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?
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