Testing, testing, 1,2,3

So on Friday I had to give my kids a pep talk about the upcoming onslaught of California standardized tests starting on Monday and continuing for two weeks. It's horribly unfair that school funding depends on these tests, and even more unfair that special education students (such as mine!) aren't exempt from it. (I'll rant more about that later). In any case, I was telling my dear students that we don't have a choice and we have to take these tests; that they are for the state, not for parents or report cards; that it will be hard and there will be items on it that we haven't learned yet; that we will need to try our best anyway. Furthermore, I told them that I was not allowed to help them at all, and that there could be nothing posted in the classroom that could help them. One student raised his hand and asked if we could "put test in fire". I thought it was a brilliant idea (even better would be to have the bonfire on the steps of a government building in D.C), but I had to tell him No. Unfortunately.
Today I came back to school to cover anything remotely educational in my classroom with butcher paper (the alphabet, calendar, etc). I felt like I was mounting shrouds of death all over my walls, preparing for some sort of sick funeral. In a way, maybe it is. The only concrete outcome of standardized testing in special ed. settings is to remind the students that they are in special ed.
Oh, and let me remind everyone that "No child left behind" legislation was Clinton's big idea, not Bush's. For the record.

Fried Brain


  • Take 32 things that need to be done immediately
  • Add 21 important decisions to make
  • Mix in brain for 5 hours
  • Add 14 phone calls to take during instructional time
  • Shake well.
  • Garnish with an awkward parent phone call
Serves 1 stressed out teacher!


No Child Left Behind =

No child left untested =

No teacher left standing =

Teacher talk

As a teacher, it's sometimes possible to go a whole day without seeing another teacher. I teach five steps right across the way from Mrs. L, who's also in the DHH program. I somehow managed not to see her all day. I heard her, at times ("What did I just say?"), but never saw her until the last bell of the day. We were both outside trying to get our kids in some semblance of a line to go to the bus. She looked up at me, startled, and asked:
"Have I seen you today?"
"Oh, well hi" She nudged one of her kids back into place.
"Yeah, how are ya?" I rearranged my kids into position.
That was the end of our conversation.
Teaching shouldn't leave you feeling isolated, craving adult conversation... good thing I have Max to come home to :)

Freaky Friday Feelings

The Freaky Friday experiment was a success! I've had the whole weekend to think about it. There were some things that I expected to learn, and did, but I also learned some things that surprised me... I won't bore you all with the narrative, so here's a list.

Things I was expecting to learn:

  • Paperwork abounds! Mrs. B must have grading coming out of her ears judging from all the piles found on every available surface.
  • Her kids all seemed deceivingly smart because of their sophisticated language.
  • 34 mouths talking all at once is loud. I bet she's great at crowd control!
  • I'm not that great at teaching anything other than basic facts in math. I mean, when do I ever convert fractions into decimals in real life?? Never, that's when.
  • 34 kids will never make a quiet, straight line, whether you threaten or bribe them!
  • My instructional aide is God-sent!!!!!! How would I survive without her?

    Things that surprised me:

    • I felt like a total stranger in her classroom. Nothing was familiar. Where should I sit? How do you check email on a Mac? Who are all these kids?
    • I had a forty minute planning period first thing in the morning... all of which was spent checking their homework (not grading, checking), and passing out tests. When does she get her planning done??
    • I really, really missed my kids. That was perhaps the most surprising thing of all! I couldn't wait to get back to my room and my students. I mean, they can be terribly annoying at times, but at least they're mine... strange mama-hen feelings I didn't know I had. 

      Well, that's the end of my reflection today. In other news--

      Freaky Friday experiment

      I'm looking forward to tomorrow in a weird, scared/excited kind of way. A regular ed. teacher named Mrs.B approached me a few weeks back about wanting to trade places for the day because she's always wanted to see what it would be like to teach DHH. I said I would gladly switch classrooms with her because I've always wondered how those teachers handle 34 kids at once. So tomorrow is the big day. We actually decided to just do it in the morning because she thinks I'll burn out by lunch (apparently her kids are super wild this year!). I'm a little nervous that I might panic seeing 34 faces, 34 desks, and 34 mouths yakking. I'm hoping that by the end of the day I'll have a little more appreciation for my own kids, and a little more understanding of the general ed world.
      I told my kids about our Freaky Friday experiment today before the last bell rang. First I had to explain what Freaky Friday was because only three kids had seen the movie. Then they all got excited about it (I wouldn't tell them which teacher I was switching with) and totally intrigued about who it would be. One darling student who had seen the movie raised his hand and asked me: "Will she have your face?" But I assured him that there would be no magic involved and that each teacher would stay in her original body. Kids..... :)

      Sink or swim

      This morning I was exhausted from having stayed up WAY past my bedtime at the opera last night with grandma. It was incredible, and totally worth it, but I felt like I'd been run over by a truck this morning when the alarm rang.
      I had a good morning. But then somewhere between 11:30 and noon, chaos and panic found their way into my mind and never really left me alone. Maybe it had something to do with the new kid I got this morning (and was just informed of at 5:20 the night before), or the fact that I have two IEP's and a triennial coming up in the next month that I haven't started working on yet. Or maybe it was that four kids, nearly half my class, had hearing aids that were for some reason or another not working and needed to see our audiologist (who wasn't on site yet). Whatever the reason, I caught myself thinking of Spring Break and how long ago that seemed... and was it ever really here or was it just a dream?
      To quote "Finding Nemo": "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."

      Sea stories

      There was so much buzz and excitement in my classroom this morning, I was a little worried that our field trip wouldn’t live up to our expectations. I was wrong! It was by far the best field trip ever. What made it so great was that it was interesting, hands-on, and the staff didn’t drone on and on about who knows what. The weather was fantastic, and everyone had a blast. We were on a boat for most of the time. We got to touch a live star fish and a sea urchin (one of my students tried to barter with the boat staff to let him bring the star fish home as a pet… it didn’t work, but I’ll give him credit for trying!) We saw some loud sea lions, and we spotted a baby gray whale near our boat! It came up to the surface three or four times while we were watching it. We ate our lunch on the beach and watched Finding Nemo in the charter bus on the way home. An excellent day overall, apart from feeling terribly seasick on the boat, as you’ll note from the picture (no joke!)


      It's the first day back from Spring Break and I couldn't sleep last night because I was so excited! Well, more like I had a lot of details on my mind... oh and a hovering helicopter and a chattering bimbo kept me awake FAR past my bedtime. Six o'clock came awfully early this morning. I was happy to get back to school, oddly enough. I think I'm anxious to hurry up and get through these next ten weeks so I can get to summer. And also, I was pretty bored and restless lying around the house all week with no family to visit!
      The kids are definitely excited to be back at school today because tomorrow we are taking a field trip to Dana Point Harbor in a chartered bus; we'll also be taking a boat ride to see dolphins and sea lions in the wild. In keeping with the excitement, I've transformed the classroom into an ocean theme for a two week unit on the sea. Afterall, you can't have a field trip without ruining it with academics, right? :)

      Ho-hum, hum-drum

      For all of you faithful readers who have been wondering what I've been up to this week, here are some highlights:
      • going to bed and waking up whenever I want to
      • drinking my tea in front of the news instead of in the car
      • showering in the middle of the day
      • reading a whole novel in a day
      • walking by the back bay
      • shopping
      • planning the next two weeks of school so I don't start again on Monday feeling like a crazy woman
      • going to the zoo
      • surfing the net
      • hanging out with Max

      Well, I have three days of freedom left... and then ten weeks left till the end of the school year (but who's counting, right?) :)

      I've been published!!!

      I subscribe to this awesome educator's magazine called "The Mailbox" for elementary teachers. It is jam-packed full of ready-to-go ideas and reproducibles submitted by hundreds of fellow teachers across the country. Every once in a while, they send me an email asking for an idea for a certain topic in exchange for a twenty dollar gift certificate. Last month, I decided to give it a try (I tried it once last year with fantastic ideas, but they weren't accepted...) and submitted two ideas for the preschool level about a summer theme. The ideas were pretty basic and simple, and I wasn't optimistic about the outcome.
      But lo and behold, I just got a letter from them saying what good ideas they were and how they were going to publish them in their upcoming book compilation (with my name and school credited at the bottom). Needless to say, I was ELATED!! Not only did I get published (and before Max, too :) ), but I also got forty bucks in gift certificates to spend at their store! YEA FOR ME!!!

      "District knows best"

      As you may or may not know, children in special education tend to have paper trails a mile long. In an effort to organize and consolidate their files, our school district had the fantastic idea of making every special education teacher dig through their students' cumulative files to reclassify and reorganize documents, as well as to shred all duplicate documents (or triplicates or septicates, etc). Sounds like a great idea in theory, but I spent two hours going through one student's files this afternoon. Okay, so times nine would be EIGHTEEN HOURS spent knee-deep in paperwork. Yuck.
      I love my job, I love my job, I love my job, I love my job, I love my job.....

      The freedom to clean

      This week is finally over!! I thought spring break would never come... The kids were really antsy on Friday (almost as antsy as I was)! As the last bell rang, all I could think was "freedom, sweet, sweet freedom!!". And then after the kids were gone and I was standing there in the middle of the debris left in the classroom, I realized that chaos still reigns even without the students. I looked around me (you'll remember what my desk looks like) and saw all the loose papers, all the clutter, all the dust, all the candy wrappers and the Easter grass littered on the floor, and with a big sigh I resigned myself to coming in over the weekend and restoring some order.
      Little did I know how long that would take me... I spent six hours cleaning up and setting up the room today. The first two and half hours were spent clearing my desk alone! I found some pretty old stuff on my desk (unseen in the picture in the previous post). I found five loose pumpkin seeds, a couple of memos from September 1st (guess they weren't that important), and a paper bat we'd made back in October. Ahem... pretty embarrassing. The rest of the time was spent taking down Easter and putting up an ocean theme to greet the kids when they come back. Now all I have to do is go back tomorrow and actually get some planning done! So much for freedom :).

      Spring is in the air

      Ahhh... my first day back this week, and I'm already dreaming of the weekend. My kids have been suffering from cabin fever; apparently during the two days I was gone, they were stuck inside for every single recess and lunch break. This means that it now takes no more than a glance their way to get them in a tailspin. My classroom wasn't big enough to separate them all to different corners. Every ten seconds, somebody would whine "Stttoooooooopp!" to another student. No child was safe when my back was turned. The slightest provocation (intended or otherwise) would cause tears, whining, pouting, accusations, and chaos.
      I'm so glad today is over. Now I can go home and whine....
      Newer Posts Older Posts Home