Trained....and Ready?

Today, I spent the day at the district office, learning all about this awesome program ("Reading Naturally") to build fluency and comprehension. The presenter was excellent and the information was relevant. In short, I can't wait to use it in my own classroom! As I was sitting in the training, however, it occurred to me that there's a lot of stuff that they DON'T tell you in any given in-service.

What they do tell you:
  • "Here's how to implement the steps of this awesome program"
What they don't tell you:
  • "Here's how to convince your site administrator to buy the program and the materials"
  • "Here's how to get creative with your time management so that you can fit this program into your day"
  • "Here's what to throw out in your day so you can make room for this program in your schedule"
  • "Here's how to squeeze extra physical space and storage space into your already too-packed classroom so you can run the program"
In fact, as I sat there thinking, it also occurred to me that some people in the room might not go to all the trouble of running the program (even though it would be so beneficial), because it's just too much extra work. So our real choices were: 1) put up with the hassle for your students' sake, or 2) be a lousy teacher and don't sleep well at night. Hmmmmm. Guess which one I choose? Hooray!

Paper, Work

Tomorrow brings a long awaited break in my routine: I'll be attending an all-day Read Naturally training at the district with one of my colleagues/friends. It's going to be awesome; I'll be interacting with ADULTS, nobody will whine my name, I'll get to go OUT to lunch, I'll miss the Wednesday staff meeting, I'll get to sleep in for a whole twenty minutes, and with any luck, I'll be inspired again.

Lately, I've been really short on inspiration and motivation in the classroom. There is just something about district-induced loads of paperwork (with deadlines all too near) and pending IEP's looming on the horizon that just sucks the energy right out of me. You know it's a bad sign when you feel that the kids are getting in the way of your job. Shouldn't the kids BE my job? Apparently the district never got the memo...

In the meantime, this is what I'll look like for the next few weeks.

From the Funny Farm

In the last five minutes of the school day today, we practiced spelling our "words of the week". I usually like to do something really corny as we spell each word (makes it a game instead of a drill). Today I told the kids we were going to lasso each letter with invisible rope. At the end of the spelling, we shout the word and bring in the cow. The kids were excellent cowboys.

As we lined up outside for the bus, one of my students said: "I gonna eat my cow!". Another student turned to him with a look of utter disgust and said: "We no eat cow!". I told this second student that whenever you eat a hamburger, you're eating cow. He replied: "but milk?". You should have seen his look of amazement when he realized that both milk and meat come from cows. The first student suddenly exclaimed: "I eat sheep too!"

I thought this amusing incident was over, but about two minutes later as we approached the school gate, the first student said: "What do chicken make". I told him: "Well... chicken is chicken". He looked puzzled, so I added: "you know, like chicken nuggets!"

"Oh.... COOL!"

Meeting Etiquette

Some tips I thought I'd pass along in case you ever need to attend a meeting, or hold a meeting:

  1. Don't ask questions you already know the answer to.
  2. Never whine about decisions that have already been made.
  3. Don't ask hypothetical questions in order to find a loophole.
  4. Don't call a meeting if emailing the meeting agenda would be just as effective.
  5. Don't call a meeting to tell people what they already know.
  6. Don't ask questions that are answered in the meeting agenda.
  7. Don't hog the chips.
  8. Maintain a positive attitude (or fake one if you have to): remember that you're not the only one who doesn't like meetings.
  9. NEVER waste everyone's time by asking personal questions that only apply to you.
  10. (Have I left anything out?)
It turns out, common sense isn't so common.

Reading will be the end of me

Yesterday, I got myself sent to the doctor for pink eye (again). I could have laid low and flown under the radar, but I'm getting a bit worried about the persisten redness, and I didn't have time after school any day this week, so I opted to leave at 9:30. My doctor referred me to an opthalmalogist (that is how you spell it; I checked) and told me that I might be contagious and not to go back to school that day (nevermind that I've been teaching with red-ish eyes since Jan. 8th... today could be the day I infect someone). I couldn't really enjoy my impromptu holiday as I felt very guilty for dumping my kiddos off on two of my colleagues, and I felt bad that I couldn't take care of the increasing mounds of paperwork from home. So I putzed around and bothered Max.

Near the end of the day, I picked up a novel from the library and started reading it. It proved to be a mistake. There's a reason why I don't read for fun during the school year, and I knowingly shoved it to the back of my mind and read anyway. I got so into the novel (I'm on page 233) that I literally fought with Max about going to bed. Suddenly I was in seventh grade again and arguing with my parents saying things like: "One more chapter!" "Just one more page", or "Give me ten minutes, I'll go to bed after that I PROMISE". Max put his foot down "for my own good". I read for fifteen more minutes, then struggled with him for control of the book. He finally got me to close it, but I managed to grab it and read while I was brushing my teeth. Well, at least I didn't get a flashlight and read under the covers like when I was younger. I am hopeless.

And the worst part is that I have a much anticipated book on hold, waiting for me at the library with my name on it. The struggle isn't over yet... why do I do this to myself?

My Life as a Soap Opera

The opera I went to on Thursday night must have been a magical opera--the kind of magic that makes the drama on stage spill over into real life. Ever since yesterday morning, events have transpired which have evoked strong feelings on my part. Since it's Friday night and I have nothing better to do, I'll take the time to recap here:

Paranoia and Fear

What innocently began as a cough that my aide caught in October has turned out to be a case of "our portable is falling apart and the district is going to cover it up until we sue them". I realize that's quite a conclusion to reach but 1) her cough has persisted, 2) it flares up when the vent kicks on (yet she feels fine at home), 3) the kids have been coming down with coughs and mysterious nose bleeds (one girl in particular has been coughing all year long), and 4) my aide wipes down all surfaces with Clorox at the end of every school day (without fail) and recently has been finding suspicious black particles covering all surfaces. All of this combined caused her to urgently ask me to complain at the office and have someone check our vent filters. She even saved the clorox wipes with the black particles as evidence.
When I reported all of this to the office manager, she was very alarmed and promised she would fill out a work order right away. I thought I had heard the last of the hoopla, as work orders in our district take at least three months to be acted upon. But surprise! Two hours later, there were two men with ladders in my classroom (yes, as I was teaching!) inspecting my vents. They reported no mold but are (supposedly) going to install finer filters to determine what's coming through there.

Bottom line: it could be nothing, or we could all die early.

Anger and Embarrassment

I had an IEP meeting (they happen once annually for all of my students--usually means testing and lots of paperwork) after school for one of my second graders. By law, a general education 2nd grade teacher had to sit in at the meeting. Since the general education 2nd grade is located in a different school across the street, I had contacted their principal to send someone over. I didn't hear back from said principal, so I emailed once again, informing them that I expected a 2nd grade rep at such-and-such a room at such-and-such time. When all of the team members had sat down with the child's parent to start the meeting, there was no 2nd grade representative to be found. This caused two things to happen: 1) we looked bad in front of a key out-of-district team member, and 2) I had to call the third grade rep from our campus to sit in on a long meeting at a moment's notice. I felt terrible; the 3rd grade rep is a friend of mine and clearly had 500 other things to do than to sit in on some meeting she shouldn't have been responsible for just because some unprofessional principal had dropped the ball and downright broken the law. It irks me when things aren't fair. I admit I was rather furious about the whole situation--but it looks like I might have my vengeance as our principal is going to go have a "talk" with their principal.

Bottom line: I hope that never happens again.

Exasperation and Disappointment

Both of my girls were home sick today (along with my aide), so I was left to fend for myself with a pack of wild boys... two of which were suspended for bringing toy guns to school (they looked quite real).

Bottom line: It's better they learn early that guns aren't toys.

Well, I didn't mean to write a novel in this post, but if you want concise, it's usually better to visit Max's blog than mine :).
Have a good weekend, everyone! I, for one, am looking forward to lots of dull moments free of drama...

Save the Drama for your Lama

Last night's production of "Don Giovanni" was superb. I don't know how else to describe it-- I wish I had pictures to post, but cameras were strictly prohibited. I learned several things as a result of my opera venture with grandma:
1) There was sexual harassment even in Mozart's day.
2) There seems to be more and more younger people attending the opera.
3) It turns out, I really like "Good and Plenty" candy (never thought I liked that stuff).
4) I get my candy smuggling tendencies from grandma.
5) Soap operas are just really long, drawn out operas.
6) I can sleep with my eyes open (I loved every minute of the performance, but I had been up since six that morning, so I had a right to be tired--back off).
In all, it was definitely an experience.

I thought I was going to have a really hard day today from going to bed so late, but I was okay. I managed to get seven hours of sleep last night, and there was enough DRAMA in my room to keep me alert. I won't elaborate right now, but let's just say my day involved possibly deadly air particles, sick children, persistent black dirt, ladders, illegal actions, major-ly inconveniencing colleagues, district maintenance, marshmallows and toothpicks, and an unprofessional principal at the next school over. I'll let you wonder until I have more time to flesh out the ongoing saga of my daily life :)

Back in Full Swing

It was a wonderful three day weekend! I did lots of little nothings. Max and I played Taboo with some friends. I laid on the couch. I read a book. I played computer games. The only price I paid was four hours at my school desk on Saturday to catch up on some work. It was worth it for the relative calm I feel now on my first day back!
I felt surprisingly awake today, considering. I know the feeling won't last, though. Tomorrow night I'll be staying up WAY past my bedtime because I'm going to see Don Giovanni at the opera with my grandma tomorrow night. I know it will be a lot of fun, but I'm sure my eyes will struggle to focus by the last act ;).
Between getting ready for the district's official review of our school in early February (aka: extra mountains of paperwork), rushing to finish testing kids and writing IEP's, lesson planning, running copies, attending useless meetings, and, oh yeah, teaching, I've been distracting myself by planning my trip to Syracuse, NY to see my sister in February. Five more weeks! We've already booked a great deal through Travelzoo at the Marriott hotel in Niagra Falls. Spa treatments, breakfast, and dinner all included. Yea!

To Teach or Not to Teach?

Not to teach.

At least, that's what I've managed to do all day. Actually, I take that back, I taught for fifteen minutes early this morning. Then, it was off to library and computers, then after that it was an hour-long assembly until lunch. After lunch, five of my kids went off to science (science is a pullout at my school); two kids were absent, so that left three kids to work with my aide at phonemic awareness games. And that left me free to do exactly twenty minutes of testing, and an hour of paperwork. Then recess, pack up and go home. Oddly, I managed to be tired at the end of the day anyway!

Even when I'm not teaching, there's all the managing of little bodies. And those little bodies can get on your nerves when you're trying to get paperwork done. We've been studying Martin Luther King Jr in honor of his holiday on Monday. We've been talking about fairness and respect, and how MLK Jr made the world a better place by using his words. But it seems that the only thing my kids can remember about his life (or want to talk about) is that he was shot. At the library this morning, they all wanted books about MLK Jr. I was proud of them for their interest... but for the rest of the day, they didn't at all try to read the words on the page, they just kept flipping to the end of the book, pointing to the pictures and saying "He die right?". Again and again, my paperwork would get interrupted by little voices coming up to me "Mrs. B, Mrs. B, he die right?" I thought I was going to lose it. Finally I said (and this is pretty much verbatim) "YES, I KNOW, I TOLD YOU THAT. Now go back to your seats and read QUIETLY. Silent reading means QUIET, remember? Remember?".

Despite the capital letters, I didn't actually yell, but I think my voice must have had an edge to it because they scrambled back to their desks. Finally.

But I love my kids, I really do. I love how excited they get over nothing--like when it was overcast today, or when they got to take home miniature police badges after the assembly this morning, or when they're actually disappointed there's no school this Monday ;). Ha!

To-do or not to-do? (The inevitable final bell question)

Sigh. The kids are finally gone for the day. It's been a good two days, but it's felt long. I keep thinking that it should be Friday already but it isn't! Yesterday the kids were as mellow and as laid back as wet noodles so it was a calm and quiet transition back to school. Today they were a little more peppy, but I'm glad it's not the same "pre-Christmas" energy :). Unfortunately, none of my students has done anything interesting or cutesy to blog about...
Nothing very exciting is happening at all these days. Right now I'm sitting at my desk deliberating between checking off some items on my way-too-long to-do list, or giving up and going home.
I'll leave you to decide which I ended up doing :)

Back to Reality

Surprise! I'm back to my blogging. Vacation is officially over.
And I can't believe it's all over. I have the unfortunate knack of always looking forward; either I'm counting the days until my next vacation or Event, or I'm dreading the return to "normal" for hours/days/weeks ahead of time. It's always been hard for me to enjoy the moment without taking all past moments into consideration and without looking forward (or dreading, as the case may be) to future moments. At this present moment in time, I have precisely two hours and eleven minutes until I need to be in bed so I can get up early tomorrow morning. I already know what will happen. I'll lie awake for at least an hour, thinking about tomorrow, then I'll realize how much sleep I've already lost, then I'll become stressed about being sleep-deprived which will inevitably lead to actual sleep-deprivation, all culminating in a very tired person staggering out of bed at butt o'clock tomorrow morning.

It's always hard going back after a great vacation. We've done a lot of fun things these past two weeks. We've gone out to eat, watched movies, played cards, opened gifts (all of which we are still enjoying--thank you everyone!), gone shopping, gone to the zoo, and generally had a good time all around. Oh, and my butterflies all hatched around Christmas day. They are good butterflies, and I've enjoyed hearing them flit around in their house. I tried to release them into nature ("nature" being off of our balcony) last Monday but they would have none of it. Two of them cowered on the floor of the house, and one ventured out only to discover that his wings hadn't developed properly and he couldn't fly. I took pity on them and they've become our permanent pets until the end of their short lives. I can't blame them for not wanting to venture into Real Life where they need to worry about getting eaten by birds, procreating, and surviving on whatever flowers they can find. I'm not too keen on returning to Real Life either :).
But it will be nice to see all of my colleagues again, and there's always February break to look forward to... I know, I'm so spoiled...
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