Please Excuse

So..... it's been kinda quiet around these parts for a while.
I've been having a hard time in the classroom this year - I feel like my passion for teaching is dwindling. I do the best I can with what I've been given, but at the end of the day, I just want to...
1. Go home as soon as possible.
2. Turn off my brain.
3. Not talk about it.
4. Not write about it.
5. Not read what other people are saying about their teaching (see number 2).
If I haven't been around to your blog in a while, please don't take it personally! You may not see any posts from me for a bit until I can find wherever I've misplaced my creativity and my passion. Or perhaps it's just time to say goodbye! I've been blogging about teaching for more than FIVE YEARS. Maybe I've run out of things to say?!
In either case, I'm going to take some time to reevaluate my reasons and goals for blogging. Thanks in advance for understanding!!

Those people I'm related to

My whole family (parents and siblings) were all together for Thanksgiving - it was the first time in THREE YEARS we were all in the same place!!

Here are some highlights:

Going out for gingerbread ice cream (We love Braums!)

We hung out at the Stock Yards

I pretended I had something to do with cooking the Thanksgiving meal (when in reality it was my husband who cooked for 8 hours!!)

And we ate LOTS of turkey!

I hope your time off was STUFFED with good times too! 
(haha, see what I did there?)


Hello friends, I'm back from a week off from blogging. I had a fabulous Thanksgiving and I'm looking forward to sharing more about it later in the week, but for now I'd like to pick up exactly where I left off.
As you might recall from the previous post, I had some wonderful Thanksgiving activities planned for Friday - mainly the Turkey Tracks recipe. When I got to school that day, I had an email from my principal stating that she needed me to be in an emergency behavior meeting with the parents of one of my first graders. It was good that we had this meeting, but the timing was all wrong. I pull my first graders from 9 to 11. The behavior meeting started at 9 and didn't end until 10:45.
So by the time I got back to my room, there was no time for Turkey Tracks.
But I still had hope for my Kindergarten group in the afternoon. At the last minute, we decided to join my colleague for a Thanksgiving video. I thought it was going to last for 30 minutes, but the movie took a little over an hour to finish. And.... any hope of making Turkey Tracks in the remaining 45 minutes was squashed when I had to do damage control for "Martha". Martha thought it would be great fun to kick me repeatedly in the shins, tear down my calendar board, and pour the ranch dressing from her snack over my table.
It was a very discouraging day. For the first time in seven years, the thing that is keeping me from having fun in the classroom ISN'T the administration, ISN'T the curriculum... it's the kids.
Here's to hoping things will only get better from here.....

My little turkeys

We are in full turkey mode here at school. And I love it! Doing seasonal stuff with my kindergartners and first graders is such a welcome break from our regularly scheduled programming.

We've read My First Thanksgiving and I'm No Turkey.

We've written a list of things that we're thankful for.

We had our Thanksgiving Music Program on Tuesday. (The kids were both hilarious and adorable!)

And today we're making Turkey Tracks! Except we're making them with peanut butter and straight pretzel sticks (because I'm not sure about how my picky eaters will handle chow mein noodles!)

It should be messy but FUN! I am especially excited because once today is over, I have the WHOLE BLESSED WEEK off for Thanksgiving! Do I hear an Amen? :)

Thanksgiving with Kids

I've been surfing around on Pinterest and came across so many fun ideas for Thanksgiving with kids!

So I thought I'd share my favorites:

Thanksgiving Placemat (via)

Fun snacks (via)

Printable kids activities (via)

Thanksgiving Skit (via)

Turkey Craft (via)

Fun Kids Decor Printables (via)

that final sound is kinda important

Last week, I was reading aloud The Stubborn Pumpkin to my first graders. In the story, a farmer tries to pull a stubborn pumpkin off the vine. He enlists the help of many people and animals. First his wife, then his daughter, then the cow, then the dog..... etc.

I paused after the cow came along to help and asked my students who they thought would come next. One little girl, who has trouble with the final "s", shouted:

"A HORE!!!!!!!!"

I knew what she meant. But what she meant and what it sounded like were two very different things, and I had to laugh!

Cue the picture taking

All week, the kindergartners have been practicing in the auditorium for the Thanksgiving Program. I've been there to help and assist (I'm so glad I'm not in charge of this thing!).

Let me tell you, it is quite a production to get 54 five-year olds to stand in the right place - even with tape. And then getting them to sing loudly, keep smiling, leave their neighbor alone, stop touching the stage curtains, and to watch the lead teacher for their cues.... practically impossible!

This is really one of those times that I have to leave my perfectionism aside and remember that they're going to be adorable - mistakes and all. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the parents LOVE those cute and funny mistakes.

So on Tuesday when it's time for the Big Show, I'll just take a deep breath.... even when little David has his finger in his nose.

When Kids are blunt

More than anyone, kids tell it like it is.

Are you sporting a big angry zit today? You can be sure one of your students will ask you what "that big red thing" is on your face.

Wearing a new white necklace? Some kid may tell you that you look like Wilma Flintstone.

But sometimes kids can be quite ego boosting with their comments. Like every time I walk into the general education kindergarten classroom to pick up my kiddos for language arts. Without fail, I will hear a chorus of:

"I like your necklace!!!!!!"
"I like your earrings!!!!!!!"
"I like your boots!!!!!!!!!!"
"I like your shirt!!!!!!!!!!!"

And recently, after the chorus of praises had died down a little, Andrew piped up with:

So if you need a little self-esteem boost, go find a kindergarten classroom near you!

A Hopeful Monday

Friday was an easier day, partly because:

1. Marta punched me in the face on Thursday and was suspended on Friday.
2. My colleagues cheered me up with fresh flowers and a Starbucks gift card (!!)

I'm hoping today goes well. I have a new student starting today (my second in one week!) and a new table arrangement that seems promising for keeping two particular first graders (who like to feed off each other) out of each other's eyesight. I also have a shiny new behavior plan for one of my first graders... with walkie talkies and everything!!

So there's hope. I'm still feeling overwhelmed though. I'm now responsible for 12 students... that's MORE THAN HALF of all the of the students in our hearing impaired program.

I want to be able to do this. Do this well!

A perfectionist in the making

On Friday, just as I was about to leave, I got a call from the office.

It was 'Julie's' dad, and he wanted to talk about how she was doing since he missed Parent-Teacher Conferences.

Did I mention it was a Friday afternoon?
Did I mention he hadn't called ahead to schedule this?
Did I mention I send home my contact information EVERY week?

I went and talked to him anyway. Julie is my best and brightest. And I don't just mean in comparison to her peers with hearing loss, I mean in comparison to her general education peers. Her language level is very high. She outperformed all of her general education class on the math assessment.

I appreciate so much that her parents are so involved and proactive in working with her. But I sense that there's a lot of pressure on her to succeed. Dad barely heard me when I told her she was ABOVE grade level in language arts. He wanted a laundry list of things to drill her on at home.

When I told dad that when Julie grows up, she is going to SHINE, his only response was:

"She'd better."


student and teacher meltdowns

I'm having a hard time teaching in the morning. And by that I mean I have a collection of behavior issues in my first grade group that, when thrown in and mixed together, becomes this toxic poison.

Except this poison doesn't kill you, it just makes you want to retire from teaching at age 29.

I had four students in this group. I've recently added a fifth. On "Adam's" first day, Thing One argued with my every direction (or just flat out said "no"). Thing Two loves to feed off of Thing One and thought the whole thing was hysterical. Thing Two shut down when he got some sad face tally marks. Thing One laughed loud and long to show he didn't care about sad faces.

And Adam looked on.

When Thing Two didn't get his first choice of activity for Daily 5, he decided that the best solution was to hide under the table and intermittently shout "NO" .... for an hour! 

Folks, this exact same kind of behavior from those two students happened for THREE DAYS IN A ROW. For three days, Thing Two collapsed into a pile of refusal and I had to get another adult in there to entice him to move to his next class. Thing One continued to loudly protest every direction and every activity at every opportunity.

I did my best to teach despite it all.

I ended the week on Friday with Thing Two in full meltdown mode, yelling from his new hiding place:

Tell me ..... where can I hide from first grade?

Where do boogers go?

When our communication specialist picked up my little group of kindergartners from their general ed. classroom last week, there was a bit of drama.

"Ms. H!! Ms. H!!", little 'Julie' cried. "Maria wiped her burger on my leg!!"

When Ms. H realized that Julie meant BOOGER, she had to take a moment to compose herself. She dealt with the incident, then on her way to her classroom with the kids, she popped in to mine to apprise me of the situation.

I giggled.

I giggled even louder later in the afternoon when I had these same kindergartners listening to the story "Warthogs in the Kitchen." There comes a moment in the middle of the book where they consider adding pickles to the cupcake better.

I paused in my reading. "Pickles?!?" I asked my students dramatically.

"Noooooooooo!" they all replied.

And then Julie added: "And no BURGERS either!!"

Beat up by a nine year old

It took seven years to happen, but it finally did: I was hit by a student. Repeatedly.

It was last week and Marta was not paying attention to social studies. I was in there for forty five minutes to help with inclusion and my little friend refused to follow even the simplest directions (sit on the carpet). When it was time to lead my group of six students out to my classroom for language arts, she hit me on the butt on her way out the door. Hard.

I said "OH!" in surprise and then took a few deep breaths. I got down to her level as she got her backpack out of her locker: "You may NOT hit a teacher. That is not okay."

I made a calculated decision not to dole out any consequences just then. I knew enough about her to know that if I gave her several sad face tally marks right away, she would just escalate and I wouldn't be able to teach anything that afternoon.

So I put on my happy face and taught my little heart out. Marta behaved herself pretty well. But at the end of the day, when it was time to tally our happy faces versus sad faces and earn a penny for the store, things went sour FAST.

I gave everyone a penny except Marta. "I'm sorry Marta, you cannot get a penny today because you hit a teacher."

A dark cloud passed over her face as this sunk in. She took her "bank" (container with 2 pennies in there already) and chucked it across the room. She grabbed her folder and her backpack and made for the door!

I had to go chasing after her and corralled her back in. I got the other students out into the hallway as fast  as I could and got down to Marta's level. This she did not like.

Cue the kicking. The hitting. The scratching (she drew blood on my arm through my sweater, and in two small spots on my leg). She was so frustrated she also chucked her hearing aid out of the room.

Eventually she burst into tears, sat on my lap, and cried on my shoulder.

We had both been angry that afternoon, but at that moment in time, I was sorely tempted to cry with her.

Instead I just stroked her hair and told her that it was okay, that I still loved her, that we would try again tomorrow to earn a penny. After a few minutes of repeating this, she wiped her eyes, nodded her head, and joined the line to get on the bus to go home.


If you're wondering, I had to fill in an incident report and call her mother. We were both baffled as to what could have triggered this kind of behavior. She's always been a bit defiant, but never like this. I talked with our behavior specialist and we now have a plan in place where she can earn something rewarding for following directions.

The only part of this whole incident that I regret is getting into Marta's face right away after I had corralled her back into the classroom. She clearly needed some time to calm down and I could have saved myself some scratches! Otherwise, I think I did right - especially in restoring our relationship at the end there.


I'm so curious: have you ever been hit by a student?

And then I raided my chocolate stash

We were starting our personal narratives project by writing a list of important people in our lives. I modeled for my first graders on chart paper, and then supervised as my four students got to work.

I sat very close to Leo, who struggles when it comes to writing (well, everything). He wrote:

Mr. B-

And then I stopped him because I realized he was just copying my list. "What about your brother?" I asked. "What's his name?"

Leo: "Ahhh I dunno."

Me (thinking he did know but was confused about the meaning of question): "Let's ask Adam. Adam, what's your brother's name?"

Adam: "He name Marcus."

Me: "See Leo? Adam's brother is Marcus! What's your brother's name?"

Leo: "Ahhhhh... Marcus???"

Me: "Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh."

My Kryptonite

Last week I shared with you my teaching superpower. Today, it's time to reveal my kryptonite...

... that one thing that brings me to my knees in despair, that elicits the biggest sighs, the most wringing of my hands, the urge to give up and walk away....

Poor memory skills.

You'll see what I mean when I tell you about my first grader Darren. We'd been practicing the same 5 sight words every single day for two weeks: his, of, for, he, to.

Recently, when we sat down to practice, he got them ALL right the first time around. I did a big cheer! He clapped and smiled wide. I decided to go through the words one more time after we were done cheering. This time? Approximately 5.6 seconds later? He only knew two of the words.


And it's not just for sight words - he just can't remember things from one day to the next.

And this is why it's my kryptonite:

Behavior issues? I've got strategies.
Reading fluency? I've got some tricks up my sleeve.
Vocabulary? I've got you covered.
Decoding? Yes, I can help you there.

But memory skills?!?!? Nope. I've got nothing! I can call your mom and make sure you're getting enough sleep and give you a healthy breakfast at school, but beyond that... it's simply out of my hands!

What about you? Do you feel powerless in your own classroom sometimes?

A new record

Parent-teacher conferences were last week. I wore a killer cute outfit (if I do say so myself) and had all of my progress reports and work samples ready to go for my first grade and kindergarten parents.

Now. I'm no newbie. I know that my students are part of a regional program and are bused in from up to 40 minutes away. I know that most parents both work. I usually get about a 20 to 30 percent turn out.

This year?

Not. a. single. parent. came.

I stayed at school from 4 to 8pm waiting and working. And I don't know which is more shocking: the fact that no one came, or the fact that I stayed very busy for four hours after school and never ran out of things to do!!

My Teaching superpower

If there's one thing that I like to brag about being good at, it's making fun activities into educational activities.

(But truthfully, my students' language levels are so low that I can pretty much justify ANYTHING as a "language activity")

This is why I was not worried about leaving my door wide open when I was painting pumpkins with my kindergartners this week!

At the end of our pumpkin painting party, we all chowed down on pumpkin soup and pumpkin seeds as an extension of the book we've been reading (Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper)

These are the kinds of days I live for!

Happy Chaos on the Farm

On Friday I went on a field trip with my kindergartners to a local petting farm.

(This was a big deal because I normally don't get to go on field trips since I teach two grade levels - but I begged the administration and they were nice enough to get a sub to stay with my first graders!)

The kids (SUCH city kids!) had an absolute blast! Here are some of the highlights:

Petting the baby chicks! 

These piglets were so cute, I might never eat bacon again! 

Feeding the goats! 

 Going on a hayride ;)

Each student got to pick out their very own pumpkin!

And this week I'll be having a pumpkin painting party with my small group of kindergartners. I can't wait to show you their masterpieces!

I printed out about 20 pictures of our fun day. We'll be using the pictures to make a classroom book of our experience (and I'll also be tying it in to sequencing!)

read my lips, not my face

I have an over-sensitive first grader named "Adam."

He has a lot of issues going on at home, so it's easy for me to be compassionate rather than short tempered when he starts talking in his kermit-the-frog voice and when he laughs long and loud at completely inappropriate times.

The problem for me comes whenever I give him a direction. He equates my "teacher" face with an "I'm gonna hurt you" face. I don't yell my directions. I say please and thank you when I give directions. I am not a mean teacher (I promise!). But for whatever reason, he will misinterpret the look I have on my face, point accusingly at me, and say:

"You're MAD at me!"

I've stopped numerous times to explain that I am not mad at him, that this look on my face means that I'm serious - not mad. But he's still not getting it.

I have the guidance counselor working with him (and with me!) about it, so I think there's some hope.

In the meantime, I guess I'll just have to be super conscious of my eyebrows when I give a direction!!

a healthy injustice

My school got this grant for a fruits and vegetables program. It means that every day, at about 2 o'clock, the lunch ladies visit each classroom and drop off a baggie of cut fruits or veggies for every child as a snack. This happens in each room: pre-k to fifth grade. They are not allowed to bring the food home, they must eat it at school.

Oh. Were you concerned that this was maybe disruptive to our teaching? Yes. Yes it is.

However, I have the unique opportunity to capitalize upon this interruption as an excuse for a vocabulary lesson (my general education colleagues aren't this lucky). My students with hearing loss typically have language delays. So we talk about "peeling" and "slices" and "fruit" and "seed" and "sticky".

So for now, it's not too much of a problem - unless you think it's more important to develop good writing skills.


Staff Development Reverse Psychology

Last week, the principal told us we had a meeting after school about implementing Writer's Workshop in our classrooms.

We all dragged ourselves there despite our stress.

But then a funny thing happened. The principal announced at the beginning of the meeting that we could leave and go home if we felt like we had a handle on Writer's Workshop.

[I don't know if the principal was in a fantastic mood, if she was being compassionate because she knows how stressed we are, of if she was high, but it happened!]

So... I look around the room and no one is making a move. I gather my things like I'm thinking about leaving (because I am: I've actually been following the mini-lessons in the book they gave us at the beginning of the year!) and everyone's eyes are on me!

So I try to play it cool and say with a smile:

"Well, I think I have a handle on it - If I'm wrong I hope you'd tell me to sit right back down!"

Everyone laughs.

I lose my nerve and slowly sit back down.

It was a long meeting.

teachers color too

Last week, we read "Mice Squeak, We Speak" in Kindergarten. We talked a lot about action words. One or the suggested activities in the curriculum guide was to make paper plate animal masks.

It was the perfect Friday project! The kids had a blast with it, and I forgot how much I love coloring... Most of the kids wanted to be lions, but I chose a mouse!

One little lion boy chased me around the room to eat me! Have I mentioned how much I love teaching Kindergarten?!

a fun countdown book

As part of our curriculum, we have Ten Dogs in the Window as a big book. Are you familiar with this story? It's absolutely charming!

It's a countdown book (so it has potential for math integration!) and my kids LOVE predicting which dog each person will choose. After a while, they figure out that the people are choosing dogs just like them! I wish we had more time with it because there are a few extension ideas that would be great activities for my first graders:

*Writing: "I would choose this dog because....."
*Adjectives: each dog is so different!
*Write a continuation of the story (there's a bit of a cute twist at the end)
*Vocabulary: hopeful, disappointed, adopted

I really love countdown books. And the kids love the predictable text! Do you have any favorite countdown books?

'tis the season

No, no ... not for Christmas (despite what giant retail stores would like you to think). It's the season for teacher stress.

Every year, around week four or five or six, teachers start freaking out. We get overwhelmed with the new campus/district wide initiatives we're supposed to be implementing in our classrooms. We're struggling to get all of our students assessed. We're trying to get ready for parent/teacher conferences. We're still dealing with classroom management stuff. We're spending lots of time planning quality lessons. We're TIRED.

And in the midst of all of that, I crave peace and quiet so I can reflect on my year so far - what's working and what's not? What can I tweak to make things run more smoothly? It's this reflection time that gets lost in the shuffle when there are more important things to worry about.

If you're so overwhelmed that you can't remember your own name, I have some advice for you. Make a list of every single thing that's stressing you out in your classroom, as well as all the pressing things you need to get done. Then rewrite your list in order of priority: which items have deadlines? Which items directly impact student learning? Then tackle one at a time. The list will at least alleviate your need to keep it track of it all in your head.

Also? Go home early. Go to bed early. Take a weekend off from anything teacher related. A well rested teacher is a happy teacher. A happy teacher is an effective teacher!

Tell me ... how do you deal with stress?

word work is fun work

Sometimes I wonder if I like making teaching materials more than actually teaching with them. (Please don't tell me I'm the only teacher who feels that way!!)

I have way too much fun hunting down engaging teaching tools on Pinterest ... and I love putting them together!

I recently made two activities for my "Word Work" Daily 5 center. The first is a clothespin word family activity:

The second is a paint strip word family activity.

I got the (free!) paint strips at Lowe's. They already had that nice little square cut out and they originally come in 3 strips. I just cut them down to one strip, laminated, and then created a laminated strip of cardstock programmed with different onsets to slip through.

And then! I even created this very simple word family recording sheet (the box is for a quick sketch of the word).

If any of you out there would like a copy of the recording sheet, shoot me an email:
untenuredteacher at yahoo dot com

Oh and PS: The kids love these activities!

Target teaching tool

I picked up these animal action cards in the Target dollar bins over the summer. They're proving to be quite handy for teaching verbs to my kindergartners!! I pulled out a few for our "Action Words" chart:

They really love acting them out!

Understandably, this one is definitely my favorite:

a different kind of day

We have an all-day professional development meeting today, so that means no kids!!

I kind of relish these days as a welcome break from routine. I'll be honest though... I usually don't look forward to the actual content of the meetings. Unless I'm the one presenting, I rarely get anything out of it.

I have this absolute fantasy that our principal, in a magnanimous gesture, is going to let all of us go work in our classrooms for half the day. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

But in all reality? The most bestest part of a professional development day is ... going out for lunch!

Why lesson plans must be flexible

Earlier this week, I pulled out a rabbit puppet to use in a mini-lesson about prepositions. My kindergartners were absolutely enthralled, and because I was feeling a little silly that day, I put my hand in the puppet and said: "Hello! My name is Roger Rabbit!"
Amidst squeals of delight, one little kindergartner looked right into the rabbit's little button eyes and replied: "Hello! My name Julie!!!" and finished with an enthusiastic wave.
I totally lost it in a fit of giggles. And because these kinds of social skills are important after all, I decided in the spur of the moment that we could all use a little bit of practice introducing ourselves (especially remembering the "is" in "My name IS ____")!
So thanks, Julie, for the rabbit trail ...

College Week Pretend Photo

It's college week at my elementary school right now, and there are different ways we're supposed to promote this. (Like wearing your college hat, sporting your college colors, etc.)

This is a problem because I don't own ANYTHING that has the name of my college on it. Yes I was in undergrad for five years. No I didn't like my college very much at the time. (In fact the biggest problem I had with it was that it was in America -- but that's a whole 'nother therapy session blog post.)

Anyways, all the teachers were asked to submit a photo of our college graduation. But here's the thing. I didn't walk. I didn't have family on the same continent at the time, and it just seemed like a lot of hassle for a piece of paper. But I DID attend the graduation ceremony (since the then president of the United States was our speaker!!!!)


I took an old college photo of the day I accepted my teaching certificate and "photoshop-ed" (through picnik) a graduation cap on there.

Good enough? I sure hope so!!

Job Hazards for the Kindergarten/First Grade teacher

From mildly annoying to downright unsafe, here's a brief list of job hazards for the early elementary teacher:

1. Getting the "days of the week" song stuck in your head.

2. Being referred to every once in a while as "mom".

3. Cleaning up the occasional vomit and/or pee.

4. Paper cuts.

5. Bladder infection from holding it too long.

6. Getting covered in glitter and finding it on your person even days later.

7. Getting sick from school germs.

8. Getting the "months of the year" song stuck in your head.

9. Getting your hands covered in various spots of marker.

10. Getting knocked over from a spontaneous (and lovingly violent) hug. 

Whaddaya think? Did I miss any?

spending that kindergarten paycheck

If you're one of the five kindergarteners that sees me for Language Arts, you are always aiming for more happy faces than sad faces.

Each child has a laminated 3x5 card on their desk with two columns: one for happy faces, and one for sad faces. You get a tally mark in the happy face column if you follow directions and follow our rules. I hardly ever give out sad faces except in the case of open defiance.

At the end of our time together, you get one penny for your "bank" if you have more happy faces than sad faces on your tally card. When you have FIVE whole cents, you can pick a prize from our treasure box.


You can save your pennies until you get TEN whole cents. TEN cents will buy you something from the slightly more expensive BIG prize box.

All week, "Karen" has been telling me she's saving her pennies for the BIG prize box. But today she and two other students got their fifth penny.

When I pulled out the small prize box and the other two children picked a prize, Karen was torn. She broke down and picked something from the small prize box (even though she could see the big box right next to it.)

After she handed me all of her five pennies, she solemnly declared:

"Tomorrow, I will wait for a BIG prize!"

In related news, today is my payday. What should I buy?

Spectator Teacher

For two hours in the morning, I pull my four little first grade darlings into my classroom for Language Arts. For two hours in the afternoon, I do the same with my five adorable kindergartners.

But for that extra hour? I alternate weeks (between K and 1st)  helping my students in their general ed classrooms. Every. single. minute. is. torture.

It boils down to this: it's not fun watching someone else teach. Even if the teacher is FANTASTIC! The problem is, I'm typically in there for a social studies or science mini lesson - when the teacher is talking or showing something and the kids aren't exactly doing anything.

Which means my job is to sit there and be bored, or (more commonly) be on the "Sit up and pay attention" patrol. Annoying!

I wish I could keep my students with me all day, but I know that it's much better for them to be with their regular ed peers whenever possible.

Sigh. It's hard to do the right thing.

rules and regulations

"Gilberto" started on Friday. He was on his best behavior!! Will this trend continue? Let's hope so! He is a cutie patootie and the other first graders are glad to have him back.

Nevertheless, I'll be doing a quick reminder of our rules and reward system tomorrow. Most All kids need to be periodically reminded of our agreed-upon rules. You know, like every day for the first two weeks of school, after Christmas break, Spring break, and like.... the weekend.

stay or go?

That is the age old question if you're a teacher who's feeling sick: Do I stay home and get some rest so I can recover from this? Or do I go in to work anyway?

As teachers, we can sometimes believe that if we stay home and leave our students in the hands of an emergency substitute (no matter how good our sub lesson plans are), THE WORLD WILL END: chaos and mayhem everywhere! True or not, it can be a major hassle to be out sick.

I'm feeling under the weather. Not sick enough to stay home (no fever/stomach ache/headache) but coughing a lot, lethargic, and generally weak. So I soldiered on and went to school.

Today after a particularly loud sneeze of mine, "Brayden" asked: "Why you sneeze?"

"Because I'm sick."

"You should go home," he told me in all of his first grade wisdom.

"But if I go home, who will teach you?"


"The GYM teacher!"

There you have it, folks: next time I call in sick, I'll just tell the office to leave my students in P.E all day!

Around Town

Some things going on around our town these days:

*As of Monday, we're down in the double digits as our highs. After MONTHS of walking the dog in 88 degrees at 6 in the morning - our lows got down to the mid-60's. This must be what heaven feels like.

*I asked the kids what the weather was like today (when we all walked outside to the portable, it was sunny and 80 degrees). All of my kindergartners said COLD!

*I heard a rumor that Starbucks now has pumpkin lattes available for the fall season. Is this true?!? I need to know!

*Max and I are both feeling under the weather. Not sick enough to stay home, just sick enough to be uncomfortable.

*My student "Gilberto" hasn't started back with us yet. Something about enrollment papers and bus transportation issues. I have no idea when he'll show up!

*There are 22 more school days until my next three day weekend!!!

Avoiding Writing Nightmares

I hate teaching writing.

Don't get me wrong... I love to write, I just can't stand teaching it. This is my seventh year teaching and every single year my goal has always been to be better at teaching writing.

I'm happy to say, this year it might actually happen! We are doing writer's workshop, and here is my little board for that:

Two other things are making it easier for me this year. One: portable word walls/mini offices. I printed out the portable word walls from here and then used ABC stickers on top. I found the concept and resources here. (Ahhh, thank you, internet!). And since I only have nine students, it didn't take me long to make these:

The second thing that's making it easier is my visual rubric of what "good work" looks like. I sat down with the kids and I did three variations on the assignment "write about your house". They helped me label each work sample:

Now it's easy to refer back to when they say "I'm finished!"

What about you? Do you have any tips/tricks for making writing less painful?

Cue the sighing

.... and cue the behavior plan, the documentation forms, and the PRAYING.

Because today? Today I got the news that Gilberto is coming to our school after all. It turns out that his mom got confused about the zip code and he is still within our district boundaries, even though they've moved.

My colleagues have been saying encouraging things to me all day (after their laughter died down, that is):
"He was so much better at the end of last year!"
"Maybe he'll have matured!"
"I'll pray for him..."

So I guess the Lord is going to give me the strength to teach Gilberto! I've been trying to stay positive about the whole thing - to remind myself that I CAN do this - to accept the situation with grace and professionalism.

But I'll be honest. Part of me wants to throw a little hissy fit.

Teacher = Miracle Worker

Yep. I'm about at that point where I take stock of the students on my caseload and the learning expectations, and declare that I'm expected to make miracles happen. I mean, how else am I going to get 5 kindergartners and 3 first graders who are at least a year behind grade level up to speed? 

It's easy to get overwhelmed - especially when you add all of the other pressures of teaching into the mix.

It's at times like these where I need to slow down and get back the right perspective. Twenty years down the road, my students are not going to remember if they mastered rhyming words in Kindergarten. They won't remember if they got all caught up by the end of the academic year.

But what they will remember? Me. 

Was I the stressed out teacher who didn't have time to smile? The teacher who gave them an endless stream of worksheet packets? The teacher who often raised her voice in frustration?

Or was I the teacher who showed them I cared? Did I smile and laugh and slow down enough to follow their tangents sometimes? Did I go the extra mile to make a dry curriculum fun and engaging? Did I let them know they were loved?

I'm still striving to be the caring teacher, as overwhelmed as I feel sometimes!!

The jumble in my brain

Week One with the kiddos and here's what I think so far:

*My five kindergartners are so adorable. I literally could take them home with me!

*Grade Level Chair, member of the RTI team (which meets often), and Sunshine committee chair.... um, hopefully this isn't too much on my plate!

*Getting back into the school routine isn't easy. Going from 0 responsibilities to LOTS of them throws me for a loop!

*My teacher desk is already a war zone. Never mind all of my good intentions of keeping it clean...

*The bus situation has been handled and everyone is at school!

*Forget 40 minutes.... I need about 3 hours of planning to cross off my daily to-do list!

*I'm tired. Yesterday I almost used my foundation as deodorant!

*It's going to be a super busy year (what with teaching out of the kindergarten AND the first grade Language Arts curriculum), but... a GOOD one!

the miracle on my first day of school

I've been repressing something all summer. It's true. I knew I was going to have a first grader this year ("Gilberto") with a LOT of discipline problems. I know he has issues because I saw them first-hand last year.
Like his daily tantrums.
Like the time he punched another kid. 
Like the time he whacked the principal with some bulletin board paper trim.
And his teacher would marvel at all the TEACHING she could get done whenever he was absent from school.
But I didn't let it weigh me down. I thought "I'll deal with this when I get back to school." And then (miracle of miracles!) I actually forgot all about him and had a terrific summer!
Then Monday came: the first day the kids came to school. And as I drove to work, I thought "Gilbertooooooooooooooo". Then I sighed. Then I prayed:
"Lord, please give me YOUR strength to deal with Gilberto and all his behaviors... or else remove the problem completely."
So you can picture my utter shock and relief upon learning later that morning that Gilberto and his family had moved away to a different part of Texas!! I imagine God knew exactly what I would be able to handle and what I wouldn't!!!!

New (school) year resolutions

I don't know about you, but I'm not one for setting New Year's Resolution goals come December 31st. Never have been!


At the start of every SCHOOL year? I definitely set resolutions and goals for myself. So in honor of the first official day of school today, here are a few that I'm working on:

* Sending home a weekly newsletter. I especially feel this is important for my kindergarteners. I plan on using the free (and super cute) newsletter templates from The Mailbox. To access them for yourself, sign up for their "my mailbox" program for free!

* Writer's workshop. I hate teaching writing - I'm too easily overwhelmed by it. I'm hoping that organized mini-lessons and conferencing one-on-one will make it easier to handle!

* Daily 5 and CAFE. (This is a reading program structure.) I've done Daily 5 for the past two years and now it's time to add the CAFE component. Lucky me there are so many resources online to help me get good at it!

* Social- emotional vocabulary. This year we have a 15 minute window scheduled in for morning meeting. This will be a great opportunity for language learning for my students with hearing loss!

What about you? Any goals this year?

Oh no!! Where did all the kids go?

Picture this: It's your first day of Kindergarten. You have your backpack all ready to go; you've eaten a great breakfast, and you are wearing your shiny new clothes. You're waiting at the bus stop.

Except.... the bus never comes. 

This is going to be a reality for my students with hearing loss come Monday. We changed IEP software systems over the summer and not everyone's transportation information got switched over. And since we're a regional program, my kids are bused in from up to 30 miles away... which means if mom and dad both work, they can't just swing by the school to drop off their child!

We've been on the phone with transportation (who've been inundated with similar calls across the district) all week and still everything is up in the air. They don't have a timeline for when everyone's info will be switched to the new system.

Which means: not only is there a good chance that none of my nine kiddos will show up on Monday, they may not even show up the whole first week!!

Congratulations and Condolences

Congratulations and Condolences: This is what my husband had to give me last night when I told him what had happened.

That morning, I had been called into the principal's office. That always makes me want to pee my pants...

She started off telling me what an excellent teacher I was. Something about my "good ideas", and "organization". I was feeling really nervous at this point. When someone starts out by praising you, it's either because you're in trouble, or there's bad news, or they need something from you.

Sure enough, then she asked me if I would be the Kindergarten Grade Level Chair.

The Grade Level Chair (GLC) has to attend a monthly meeting and is responsible for communicating directives from the administration to grade level team members. The GLC also has to coordinate things like field trips and other affairs.

I said I would do it (although I didn't really have much of a choice!), even though I'm a deaf education teacher who is split between Kindergarten AND First grade. Apparently my principal thought I would be better suited for this job than my three other Kindergarten colleagues.

So I'm flattered that she thought I was worthy! But I despair over the extra responsibility!

In honor of my first day back

Today is my first day back to school for my seventh year as a teacher. (I have a week of professional development meetings before the kids arrive.) Although I like my job and am happy with my career choice, I just have to say.... NOT working is always more fun than working!

I very much enjoyed my summer (how is it over already? I blinked and then it was gone!), but I couldn't resist creating this graph to represent how my summer seems to go. I pretty much stole the idea from something my husband said!

A Teacher's Summer

Whaddaya think? Is this you? Or are you better about living in the moment?

lots of fun between 33 hours of driving

For the past three weeks, we've been visiting family in New Jersey and Maine. Yes, we drove from Texas. Yes, we are insane! I took 406 pictures and wanted to share just a few with you here:

 Chocolate covered bacon - YUM

 A Princeton campus tour

 At Otto's Pizza - it was amazing!

 Ice cream in downtown Portland, ME

Hot dogs around the campfire with my brother and sister 

 Mom and Dad: we took this picture especially for you. Doesn't this bring back memories? 
Only this time we're not fighting back there!!

The whole gang

School starts tomorrow. I'm so glad I have such fun memories to look back on!!

Newer Posts Older Posts Home