Open House came and went with a decent crowd and much broken Spanish. I have a class of eighteen: nine boys, nine girls, ten black, and eight hispanic. Two of my students speak no English (Spanish and Chatino, an indigenous language of Mexico that is nothing like Spanish), and I have two students who receive services for special needs.

Several parents expressed gratitude at my attempts to speak Spanish with them, and I want to work on my Spanish. There is a program offered in my district that involves taking a Spanish class once per week and going to Guatemala during the summer, and it’s completely free to teachers. I’d really like to get into it, but I’m not sure if I’m too late.

Things are a bit stressful at this moment – I have to write up lesson plans for the week to turn in on Monday morning… it’s not really that different from requirements I had during student teaching – in fact, the required plans are far less detailed than what I’m used to. That being said, I’m a little lost as to how to start things off. One of the other third grade teachers emailed me her plans from last year’s first two weeks of school, so I will look over those for guidance.

You know, even though my name is on the door and I’ve spent a week preparing my classroom, it still doesn’t feel like “mine”. I know this will change as time goes on, but I’m so used to working with other people’s students, I’m not sure how having my own class is supposed to feel.


New Teacher Orientation is done. I have been inside my classroom. Teacher workdays (read: meetings ALL DAY) start tomorrow…

My room was completely empty when I came in… I had nothing except a teacher desk, a kidney table, some chairs, two bookshelves, an overhead, and computers. I don’t have any textbooks. No library. No student desks. No crayons, paper, markers… nothing. I couldn’t move any of the furniture, yet, either – AND we don’t get our keys until tomorrow.

Stress city.

I swept out a cabinet and feebly started putting my personal teacher materials in it. I really had no idea where to start. I still don’t.

I have a sad stack of books, most of which are probably too low-level for my third graders (I student taught 1st grade, so I have LOTS of picture books). I was given construction paper and some supplies when I left student teaching, but not nearly enough. Not even close.

So, I did what all teachers do – I went shopping. I have no idea if I’ll get reimbursed or for how much, but I just HAD to buy SOMETHING. The first day of school is in a week, and my walls are completely bare – I needed a calendar, Star of the Week stuff… I’m going to spend today making “welcome” decorations for Open House (Thursday!). I’m broke. I’m tired. I’m not sure how it’s going to come together.

But I know it will. I know it will all work itself out… I bought crayons, markers, colored pencils, nametags, posters, a calendar, borders, and office supplies. And the wonder folks at Staples are having WONDERFUL sales for Back to School, including free supplies with an increased limited quantity for teachers. I was able to get 25 bottles of glue, 25 plastic rulers, and 25 packs of pencils (200 altogether) – all for FREE. I’m not being paid to say this, and I’m not one for brand loyalty, but Staples is saving my ass right now.

Tomorrow I’m going in to school early. Really early. I have to – I won’t be able to calm down until my room looks like a third grade classroom and not a cavernous storage space.

You know what, though? I’m so excited that it actually overshadows the stress. Here’s to a great year!

Here it goes!

Well, I start new teacher orientation on Wednesday. I’ll be teaching 3rd grade and I’m very excited about this. I cannot wait to get into my classroom and get it all set up, though the whole process is a bit intimidating!

So much to do, so little time!

“Teaching first graders to cough”

The title of this post is also its inspiration. It’s a search string that brought somebody here, and I was actually disappointed when I realized that my site probably didn’t help them at all.

I have first graders. They cough. I try to teach them how to do it without expelling their ick all over me. I should share.

First of all – NEVER HAVE THEM COVER THEIR MOUTH WITH THEIR HANDS! They’ll just use their hands to spread that nastiness all over the place. Yes, some schools can still give their kids hand sanitizer (thank goodness!), but still… will they use it? Really? In the middle of the hallway, 5 minutes away from the classroom? Exactly.

I always tell my students to cough into their elbow. I guess it’s technically the crook of their arm, but they understand what you mean when you say “into your elbow.” Most of the time, during cold and flu season, their arms are covered in clothes, anyway, so they shouldn’t bitch too much about coughing on themselves. Also, I’m not afraid to tell them “I’d rather you cough on you than on me!”

I got the plague pretty bad, this year. I was sick (like, nasty sick) for over three weeks. Hooray, sinus infection! I don’t want to get sick again, this semester. However, I’ve had a really sore throat for two or so weeks, now… I thought it was getting better, but it seems to be just as bad as ever. I’m thinking I might have some form of strep where only the throat is sore. I’m hoping to get tested this week, and probably go back on antibiotics (joy), but it really is annoyingly painful. Like “I don’t want to swallow” painful. Talking doesn’t hurt really badly, just swallowing and singing. But I can still do both.

Anyway, I just wanted to add this bit of advice.

Cough into your elbow.

(This is good advice for adults, too, who are often worse about washing their hands than kids.)

Things I’m learning…

(1) Don’t plan until 3am and expect to be useful the next day.

(2) I’m never going to plan the way my supervisor makes me do it.

(3) Yoga is a necessity.

(4) A masseuse would be awesome.

(5) First graders are smarter than most give them credit for.

(6) Breakfast would be great, if I had the time.

(7) School lunch isn’t vegetarian friendly, but it’s not that bad on the occasions I can eat it.

(8) I pick favorites. But I don’t treat them differently, I just adore them more. Though, these favorites change on a weekly/daily/hourly basis. 😉

(9) Parents… aren’t so bad, sometimes.

(10) Insurance in this country is pretty fucked up. Sorry for the language, but it really pisses me off when a single mother working 2 jobs with two daughters in elementary school gets denied Medicaid coverage for her daughters and the person handling her case can’t tell her why.

(11) I love this job. So much. It’s almost painful, but in that good way.

Tonight there is a special event at school, so I’ll be pretty dead tired at 8pm when I’m headed home. I think I’ll just crash when I get there. I hope to start updating more regularly, now that I’m kind of in a routine. Hopefully that routine will shift a little so I can get more sleep, but that would require me to actually plan ahead… and who does that??? 😉 I have lots of good things to share, though…

Life is what happens…

I do apologize for not being very good at updating. I doubt I have any regular readers (it’s hard to have regular readers when you don’t have regular contributions), but in case you are out there, I am sincerely sorry.

My hope was to update weekly with my student teaching escapades for the week, but that hasn’t happened because… well, because life happened, instead.

My mother passed away in September, and I’ve been trying to catch up from that. I’m okay, and things are generally fine with school and teaching and all, but updating this journal has been rather low on the priority list as a result.

There are so many things to share, though – I’ve taught a lesson that went really well (I want to post the lesson plan), I’m working on a special case study that is both heartbreaking and eye opening, I’m getting ready to teach another lesson on Wednesday, my methods courses are proving tedious and only slightly useful, and I went to a math conference that was simultaneously boring and helpful and extremely crowded.

I’m growing as a teacher, and I can feel some exciting changes taking place in the way I think and plan and work with children. I am starting to feel like a responsible adult, and teaching is more and more becoming second nature to me.

Please, if you haven’t given up on me, yet, don’t. I truly appreciate your interest and input, and am anxious to offer what little knowledge I have, as well.

Thank you.

Student Teaching, week 1

So, last week, I spent pretty much every day in the classroom for at least a few hours getting ready for the First Day of School, 27 August.

Quick and dirty:
Monday the 20th, I helped the Teaching Assistant and another student teacher* paint these lovely crayons on our closets!
Crayons from an angleCrayons from the front
There was also a staff meeting, in which we discussed money (or lack thereof), students (and their overabundance), and teachers (or lack thereof).

Tuesday: More meetings. They sure do love staff development at my school. Last year, they started a new system referred to as a Professional Learning Community or PLC. Essentially, it increases collaboration between teachers and grade levels, and focuses more on learning than teaching – instead of dissecting what you’re doing, you dissect what the student is doing. I also painted this wall:
Yellow Wall

Wednesday: all day staff development. All. Day. Staff. Development. It was useful, but looooooong. At the end, I felt like I was about to die… but I really love the staff at my school, so it was bearable. Better than some of the Teaching Fellows meetings I’ve had to sit through (sorry, Gladys).

Thursday: Meet & Greet. About 20 of our 27 students came in with their families to meet us, fill out paperwork, and ask questions. Apparently we had a really high turnout, and I was able to use some of my Spanish (which needs MAJOR work, but was very useful). We have 8 Spanish speaking students in my class. I haven’t looked through all their files to see how proficient they are in English, but the few I looked through showed pretty high writing and vocab, but low reading levels. All in all, an excited group of people.

Friday: A sad attempt to plan for the first week of school. There was so much distracting stuff going on, my teacher and I didn’t get much done. She’s doing all of the planning, of course, as I’m only going to be there once a week until January, but she didn’t even have Monday finished when I left at 4. Hell, we didn’t even have an updated class list! I’m sure it’ll all come together, though – it always does.

Amongst all this craziness, I’m taking my methods courses. From now through December, I’ll be going in once a week on Wednesdays. I won’t go full time until the spring semester, but I am supposed to teach at least three lessons this semester. The other days of the week, I’ll be taking my five other classes, and pulling out my hair. It’s going to be busy, busy, busy – but I’m already loving it. So far, everything I’ve done has been useful and felt productive… instead of last year when I felt like I was doing busywork that had no purpose.

My plan for tonight and tomorrow (besides do reading for my methods courses), is to put together some short lesson plans that I can teach anytime this semester. I also need to review the teacher’s guide to Handwriting Without Tears, which is the handwriting program my school adopted last year.

I can’t believe the first day is Monday. There’s still so much to do!

* For a while, there were two of us – she goes to another college, and was to be full-time student teaching this semester. This proved to be a bit much for all of us, so she was placed with another teacher (in the same school). She did help us out pretty much all week, though – and was awesome.

Here it comes!

In less than a week, I will be sitting down with my teacher, planning for the coming year. I am very excited about this. Summer camp was a classroom management nightmare, so I hope to pick up a lot of tips from classes and my student teaching experience.

What I know so far: I’ll be student teaching in first grade, with a fairly experienced teacher. Based on the Kindergarten class from last year, the class size will be large (possibly 26 students!), but they had less behavior problems than the first graders last year, so it might not be too bad. My teacher seems eager to help me, and willing to let me take over where comfortable. I’m glad I’ll be with her in the beginning, since it will make the class feel a bit more like mine.

So, there will probably be many posts on my actual experiences in the coming year, and I’ll likely be begging for advice on occasion. 😉 Hopefully, I’ll be able to do some current-event type posting, as well… my intention for this blog was never to be completely about me, but about the world of education in general, too. I’ve got lots of things I want to write about, I just have to find the time to sit down and write about them. Feedback would be awesome!

Student teaching fun, the prequel

So, I have to get a physical before school starts in August to prove that I won’t give the kids TB or some other disease. I understand that, and I don’t mind doing it – they even have a form to take with us to make it easier to get proof and make sure everything gets done. Hooray for the student teaching physical.

Of course, I wait until the last two weeks of summer school to schedule that appointment – *cough*procrastinator*cough, cough*. I call, today, to schedule (just got off the phone, actually), and she actually knows what I’m talking about when I say I need a student teaching physical – which surprises me, because they didn’t last time I did this (remember, I was supposed to do my student teaching in 2004, but became temporarily retarded and dropped out of school) and it took me forever to get the appointment right. This excites me.

For about ten seconds.

UNFORTUNATELY, they only do appointments in the MORNINGS.

Sounds like I’m being a whiny bitch, right – “oh, wah, I don’t wanna get up in the morning, boo-hoo”. While that is entirely possible, my main problem is that I have class from 8am-1pm all summer – wouldn’t you know it, the exact times they have appointments. *grumble* And I have to come in on two separate days, 3 days apart, due to the TB test.

I don’t fault the woman making the appointment. She even said at one point, “I don’t know why they do this – they need to have afternoon openings…” after I told her I have class every day from 8-1 (as is the nature of summer school). She was very sympathetic, and I (luckily) had time free during the reading day before exams, and during what is supposed to be the end of my tennis final (we have a take-home, so I should be fine).

Some people might wonder why I didn’t go in the beginning of the summer, before I had class. Well, my friends, UNC student health only covers you for the semesters/sessions in which you are enrolled full-time. Thus, since I was not enrolled in classes last summer session, I would have had to pay $50 just to get an appointment. So, it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d called at the very beginning of the summer to schedule an appt, the only time I could have come in would be next Wednesday at 9 and next Friday at 10:15.

I’m just glad they weren’t closed on the reading day… lucky me, I suppose.

Oh, and a PS – I really hate needles and physicals, what with the pain and the stupid questions and all. At least with a tattoo, I get something pretty to show off later. The only thing I’ve ever gotten from a vaccine is a scar that everyone assumes is a hickey… *sigh* (Oh, and maybe protection from bygone diseases…)