Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Golden Rule

One of my amazing co-teachers was remarking on my patience this morning. Compared to the other teacher with whom we work closely I am not even on the scale, I am so impatient. However, I think I have become more patient, and more loving, as a teacher in the past few years.

I credit this to being a parent. There are many times that I think about how I would want my daughter's teacher to respond to an issue. I want to believe that I treat my students the way that I want my child to be treated. That is the bar I set for myself. (I know my daughter's teacher, however, and I don't even come close to her. She is not only exceedingly patient, she is astoundingly happy at the same time.)

Paul Bogush's recent post reminded me of these thoughts. It's not quite the same idea, but it triggered my thinking. As always, his thoughts are well worth reading.

By the way, I don't believe that only parents make good teachers. I taught for five years before my first daughter was born and I think I did a pretty good job. My daughter's teacher is not a parent. I just think, that for me, becoming a parent strongly impacted the way I respond to my students.

Monday, May 18, 2009

That? Then? They?

A while back I wrote about a student who was dealing with a horrifically traumatic event in her life. It tears me up to even think about her life outside of school. She's been in a reading group with the absolutely amazing special ed teacher with whom I co-teach. When we reorganized our reading groups recently I took her on. We've had numerous discussions about this student, both because of the outside issues and academic concerns. However, I underestimated her challenges in reading.

The book we were reading recently had the word 'that' on almost every page. She was reading words I thought were more difficult so I decided we should tackle this one. She read the 'at' chunk in it just fine and knew the 'th' sound for the start. But she couldn't put the parts together to save her life. So I pulled out the little white board and we looked at lots of 'at' words. Interestingly enough she could read almost all of them. She never could get 'pat' right, she said 'put' or 'pan' each time. She also never read 'bat' correctly. She read 'but' always. And, of course, she never did get 'that'. I finally just told her the word, had her reread the sentence and move on. However, she came upon 'that' on subsequent pages and could never read it. I have no idea where we go next!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Investigating Investigations

Several bloggers I have discovered through posts about parenting (although they blog about many other things as well) and greatly respect have had a lot to say lately about the Investigations math series. Their comments have not been positive.

This has got me thinking about my evolution as a teacher of math. When I began teaching eleven years ago my school had a very traditional math textbook (I don't remember which one) and I used it for a year or two. But I quickly became frustrated with it. I began pulling together any and all resources I could find and taught based on my state and county standards rather than working our way straight through a textbook. After about a year my teammates were doing the same thing and it became a lot easier as we all collaborated to create lessons and assessments that were appropriate and effective.

After a few years of this my school adopted Everyday Mathematics. It took some time to adjust to having a textbook and to how different this series was from the traditional textbooks. I was so impressed with Everyday Mathematics. It helped me gain a much deeper understanding of math. However, a few years later I participated in some professional development in math with a fabulous consultant who continually referred to the Investigations series. I started doing some research into it and got really excited. One of our math coaches was familiar with it and ordered me a set.

I've used Investigations with a general education fifth grade, a gifted and talented fifth grade, and with my first graders this year. I don't believe it is a perfect series, but I don't think such a thing exists. I do believe that Investigations assists students in building deeper understandings of the math they are studying. Having worked with three different math series I believe that Investigations is the most challenging for students and teachers.

I know there is a lot of passion about the teaching of math, more than just about any other subject matter, but I'm still surprised by how strongly people feel against this specific series. I'd love to hear more about the reasons for this.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Making Change

I'm stuck. The calendar program we use (which I love!) has the kids making change from a quarter based on each day's date. So, today on the 12th, we had to pretend to pay for something costing 12 cents with a quarter. They had to figure out the change. Most of them don't get it. That doesn't shock me because I can't figure out how to help them understand it. It's such a tough concept. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Forever Recorded on Film

Today was my first class picture day with first graders. As an upper grade teacher I always felt I was forcing a smile and trying super hard not to look to my left to make sure the kids were truly picture ready. That's a piece of cake compared to today.

I wanted to write about it, but honestly, I was too exhausted from the experience to actually do so. Fortunately, organized chaos is a better woman than I and has done so. My class is the second one she describes. (That's one of the reasons she's a better woman, she had to go through the nightmare with two classes.)

For those of you unfamiliar with elementary school class picture procedures, you should know that they take a quick shot of the class to print out so that the teacher can write down the names of all the folks in it in the correct order for each row. This picture had to be taken more than once for my class today. When the photographer handed me the picture and form to fill out, he said, "This isn't the final picture. But that one's not much better."

Monday, May 04, 2009

Sweating the Swine Flu

I finally addressed the swine flu with my first graders this morning. I didn't go into any real details (I don't feel that knowledgeable myself) but I'm sure that many of them are hearing things and I don't want them to be worried. So we talked about smart hygiene decisions and how we can work to not spread germs. Later we stopped at the bathrooms on the way to lunch to wash hands (something I really should have been doing anyway).

As we were walking into the lunchroom my little prince asked if we were going to have school tomorrow. I started to sweat thinking about what an awful teacher I must be that I've instilled panic in six year olds over the swine flu. I was wracking my brain about how to address this at such an inopportune time as the beginning of lunch. So, to buy time, I asked him why would we not have school tomorrow.

"Because it's the fifth of May."

Nearly laughing with relief I explained to him that we would be having school on Cinco de Mayo.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Kindergarten Wedding

My kindergarten daughter attends the school at which I teach. Some days, like yesterday, that is the greatest thing in the world. In the morning her class performed a song for the volunteer breakfast and I was able to go and see them (my class has art on Friday mornings). That afternoon her class had a wedding I was able to attend (my class has music on Friday afternoons). This wedding was the idea of the students and their fabulous teacher just let them run with it. I think it started as a fun discussion and then became something they truly wanted to do and she let them.

She has a bear named Nicey that goes home with a student each evening. They journal, writing or drawing, about what they did with the bear. Throughout the year the various extras that go with the bear have grown as children have added little blankets and toys for her. After reading Lily's Big Day the class decided that Nicey should get married. So one little boy offered his Mr. Bear as the groom, another little girl took both bears home on different evenings and her mother made their wedding clothes.

My daughter volunteered her bear to be the ring bearer. They used little plastic toy rings (which went over the bears' entire paw). Several students were ushers who gave each guest (students, teachers, and parents) a corsage (a paper flower taped to the guests' shirt) and seated them, girls on one side and boys on the other. Two little girls served as flower girls dropping more paper flowers as they headed up the aisle. A couple of students were in charge of the music as the bride walked down the aisle.
The teacher officiated the wedding in a simple, but formal manner. It ended with the bears hugging and the kids getting ready for the reception. There was a wedding cake with teddy graham crackers as the ornamental bride and groom on top. The whole wedding and reception probably lasted 30 minutes on a Friday afternoon. These students will be writing about the experience until the end of the year!