Plan B

We were going to camping this weekend for my birthday, but plans fell through because Mother Nature forgot the world revolves around me today. Stormy and windy weather everywhere within a reasonable driving distance!

I've only been "camping" once. I have to use quotation marks here because we didn't sleep in a tent, we slept in the back of a Saturn Vue as we drove from Michigan to California (we stopped at TEN National Parks along the way!!)

Taken in 2005 at Zion National Park - I look so young here!

It was fun, but I was looking forward to go camping for reals in a tent and everything!

So plan B is going out for breakfast (I LOVE eating breakfast out, don't you?) and then visiting the local zoo. I'm excited!! I hope to have some pictures for you soon!

brought to you by charlie sheen

Here are a few glimpses of Monday's pep rally. This was hanging in the auditorium.

"To exemplary and beyond" is our school motto this year. "Failure is not an option" is also written on the back of our special TAKS t-shirts and is oddly reminiscent of Charlie Sheen's Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option tour. Hmmmm.

Also? Failure is always an option!! That's real life folks. We have to wear our special TAKS shirts for three days this week and it pains me to be walking around with a lie written across my back. So I've taken to wearing a sweater.

We enjoyed several performances as well: such (rewritten) classics as "I Will Survive" (performed by teachers in 70's disco attire), and "Baby got back" with motivational lyrics.

The kids loved it all! Now all we need to do is get through the actual testing, then we can all breathe a little easier...

because no one needs to see me dance

As I write this, a local principal is addressing the local media to give last minute TAKS test-taking strategies to any kids watching, and reassuring parents that the teachers have done their best to prepare the students for the test.

Yes. The madness is upon us.

For those of you who are blissfully unaware of how Texas does state testing, TAKS is for grades 3-5 (at the elementary level - they take it again in middle school and high school) and comes around every April.

Texas is different from the two other states I've taught in because they've decided that they're going to label schools based on TAKS performance. That way, the whole community will know if a certain elementary school is unacceptable, acceptable, recognized, or commended.

As you can imagine, this causes a very unhealthy level of pressure from any Texas principal. The atmosphere in our school these last two months has been steadily approaching outright hysteria:

Countdown to the TAKS test on every white board.
Two hours of after school tutoring every Tuesday and Thursday. (Since October!)
Semi-mandatory Saturday school for under performing students. (Since January!)

Since the TAKS test starts tomorrow, the school has organized a pep rally today. The lower grades will perform cheers for the upper grades. The teachers are going to do motivational raps.

Somehow, I got out of doing any performing today. If anyone from the administration questions my loyalty to this school or to our 3rd-5th graders, I'm going to whip out my heavy duty camera and proclaim myself the official photographer of all this hoopla.

Cure for summer fever

Let's face it: with just a smidge over six weeks until summer vacation, the kids (and staff) have Summer Fever.

It hit early this year. That could be because of the super nice weather, or the early onslaught of testing, or simply because we're all tired. But whatever the reason, it's here in full force.

For all of you non-teachers out there, here's what I mean by Summer Fever:

*The kids have gotten exponentially wigglier, so the whole classroom almost seems to vibrate with energy, buzz, and movement.

*The kids who used to be best of friends are at each other's throats. Think siblings who have been stuck in the back of a car for too long.

*The giant vat of patience that the teachers started with at the beginning of the year is now empty.

*More people stare out the windows.

*Countdowns are on every white board in the school, with staff giving each other regular updates for encouragement.

*Homework packets are getting thinner.

*The kids have completely forgotten all the rules and procedures we've been following since the beginning of the year.

There is no known cure for Summer Fever. We are still waiting for someone to develop a remote control for life. Until that time, here's what we've done to try to counteract the symptoms:

*Add an extra 20 minute recess every day.

*Bribe the kids for good behavior.

*Threaten to take away Field Day for bad behavior.

*Drink exponentially more caffeine.

*Leave the school building as soon as is humanly possible at the end of each day.

*Cling to our routines like the mast of a sinking ship.


Testing my patience

"Attention: The last seven weeks of school are officially canceled due to lack of interest."

This is what I would like to say if I could get my hands on the P.A system. It's true for the kids (I've noticed an exponential increase in wiggly-ness lately) and for the teachers.

Don't get me wrong, I still like teaching. But for the next seven weeks all we'll be doing is testing.

First, there's TPRI reading inventory. This takes 10 to 15 minutes per child. Then there's M-Class math, which takes 20 minutes per child. Then there's DRA (another reading test) which takes about 30 minutes per child.

All of these tests must be administered individually. So I go through the test (times 24) until I can recite it in my sleep, until I feel and sound like a robot.

Once that round of testing is over, we've got the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills), which is a real doozy.

If someone could just give me the remote control, I'll do us all a favor and fast forward to June 3rd.

no laughing matter

It was the end of a particularly bad day for Tammy. She had been defiant, she had been out of her seat more than not, and she stuck out her tongue at her classroom teacher.

At the end of the day, she asked me if she was going to get a sticker ("ticker?"). I sat down with her at my teacher table while my other students were reading quietly. I pulled out her behavior chart just as one of my colleagues showed up at the door. He stood in the doorway and watched us for a minute.

I counted the smiley faces for "I will follow directions". Two.
I counted the sad faces for following directions. Eight.

"Oh no, Tammy!" And as I started to debrief with her, I noticed my colleague at the door is laughing quietly. "You have more sad faces today! You did not follow directions. You did not stay in your chair. You stuck your tongue out at the teacher! No sticker for you today. Let's try again tomorrow."

Out of the corner of my eye, one of my other students was mouthing to my colleague at the door: "Stop laughing! It's not funny!" Her serious scolding made him laugh even harder, so he left our doorway.

I'm so glad the rest of my kids think bad behavior is no laughing matter!!

Father knows best

There's a first grader I work with in the general education setting. Let's call him "Doug". He is highly distractable and often impulsive. On Thursday, though, he decided to add shouting and outright defiance to the mix.

It wasn't long before his behavior chart went from green, to yellow, to orange, to blue, to the dreaded RED.

My mild-mannered co-teacher got out her red pen and wrote his father a note with exclamation points! Serious trouble indeed.

On Friday, we got a note back from dad that simply said: "He's just being a kid." [Hold on a minute while I catch my breath in the face of such overwhelming parent support....]

In addition, he sent a strip of paper to school with Doug. It had two words written in green marker:


He told Doug to put the paper inside his desk, that way it would help remind him to have good behavior.


My co-teacher and I looked at each other and wondered whether we should laugh or cry.....

hello, my name is

I've been called a few different things in my six years of teaching.




Mrs. other-teacher's-name.


But this week, "Paula" gave me a new label. Paula is a cute little first grader who tries her darndest but has the attention of a gnat. She likes to go on long rambling tangents in a very loud, rather high pitched voice and her speech is often difficult to understand. She cracks me up (often not on purpose....)

Anyways, she asked for some scissors for some activity we were doing. So I passed her the scissors.

She turned to me and said (in speech as clear as a bell, and with a little attitude too): 
"Thank you, baby"

I froze. She was still smiling at me with her head cocked to the side, the picture of innocence. I'm sure her parents and her grandparents call her "Baby" all the time, but....

I had to have a little talk with her about appropriate and inappropriate things to call a teacher.

Then my colleagues and I had a good laugh!

and... cue all the teachers drooling

Wait a minute, hold the phones! A new classroom product has hit the shelves, and I neeeeeed it!

Behold: Crayola Dry Erase Crayons! Yes, CRAYONS!

The coolest part about them is that you actually need a cloth or a board eraser to wipe them off. So if you have annoying students that like to erase parts of words with their fingers as they walk by your white board, worry no more!

I would love to have a set for centers - how fun would it be to practice spelling words with these!! Please tell me I'm not the only one who drools over cool classroom stuff....

Spring Break Recap

Back in March, we went here for our Spring Break:

 It sure can be pretty, but we don't miss the long Michigan winters!

We went out to eat! 
(My nephew's game with the salt and "peppa" shakers was adorable!)

We went bowling! 
(And now I understand where Max gets that lovely habit of jumping into pictures from!)

And we scared the right eye off of my Flat Stanley with this Jungle Boa!

And now, only nine more weeks till Summer Vacation!! :)

Where teacher gifts go to die

Somewhere out in the universe, I can picture a large warehouse. In this warehouse, there's a thick layer of yellow dandelions carpeting the floor. There are shelves that reach to the ceiling filled with dollar-store-chocolate, kitschy stuffed animals, teacher mugs, miniature snow globes, and cheap picture frames.

Yes, my friends. I'm talking about the Land of Teacher Gifts.

The other day, I was supervising the first graders as we took our bathroom  break. "Trent" came out of the bathroom stalls holding a yellow dandelion for me. Seeing as how he didn't enter the bathroom with that "flower', and we hadn't gone outside for recess, I was a little hesitant to accept his spontaneous gift.

I said: "Ummm, that's okay, you hold on to it for a while, I don't have anywhere to put it at the moment."

Three hours later, at the end of the day, Trent presents me with the same yellow flower (albeit a little more smooshed and droopy). He was so proud and had this beaming grin, so I really had to take it.

And later, when all the children had left the premises, I placed his kind gift in the trash can. I'd like to to think that I sent it off to a better place. The Land of Teacher Gifts.
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