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!

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