Saturday, August 9, 2014

Unexpected

Third grade was a rough year for me.  So far I had been at a different school each year, K-3.  This school was in a different town than what I called "home" and I really didn't like anything about living there.  I had no friends, I missed my home and the wonderful teacher I had for 2nd grade, and this teacher ran the gamut from ignoring me to flat-out contempt, when I did an assignment the way my mom advised me to, against my better judgement that the teacher was looking for something else. 

Two months in to the school year, we moved back home and I went back to the school I had been in for second grade.  The teacher was probably the oldest one in the school, with a very severe looking face and the reputation of a personality to match.  The first week, she showed her annoyance with me when I brought in an 8 pack of Crayola markers in the Bold colors, instead of the classics.  So what if they didn't have black or orange?  I liked them.

Her class wasn't all bad - she was reading to us from the Little House books, starting with Little House in the Big Woods and going in order.  I arrived in time for Little House on the Prairie to begin and I loved her doll that was based Laura's doll Charlotte.  I just tried to keep my head down and not call too much attention to myself, because I clearly was not going share the fondness I had for my second grade teacher with this lady either.

Springtime in North Texas is unpredictable, and for a little girl whose absolute biggest fear in the world was thunderstorms turning into tornadoes, it was always rough.  At that time, I sat in the back corner of the room.  This had the benefit of keeping me out of the direct sight-line of this teacher.  However, it also meant that I sat right next to the glass door that led outside to the playground.  One day, I was front-row to a pretty nasty looking storm - the sky was darker than it had a right to be at 1 in the afternoon, and I was pretty sure the tree right outside was going to be hurling branches into the road.  I didn't want to call attention to myself, but I could not stop my freak-out from happening, so picture a little brunette in the back of the class hiding behind a book while the tears are pouring out of her eyes and her shoulders are shaking as quietly as they can.  No sound came out of my mouth but I was in full-on panic mode.  I didn't notice that, during a Laura Ingalls read-aloud, my teacher had made her way over to where I was.  The first thing she did was to shut the blinds on the door, so I couldn't watch what was going on, and then she just placed a hand on my shoulder as she kept on reading.  There wasn't a touch of sternness in any of this - she was as tender as could be.

She doesn't live on in my memory on the same pedestals as other teachers (2nd grade, middle school math and English, high school English III and IV), but I have never ever forgotten that moment when she stepped up and comforted a little girl who would have been fine being ignored the rest of the year.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Braggy Blog

So I know I said that posts would be few and far between, but we had some things happen this week and today that I just had to brag about.

Problem Solving Princess:  I have a little girl who is very sweet but kind of spacy.  I mean really out there.  She often refers to herself in the third person, she only draws pictures of princesses and talks about princesses and wants to read books about princesses.  From the beginning she has come up against every struggle (and there have been a lot...we're still working on her name facing the right way) with an attitude of helplessnes: "I just can't do it."  "I just don't know how to do that thing yet."  She has moments of pure candor that make me laugh.  She asked me to tie her shoe while we were walking down the hall, which I do not do because I only tie shoes when we've reached our destination, and my answer to her was, "I'll tie it later."  Her response was, "That sounds like you aren't going to do it."  Needless to say, this is a little girl who is used to every problem being solved by someone else, exactly when she wants it.  This week we've been doing activities with pumpkins (measurement, observing sink or float, etc...) and she easily had the largest pumpkin in the class.  Today I carried it outside for her because I didn't want it to SPLAT in the middle of the hallway, but once we got outside I made her do her own heavy lifting.  She was getting so frustrated with trying to pick it up and it tumbling down.  I saw her look around like she wanted to ask for help, but she was far off in the field, so she bent down and started rolling that pumpkin off to join the rest of the class.  After I died laughing, because the image is really just too cute for words, I was so proud of her.  Even tiny moments of problem solving are a huge milestone for this girl.

Choosing not to get angry (this time):  While painting our stained glass masterpieces in Art yesterday, I looked up and noticed a little girl who had a smudge of paint right under her nose.  It was placed in such as way as to resemble a Charlie Chaplin mustache, which made the art teacher and I snicker.  A few minutes later I look up to see another little girl with so much paint on her lower face and hands she looked like she had a black nosebleed.  She tried to say it was an accident, and the art teacher sent her to clean herself up.  When she got back, I could have been mean and told her that she was in double trouble - for doing that and for lying about it.  Instead, I pulled her over to the side and said, "I don't like what you did with the paint, but I will really be mad if you lie to me - did you do that on purpose?"  She looked sad and said, "I just wanted to make everybody laugh."  I hugged her and told her that is it is great to put a smile on people's face, but we don't have to make a huge mess for someone else to clean up to do it.  I showed her the silliest face I make (the Disgruntled Platypus from Runaway Bride), she giggled, I asked to only make silly faces with her face and not art supplies, and she got back to work.

Authentic, student-directed learning:  We were brainstorming words that begin with "F", and we were about to start brainstorming "G" when a kid (who was looking everywhere except where he was supposed to) noticed our potato plant.  We had suspended it in a jar of water, and it had started to grow roots, stems and leaves.  He was excited, and told everyone, "Hey!  Look at our tomato (yeah we're still mixing that up) plant!  It's got green!"  The teacher stopped and brought the plant over for everyone to see.  Then another little boy piped in and said, "You know what we should do with that?  We should put it in our science journals!"  About a week ago we had put our first structured entry into the journals using our ivy - we drew it and labeled the parts.  I guess it stuck with them because they all thought it was a great idea.  We left the word brainstorming for another day, passed out the science journals, and got to work.  My little boy wrote the words "Potato" and "Roots", and the princess mentioned above got all the labels on her page without me having to prod her and say, "Now write a p, now an o, write a t..."

Starting off November right - I am so thankful for this job and these kids. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Update

So my job has changed slightly to where I'm just taking care of one kid all day, staying with him in his classroom.  However, when we go to "specials" (art, music, PE), one of my other kids comes with us because he doesn't have an aide.  He doesn't do so well in art and music, he doesn't like the sitting down and in music he especially doesn't like all the high-pitched singing.  One of the PE teachers got him interested in a calm-down bottle, a salad bottle filled with glitter and water that keeps him mesmerized.  I think I'm going to make him a bunch of them, filled with different colors and other things that can keep him from flipping out on me.

Thursday was a pretty amazing day - my boy wrote for me!  He wrote an entire sentence, "My name is _____."  It was hard, it was painful for both of us, he got so frustrated he screeched at me a couple of times, but we did it, with a pencil and everything.  But I am struggling because I am not an OT, I have no idea how to help him master his grip, his direction, any of that stuff.  One of the girls I also help with, she is having trouble with those things as well.  Her name is a palindrome, and she is writing the capital, then moving right to left with the lower case letters.  Our OT is a very busy lady, and I haven't got the slightest idea how to give these children the help they need.  Advice is always welcome.

Meanwhile, I survived our first Power PLC week, the Fall Festival, and have a source of income for the week we're off for Thanksgiving - things are going well.  I feel like a part of the campus family, and now that my favorite time of year is upon us, I'm feeling optimistic and grateful instead of where I was 11 months ago.  I still miss my old school - going to their Fall Festival was a bittersweet event, seeing how everyone has moved on and I'm not a part of it anymore, but I do feel at home at my school, and I love it there.

That's what's going on in my life - I go to sleep almost before the sun these days, I spend my weekends squeezing in more sleep and books and food that I don't have to cook, and I have just a whisper of a social life, but the general tone of things is upbeat, expectant, and proud.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Five Senses Friday

Today we talked about the 5 senses, and we read a book, and we brainstormed different things we could sense - seems pretty cut and dry.  But I had a thought that I could create a moment for shared reading, repetition of sight words, and let the kids enjoy seeing themselves on the big screen. 

I took a photo of each kid, and I put it on a page in a Power Point.  I put what they brainstormed on the page ("Fletcher can taste candy."  "Lauren can see a dog.") along with a picture of whatever they mentioned, such as candy or a dog.  I put headers at the beginning of each section tha said, "I can _____" so they knew which of the 5 senses we were talking about.  The kids each got to take a turn holding the pointer while the whole class read each page together.  Our sight words include I, can, and see so they got a lot of each of those.

But did I stop there?  No siree.  It still took a lot of time to create this on the fly, what with the picture taking, emailing the pics to myself, then copying and pasting them onto Power Point slides.  I figured that if I ever wanted to do it again, I could save time by saving a BLANK presentation with only their pictures in it, ready to open for easy editing.  At some point, I can email these presentations to the parents with instructions on printing it out and turning it into a book for the kids to read at home.

Update on the job:  for the time being I am working full time with one little sweetheart who is dramatically low.  I'm hoping that I'll be hired full time to work with him, but everything is still up in the air right now.  The classroom teacher has been out a while because of family illness, so if you've got a moment could you offer up prayers for her and her family?  Meanwhile, I've completed 20 out of 30 days so I should be getting an answer one way or another in the next two weeks.  Parent-teacher conferences are next week, so speaking of prayers, keep us all in yours. 

Hopefully I'll have another update soon!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Announcement

Wow, my followers have hit the double digits.  That feels pretty nice.  Hope you guys don't feel let down, but I must warn you that this post is probably going to have to last you a month.  Why, you ask?  Because I've got a long-term sub job!

Here's the skinny: For 30 days (starting this past Friday), I am going to be a (very busy, tired) aide between two classrooms.  My primary focus will be on 3 boys - 2 in one class, 1 in the other - who need some extra help.  However, I am given to understand that I am to be assisting with both classes as wholes while in the room.  Did I mention these are Kindergarten classes?  Start praying for me now!

What will happen when the 30 days is up?  I'm not sure.  It could be that these kids will require an aide all year.  It could be that they want that aide to be moi.  I'm trying really hard to approach this with a "one-day-at-a-time" mentality, which has NEVER been a strong suit of mine.  I. plan. everything.

What I am sure of is that this is a very strong foot in the door at a school that I love, in my first choice district.  For that, I am thankful.  Meanwhile, I've got to get on to the library webpage and cancel some book requests, because I'm thinking I'm not going to have time to read until October.

Sorry for such a short post, but know that once I've hit my stride or found my groove or any other cliche phrase that mean I am now used to my new schedule, I will post more about how it has been going.  Meanwhile, if you know of any great websites or blogs that can give me tips, activities, or a helpful perspective on SpEd at such a young age, I would be so very thankful!  Leave 'em in the
comments and I'll check them out ASAP.

Welcome back to school, everyone!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Promoting Others

I've never been afraid to toot my own horn about my TeachersPayTeachers products, because I'm proud of what I make.  But I want to use this post to talk about some amazing looking products NOT done by me.  These are the top 10 things (in no particular order) on my TPT wishlist.

(A note:  I don't have my own classroom, which means I haven't narrowed down to grade-specific items.  These are going to be all over the map and will also include clip art.)

1. Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary Novel Study
Everyone knows the incredibly prolific Beverly Cleary - Ramona, Henry Huggins, Dear Mr. Hensha, Ralph S. Mouse.  This book is often overlooked, but the heroine is spunky, the setting is historical, and the adventures are amusing.  Much like The Phantom Tollbooth, this book will be a read-a-loud for me no matter what grade I teach.

2. Genre-of-the-Month Reading Log.
This is one of those ideas that is so simple but so brilliant, I'm a little mad at myself for not thinking of it!  Yes, it's important that kids read every day and read books they're interested in - but they need to try new types too or they'll get stuck in a rut.  The grade level would determine how many books from each genre I want them to read every month, but I will be using this in some way in any grade.

3. Cupcake Fonts
I have made no secret of my love for A Cupcake for the Teacher, and I love love LOVE her adorable collections of fonts she created. 

4. Monster Adjective Glyphs
I've talked about how I'd like to do a monster theme with my kiddos, and I think glyphs are so much fun for younger kids.  It's a more fun way to display and compare data, which is great for those primary grades.

5. Behavior Calendars
I credit this product (and A Cupcake for the Teacher) for introducing me to TPT and getting me started on this blogging/creating ride I've been on for the past year.  These calendars are an adorable way to track specific behavior - okay, so Harry had a bad day, but WHY did he have a bad day? - and you can edit them to your own specific classroom behavior codes.

6. Writing Center Starter Kit
 *Stefon voice* This kit has everything...writing samples, labels, templates.  You can make a whole bulletin board out of it, or, if you have a writing center for your Daily 5/Cafe time, you can put it on a poster board for use over there.

7. Monster Clip Art
The monsters I draw are pretty scary looking, and not in a good way.  If my classroom theme were limited to what I can draw, it'd either be cupcakes or whales.  Thankfully, there are more talented people out their willing to share their monster-drawing gifts with the world.

8. Parent Handbook Flipbook
Parents will need and want some information at their fingertips.  This editable flipbook allows you to put in things such as contact info, grading policy, instructions for sending money to school, daily schedule, etc...

9. The Phantom Tollbooth Challenges
GREAT ideas for a project-based-learning unit on The Phantom Tollbooth.  11 Challenges mean there's something for everyone.

10. Teacher Binder - Quatrefoil theme
I'm about to admit something that is going to make kind of unpopular - I am sick of Chevron!  It is everywhere, and I get tired of seeing it on EVERYTHING.  I'm a big fan of the quatrefoil (and argyle of course!), so when I saw this Teacher Binder kit done with a quatrefoil theme, I flipped!  Turquoise and lavender (two colors I adore) and and cute mix of regular and scripty fonts make this just the bee's knees!

So that's my wishlist for the TPT BTS sale - what's on yours?  Comment below!


Building Character and the BTS Sale

I'm not sure if I've ever expressed this opinion in this setting, but I worry a lot about what we're teaching our children outside of math and reading.  Starting with my generation, there was a lot of "participation trophies" and "you can do anything as long as you try" sort of self-esteem building.  Don't get me wrong, kids and adults alike both need healthy self-esteem.  The problem becomes when we give them too much they haven't earned, like this sketch from Saturday Night Live.  I worry we're raising kids who believe that wanting something is enough to get it, and not focusing on teaching them about how to work for it.  Sure, many schools are cracking down on teaching how kids should treat each other, I see great emotional education at several schools.  But I'm talking about the kind of character that Paul Tough wrote about in the book I reviewed in the last post.  That book really hit some chords for me, because I see a lot of students who have either forgotten or never knew that hard work is what makes things happen.  When I read that book, I was inspired by those character traits he found in his research, and I decided to make some posters for the classroom.

Sure, there are tons of "motivation" posters out there ready for classroom use.  But I find a lot of them cheesy, or the sayings a bit cliche, and I've never seen a poster advertising "Grit" or "Self-Control".  Self control is an especially big thing with me, I've been trying to inculcate that in my students for years now.  So, I give you my latest creation:


The colors aren't cohesive - I opted instead to give them all a diagonally striped border and tie the colors in each individual poster.  I wanted them to stand out from regular classroom decor for me.  However, should someone ask if I can recreate them in their chosen color scheme (I'd probably use different backgrounds, like strips and polka dots & plaid), I'd be more than willing to do that.  I also made them in landscape orientation, in case someone prefers that or only has room for that.

Don't forget, there's a sale going on this weekend for back-to-school.  I believe it's the standard "up to 20% off" with the extra 10% site-wide using the code BTS13.  I didn't put ALL my products on sale, but the ones I did, I put them 20% off.  Combined with the site code, that's a total of 28% off!