Life at work has slowed down a bit after the stressful onslaught of last week. Now there's just the usual stuff to do, not all the other extras. I was talking to a (general ed) colleague of mine earlier today about Open House last week. She was reminiscing about the "good old days" when you could do fun activities often during the week along with the curriculum. Nowadays it's all about teaching to the standards and following the pacing plan in time for testing. She called Open House a "horse and pony show". Teachers are left scrambling for fun things to display for the parents (artwork, projects, etc). She said if we were truly going to show what we taught, we'd only be displaying worksheets ... and then who would come to Open House? Although the conversation might seem negative to you, it wasn't discussed in this way; it was more an honest reflection of education today. I thought she had a good point.

As promised.... are the pictures! First, here are some of my butterflies enjoying their "house". They were a huge hit at open house!

This is the door to my room. The kids wrote their favorite memories of the year on a bubble gum shape!

This is part of my wall. Note the self portraits about the Wow board; some were good, some were hilarious :).

This is a picture of me taken this morning, as I paused by the door to showcase our butterfly house. We set them free this morning!

This is a picture of me encouraging the last butterfly to fly away free, but he just wouldn't leave. When I looked more closely, I noticed that the tip of his wing was missing (which is caused by incomplete development in the chrysalis). So... meet our new class pet. He's taken permanent residence in our butterfly house :). Of course the kids don't mind!

One last word about my butterflies. Five caterpillars came in the mail. One caterpillar died as a caterpillar; one butterfly died as it tried to emerge from its chrysalis; and one ended up with a broken wing. My colleague/friend from across the hall also has butterflies which she set free today and they fared much better. When I told her about mine, she remarked: "Aww. Yours must be special ed butterflies!!" I laughed really really hard. :)

Invisible pictures

Okay so I may have lied about posting more pictures yesterday, but in my defense, I forgot the camera at school. Open House was a huge success last night. I had 6 families show up--since I only have 10 students, that's over half!!! I was so thrilled to see everybody and parents were beaming with pride as they checked out their child's best work, and especially when they saw all the great pictures up! I don't know what I would have done if my aide hadn't stayed for 2 extra hours (without pay) to help me set up! I wish I could give her a raise :).
I also had fun checking out my colleagues' classrooms, as well as meeting some of the families of the students that I'll have next year. By the end of the night (8:15), I felt so wiped out that I could hardly stand!

I have some great pictures of my room which I PROMISE I'll post tonight! For now, I'm still fighting off sickness (a losing battle), so my main focus today is to make it to 3 without collapsing....

It's Here!

Well, today is D-day. Or maybe O-day for Open House. My aide and I have been running around like decapitated chickens trying to get everything in order for tonight. Our room looks fabulous (mostly thanks to her creative ideas) and we're just about ready to receive parents. After all the fuss we're making, I surely do hope some parents show up. Many of our parents have to drive 30 to 40 minutes to get here since so many kids come to us from out of district. Our unofficial program coordinator is making root beer floats in the hope of attracting more families. For my own class, I know of at least 2 parents that will come! My main focus today is to keep my cold/sore throat at bay until this three day weekend. Every day this week, I've gotten just a little more sick, but I haven't taken a sick day yet! I am not a wuss, contrary to popular opinion. :)

I'll be posting pictures of my awesome room later on in the day!

Showing Off

Here is a picture of a fantastic bulletin board that my aide made for me for Open House (this Thursday!). More pictures later!

The Grossest Day of my Career

Not having been in the workforce for very long, I can make outlandish claims like "Longest day of my career" or "Best day of my career" and such. Today I can safely say that I had the Grossest Day Ever. If you are a frequent visitor to this site, you may remember a story about a little boy who found caterpillar eggs on the playground about a month ago and brought them to live in our classroom. Well, the eggs have hatched and the critters have grown. They were living in a transparent, triangular container. We kept adding leaves and the caterpillars would chew holes through them. Recently I'd noticed that a lot of the leaves were decomposing and creating mold (which, as everyone knows, is bad for caterpillars!). I told the critters' proud "owner" that we needed to transfer the caterpillars to a bigger container and wash the old one out. We set out to complete this task during our 20 minute recess. Reaching in and moving those slimy caterpillars one by one, removing the layers of rotting leaves, and then finding a thick layer of caterpillar poop was by far the YUCKIEST thing I have had to do on the job. Not only that, but I was under the impression that there were only eight or nine caterpillars in the container. As it turns out, there are forty-two!! And they were slimy!! And I had to touch them!! According to Max, there are far grosser jobs to do on a farm, but in my defense, I did not realize that teaching had any gross parts (unless you're teaching preschool and wiping snotty noses...).
In any case, the whole job took about one hour and twenty minutes. Not a lot of academics this morning...

The worst part may have been the sinking realization that these caterpillars look nothing like our other caterpillars (butterflies now, by the way!) and may in fact, be disgusting moths.

Random news

Yesterday was a great day; I was at a full day math conference in Anaheim with three of my colleagues. The conference was excellent, the company was... interesting (I got an ear full of what is going on around campus--now I can say that I'm "in the loop"), and lunch at Red Robin was superb! The only thing I wish I could change was how awful half my kids were for the sub!! Oh well.

In other news, our chrysalides haven't hatched yet, and I 'm horrified to think they might emerge this weekend when no one is there to watch! I just pray that they can hang in there until Monday! Isn't it nice that God still cares about the little stuff?

I have a fun weekend to look forward to. Max and I are going to the movies (a seemingly bi-annual event!); I'm getting my hair cut; and tomorrow I'm going to the Scholastic Warehouse Sale to blow through the rest of my birthday money (thanks you guys!)


New day, Better day

Happy days are here again, folks! Sorrow is behind me and 5.5 weeks are ahead of me...
Today my aide was out sick so I scrambled around for some whole group activities. The day went well as my kids are getting a little better at working independently. It also helped that there was no major drama out on the playground!
I had the kids write about caterpillars today and this is some of what they came up with (I know you're all just dying to see what they wrote!).

Student 1: "The caterpillar is fat. The caterpillar is going to Mexico to meet his mom and dad. He is going to be a butterfly when he gets to Mexico. He is going to be excited."
[insert picture of a caterpillar on a boat holding a beer--yes, I meant beer]

Student 2: "The super caterpillar he flew away to the tree at summer because he want to be chrysalis."

Student 3: "The caterpillar ate leves outside at egg."

Can't wait to show all of these writing samples to parents at Open House next week.... :)

Teacher's ups and downs

I was hoping to have something more uplifting to write today, but it was not meant to be. The only great thing about today was how well my IEP meeting went after school. Other than that, my day started with tears, and it ended with tears.
I don't expect anyone to understand unless they've actually spent time teaching in the classroom... I was warned by my professors in college that there would be times in my career where I would have mini-breakdowns (and not to worry; breakdowns are normal, they said). I thought I knew what they were referring to when I caught myself hurling my keys against the door in total frustration (don't worry; the kids were nowhere near me), but never did I expect to be crouched under my desk trying to stop the tears and get my act together before the morning bell rang.
I'm so thankful for people at school like Mrs. K who are able to pray for me, encourage me, and get me to come back to work tomorrow! It also helps to have the best husband in the world waiting for me when I get home :)

BTSA bites!!!

After a pretty fun weekend, I was dreading coming back to work this morning. Six more weeks of school seems like an eternity! I spent the day teaching, preparing materials, and writing IEP's. Oh, and a mandatory three hour meeting to top it off. This meeting was designed to allow new teachers to share what we have learned about ourselves...the meeting being only a drop in the bucket of a huge "mentorship" program designed for every first and second year teacher in the state of CA. The 2 year program is called BTSA and it involves 40 hours each year of extra paperwork and meetings. I forget what it officially stands for, but I have many names for it (most not fit to be spoken out loud); I usually refer to it as "Better Teach Somewhere, Anywhere other than California". When I got to the meeting (literally 300 other teachers/staff from the district were there), we had assigned seating with some goodies for us. We got a traveling coffee mug, a notepad, and a pencil. It would have been cool, but it had the BTSA logo on it, and whenever I am forced to think about BTSA, I get this odd feeling in my stomach--like a cross between burning hatred and defeated hopelessness. So I guess what I'm saying is that I wish I was in Lapeer right now so I could throw their "goodies" in the fireplace and watch it all burn.....
Maybe I will have something more uplifting to say tomorrow :)

Bugs, bugs, bugs

Yesterday, we ended our insect unit by watching Disney's "A Bug's Life". It was perfect; the kids loved it, and I got 95 minutes of freedom! Unfortunately, much of that freedom was spent mediating a dispute between two of my students which had occured on the playground during recess. I really hate mediating between kids; I don't feel that I'm that good at it, and it's even more difficult when one of the students' speech is unintelligible and the other student has a very low language level. I come to a final decision about who's responsible and I give a consequence. Then, I leave the situation still doubting myself. But the alternative is to spend my precious break time out on the playground, and that is out of the question :).
In other news, our mail-order caterpillars haved become chrysalises (still ugly, as you can see from the picture) .

I'm appreciated

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week put on by our parent's group (PFO). This doesn't mean a whole lot to me since I don't have any parents that live anywhere close to the school where they could help out... But it does mean that there are signs all over campus claiming we are the best (and rightly so). The other thing it means is that they will be throwing a free lunch for us today. WOO HOO!!!
In other news, today is the last day of our two week testing period (YES!), which is great because I'm sick and tired of seeing my students struggling over material they haven't learned, and language they don't understand. I'm also looking forward to removing the "shrouds of death" (butcher paper) that have covered my walls of all things educational. It will be nice to have my room back.
Today promises to be a good day...

Laughable moments or teachable moments?

I love my students dearly. That being said, there are times when frustration threatens to take over my patience. I have one 11 year-old student who has the language of about a three year old. The kids were doing an exercise with our Speech-Language Pathologist. She was giving them clues about a secret object and then they had to guess what the object was. Simple, right? Well, it was for most of my students. The afore-mentioned 11 year-old was having a tough time with it. Real life example:

Clue 1: "It is yellow"
Clue 2: "It is a fruit"
Said student yells: "a Sister!!"
Teacher redirects with clue #3: "You can peel it"
Said student yells: "THE WIND!!"

On a side note, I have heard this student use the word "banana" before and he frequently brings them to school as a snack. And yes, this student was really trying to guess this word. Maybe it was a fluke, you say? Here is the next real-life example:

Clue 1: "It lives in the ocean"
Clue 2: "It has sharp teeth"
Said student says: "A dinosaur!!"
Teacher redirects with clue #3: "It likes the smell of blood"
Said student yells: "I know! A baby!"

Could anyone out there please tell me what I, as an educator, am supposed to do with that???

Class Pets

Here are our mail-order caterpillars! They are bigger now, and uglier, and grosser. (It amazes me that someday soon they will be beautiful butterflies.) What is particularly disturbing is the round yellow stuff that is called "frass"... aka: caterpillar poop. You can see it in the picture if you look closely. It would be funny if that turned into the next "crap", you know, "Oh, frass!", or "what the frass?" I'm not sure if it would be catchy enough, but you never know!


Fun Fiesta!

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!! My kids had a field day with all the food we brought in (made by teachers, not students, so as to avoid any stomach-pumping; see comment from post below). We ate nachos (with the real cheese heated in a crockpot) and taquitos with home-made guacamole as well as salsa and sour cream. YUM! The kids ate so much.... to top it off, we had popsicles-- I couldn't really think of a Mexican dessert. And to work off all those calories, we danced around a paper sombrero to the tunes of a mariachi band on the CD player. I'm not sure you could call it a true Mexican hat dance, but we sure had fun hopping and skipping around. I am such a ham.
As if all that food wasn't enough, when the kids were out on lunch recess my awesome aide threw me another birthday party, this time with staff. Always one to outdo herself, she brought two cakes (chocolate mousse, and tiramisu) complete with candles. Let's just say that it was all I could do to roll myself out the door at the end of the day!


It was great to get back to my classroom today after two full days of boring conferences! The room is still shrouded in the butcher paper of death (for testing; see previous post), but at least I was back where I belong. The kids were glad to see me; my aide was down-right excited to see me after two different subs. Oh, and my mail-order caterpillars grew... The ones found in our playground that hatched earlier this week, however, aren't doing so great. In fact, I think they've stopped moving altogether, but I'm sure not going to say anything seeing as how I've been wrong too many times before with these caterpillars :). Tomorrow is our big Cinco de Mayo fiesta (we'll take any excuse to eat!), complete with taquitos and a Mexican hat dance. I'll make sure to include pictures!

Whine Rhyme

Speaker drones,
Turn off phones,
I am in a meeting.

Time crawls,
Interest falls,
I am in a meeting.

Stress mounts,
Time counts,
I am in a meeting.

Six more hours,
Endurance powers,
I am in a meeting.

Minds wander,
I ponder:
"Why am I in this meeting?"

Birthday Bliss

It's the big 2-4!! Marked by another white hair spotting (and plucking), I turned 24 years old today. Officially in my mid-twenties... The day was spent at an all day conference about behavior intervention. Not the most fun, but I did get to go out to lunch with a colleague where I scored a free piece of cake! Yesterday, my wonderful aide threw me a mini-party with the kids where I opened student cards that praised me ("niec"-sic-"pretty" "best teacher ever" sweet) as well as some gifts from my aide. We also shared a very yummy chocolate ice cream cake. The kids and I had a ball! Did I mention I have the best aide ever?

In keeping with the ice cream theme, my present from Max is to eat all the ice cream I want today :). Usually he has to dole out my portions so I don't overdo it, but not today!!! I enjoyed a blizzard at DQ earlier this afternoon and I plan to give myself a generous serving of Rocky Road ice cream tonight! Happy Birthday to me!! Thank you to all the wonderful family and friends who called, sent cards, and sent packages. You made my day great even though I wasn't there to celebrate with everyone in person... I love you all!

Caterpillar Craziness

Last Monday, one of my students came running in from recess with a twig to show me. "Look!" he said, "Eggs!" I took the small twig and examined it. I found what seemed to be a white bark covering it. "No", I told him, "I don't think those are eggs". He insisted that they were caterpillar eggs anyway. The next day, he brought a see-through container to put the "eggs" in along with some leaves. He went to the science teacher to borrow a microscope. After peering at his twig, he said to me "they ARE eggs!!". I looked, and sure enough, there were hundreds of tiny eggs covering the stick. I was dumbfounded!
I did some research and discovered that they looked a lot like painted lady butterfly eggs (a butterfly common across the country). Every day for days now, they check to see if the eggs have hatched. I was cautiously optimistic as I found out they could either take days or months to hatch.
Lo and behold, they hatched! I took a look in the clear box this morning before the first bell rang and thought they might have hatched, but they looked an awful lot like specks of dirt. They weren't moving, and when I gently blew on them, they just blew to the side. My ever-optimistic student checked and came running out of the classroom screaming that they had hatched! I pulled him aside and tried to explain that it was just dirt from the leaves, but he would hear none of it. He wouldn't even let me finish my sentence, just kept proclaiming for the world to hear that his eggs had hatched ("I saw them moving", he claimed). I went back inside to check, and sure enough, they were crawling--how did I miss that?
So, my classroom is now home to hundreds of microscopic caterpillars as well as nine ecstatic students. Ironically, the painted lady caterpillars that I had ordered through a magazine two weeks ago arrived in the mail today. There are five of them and they are quite a bit bigger. Needless to say, caterpillars are all my kids can think about or talk about these days....
I'll include pictures soon!
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