Friday, November 30, 2007

The Day Before a Day Off

I'm taking the day off! I love it that it's 10:07 a.m. and I'm sitting at home. My poor students are at the mercy of some random substitute teacher that may or may not know what he or she is doing. I've left them enough work to last several day, so if it's a smart sub, s/he has put them to work.

I'm usually never absent. This is actually my second absence this year, which my kids pointed out yesterday when I told them I wasn't going to be there today. They wanted to know WHY I wasn't going to be there. I told them I "had a meeting," which is not true. I love that the meeting just happened to make it on a Friday so I could have a 3-day long weekend. They seemed worried that I wasn't going to be there. A day with a sub can be a fun or a terrible day. I gave them a little spiel about how I expect them to still follow the class routines and be responsible even though I'm not there, that this is a time to prove their trustworthiness...blah, blah, blah. Then I opened it up to a little Q and A, which was a mistake.

Student 1: Do you know who the sub is going to be?

Me: No idea.

Student 1: I hope it's Mrs. Robeson because last time you were absent, she let us sing and dance to "Soulja Boy."

Me: Terrific.

Student 2: What if the sub tells us to do something one way, but you usually tell us to do it another?

Me: Do what the sub tells you to do.

Student 2: What if we get in trouble for doing it your way?

Me: Do what the sub tells you to do.

Student 2: What if the sub doesn't let us have Friday free time?

Me: I've left instructions all about Friday free time, but do what the sub tells you to do.

Student 3: What if aliens land outside and the sub doesn't do anything?

Me: Use your best judgment.

Student 3: What?

Me: Try to get a picture of the aliens and then run.

Student 4: I'm going to miss you, Ms. M.

Me: Thanks! That's nice to hear!

Student 5: What if the sub says we did something, but we really didn't do it and we get in trouble for it.

Me: That seems to happen all the time with you. Deal with it.

Student 5: But....

Me: DEAL with it!

Student 6: If something happens, can we write you a note telling you all about it and leave it on your desk?

Me: No.

At this point I closed the Q & A session as all the "What ifs" could've dragged it on FOREVER (literally).

So we'll see how it went when I return on Monday, but knowing kids, after 2 days off, they will have forgotten all about it by then (or at least one can only hope).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Energizer Bunnies

I think all of my students have Tourettes Syndrome. Okay, that's probably a terrible thing to say, but I swear to god, they cannot sit still for even one minute. They are constantly twitching, tapping, fidgeting, or in some other way moving.

Today some of the kids presented their science fair projects. (On a side note, I HATED science fair projects when I was in I LOVE them! When you don't have to actually do one, the process is really fun!). So while one child was up in front of the room, I sat at their desk to listen to their presentation and grade them.

If you're a teacher, I highly recommend sitting at a student's desk occasionally. It gives you a perspective of your classroom you've never had before. It also gives you an idea of how the student usually sees you. It's weird.

Aaaaanyway, we were all listenting to a student's science presentation when I looked around the room at all the children. Every single one of them was moving in some way. Half of them weren't seated on their butts, either. They were either standing, sitting on their knees (ow!), sitting with one foot underneath their butt, or they were half up-half down out of their chairs (leaning on their desks). It makes me wonder: when does this change?

If you look at adults, we move as little as possible. (It's almost kind of sad how little some adults move!) There are also few or no adults who would sit on a chair in some other way than on their butts. And running? Forget it. When was the last time you ran (and not for exercise or because you absolutely had to)? Kids, though, they would run everywhere if you let them! Do you know how many times a day I say "Stop running" or "Walk"? At least a dozen. At least.

Part of what I love about kids is their energy, but I just wish I could turn it off sometimes! I mean, is five minutes of stillness a day too much to ask?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Gotta Take a Call

I have nothing new to report today except my theory that the more days off of work you have, the more you want. 4 days just isn't enough. Twenty work days until winter break! Then I have 2 full weeks off!!!

So since I have nothing to add today, I will dig into my past and pull out a story. If you've known me for longer than 2 years, then you know that I haven't always worked at my current school. I've worked at some crazy-ass schools with some real whack-jobs.

I'll tell you my husband's absolute FAVORITE school story.

So I used to teach this crazy kid. We'll call him David. David was a pain in my you-know-what and his mother was even worse. She thought David could do absolutely no wrong, but he was the terror of my 4th grade classroom about 5 years ago. I always read to my students after lunch. Kids (usually) like to be read to so they are (usually) quiet and attentive. So there I am reading one of my favorite books to read aloud, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." While I read, I circulate around the room so as to keep everybody engaged. Everybody was quiet...except David. I notice that he is "talking to himself." So I walk towards his desk while I continue to read. As I approach, I notice that he has his shoe next to his ear and is talking into it like it's a phone. I get right up next to him and keep reading. Now, a normal child would immediately stop when the teacher is not even a foot away from him. Not David. He continues to talk into his shoe-phone as if I'm not even there. I stop reading, bend down so I'm level with his ear (I don't want to draw any more attention to him than I have to), and say in my most stern-but-quiet voice, "Get that shoe back on your foot...RIGHT...NOW." I stand back up to start to read again, and David says into his shoe-phone, "Yeah...I gotta go."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Holiday Weekend

Just so you know you, your child's teacher does NOT want to talk to you over Thanksgiving Break. She will, but she does not want to.

Friday (yesterday) was our 2nd day off, the first being Thanksgiving Day, and I had already received emails from TWO parents asking me questions about homework. Actually, the question from both was: What were the homework assignments because my kid forgot his homework agenda at school. Grrrr. Y'know what? Have your kid call one of his friends, that's what we used to do! OR, occasionally let your kid suffer the consequences of forgetting his homework instead of bailing him/her out each and every time.

I know parents do this out of love and out of fear of their child failing, and I understand that it is my job to communicate with parents. I truly do understand these things, but children need to learn responsibility and parents need to CHILL OUT. I've seen parents so fearful of their children failing that they will complete assignments FOR their children; They will leave work and drive to school to bring the forgotten homework; They will call people long-distance for help solving a word problem.

It's fourth grade, people. Get some perspective!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Being Thankful

With tomorrow being Thanksgiving, I did such a teacher thing today and had the kids share what they were thankful for before they left school. It was so cute (mostly).

Here are some things they were thankful for:

my parents
transportation (huh?)
"my 2 annoying sisters"
my life
my teachers (awww)
my grandma and grandpa
my cat
my clothes
the ability to dance
Tom Brady, QB of the New England Patriots

I'm glad they've got their priorities straight (mostly)!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm Old

Y'know what's weird? When a stranger comes up to at some random place like the grocery store and says, "Hi, Ms. ________." (I don't use my name in this blog). This leaves me in an awkward position because I can tell by the greeting that the person is a former student, but I have NO idea who they are because I haven't seen them in god-knows-how-many years. So then I just stare at them and try to figure out who the hell they are and how long ago I may have taught them. They finally take mercy on me and tell me. Then I fall into shock because the little dimpled boy I remember now has facial hair and piercings. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

It's scary to think that the first students I ever taught (4th graders) are now college-age. They're able to vote! Hopefully they've learned a bit more since the last time I saw them, because if they haven't, you definitely do NOT want these people voting. ( :

Monday, November 19, 2007


So I was all set to vent about how annoying the parents of my students can be, but I just got an email from one of the parents that said, "I hope you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving holiday!" How am I supposed to bitch now?

Okay, I'll bitch about something else. Today my kids had computers. The class is called "computers," but the kids learn nothing about computers. Instead, they complete these academic quizzes for 40 minutes twice a week. It's sad, but what am I gonna do? Now I don't like to complain about other teachers since we're all on the same team, but what happened today was ridiculous! While my class was in computers, I was in my classroom grading papers. One of my students walked in. When I asked her why she was here, she told me that the computer teacher wouldn't let her use her kleenex. The teacher told her to come to the classroom to get a piece of kleenex so the girl could blow her nose! Are you kidding me? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LET THE KID USE A PIECE OF KLEENEX! Instead, the kid had to walk all the way to our classroom with her hand covering her nose.

This is the same teacher who, if a student's computer is not working for whatever reason, will not let them switch to an available working computer. She just makes them sit and read. WTF??? Your tax dollars at work!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Are You Effing Kidding Me?

They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. When dealing with a school, I'd say the equivalent saying is: "A school is only as strong as its main office." Really, if the main office can't get it together, then the school is screwed. We're screwed. The office is definitely our weakest link.

Today I gave a math test. I mistakenly only ordered 19 copies of the math test instead of 20. While I only have 19 students (a blessing), I used one of them to make the test key, so I was short 1 test. Totally my fault. I sent a student down to the office to ask them to make one simple copy of the test. The test was 2 pieces of paper, with the first page being back to back, so I needed a total of three copies. I sent a reliable kid with the test and a very nice note explaining my request. FIFTEEN minutes later, the kid comes back up with the original test and my copy. However, the copy is only 2 pages: the first page and the last page. When I asked him where the middle page was, he said that the secretary told him to tell me that she couldn't copy the second page because it was on the back of the first page. I said nothing. What I wanted to say was "Are you f*cking kidding me?"

So I had to manually write out the 10 problems and the 4 multiple choice answers for each problem on one of my student's test because the secretary was too dumb to figure out that all she needed to do was turn the paper over to copy the back.

We shouldn't worry so much about the future of America. We should worry about its present.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Words of Interest

My students each have a reading folder divided into 3 sections. One section is entitled "Keeping Track of Books." Here they have different lists: books they've read, books they want to read, and books they've abandoned. Another section is entitled "Responses," in which they write letters to me about what they're reading and I write back. The last is called "Words of Interest," in which they keep track of, well, interesting words. I've instructed them to jot down words they come across in their reading of which they don't know the meaning or words that are interesting for whatever reason. I probably should not have given such free reign.

This is one of my kids' list:

butt nugget

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Parent/Teacher Conferences

Today is parent-teacher conferences, which means I didn't have to come in until noon. It is SO nice to sleep in on a random day (Thursday). Of course I have to be here til 6:00, but that's okay. I like report card day. It gives me a chance to reflect on each child individually. Parents usually ask really good questions, too, which challenge me to really know what I'm talking about. And you know what? After 2 degrees and 10 years of doing this, I actually DO! Go figure!

Some parents, though, are clueless. Like I'll be in the middle of a conference and a parent will just walk in, right past the sign that says "Please sign in and take a seat outside. I will be with you shortly." Then they'll just stand there waiting for me to acknowledge them. Uh, hello! You've gone through the parent-teacher conference process for 5 years now. Try to catch on to how waiting your turn works.

Another annoyance is when a parent is surprised when their child is not doing well. I have developed a system in which EVERY graded paper goes home on a specified day of the week for the parents' review. The parents are made aware of this system the first week of school and I constantly remind them of this on my class "website." If a parent goes through the packet of graded work, they should know exactly how s/he is doing. Plus, they can always contact me just to "check in." I just had a parent who was surprised to see her daughter got a D in reading. She even said to me, "Her midterm progress report said she was getting a C, how can she be getting a D now?" Uhhh, easily. Do people not realize that the difference between a C and a D can be just 1 percentage point?

Oh, and parents, can you please turn off your cell phones when you are conferencing with me? And if you forget, which happens, don't answer your cell phone when it rings while we're speaking. I mean, come on!

Well, now I'm on "lunch," which I think is hilarious. We started a noon, we have lunch from 3-4, and we leave at 6:15. Could we make it more inconvenient for parents to have a conference with their child's teacher? Gotta love union jobs!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Farm Animals Visit

Well, I was right. Not one person mentioned their new seats today. It's as if they've been sitting where they're at all year. Geez, and what a fuss they made yesterday!

Today brought its own interesting events, though. Today was our first "area walk-through." This is when the Area Instructional Officer (AIO) and her minions visit our school. This was not a surprise as our principal told us about it last week. Every time they visit, they have a focus question that they try to answer by the time they've completed their walk-through. This year's focus is something like: "Are students responding to text in a meaningful way, especially in reading notebooks in which the teacher provides meaningful feedback?" They don't visit every classroom, only ones selected. Our principal is professional enough to ask for volunteers before randomly selecting rooms. I volunteered. Better to get it overwith. Plus, my students respond to text in a meaningful way, especially in their reading notebooks in which I provide meaningful feedback.

The minions started the day by gathering us at a meeting at which they told us they were not their to evaluate us, but to help us. Mmm-hmmmm. These walk-throughs are total b.s. These people come to our school, like, 3 times a year, tell us we're great, tell us what we can improve, and then type up some b.s. report from which nothing ever comes. (Teachers at my last school called the AIO the "E-I-E-I-O." I hope this conjures up images of farm animals as this is how we pretty much few the AIO team and their absurd walk-throughs.) Anyway...

I told my students that we may have people visit the classroom today and to keep their reading notebooks out on their desks. This visit can be intimidating as it is a team of, like, 6 people walking in, observing, circulating, and asking kids questions. I told my kids not to worry about it. They weren't being graded or judged. They should just go about their business and answer any questions they're asked.

So we went about our day not knowing what time we would be visited. We did guided reading, began a writing session (in which we are doing the most FUN writing assignment: We are doing a cross-curricular project combining what we are learning about in science (plant adaptations) and what we are learning about in reading (tall tales) and writing stories involving exaggerated plant adaptations! It's SO fun!). Anyway....we were writing when I suddenly sensed tenseness in the classroom and heard whispers of, "The visitors are here! The visitors are here!" I almost laughed out loud. The kids calling them "the visitors" made it sound like they were talking about aliens (not too far off), and the way they said it made it sound like Paul Revere was announcing the arrival of the British. (Hmmm...sounds like the making of a new writing assignment: combining historical fact with science fiction!).

So the E-I-E-I-O people came and did their thing, walked around the classroom, pretended not to interrupt absolutely everything, and then left after 5 minutes. I hope they got everything they needed so they never have to come back and bother me with this bullshit for the rest of the year. What I'd really like to do is to "walk through" their office with my clipboard and pretend not to evaluate what's going on in there.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Big Excitement!

There was lots of excitement in the classroom today! Moreso than the first day even! It caused so much of a distraction that the kids didn't settle down for 15 minutes! What caused this excitement you ask? Was it the adoption of a classroom pet? No. Was it the addition of a new student? Nope. Were we going on a field trip? Wrong again! The big deal was....

We changed seats.

Yes, that's all. I changed the seating arrangement as I always do at the beginning of the second quarter. I guess as adults we forget how important this is. To a child, this can apparently make or break a school year (or at least a fourth of it). I heard the mutterings of displeasure within the first 5 seconds of the kids entering the classroom. I also heard the occasional "Yessssssssssss!" I had pleas to be moved, complaints that they couldn't see of their neighbor's big head, assurances that their parents didn't want them sitting next to so-and-so.


My response to all of these grievances: "You'll live." And they will. They always do. In fact, by tomorrow they'll have forgotten where they used to sit.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween in the City

Halloween in the city always depresses me. I tend to compare the childhoods of my city kids to my own childhood (which I probably shouldn't do, but can't help). Our situations are totally different. It may sound terrible, but I believe that the way it was for me during my childhood was better than the way it is for them during theirs. Allow me to explain:

Kids in the city go trick or treating at stores, not houses. This bugs me to no end. This probably happens because most dwellings in the city are buidings and not walk-up single-family homes. So I understand why this happens. I just hate it.

Many kids do not dress up. They just put on a mask or something and then trick-or-treat. That's cheating. This is most likely not the child's fault, though, so I should be more understanding.

One of my kids asked me yesterday what it was like to go trick or treating because she has never gone! This is not a religious thing. Her parents just don't let her. *sigh*

I heard on the radio this morning that a pregnant woman got shot in the head while bringing 3 small kids trick or treating. 'Nuff said.

So I guess forgive me for thinking that my childhood was superior to my students'. I never heard of anybody getting shot in the head while trick or treating. The worst thing that happened were some cars getting egged.

One thing that was exactly the same, though, was that everybody's lunch today consisted pretty much only of candy! That's the way it should be the day after Halloween.