Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Today I got a new student.  She was a quiet and shy little girl, and she was not only new to the school, but new to the country.  Her family was from Hungary.  She spoke no English.

I tried very hard to make her feel comfortable in my classroom.  There were some tears when her parents dropped her off at my room.  I tried to reassure the parents that she was going to be okay.  Fortunately, she had an older brother who was in the same building.

The first thing I did was try to get her some “buddies” that could help her with materials.  There were many hands that went up when I asked for volunteers.  The buddies also played with her at recess and ate lunch with her.  My students are really sweet.

I spent some time trying to find out how much she really knew.  She seemed to be comfortable with math and computation.  I encouraged her to use manipulatives (unifix cubes) when she was stuck.  When I had to continue with my regularly scheduled plans, I felt bad for her.  She was very attentive, but I knew concepts were just going over her head.  She really tried her best.

At the end of the day, my classroom phone rang.  It was the secretary.  She informed me that my new student would not be returning tomorrow.  Instead, she would be attending another school in her attendance area.  Apparently the other school made an error.  They informed the parents that there were no openings in any 5th grade classrooms (Her older brother was in 5th grade.).  The parents did not want to separate the kids, so the other school suggested they come to our school.  The other school realized there was a spot in 5th grade.  Another student had moved and the office forgot to drop them from their roster.  In the end, the parents decided to go to their home school.  So, my new student was literally here today and will be gone tomorrow!

I am a little bummed since my students started bonding with her.  The thing I was most happy about was how open and willing my other students were to help her out today.  Now, she will have to start all over again at her new school.  Darn, I was looking forward to learning Hungarian!  🙂

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Assessments Here We Come!

It hasn’t even been a full month of school yet, and we are already gearing up for assessments. At the beginning of the year my school conducts a series of informal and formal assessments to show where the kids are. Part of me feels like this is a good thing in that I can get an idea where my students are academically. However, the other part of me wants to know why we do this to kids so early on. It doesn’t seem fair that I have to give my students an assessment where they won’t know what to do. I can see where kids would get frustrated. I question myself and wonder do I really need a pre-test to tell me that many of my second grade students will not know how to multiply or divide. They may not even know how to add or subtract with regrouping. I already know this. So, I don’t know why I need to give the assessment. What is frustrating to me is that these assessments do not align with what I am actually teaching in the classroom. The assessments for me are not authentic. However, I continue to give the assessments because I don’t want to be the only teacher who doesn’t give them.

Some teachers may argue that we need a baseline, some number, at the beginning so we can determine if a student grew academically at the end of the year. At times I just feel like I am collecting numbers. I also know that these numbers are what I am being judged on. It lets others know how efficiently and effectively I have done my job. So, even though I hate collecting the numbers, I also know it is neccesary.

So, in the next few weeks, I will be giving my students a math assessment, a writing assessment, and a computer-assisted assessment (MAP test). Then I can get on with my job of teaching, and students can get on with their learning.

A Lazy Saturday

Today was a great day despite the sweltering heat.  It’s days like today when I wish I had a swimming pool or air conditioning.  I think I spent most of the day sweating!

I finally got around to getting my ten-frames put together for a math lesson.  In order to get it done, I had to go to work to run them off.  I brought my paper cutter home to get them cut apart.  I brought home a box of gallon ziploc bags to place the sets of ten-frames.  I convinced two of my daughters to come with me so they could at least sit in my air-conditioned classroom while I prepped everything.  They were so hot that they didn’t mind taking a ride to my school just to sit in the air conditioning!  I have yet to staple my art sketch books, but there is always tomorrow.  I am hoping it won’t be too hot.  I want to go for a short run, so I will have to get up early before the heat sets in.

Tomorrow I am going to take some time to read my book club book.  We are reading The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  Here is a summary of what the book is about.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

I am only on Chapter 3, but so far I am enjoying the book.  I have many more books on my night stand waiting for me to read.  Many are teacher resources.  I just ordered and received Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer and I need to read Mind-Up which is a curriculum that encourages children to self-regulate their behavior and helps with concentration.  It is promoted by the Hawn Foundation.  My coworker told me about it, so I thought I would check it out.  I am still not sure how it all works.

Even though it is a three-day weekend, I am still thinking about work.  I guess as a teacher you never can get away from that.  I am still going to try and enjoy what is left of this weekend.

Welcome 3-Day Weekend!

My goal was to leave work by 5:00 today.  I almost made it.  I left at 5:15.  I know.  What person in their right mind stays at work that late when it is a 3-day weekend??

School normally gets out on Friday at 12:55.  It is a minimum day.  My school time banks, so we stay a little later Monday through Thursday so we can have a minimum day.  I had every intention of getting out of my classroom so I could enjoy the weekend, but then I remembered I volunteered to be on the interview team.  We are hiring a new impact teacher because our other impact teacher got a permanent teaching job at another school.  There were several candidates, so that took some time.  I did not get back to my room until 3:00.

I swear.  I could find 100 things to do in my classroom that would keep me there all night!  Once I get one project done, I see something else that needs to be completed.  I finally get to a point where I just have to stop.  Most times I bring work home, like cutting or stapling.  When my daughters were younger they loved to help me with these tasks.  However, now they are busy with their own activities and homework that they don’t wish to help me anymore.  I brought home some paper that I need to staple into sketch books for art.  I also brought home some templates to make ten frames for math.  I am still trying to figure out the best way to create these for my students.  If anyone has any suggestions on creating and/or using ten frames, I would love to hear them.

For now, I just opened an ice cold beer to enjoy.  My husband is cooking something up on the grill. We have been having hot and humid weather where I live.  The beer is nice and refreshing.  The barbecue is making my tummy rumble.  I will get to my sketch book and ten frames projects later, maybe tomorrow.  Right now I have decided to enjoy blogging, beer, and barbecue.  Hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

I Survived. . .

Back To School Night!  I thought it went well.  Parents were very attentive.  I only had 45 minutes to get through my presentation.  Boy, 45 minutes goes by really fast.  I am going to have to streamline my presentation for next year.

I was able to share my expectations for their children while they are in my class.  At the end of the presentation, I stayed longer to talk to parents who had more questions.  I was disappointed to find out that no one had signed up to be my room parent.  I had a lot of volunteers for helping in the classroom or on field trips.  But, no room parent.  My room parent genrally plans the classroom celebrations (Halloween, Winter Holiday. Valentine’s Day, End of the Year).  The plans don’t have to be elaborate.  Simple is always better in my book.  Now, I don’t know what will happen if a parent doesn’t step up.

After BTSN, I went out with a few of my colleagues for a little libation and conversation.  It was good to debrief after a stressful evening.  But, now I am exhausted.  I am wishing it was Friday today.  I am looking forward to my 3-Day weekend.

Back To School Night

Tonight was Back To School Night for my youngest daughter who is in middle school.  I get to take the teacher hat off and be a mom on this evening.  I was amazed by the energy and enthusiasm of my child’s teachers.  Every single one of them talked about how they wanted their students to succeed.  I feel like my daughter is very lucky to have such wonderful teachers for her first year in middle school.

My own Back To School Night is tomorrow night.  I hope to bring that same energy and enthusiasm to the parents of my classroom.  This is going to be an exciting year of learning, and I hope I can show that to parents.  I want to encourage my parents to let their child take more responsibility for their learning, and I want them to know that their children are capable of doing things independently.  I realize that it is hard to let go and trust that your child will figure things out.  But, they do.  I want my parents to understand that I have high expectations, and I believe all my students can reach them.

Tomorrow will be my twenty-sixth Back To School Night.  I can’t believe it.  You would think that after twenty-five years Back To School Night would be easy.  The truth is I still get nervous.  My heart beats fast.  My palms get clammy.  I break into a sweat.  I have to do a lot of self-talk before the event.  I know what I am doing, and I know what I am talking about.  Nevertheless, I will be happy when tomorrow night is finally over!

Happy Friday!

As one of my co-workers said, “Only 177 more days to go!”  🙂  Ha!  Is that all?  The first three days of school are done, and I am exhausted!  I keep thinking that it wasn’t even a full week of teaching.  The students just arrived on Wednesday.  Next week will be a whole different story.  Five straight days of teaching, but then we will have a three-day weekend due to Labor Day.

I have to say that I am enjoying my kiddos thus far.  They are very sweet and listen well.  But, it is only day 3.  I have to share one incident that happened today.  I called my students to the carpet area to read them a story.  It was a book by Julia Cook called, The Worst Day of My Life Ever!   It’s a story about listening and following directions.

Anyway, the kids were all seated on the carpet waiting, and I could not locate the book.  I had it in my hands and placed it somewhere so I would remember where it was.  But, I could not remember where I placed it!  I began walking around the room looking in all the spots where I might have put it down.  In the mean time, my students sat on the carpet quietly, watching me walk around the room, patiently waiting until I found the book.  WHAT???  That happens very rarely.  Most of the time, students will take the opportunity to talk to their neighbors.  My class just sat there and waited.  It was pretty amazing, and I told them so.

I hope that was a sign which points to a fabulous school year.  I have to be honest and say that I miss my students from last year.  Many of them came back to my class to say hello and give me a hug this week.  One of the fourth grade teachers told me a cute story about the students I gave to him this year.  They were doing some kind of human graph where they had to go to a certain spot when the name of their last teacher was called.  When my old students got in a group, one of the boys said, “Okay Kozak Kids, we have to stick together!”  That made me smile.  I spend a lot of time trying to build community in my classroom.  These kids had been with me for two years.  It felt like we were a family.  It made me feel wonderful that they still considered themselves a part of my class.  Sigh.  I am hoping to get that feeling again with this group of kids.  I am going to work hard to make that happen.