They are actually calling for a potential blizzard in my part of the woods too.  Unbelievable.  But I also got out of the habit of blogging on a regular basis, and have started to experience a touch of guilt. 

I wasn't super pleased with my Writer's Workshop last year.  It was my first year with a school that was truly devoted to the Lucy Calkins model, and then I had been out of the loop for a couple of years anyway, and arg!  It just didn't go well.  But I have to say, I've been enjoying myself immensely this year.

For one, I utilized a bit of Daily 5 management magic and developed this Writer's Workshop I-chart.

We created this as a class- the students telling me what they felt belonged where.  I used the eye symbol for "what it should look like", the ear for "what it should sound like", and the heart for "what it should feel like".  Overall, I'm pleased with it.  The students have a copy in their writing folders, but also, since I have it on a flip chart for my promethean board, I can often just have it projected on my wall during writing workshop time unless we have an additional skill that needs highlighting.  I just don't like cluttering my walls with charts.

We've also done the Calkins' lesson on "When you think you're done".  Now, the kids at my school have had Calkins' style workshops since Kindergarten- so as soon as I begin this phrase, they instantly chime in with the ending.  Only thing is, they don't always know WHAT TO DO when they think they're done.  So we made a chart to help us along.  I did some guiding on this one, but they really took ahold of the ideas and were able to own their options for when they think they are done.  I also make sure that when I "finish" my sample writing, I go through the chart and they help me decide what else I could do.  Very rarely have they told me to start a new piece.  They generally find something else I could do to my work.  And therefore I see them apply that to their own writing as well.

We have also done a lesson on what we should write about when we have no idea.  Somewhere out here in blog land I found a heart map lesson that broke it down into what to put in your map to get started- and now of course, I can't find it.  So if you know where this post came from, or know it's you, please let me know so I can add a link to your page.  But this is what I did with it- This page is also printed out for the kids and kept in their writing folders.  I flash it up on the promethean board whenever somebody says they don't know what to write about.  And, we've said the phrase so often, the kids automatically tell the person who shouts out that they don't know to "go look in your heart!"  Granted, some kids have detailed hearts, and others did not want to be bothered with the exercise.  Mostly boys, why we create such men afraid of emotion I don't know, but at least they have the list of what they could pick, and that sometimes helps them think of something to write about.

And to end for today, here's the example heart I made about myself during the lesson.  I had big plans of actually transferring it to paper and making it more colorful, but I never got around to it.  I suppose I still can.  I might revisit this lesson again with them actually to see if some of those boys are willing to be risk-takers and show their sensitive side now.  Or maybe we should just naturally update our hearts once a quarter. Hrmmmmmm, something to consider.

You're welcome to use any of my charts.  If you've got a promethean board, I don't even mind e-mailing you the flip chart file.  Just shoot me an e-mail.

Stay safe in this storm everybody! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Morning Meeting Magic

I actually look forward to Mondays.  Sort of amazing, but I do.  I enjoy my Monday Morning Meeting that much.  As I enjoy alliteration...but anyway.  We start off our meeting with this great YouTube clip from Sesame Street.

Never mind that I loooooove this song.  The kids love it even more!  I was afraid at first to play it, because I thought they wouldn't like that it was from Sesame Street.  So I actually slipped it in about three weeks into the school year by telling them that I had a favorite song I wanted to show them but I was afraid they'd make fun of me.  They absolutely promised and crossed their hearts and pinky swore that they wouldn't.  So I played it.  And one of my tough kids yelled out all of a sudden "Hey! My old teacher used to play this!"  And he got up and started dancing.   So then everybody did.  And we haven't looked back.  We play it at least once everyday- and they ask for it as a reward as well.

They sing along and do the dance moves.  It makes me happy.  And it puts us in a very positive frame of mind as we begin our day.

I keep my class meetings in a flip chart for my Promethean Board. I have to keep them in a binder as well for the Administration, so I just print it out after we're done.  I like it in the flip chart because we can easily look back at the week before, and see if we have to revisit anything. 

For the past two weeks, my kids have been talking about a problem they have pushing and shoving when they get in line.  This is a problem they came up with, and not one that I mentioned at all.  I can't say that I'd even thought about it.  I had kind of thought it was just sort of natural.  But they brought it up, and actually wanted to spend meeting time workshopping the issue.  So the first week they decided to try  three different "tools" they'd learned in guidance lessons to solve the problem.  They picked ignore, don't sweat the small stuff, and stop and think.  I did not interfere with the decision.  Yeah, I could see how the first two tools were not going to fix the line problem, but what good is it if I tell them?

So we went through the week, and the pushing and shoving problem did not go away.  When we met again last Monday, I asked - is it fixed?  And they said NO.  Did your tools help?  And guess what, without me telling them, they said the first two were no good.  And then one of the boys said, the last one should have worked.  And after they talked a bit, they decided the problem was what to do when they stopped and thought.  So, another meeting spent workshopping the line issue.  But, I have to say, it went better this week because we had something specific to practice.

And another great thing about having it on the board is that I can bring it up whenever we do have to line up so they can look it over for themselves.

Sadly, I am missing my Monday Meeting because of Hurricane Sandy.  Stay safe everybody.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The B In My Bonnet - Behaviorally Speaking...

So, I was blog surfing a week or two ago and came across a little gem of a post by Nikki at Teaching in Progress concerning how she will never use a clip chart again!  Explosive stuff, I tell ya.  But it was an explosion I was right there with her jamming down on the detonate button. Huge response to her post spurned on a great linky party, which I was invited to link up with and gratefully do so. 

Why do I hate greatly dislike clip charts and card turner systems anyway? 

One, they are completely subjective based on your emotional investment at the time.  It bends to what you find annoying at that single moment- and as human beings, we are flawed by having our level of annoyance vary by the degree of which we already find the other party annoying in the first place.  Squeaky Clean Suzy made a silly joke during a lesson!  Well, shucks, she's soooooo good most of the time though- so we'll just give her a verbal warning. 

But dang it if  Super Annoying Andy didn't make a ridiculous joke and got everybody laughing.  Turn your card ANDY!  See?  Don't pretend you're not guilty.  I have not met a single teacher yet that this hasn't happened to.  Does it ever stop Andy from his antics?  Of course not.  Why else would you have a nickname for him already?  Why else would you groan a little inside when everyone is out with the flu but Andy has shown up to school because he has the immune system of a god?  (Fact:  The most disruptive child always is the most healthy)

Two:  It's a system of shame.  "Andy!  Go move your card!"  Aside from the fact that he's going to argue with you.  Aside from the fact that he's going to drag his feet to go do it.  Aside from  the fact that he will mumble the whole way over there and the whole way back.  Aside from the fact that he's going to get back to his seat and either throw his head down OR more than likely, make sure he does something EVEN WORSE to get under your skin -  Andy has been made the center of negative attention to an audience of his peers.  Those that hold the card system sacred are going to go home and tell an Andy story to their parents.  Who will, in turn, create in their minds a negative opinion of Andy. (Andy is never going to get a date in this county...) And you will have no control over whether or not they repeat that negative story to other parents or even Andy's parents.  You are directly affecting Andy's reputation out in the community because you didn't care for his joke in the middle of your magnet lesson.

Three: Look at your clip chart or card system at any given moment of the day- are you concentrating on how many cards/clips haven't been moved?  Or are you thinking about the ones that have, and how you have to write a note home to the parents, or make so-and-so sit out at recess?  It concentrates on the negative.  It puts you in a negative frame of mind each time you look at it.  Oh, but I'm going to reward those kids who never have their card moved!  Hey, sport, good for you.  But, uh, trust me, they've already been rewarded ALL DAY by your praise, attention, positive statements, and occasional mercy by not having them move their card.  But your repeat offenders...they don't believe you will EVER reward them.  Because you haven't noticed yet the excruciatingly painful two minutes Andy kept completely still, hoping you would notice.  Two minutes was all he had in him, and you totally missed it.

And then here is my major reason as a mother:
I've got three kids.  My little girl is the "perfect student"- I snort at this, since I get the opposite at home- but for whatever reason, she is a pleaser at school.  She will bring her teachers flowers and candy and write love notes.  She will study, make sure her homework is perfect, raise her hand for every question, try to help everybody with anything she can.  Her school uses the card system.  Ok, so she went to Kindergarten, and I told her teacher specifically to make sure her card got moved- early on and often.  Wow, am I a horrible mom,or what? (Well, not in this situation, anyway)  No!  I was trying to avoid our third grade snafu.  She needed to get it over with so it wasn't a big deal.  She needed to get it over with so she could empathize with the Andys of the world.  But, alas, her Kindergarten teacher thought she was perfect.  So in first grade, I told her teacher to move her card, early and often.  But again, she was perfect.  Already at this point in her life she's bringing home the Andy stories, and the little chant "I've never moved my card!" (And no, I'm not ever going to let her date Andy) Second grade comes along - Please for the love of God move her stinking card.  But no, she was too perfect. 

So here we are- third grade.  I didn't even bother saying anything to the teacher this year.  But lo and behold! I come home from work, and where is Squirt?  Hiding.  She is hiding from ME, and sobbing in the most dramatic princessy way. (Which, I have noooooo patience for)  She's been this way since she got home two hours earlier, and now I have to wait another hour to get her to pull herself together so she can tell me her card got moved because Andy told her a joke and she thought it was funny so she laughed really loud.  (On Andy's behalf, he's learned to whisper the jokes by now.  Good strategy, Andy!) 

Dudes, this is my CHILD that is traumatized.  Mama Bear mode ACTIVATED.  Why is she crying?  She thinks I am going to HATE her. My kid thinks that her own mother is going to hate her because of a stupid stinking card.  I'm going to be paying for therapy for years.  I told her I do not care about the card.  I told her I thought it was stupid. (Yes, I did, and I really don't care if she goes back and tells her teacher that- since I'll have my fifteen minutes on parents conference day to go over it myself).  She still does not believe me. It's been over a month now. This is what she says to me "But you're a teacher!"  Yeah, buddy, I am.  But why should that mean I hate a student?  Why does she think getting her card turned equals being hated?  Because of dang Andy, everybody!  The kid is an outcast at eight years old.  And Squirt is PETRIFIED of that happening to her.  And now I am thinking about Andy.  Does Andy think his teacher hates him?  Does Andy think his mother hates him?  Does Andy's mother think the teacher hates him? Sooo disturbing.

Let's think for a second about behavior that we turn cards for.
Kids talking while we're teaching.  Yeah, It annoys me too- but, um, check yourself out at your next staff meeting.  Tell me you haven't started whispering to your teammate or started to draw nasty pictures of somebody that's kissing up? 

Disruptive calling out.  Hey, I know I've cracked sarcastic jokes at staff meetings.  It's thrilling

Kids getting out of their spaces without permission.  I've gotten up while someone was speaking to go to the bathroom.  I'm an adult, why should I wet my pants in front of everybody? (That kid in your class is very possibly making the same decision.)  I've also left because I decided a phone call I wanted to make was more important than hearing about one more assessment I should be giving.  It doesn't matter that I'm an adult and this is a child.  Children are learning independence- they are going to attempt to make decisions for themselves.  So in the midst of them attempting to be independent, we smack them down.  But then get mad when they don't get up and take care of their pencil instead of just sitting there not working at all.  Kids don't get the nuances of decision making.  It's all or nothing with them, and we are sending seriously mixed messages.

When we get down to it- after you've named the behavior you don't like AND given them some options for choices they could make that you would like- why do you need them to turn a card?  You've spoken.  You've said what the important message was.  Why does a card have more merit than your words?  But they didn't do what I wanted!  Then, babes, you didn't offer them enough choices on how to accomplish the goal.  You can do this, I swear.  You know there is more than one way to skin a cat.  Don't give them only one choice.  You're asking for defiance.

Recess time comes a long and you want to make them pay for the disruption by a reminder hours after the fact of what they did.  Seriously- are you still mad at that point?  Why are you carrying that feeling around with you?  Our jobs are stressful enough.  When recess time rolls around, if I've had a bad day, I don't want these kids around me.  I don't want to have to monitor their behavior even longer and listen to them getting angrier.  Maybe their disruption was based on the need to get some energy out.  What sort of afternoon are you going to have if they weren't able to?  And besides, we give more courtesy to dogs than we do our students.  We know that you can't punish a dog after the fact.  We know you can only punish a dog at the moment of disobedience.  And yet we hang on to a child's wrong doing for hours.  Come on, gang, we've got to be honest about ourselves.

So what do I do instead? 

Kids talking during a lesson:  I use an attention getter before I begin.  I'm playing around with whole brain teaching this year, so my kids are loving Class/Yes and Hands and Eyes.  I make sure I talk in short bursts, and have a turn and talk period right after.  Unusual days of strange barometric pressure and they just can't get themselves under control?  I say out loud "Ok then.  I'll wait!"  And I sit down and look reaaaaalllllly bored.  I stare at the floor. Or sigh at the ceiling.  My kids that are teacher pleasers, immediately get all shushied and get everybody else to stop talking too.  And then I start again where I was.  Do I spend time on being angry?  No.  I don't have the time.

Disruptive calling out:  I ignore it and say "I am looking for a student who is modeling raising a hand to speak".  And I do not call on the blurter until they model it correctly.  Generally, they do try it the very next opportunity, so I make sure to pick them next so they can feel that it was worth it.  The joke cracking, or completely off topic shout-out does not get my time at all.  I bulldoze right over it.  If you give the joke any of your attention at all, the joker won. Plain and simple.  They told the joke for the attention, they don't care whether it's negative or positive.  Sometimes my way of ignoring it is to ask them a question related to what we are talking about.  If they can't answer, I simply say, "I'll come back around to you in a minute to give you time to think of an appropriate answer"  and I do make sure I come back around.  They either have an answer that's valid, or they stare at the floor.  If they answer the question correctly, PRAISE the answer.  Follow up with, "can anyone add on to so-and-so's great comment?" Either way- no joke is being cracked.  Winner = ME (and the joker- they've gotten exposure to positive encouragement).

Kids out of their spaces:  Make sure it's on your terms.  Even adults don't sit still all day- don't force a kid to do that.  It's painful.  I make movement part of my daily routine.  We do a brain gym activity on You Tube to start our day.

During writing and reading time, after I've given my mini-lesson, I let them sit anywhere in the room where "they want".  The trick is, I've labeled the other spots available, so they aren't actually "anywhere".  But the ones that don't like to sit at a desk, have NINE other options.  Some lay down on the carpet.  Others sit on crate seats.  Some enjoy the floor with a seat cushion and a lap desk.  And some still sit at a desk, but they're sitting at , someone else's desk, which for some reason THRILLS them to no end. Whenever possible, I do let them work with a partner. 

We start off math with a video that they can dance to.  I've shared a count by fives video in another post,
but my kids are also liking this count by twos video:

They move up and down with the monkeys.  It's also meeting one of my curriculum objectives, so double cool beans for us all.  They actually request this video as a treat.  And after I've done my math mini-lesson, while I meet with small groups, they can sit in other places with their partners.  All of the choice I've infused into my day keeps kids from getting jittery at their seats.

And, yeah, I know there are tons of other behaviors out there that tick us off, but once you put yourself into a positive frame of mind, you start finding solutions.

Last thought before I end this super long post.  I've got a boy this year ( and I've had a kid like this EVERY YEAR) that really hates writing time.  I was going through his writing folder the other day and found an unfinished story about how much he hated school.  In the past, I would have ignored it, or even been aggravated by it.  Because I'm AWESOME darn it, how can he hate school?  But my psyche aside, at the next writer's workshop when I came upon him clearly NOT WRITING when he was supposed to be,  I said "Hey buddy, I saw that story you had in your folder about hating school." Immediately his body language got defensive, he thought for sure I was going to bless him out about it.  "You were doing a really great job on that one.  There was lots of emotion, and you were doing this really cool compare and contrast thing when every other page said what you did like.  I'd love to see how that story ends."  His body went limp in shock.  He had no idea what to say to me.  And then I walked away. 

I did not visit his space again to nag him or see what he was up to. Twenty minutes later, he brought me that finished story.  In nine weeks, it's the only story he's written with actual sentences as opposed to two word phrases.  There was an illustration on each page that matched the words instead of just random stick figures.  Winner = ME, but also my little buddy.  Because I am going to use that story as a spotlight author example next writer's workshop.  And Mr. I Hate Writing is going to be a star.  Will he do a great job on the next story?  Not necessarily.  I think there is A LOT going on there aside from just writing time- but he will have at least ONE great memory, one moment where he SHINED doing something that he hated.  And that is not a feeling you can generate with any card or clip system.

If you read to the end of this- wow- you are a dedicated post reader.  I was an English major, so brevity isn't my thing.  And, to be honest, neither is classroom management.  This is my year where I'm really focusing on it as a goal, and trying to keep it positive.  I hope to share my experiences with behavior management on Sundays- so tune in again!

Monday, October 15, 2012


I had planned on doing a writing post for today- but Geezey Louisey I got all wrapped up in writing sub plans. - in a very minimalist way, mind you, because I'm FORCING them to use the binder, by crikey!- Still though, I was being thorough, I suppose.

Anyway- I used this video today in math and my kid LoooooooooooVeeeeeed it!  I have some serious dancers this year, I have to say.  Great things about this video- the beat is good, even no-rhythm me can shake my hips to this one.  It goes over skip counting by fives ( granted, it's just going to be a musical memory tool, and I still have to do the leg-work with teaching the WHY and WHEREFORE of skip counting, but ding dang, if it isn't catchy!) It's definitely a nice little cardio pick me up after any lengthy time spent slowly rotting away at their desks.

Give it a whirl if you've never seen it before. 

And isn't it sweet that the hand model guy is married?  Snarf. Yeah, yeah.  I know, bitter, jaded divorcee rears her ugly head...but it's comical, so I think we'll all just ignore my snarky-ness.  Start exercising, peeps! ;P

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How mediocre is my management?

In any given year, I'm probably a five on a scale of ten.  Which means I'm mediocre in my mediocrity...snarf.  It's one of my goals to get myself better at class management though- so I've been putting in a greater effort this year.  Granted, my kids are gems this year- but I've implemented some changes.

One, I got rid of some of the teachery things I used to do that actually added to my stress.  Like, morning work for example.  It became a pile of papers I never wanted to look at- and actually didn't even NEED to look at, because it was never part of the report card.  So do my kids run wild every morning?  Absolutely not.  Half of them are eating breakfast at their desks.  The other half are either reading a book, writing a story, free drawing, or helping me with a chore.  Just last week, one kid asked if he could clean the desks with baby wipes, and when I turned around, everyone had gotten a baby wipe and was cleaning the whole room.  GEMS, I told you.  Little treasures of skin and bone, each one of them.

Cleaning up in general is pretty breezy because I've put it to music.  It turns out, that they love this song:

It's our "whistle as you work" anthem.  All I have to say is "the room has to be completely clean by the end of the song".  If they finish before the song is over, they can go to the carpet and dance.  Works like magic.  I rarely have anything left on the floor, and my stuff is put away exactly where I told them to put it.  Best part is, I hear them humming it under their breath all day long. Haha!  Makes me snort.

I'm also concentrating on the positve this year whenever I talk with them.  It's all very much about what WE CAN DO as oppossed to what we shouldn't be doing.  Kids can come up with the wrong ideas on their own, they don't need my expertise on it (and I knooooow how to misbehave, my lovelies) but they do need a lot of help thinking up WHAT TO DO instead.  I've found that since I start the ball rolling with mentioning what could be happening, they internally try to do what I suggested since they already know that I like it, and they come up with new ideas when I get all super sappy butt kissy when they do.  Any idea they come up with is always the most fabulous thing I've ever heard.

A lot of this goes does in the morning meeting on Mondays.  I've really been enjoying them this year.  We always go over the things we think we did well the week before, and then think of some goals we'd like to work on for the current week.  The last thing we talk about is IF anyone has a problem they'd like to find a solution to.  And then we get crafty for a few minutes. We keep it all charted on the promethean board, and then I print it out afterwards and put it in our meeting binder.  How do I get kids to open up and talk?  Heh heh.  I put their name after whatever they volunteer for the board.  They are now crazy to be quoted.  Yes, yes, everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame.  EVERYONE.

The yellow box just mentions anything extra we did that day.  Sometimes we make another slide to go with the meeting, this particular day we had a discussion on how people show that they care, appreciate, and emapathize with others.  Then we made new name tags for their desks and they had to write a sentence about how they could be caring in the classroom.

In November, we'll make new tags and feature a new attitude.

I've also been dabbling in Whole Brain Teaching techniques.  We've got that class/yes deal down.  They looooove doing Mirror.  We just started trying out Teach/OK and they thought it was a lot of fun.  I never did get going with the rules though- but I think I'll be adding that in, even though tardily.  Haven't needed a score board.  And not sure if I'm sold on that part of it yet anyway- BUT overall- I really enjoy it.  And so do the kids.  Which is enough for me.

I think I've decided to talk about management every Sunday as a regular gig.  So I'm going to end for now.  Besides, dinner is ready. Yummo.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Return from The Phantom Zone

Two super duper geek points is the title means anything to you! But let's move forward.

What the Hey, yeah?  I have no idea either.  Except I got completely wrapped up in my job.  Which shouldn't be a bad thing, but it is, sorta sad, on a "You remember you have a family and outside interests don't you?" sort of level.  I did manage to get myself and my kids to a park today though.  Went on a swing set, attempted to go down a slide.  Got a little stuck.  Found out I was a wee bit claustophobic.  Then went down another slide, and thought I would die from the g-force.  Was childhood always so near death?  Or am I just too big for the play equipment?  Which is also sort of sad, in a "you are so fat from your emotional eating, put down that donut and have some self respect" kind of way.  Big BUT(T) here.. it's pumpkin donut season, and I have TOO much self respect to miss out on that.

Anyway- things have been going well.  Six weeks down.  I've had my entire week planned out by Sunday morning for all six weeks. Still mostly organized in the classroom.  I seem to have a pile that travels from my back table to my desk on a daily basis that I can't seem to conquer.  But I think this is my week to be queen of the mountain.  Maybe.  Depends on the donut intake.  Classroom decor, hermmmmm, still not so hot.  I did manage to get myself a high school teacher cadet helper though- so there is bulletin board paper on the back board now.  It's blank.  But it's blue.  So it's calming.

Two weeks ago I started the homework folder idea I had last year.  At the moment, it only has their leveled reading books and some math games in it, but every few days I add something else to it, and if I get it humming this year, it'll be a breeze next year.  Thus far I like the system.  I don't have to assign work on a daily basis, or handle paperwork.  The kids are actually doing the work longer than the required amount of time because they "think" it's their choice.  I am a teacher ninja!

Have my sub folder up-to-date, and it's working out super well- except for the fact that the subs that have been coming into the building seem to feel like I should only be having them sing songs and play games and watch videos all day- so they ignore my binder.  ***big heavy frustrated sigh***  You can lead a horse to water....yada yada.

I'm having mixed success with small group math.  Very successful with one-on-one interviews and taking annecdotal records, and using those notes to create groups.  Buuuuut- I'm behind in my pacing.  By a week.  So it's all about playing catch-up.  And I hate that feeling.

Writer's Workshop is thus far my favorite.  I feel like I've been doing it justice this year.  Have already written two sample stories with the kids, half way through my third.  Made many many anchor charts, have them keeping themselves organized in their writing folders.  Having success with them keeping up with table boxes of writing supplies that are stored conveniently in the crate seats.

Our guided reading schedule is a go, and it's at break neck speed! From 9:50 to 11:00 I am a nonstop reading machine switching between mini lesson and three groups, and then I have a fourth after lunch.  It is not my favorite time of day, since it goes so quickly and I despise not having any transition time.  I feel that circus music theme going through my head every day for an hour. I've been keeping up with my running records folder and all though- so hooray for my new effeciency.

My PYP sciecne/social studies time is a big poopy though.  I have not done it justice.  All of the excitement I had for my econ unit last year is lost this year.  Maybe Econ just needs to be last.  Grr.  Had some great read-alouds though.  So at least there was that.  And we're starting a new unit on Maps this week, so maybe things will get back to normal.

I have hopes of getting back to my blogging schedule.  I even typed up a plan today.  So everybody grab a donut, and settle in for the fall...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

First Week Down

Number One- my class is awesome.  I am going to love this year.
Number Two- two weeks in a row and I have my week's lesson plans done.  So I'm doing pretty good so far.
Number Three- I've even already gone over their initial assessments and made note of them in the computer, so I am on my way to maintaining my grade book.
Number Four- Things are still organized in the room, it's looking good.  I've been able to find everything when I needed it- and the kids even know where everythign is too!
Number Five- I just haven't had time to decorate still, or blog.  I'll have to find the time somehow.

Here's some pics:


Monday, September 3, 2012

Let's Just Plus/Delta this Situation...

Gosh darn it, Kittens- I do not have skills when it comes to estimating organization.  Which probably stems from not having organizational skills.  Regardless- NOOOOOO, I didn't get it all done like I wanted, planned, goal workshopped. Delta.
But, hey, let's PLUS this out by saying that I cleaned the Beejezus out of the mess, and at least I'm not ashamed of anyone looking in on it anymore. 
Delta. I just don't have any cute paper up.  I didn't get to make my conifer tree for my library. I don't have a cupcake pillow on my chair. Blah.

Plus: I sure as Shazam It won't have to do this again next year.  I got RID of at least half of it.  Not so sure that Good Will truly appreciated my donation- but I care not! It's NOT COMING BACK.

Plus: Packing up should be breezy easy, and not the nightmare that it was last June.
Plus: I know where EVERYTHING is now.  I DYMOed the H- E-double hockey sticks out of everything,
Plus: I know what to spend my instructional money on this year.  And it sure as West By-Golly won't be OFFICE SUPPLIES.  I'll have to take pictures of the amount of pencils I have at this moment.  The soul of a small decidious forest cries out in the dead of night...

Delta: I am disappointed that I didn't get the decorating done.  Like, seriously bummed out.  Which led to some emotional eating, and the scale gave me the ugly finger today when I stepped on it.  It'll be a week of nothing but bananas for sure now...

Pictures then:  And I've noticed that some of them are not showing up well, and I can't fix it, and sorry- but I AM GOING TO BED so I can teach tomorrow.  But hey! PLUS: I have my whole week written out on my computer.  Delta: I haven't actually photocopied anything that I need.  And whooooooo will be going in as early as possible tomorrow? Yes, dears, meeeeeeee.

I didn't link up with a classroom reveal, because it's not decorated yet.  I hope it is still ok to do that in a couple of weeks when I actually get it all pretty.

Oh, and how did all of that "You have so much Shtuff" naysayers situation work out?  Throughout the whole process my team was great.  Karen helped me out loads on Friday afternoon as I started to mentally hemmorage during a ridiculous unneccesry staff meeting.  Gads, my one eyebrow was sweating uncontrollably.  The folks that had made such a point of saying how much I had, never bothered to come back and retract their statements.  I even had one lingering on Thursday saying over and over "I just don't think you're going to get this all put away" over and over again.  And that was hard, since I REALLY like that girl.  I decided that I needed to excuse myself to the bathroom to keep myself from flinging myself upon her in a rage.  She sleeps easy tonight, babydolls- don't you worry.  And in the end- I guess it doesn't matter what they said.  I've got it cleaned up now- and therefore no one can come in and say anything in the future.  I'm dedicating myself to keeping it like this.  I hope hope hope I can do it.  I really like how clean it is.

Happy Teaching tomorrow everybody!  It'll be my first day with the cherubs.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Getting My Act Together, Part Deux

And I think I should add, that making a plan based upon a goal without educating yourself on the parameters of the situation FIRST is also just as foolish.  At least I know what is going on this week though with the job I need to accomplish, however.

So, in the attempt to educate myself on my situation, I've looked up this week's agenda at school.
There are only two one-hour blocks available on Monday to work in my room.
There are four one-hour blocks available on Tuesday morning.
All day Wednesday should be available.
There are five one-hour blocks available on Thursday BEFORE open house at 2pm.
All day Friday should be available.

1) I know that I have my student desk groups full of stuff I'm trying to give away.  Looking at it sitting there brings me down, and prevents me from moving about the room freely, and draws people in to my room to either ogle or shop.  It's gotta go.  Monday at 3:30, I'm tossing what's left of it into bags and taking it down the street to Goodwill.
2) I know that the largest job left undone in the room is sorting the library books.  I also know that this takes HOURS.  I also know that I don't have hours to do this at school.  Soooo, it's got to come home with me.  Since most of it is still in boxes, I've got to load the car with the boxes  on Monday after I've taken the load to Goodwill and bring it home to sort Monday and Tuesday night.
3) I know that out of those library books, I have too many to fit in my library.  So the purpose of sorting is to reduce my inventory.  Pull out books that go with my PYP units and set aside to put in the bins so all of my unit stuff is kept together. I know I have repeats of some titles, so that will be easy to take care of. Repeats that I bought with my own money keep here at home for my kids to use. With the rest, I'm going to have to be really picky and only keep the good quality books.  Good quality being defined by not only condition of binding, but also quality of story.  Some books are stinkers, and you know it!
4) Place books that I am not keeping in boxes in hallway outside of room until Thursday afternoon.  Allow teachers and visiting parents to select at will.  Keep it out of the room so they aren't coming IN to bug me.  Anything left on Thursday afternoon take down to McKay's used books and get a credit.
5) The only places left to store my items are the built-ins on the far wall, and five plastic bins under the student computers.  Oh, and I have a filing cabinet that I have to fit in that room somewhere...  Use my super supply of clear plastic shoe boxes to pack my keepers in and fill the built-ins, use the plastic bins under the computers to put away Fairy Tale Unit supplies, Measuring math manipulatives, and the excess folders/mailing labels/divider sort of office supplies.  This should leave two bins empty for any future need. Put my reading A-Z stuff and extra hanging file folders, and other office supply sort of paper stuff in the filing cabinet. I also still have half of my pull-out drawers left free so I can finish putting away my paper clip type stuff.
6) Label all of the bins and drawers with the fancy Dymo machine my Dad got me. Loooove it.
7) And Hey! I totally forgot about my teacher desk!  I really don't use it ever, as I sit at the small group table to teach or I'm on the carpet with whole group meetings.  But it does have three drawers.  I will need to be selective about this area.  I suppose this is the best place to store my lesson planning tools and student data.  And THAT'S IT.  Nothing else is getting jammed in there.  That way, any time I have a sub or an administrator needs to come in and look at my things, all they need to do is search the desk. Excellent. I feel good about that plan.
8) Gah, I almost forgot about the ribbon I was going to put on the library book baskets.  Ok.  Here's an idea:  take the ribbon in a bag with me to the all day staff development meeting and cut it into sections while I'm "listening".  That's terrible isn't it?  Especially after I posted about acting like children during these things.  Arg!  Why did I have to develop a conscience about this?  I guess add that to the list of things to bring home Monday. Sheesh.

Having the room organized and decorated by Thursday at 2pm is my goal.
I have to concentrate on the organized portion first.  If the kids come to visit on Thursday and the colored paper isn't on the bulletin board yet, no big deal.  It's more important that things are clean and orderly first.

So my steps are:
1) Spend the two available hours on Monday putting away the remaining office supplies, and organizing the math and language arts materials in the plastic shoe boxes.
2) Take the left over freebies to Goodwill, and bring my library boxes  and ribbon to cut home.
3) Bring back the library books I did manage to get sorted on Monday night and place in baskets Tuesday morning to keep it tidy.
4) Spend the four hours available on Tuesday finishing up putting things away and labeling with the Dymo machine.
5) Make sure that I've dusted, wiped off surfaces, cleaned my windows, and vacuumed the blue carpet.
6) Get a plug-in air freshener.
7) Wednesday morning, bring in remaining sorted library books, attach ribbons to baskets, add hanging tags, and arrange books by 11am.
8) Use the rest of Wednesday and Thursday morning to decorate.

If this works, my evidence that I met my goal will be that I will have the room completely organized and clean by mid-morning Wednesday and decorated by Thursday at noon. Re-assess Tuesday evening to create decorating action plan. I'll be sure to take pictures, so I can do a before and after decorating post.

Here we go, folks!  Let's try to knock this out of the park.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I hurt all the way down to my pancreas.

At the beginning of this week I had big plans.  Lots of posts, lots of pictures, lots to celebrate.  But kittens, that room swallowed me whole. This is the only picture I'm sharing of the room today.  I just want you to understand that EVERY. SINGLE. TABLE. in the room looked like this one.

So what the eff happened, eh?  I had a goal chart, darn it!  That should have been enough! And do not doubt that I have not over-analyzed this week's failures and successes to figure out just what the hey is my problem. Let's go back to the tape, Steve, and see why this chick is such a loser...

See how I have number 3 and 4 in the steps section?  I found it impossible to sort without having anything to sort on.  So I arranged all of my furniture first.  And then I stacked all of the things I brought from my old room on the carpet- and when I looked a that the previous teacher had left me, I discovered this: Every shelf, drawer, cabinet, surface was filled.  You can't put your own things away without anywhere to put it.  So I had to do number 4 on the list first.  I took EVERY. SINGLE. THING. off of the shelves, and out of cabinets and drawers and sorted them into said piles.  This is the point where people started feeling the need to drop in and talk about how much stuff "I" had. And I've got plenty to say about that, but I will wait to rant.  Then I decided that I couldn't possibly make a decision about what to keep or what to get rid of unless I also knew what I had.  So I unpacked all of my boxes and sorted them by subject area right on top of the stuff I was left.  This made for extremely high piles. I understand that this is the twelve-year old method of cleaning, and horribly inefficient.  But I have ZERO SKILLS here.  So I'm doing the best I can!  And then of course the earlier folks went and told other folks and then THEY had to come in and talk about how much stuff I had.

I thought it would only take me two days to do this sorting and putting away. Barf.  I took the whole week and I'm still not done.  The first day I wasn't able to get into my room until one o'clock, and I had to leave at three-thirty. This was mostly spent furniture arranging.  I got the closet and first shelf of built-ins emptied and sorted. The second day, I had to take Sweetie J to the doctor so I only worked from nine until one. I finished emptying all of the shelves, drawers and cabinets by the time I had to leave. Then I had three full days of nine to three-forty.  And as of yesterday, I had managed to sort through everything but my library, pile five student desk grouping high with things to give away, organize my storage closet, put away all of my craft, science, and social studies supplies, and get a third of my office supplies put away.  Things left sorted, yet untouched: language, math, 2/3 of office supplies.

I did invite the teachers in to take my stuff on Friday.  I sent an e-mail out announcing the frenzy Thursday evening, and even had some late night early-bird shoppers.  More shoppers on Friday,  and I did get rid of a chunk of it.  I am running the freebie frenzy one more day on Monday, as the entire staff will be in the building that day.  But as of Monday at three o'clock- what's left is going to Goodwill.  I need to get my stuff put away, and I've got to decorate the room, and I can't do it with that stuff staring at me, and people coming into the room to make comments about it.

Ok- I'm going to rant for a moment. It will not be pretty.  Skip to the next paragraph if you want the world to remain all lollipops and rainbows, or continue believing that I'm an overly pleasant person.  GIVE ME A FREAKING BREAK!  I did not move into an empty room.  It was FILLED.  And I bet if they went into their rooms and emptied their drawers and shelves and cabinets that they didn't have to pack up back in June they would have STUFF too. Thanks for the encouragement people.  I'm so happy to know that you are responsible for building up and encouraging the youth of today when you cannot spare a supporting word for someone you work with or at the very least hold your M-F tounge. Freaking hypocrites telling kids "I believe in you!" when they can't have a second's pause for the attempts of a grown adult woman trying to become a less cluttered and organized person. And if you are not in here to take some of this stuff out of my room, then get the eff out! Slam door and lock it.  But then open it again because I need the darn people to come in and take this stuff out of the way. Gaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Annnnnnndddddd END SCENE.

Things I am proud of myself for:
1) I did not leave the room to go socialize.
2) I did not leave work to go eat/shop
3) From the moment I got there to the moment I left, I set the timer for thirty minute chunks.  When the timer went off, I said to myself OUT LOUD "Great Job! You did a lot!" and then I sat down and ate a piece of fruit.  Put timer back on, and went back to work.
4) Every time I emptied a box I celebrated it.  Because it was an accomplishment to my progress. It was fantastically relieving to shout out "An Empty Box!" and throw it onto a pile.
5) Even thought there was some really super cool stuff left in my room- I looked at it and decided if I knew how to use it.  If I didn't, I put it on the give-away table.  I have too many goals this year in teaching to add one more on top of it.  Give it to someone who knows how to use it and will.
6) Every item that I recognized that I hadn't used an item the last year of teaching, I put on the give-away table.  I've been teaching ten years already, if I hadn't used it, I'm most likely not going to.  Plus I can always go borrow it later if I really need to.
7) If it was broken, I threw it away.
8) I cleared out the indoor recess box.  It was hard to do.  I am a nut for games. But our recess is only 15 minutes.  Seriously.  No longer.  If they can't take it out and get a game finished in fifteen minutes, it's not worth it.  Put it on the give-away.  Except for some super cool games that I had bought with my own money.  I confess to packing those up to be brought home.
9) Every time I did put something on the give away table I did say very loudly to myself "You do not need that!" If I threw it away I said " It's broken! Stop being ridiculous!"
10) I got all of my teacher stuff out of my house.  Except for those games I brought back.  But oh well.
11) I didn't curse out the people that came in to ogle.  I saved that for private when they couldn't hear me.  But by Thursday afternoon, when most of the piles were give away piles, and you could see my carpet, and I was clearly working on putting things away- I did make sure I said to them "I've made a lot of progress this week, and all of these five tables are give aways, thank you." This actually had no effect on them though.  So if they kept going, I just stopped even looking at them or answering and went back to work.
12) I used cereal boxes my friends had collected for me over the summer to create sections in my drawers to help me put away my office supplies.  They are super organized and I'm getting everything put away wonderfully.  I just have a box of paperclips to attack on Monday.

I would like to point out that my team was great.  They were encouraging as I sorted through my things and made me feel like I was accomplishing something.  If I've learned something this past week in regards to my teaching, it's definitely about the power of words.  If we're willing to say something negative to ANYBODY about ANY PROCESS, it's most likely trickling into our classroom dialogue with the children.  I've really got to watch for this during this upcoming year.  And not to say that at times someone will need to be corrected- but how am I going to go about telling them? Yes, I like sarcasm.  But it's really only something that should be used with close friends that really get you and understand where you're coming from in that moment.  I don't think any of the teachers in my building meant to be rude.  I don't think they meant to upset me.  I'm left wondering though how often I've said something that has hurt someone though and I never meant it?

Tomorrow I'll develop my goals for this next week.  Going to be tricky though- balancing the clean-up, decoration and all the meetings....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

And so it begins, again...

Tomorrow will be my first day back at work.  The idea is to use this week to get all of my belongings organized and the room put together.  And I absolutely must get it accomplished in these five days because next week I'll be in meetings and planning for the entire week.  And then Tuesday the 4th it all starts with the kids.  Looking back over the summer, I don't know that I accomplished what I thought I would.  That's my standard routine, of course. But, I did enjoy the time off, and what I did manage to do I am happy with- so it can't be all bad. 

I am moving rooms and I am not relishing the idea of all the sorting I have to do this week.  Even though I am sooooo happy to be going downstairs to be with my team, I know I have to throw out half of my old things and sort through what was left for me before I worry about my NEW things that are clogging up my house at the moment. Or decorate.  Which is what I'm more interested in doing.  And I'm very easily distracted when I'm doing a chore I'm not in to.  So I'm making myself a powerpoint to flash up on my promethean board while I work:

Snarf.  They sort of make me happy.

And I put the goal setting method I learned to use, and made myself a page for my first two days this week:

Overall, my plan is to spend two days cleaning, sorting, and tossing.  Wednesday I'll work on furniture arrangement and wall coverings.  Thursday my Dad is bringing my hoard from home, so I'll be putting that away.  And Friday for finishing touches.  I'll make another goal sheet for my decorating days to keep me on track.  I'm hoping for a look that is tasteful and not busy looking.  We'll see though, I have never pulled off that style before.