Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Different World

I know many of my students live in poverty.
I know many of my students' parents work minimum wage jobs.
I know many of my students have second hand clothes.
I know many of my students get holiday gifts from the Salvation Army.
I know many of my students don't have winter coats.
I know many of my students live with multiple families.
I really do know all of this.

However, it still hurt yesterday when a little one was sharing a foam snowflake she had decorated and made into an ornament. The kids asked her about it and she said, "My mom, on my birthday last year, couldn't get me a present so she got me this now."

She was so matter-of-fact about not getting a present on her birthday. She was so excited about this foam snowflake. I hurt for her and was so amazed by her.

Friday, December 18, 2009

First Grade Shock and Awe

The amazing reading teacher who works with my class has pushed us to do readers' theater at the end of each quarter. We've just gotten started with our first round and she suggested we model the wrong and right ways to do it.

Yesterday we modeled the wrong way. We turned in circles, yelled or whispered our lines, climbed on a table, bossed each other around, held the book in front of our faces, and who knows what else. The kids thought it was hilarious.

At the end we had them chart all the things they had noticed. They didn't miss much. However, this reading teacher mentioned to the students that she had not been paying any attention to the punctuation (something we've been exploring for a week or so). On boy immediately yelled out, in great shock, "How could anyone do that?"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Can't See the Forest for the Trees

The books my students wrote for the library have got them energized! They are on a book writing roll and I love it. Yesterday I checked out another tub full of books, this time on lots of different topics. I got books about different animals and insects, books about trucks and fire engines, books about cars and space travel. When I showed them the books yesterday they applauded as I pulled each one out of the tub. You can't beat that.

Today they are continuing to work on their books. They are writing about butterflies, guinea pigs, owls, cars, a brother, and themselves. Everyone has a topic and is working on a book.

The problem is that I'm a grouchy teacher (as was made obvious by my last, whiny post). They are so excited by the things they are finding in the books that they have to run around showing each other what they've discovered. They are so proud of themselves for including a table of contents in their book that they want to share it with all their friends.

I keep having to bite my tongue not to tell them to stop. I have to remind myself that this is all completely fabulous.

(I wrote this post ten days ago. Sadly, as you can see below, little has changed for me. I need a break.)

We are doing readers' theaters to wrap up the quarter. It gives the kids a break from the daily routine of guided reading and allows us to really focus on fluency and phrasing. The kids are thrilled! They pull out their scripts every chance they get. As soon as they finish their reading centers they grab the scripts, sit down with others in their group, and start practicing.

I am working with one or two kids on their parts and, inevitably, I find myself scolding these self-starters, telling them to be quieter, go sit somewhere else, something! I should be commending their efforts, encouraging this behavior, seeing the positive. Ugh.

Quick Observation

First graders with:

poor gross/fine motor skills + slight OCD issues = bad combination

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Guinea Pigs and First Grade Goofiness

In writing my first graders have been writing books. Initially they wrote some to put in the library but they have continued at a record pace. We checked out books on all kinds of topics to help them come up with ideas and get started. As a result, we had to have a few lessons on putting things in our own words and not copying the book.

I conferenced today with a little girl who is writing about guinea pigs. A couple of her pages didn't make sense to me and I was asking her about them. One page she couldn't explain and she decided to cut. Another page she struggled to explain to me. It said, "Guinea pigs are in a circle." (not with that spelling, of course). So she finally ran off to grab a book.

In my head I'm composing the conversation about not copying from the book. She returns with the book and the first thing she says is, "I didn't copy from the book."

Now I'm giggling inside and exceptionally curious. She flips through the pages until she finds one with a guinea pig in an exercise wheel.

She didn't copy. She put it in her own words. I hope the illustration in her book helps readers understand what she means.

Friday, December 11, 2009

EoE spells Mom

My amazing co-teacher shared with me today about a student in another school. This little girl, when asked to write 'mom', wrote 'EoE'. Of course, I looked at this completely at a loss.

She then went on to tell me that the little girl's name is Emma. Think about that for a minute.

Next, she told me that Emma confuses the letters E and M. (Not a typical problem for kids.) Again, think about it.

When Emma says her name, what does she hear? The first sound she hears is the 'm' sound. She knows that her name begins with the letter 'E'. Therefore E must make the 'm' sound.

So, EoE spells mom. Amazing, isn't it? So many of the confusions kids face make perfect sense when one can find the entire context. Kids are highly logical. There are almost always really good reasons for what they think. We, as teachers and parents, become the detectives trying to find those reasons in order to correct misconceptions.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Administrative Frustration

On the whole I am enjoying the administrative graduate classes I have been taking. The great majority of the people I meet in these classes are wonderful. They are dedicated, smart, thoughtful educators.

That said, there are always one or two that cause me great internal pain. The idea that they could be a principal someday is disturbing.

There are two types of these people. The first is just clueless. These people don't know anything about current issues in education. I'm surprised when they know what NCLB stands for. What suggests to these folks that they have anywhere near enough knowledge to be a principal?

The second type doesn't seem to understand equity issues. They are willing to cut programs and have students and families pay for things. Basically what they say is that everyone needs to be responsible for themselves. Sometimes this is based in racism. Sometimes it is based in 'back to basics' bull.

I wouldn't want to work for either of these types of administrators.

(Just as an aside, I don't think I want to be a principal. It's a very important, very difficult job. I don't think I'm good enough or dedicated enough.)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Brief Whining Break

I spent Tuesday's specials time (when my kids are in PE or music) with my little mentee. I adore her. She was in my class last year and I'm glad to continue to work with her. Yesterday I met with a couple of other teachers to discuss our plans for prepping the kids to do readers' theater. I spent today's specials time meeting with a behavior specialist to talk about a student who is continually non-compliant. Tomorrow I will spend that specials time observing a reading recovery lesson. All of these things are worth my time. I just want a bit of that time for me.

Teaching in a primary grade is constant, non-stop, always on. I'm ready to be off for a bit.