Never Trust a First Grader

For Christmas, my mentor (Ms. A) gave me a nice box of Ghiradelli's chocolate. Not realizing that we were exchanging gifts, and knowing it was the last day of school before break, I decided to give her a coupon in return. It was a coupon for Forty Free Minutes; I would do an activity with her first grade class for 40 minutes while she got some work done or drank coffee in the lounge, or whatever. It turned out to be the perfect present: she loved it, and it cost me nothing...

Yesterday, she finally cashed in on her gift. I read the book "If..." by Sarah Perry to her 20-some first graders. It was a lesson in visualizing, or mental imagery. Every page has a different "If" statement like: "If toes were teeth..." or "If frogs ate rainbows...". I would read a page, have them close their eyes and visualize it, then reveal the author's illustration. The kids were SO into it. When I finished reading the book, I explained that we were going to make our very own class book: each student would get a page and come up with their own "If" statement, then illustrate it.

Before I let the kids get back to their seats, I wanted them to understand that they wouldn't be writing in complete sentences. I told them they would end their statement with a-- I pointed to the text-- a "dot, dot, dot", I said.

It was at this point in my lesson that ALL 20-SOME first graders shouted "ellipsis!" "it's an ellipsis!"

"Ellips-ees?" I asked.

"EllipSIS" they said, obviously delighting in my complete ignorance.

There was no turning back at this point. So I played it up and told them I'd never met such a smart class of first graders before and "Oh boy, we'd better not let Ms. A know about this; how embarrassing!"

The giggles died down, the kids completed their assignments, and I went back to my office.

An hour later, Ms. A pokes her head in my office: "So I heard you learned a new word today, huh?" We had a good laugh about it, then she told me that her kids took great joy in reporting that I actually called it a "dot dot dot"!


Until Spring Break!!!

  • Three more crack-of-dawn mornings
  • Three hundred more miles
  • Three more sack lunches
  • Thirty more dollars of gas
  • Two more meetings
  • Twenty-one more kids
  • Countless more prayers to make it through...

Word to the Wise

Teachers everywhere, some tips for you:
Here are some Do's and Don'ts of meeting with parents (whether it's a P-T conference or an IEP or whatever):
  • Start with the positive
  • Listen reflectively
  • Make them feel valued and empowered
  • Share ways they can help at home
  • Speak tactfully
  • Back up what you say with documented evidence
  • Be late
  • Go on the offensive
  • Take ANYTHING personally (except maybe a compliment)
  • Be blunt
  • Raise your voice for any reason
  • Antagonize
Start out by telling the mother: "Mama Bear, you're not going to like what I have to say". (Yes, this really happened!)


Last week, one of "my" first graders got in trouble in gym class for disruptive behavior. A note was sent home for mom/dad to sign. When he handed it back to the coach yesterday, coach pulled him aside and told him how proud he was of him, and told him how responsible he was to bring it back. My little student just nodded proudly. When coach looked down at the paper, a perfectly printed MOM was written on the signature line!


Sick Days

Ever since I can remember, it's been very difficult for me to take sick days. I remember several times in high school, my dad would urge me to stay home and rest; usually I was too determined to give in. Sometimes it was that I thought I was going to miss out on something really fun at school if I stayed home. Sometimes I was sure that I would fail my next test if I didn't show up for class (can't really trust other note-takers, you know?). In college, taking a day off was unthinkable: most classes only met 1-3 times a week!

And now that I'm teaching, not much has changed. When I lived in California, I didn't like to stay home when I was sick because I had to make sub plans. And that was so much trouble. But then again, I didn't get all that sick in California. I'm sure it has something to do with all that sunshine and fresh air year round.

At my school here in Michigan, the policy is "crawl in, don't call in". In fact, we are officially given 0 sick days (they still pay us when we have to stay home due to sickness, but they don't give us a specified number of days so that we don't abuse it). So I have a lot of guilt when I stay home sick. And at my current job, I don't even need to make sub plans for when I'm gone because I'm not a classroom teacher!

But still I feel compelled to be at school when I am sick. The last time I was sick, I got up anyway and tried to get to work, only to turn around 10 miles into my commute when I realized I wasn't going to make it. And just this past Wednesday, I went in to work when I clearly shouldn't have. It was my colleagues in the special ed. department who urged me to go home. That was hard, because I felt that everyone else was judging me a wuss. On Wednesday, it was purely an upper respiratory issue that was making me feel miserable. But I threw up on Thursday. I kind of wanted to send out a mass e-mail to everyone to show that I was justified in staying home (but then decided against it). I've got to stop caring what other people think and just take care of myself, so that is why I'm taking today off too, to recuperate!!


This week has been a whirlwind of hectic busy-ness. I'm SO glad it's over. I had four METs (3 year reviews), four IEP's, four evaluations of our aides to give, and I took on two brand new kids onto my daily caseload. My office looks like it's been hit by a hurricane... I try not to notice! Because if I don't look, it's not there, right?
I have no energy to say anything else..............

Officially a Teenager

Today marks the day of my First Ever Real Life Accident.

We got about five inches of snow last night. Out where I work (about an hour's drive each way), they only got about two. School was not cancelled for us. Schools along the highway I drive were cancelled. That should have been my cue to crawl back into bed. But no. It was really important that I be at work today, so I shoveled the snow off my car and took off. I allowed myself extra time, and didn't rush it.

Things were going along smoothly. I was going 50 mph for the first hour of my commute (others whizzing past me on my left). Then I saw a car had slid into the median, so I slowed down to about 40 mph. The next thing I know, I'm spinning. Spinning and screaming. It was pure panic for what felt like the longest time. I remember I was able to pump my brakes a couple times before impact, but the ice just laughed at my feeble attempt to ward off the collision. When the car was done spinning, I had hit the guard rail by the shoulder of the freeway. No whiplash for me, but a sickening "crunch" coming from the rear left of the car.

I did what any rational person would do: I cried. I got out of the car, checked out the damage, got back into the car, and cried some more. If it wasn't for a girl who pulled over to see if I was okay, I probably would be still be crying in that spot. She helped me dig my back tires out of the snow. Together, we waited for a break in the traffic. Then, I hit the gas, and she pushed my car from behind. God bless her!

I'm thankful that the accident wasn't worse. I'm grateful that I wasn't hurt in any way. I'm bummed that my remote start and my cruise control have stopped working. But at least I still have a car!! I'll fit in perfectly with so many other Michigan-ghetto-cars ;).

When It Rains, It Pours...

Today brought a delightful change of pace. I was actually BUSY all day! Yes, busy! I'll give you a moment to catch your breath.

Somewhere in between stacks of paperwork that couldn't be put off any longer, umpteen phone calls that needed follow-up, colleagues crying in my office, and spontaneous meetings, I did manage to see some kids. I'm taking on two more students onto my caseload this week, and I think that has something to do with it...

And, to top it all off, today was "Dress as your Favorite Book Character" day to kick off reading month. That would have been fun, if I had remembered about it sooner than right before I fell asleep last night. Max tried to be helpful with suggestions such as "Nancy Drew", "Cam Jansen", "Wilbur from Charlotte's Web" (ha-HA), but I finally decided that if anyone asked, I would stand up on my tippy-toes and say that I was "Sarah, Plain and Tall". I got by :)
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