Fleeting obsessions

When I was a kid, I wanted to be famous. I couldn’t decide whether I was going to be a movie star, a singer, or a dancer. That’s probably why I am not good at any of those things, now. When I got a little older, I wanted to be a secretary. My mother said I was too smart for that, so then I thought I’d become a veterinarian or an astronaut. (Because those things go together…) I later decided that if I was going to go school for that long, I might as well become a people doctor. On a whim, I figured I should be a pediatrician. Then I realized that going to college for the rest of my natural life did not sound fun, so I settled on teaching. Eventually, I ran out of time to change my mind, so that’s the career path I stuck with.


Teaching = telling people to be quiet all day.

This is pretty much how my brain works all the time. “Ooo, shiny!” pretty much runs my thoughts. It’s a wonder I get anything done at all, and it probably accounts for the fact that I have not become really fantastic at any one thing. In the time it took me to write the last paragraph-and-a-half, I have been distracted by: cats, the radio station, some lint on my shirt, and the fact that one of my keys is sticking. Honestly, I should probably be medicated.


Look, a goat! What was I saying?

What was I saying? Oh, right… my inability to focus. (Ha!) Anyway, my point is that I have many interests, and they are forever changing. There are some that I come back to often: photography, roller derby, and playing the violin are a few that have been rattling around in my head lately. I think I had originally intended to discuss one of them in depth in this post, but (as usual), I got a bit distracted and all over the place. That happens a lot, so I guess this is fair warning.

I don’t make sense.

Changes

As you can probably tell, I’ve made some changes. I’ve pretty much changed everything, really.

I am no longer limiting myself to writing about teaching. Now, I will write about whatever I damn well please, which might result in me actually writing about things. (Ha. Hahaha.)

I am still teaching, though I am no longer a public school teacher. I am still very much interested in subjects dealing with education, but research and writing about such topics is draining and time consuming. Sometimes, I just want to post funny videos of cats.

That is one of our cats. Seriously. She is actually very sweet, but gets vicious about food or things she thinks should be food. Also, our tub is not yellow; the white balance on my husband’s phone needs adjusting. Promise.

Um… it’s February? I mean… almost March…

I’ve been meaning to write. I’ve been meaning to tell about all the things – ALL THE THINGS – that have happened this year.

So much. Not enough time.

In fact, I’m in the middle of lesson planning for this week, and I really should get some sleep.

I’ve cried and yelled and nearly given up several times this year. Something is keeping me going, though…

And it’s not all bad – I love my students. I enjoy teaching a lot of the curriculum. But there is so much crap that has to be done. So much planning. So much bullshit that doesn’t matter. So much paperwork. So much ass kissing. So much… and not enough time, energy, or reward to make it all worth it.

Yet, somehow the net gain is positive. Somehow I keep getting up every day and going in. I keep smiling at my students and telling them how amazing they are. I keep planning. I keep grading. I just keep on going… I try to hang on to the positive and learn from the negative, and I just keep pushing myself to get through this year. Next year will be easier.

It seems that what attracts people to this blog continues to be the post I made concerning the sexualization of young girls. The search terms are sometimes alarming, really. I suppose I should make another controversial post to attract a new crowd of weirdos. I do want to post more often, but it’s really hard to fit everything in. Maybe I should try to make a regular schedule… where I post once a week or something. We’ll see.

I just have so much to share – so many ideas, so many successes, and so many failures. I have questions, too. Everyone with any sense knows teaching is hard work, but nothing can fully prepare you for it. Nothing. *whew*

…set…

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.

Ready…

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!

What a year!

So, I’m finishing up my student teaching, this week. Wow.

It’s been a long, hard year – and I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I wish I had documented more as I went, but I had a hard enough time keeping my head above water. Maybe over the next couple weeks I’ll be able to reflect upon my experiences and give you all an idea of what it was like.

I wish I had updated with at least a little blurb every day. I didn’t because I thought it would be annoying to just get a few sentences of “kids say the damnedest things,” but they really do. I did keep a written journal here and there, so maybe I will post some of that.

Over the summer I hope to teach summer camp at a local science center, so I will update on that experience as well as the “job hunt.” I have some places in mind, and have been to a job fair, but I haven’t seriously started hunting. That starts next week.

I’m going to miss these kids. Maybe more than I will any future classes… they’ve taught me so much about myself. I intend to visit periodically before their year ends in June.

I can’t believe that I will be graduating in exactly 20 days. It’s been a journey, and I hope you’re willing to follow along to the next one!

“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.)

Classroom management

Ah, the age-old question. How should I manage the behavior of my students? Everyone gets pretty heated about this issue, because there are such differing opinions on what works, what doesn’t, and why. Being new to this, I have my opinions, and what I’ve been told to avoid, but I really haven’t been able to find a system that seems to work for me and my class. Of course, right now I have to follow the school-wide policy, and stay pretty much in sync with what my cooperating teacher was doing before I took over, but I can still tweak things a little.

Some background:

My school follows the Positive Behavior Support (PBS) system. Because I’m a student teacher, I have very little clue what that is, except to know that it tries to redirect negative behavior, and encourage positive behavior, by offering more intrinsic rewards (certificates and recognition instead of candy or toys).

This is used in combination with a school-wide color system. Everyone starts on two green, and moves down to one green (verbal warning), yellow (note home), and then red (go to the office). They can move up for outstanding behavior or if they are able to significantly improve their behavior; purple is the highest, after two green. (They get a good note home if they get purple.) Three purples means they move up to blue, which means they get a special breakfast sometime in the year. Every teacher uses this, and the school recognizes the system. This means that if my students are in music, the music teacher can give my kids purple notes for good behavior, or punish them in the same way we do in our class.

While I appreciate the consistency, it really doesn’t work very well for such a diverse group, especially since the punishments aren’t logical. You talk in line or play in the bathroom, you go down a color. Big deal. This is great for catching the semi-repetitive bad behavior in kids with involved parents, but what about the kids who talk constantly? Or the kids who never do anything bad, but don’t really do anything outstandingly good, either? And what about the kids who are really doing the best they can, but keep getting yellow notes sent home? They have no motivation to try, if they are always getting in trouble.

So, while it’s supposed to be consistent, it’s often tailored to each student, which the others see as “unfair.” I’m trying to teach my kids that “fair” and “the same” are two different things, but first graders only know somebody else is getting away with things they aren’t. I’d be mad if I were 7, too.

My approach to this has been to use my better judgement, and try to use it as a reminder, rather than a punishment. That seems to be working fairly well. My hope is to send home more purple notes than yellow notes, but only if they’re deserving, of course.

What I really want to know is how can I incorporate logical consequences into my classroom? As adults, logical consequences are what motivate us. We don’t touch a hot stove because we know we will get burned. We don’t drive on the wrong side of the street because we will crash. Some of us are careful not to say hurtful things to people because we don’t want to hurt their feelings (or get sued…). I feel like that is what my kids need, too – consequences that make sense and fit the behavior that should change. Yeah, none of them want to get a yellow note, but they get the same punishment for every behavior.

I feel as though they would be more inclined to follow the rules if the punishment fit the crime, you know? Like, if they can’t walk quietly down the hall, I’ll have them walk with me. They hate that, but when half my line is talking and dancing past the principal, what do I do then? I thought about telling the kids who play and yell in the bathroom that they have to go alone in the classroom until they can prove to me that they can behave, but I don’t want bottlenecking at the bathroom or accidents. So, what works?

I hate candy as an incentive. I know the sugar doesn’t make them hyper, but they get enough candy. Besides, I like candy, too. I’d have to refill the reward jar every day. 😉 I don’t really like stickers or other prizes, either. Besides, I think the purple notes are a great motivator, and they have something to show their parents. I need a method of punishment that is consistent, logical, and easy to implement and remember.

Any ideas?