Before and After Pictures

September 1st, 2008

Here’s my classroom the Wednesday before school started. At this point I’d already been working about 8 hours moving furniture and getting things set up.

And here’s what it looks like after 3 days of students being in school:

Yes, I do have “under construction” tape over all my shelves. The kids know that they can’t use those toys until they have learned how to play with them appropriately. It will take until about mid-September for all the tape to come off.

First Impressions of Kindergarten

August 25th, 2008

This probably won’t be of interest to anyone but me, but I want to get it down so when I am ready to toss kids out the window in December I can look back and remember that at one point I did think they were cute. And just to warn you, I’ll be doing that annoying initials thing instead of real names just to be on the safe side.

First day started off a little crazy. There was some type of bus mix up (which means they had no idea who to pick up where) so at 7:55 I still had only 8 kids. By the end of breakfast I was up to 13. I had 8 girls and 5 boys which is fine with me. Last year I had 20 kids and only 6 were girls so this year is already looking up.

I know we are still in the “honeymoon” phase of school so I’m not going to pretend that just because today was good the rest of the year will be too but hey, a girl can hope right?

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School Starts Monday

August 14th, 2008

For the teachers at least. Our schedule isn’t too bad next week. We have work days Monday through Thursday. Parent night is Thursday (which means we don’t have to come in until noon but don’t get to leave until 8). Friday is also a day off (because we had to come in last Monday) but I’ll probably go in anyway because there’s a lot to do to get ready for the first weeks of school (mostly it’s just hanging bulletin boards and rearranging furniture)

I think I have all my supplies for this year. I didn’t have too much that I needed so I got to spend my allowance on things that I’ve wanted but have put off getting for the items in the “need” column. This will be my third year of teaching kindergarten and I feel like I’ve hit my stride. I’m not making countless “to do” lists or over-thinking my lesson plans for the first week.

I’ve got my class list so I can start making name tags and those little craft sticks with everyone’s name to make sure everyone gets a turn. And the twenty other things that get labeled with everyone’s name (homework folders, journals, cubbies, pencils, coat hooks, circle spot…).

Once that’s all done, all that’s left is to wait for the students to show up, see how their personalities are, toss my plans out the window and re-write them to fit this particular group.

I’ve got 9 girls and 9 boys. Things are already looking up for this year.

The Last Day is Almost Here.

June 5th, 2008

When I go to work tomorrow there will be 4 hours and 15 minutes of school left for the year. Aahhh, a nice feeling to have the end in sight. And yes, teachers enjoy summer vacation and look forward to the last day of school just as much, if not more, than the kids do.

And this has been a rough year. My class was a revolving door of students. We’d lose a student and gain a new one about every 2 weeks for the first 3-4 months of school. The school secretary loves to show people the in/out form for my class. Which, while amusing for the office staff was difficult for my kids. They never quite gelled into a well functioning group. Last year’s group had a lot of quirky behaviors but the kids were consistent so everyone in the class knew what to expect and how to react. This year the kids would panic if their friend was sick for a day in fear that they went to a new school – just like all the other kids in our class. They had to try and learn how each new student was going to act in the classroom and how much of my attention the new student was going to take away from their share and that was hard. With 20 kids, I can only give them so much one-to-one a day, but when it’s a consistent 20 I can rotate myself throughout the week making sure nobody is ignored and I don’t have to spend hours teaching a new child routines and rules.

I also had boys. Lots and lots of boys. And I don’t care what people say, boys and girls think, act and learn in a very different manner from each other. Boys need to be active. They truly do not hear as well as girls so the room is louder (both me and them). Their language develops later which can have an effect on their communication with other and therefore make problem solving in a non-physical way much more difficult. As a whole, boys have a harder time following multiple step directions which means I need to repeat myself about a 1000 times a day. And when the boys out number the girls 2:1 a teacher needs to scrap their whole teaching style and get a new plan – quick. And the plan needs to be simple, consistent and active. And I’m not in anyway implying that boys are any less intelligent than the girls. I’m saying at 5 & 6 years old, girls can handle sitting in their seats, talking quietly, working on worksheets, sharing, sitting and listening to an entire story and not need much re-direction. At 5 & 6 years old boys can listen to an entire story but they do that and pick up fuzz from the carpet and stick it in their friend’s ear. They work on worksheets at their table while standing, sitting on the table, laying on the table, or (my personal favorite), standing in their chair. My girls raised their hands to talk. My boys raised their hands and figured if their hand was up they could just start talking. Teaching a classroom of 13 boys is like trying to teach a classroom of hummingbirds on caffeine.

In all my years of teaching, this will be the class that I tell stories about. This is the class that drove substitute teachers to their breaking point. This is the class that had to go through boot camp, twice. This is the class that ate (yes, ate) their naps mats. This is the class that would look me straight in the eye and say “Make me.” This is the class that spent 3 weeks practicing walking in the stairs instead of going to recess because they didn’t think I would make them. This is the class that redefined the term “difficult children”. This is the class that taught me that I am a really, really good teacher.

Because this year over half my class left kindergarten reading at a first grade level, some at second grade.

This class can do math like nothing else.

This class has kids who along with wanting to be Superman or Spiderman also want to be astronauts, paleontologists, president,  police officers,  archeologists,  scientists and a whole other list of careers.

This class loved reading chapter books and begged their parents to go to the library.

And in 4 hours and 15 minutes graduation will be over. They will be first graders. And I’ll have 3 months to re-group before I meet my new class.

This just in: Detentions are “cool”

May 13th, 2008

Overheard in my classroom by several boys: “I got a detention. Staying after school for detention is cool.”

Overheard in my classroom by me: “We just changed the rules. Kindergarteners do not stay after school for detention. Kindergarteners do detentions during either learning labs or recess. And the teacher gets to pick which one.”

This just in: Detentions are no longer “cool”.

Are you kidding me?

May 12th, 2008

This is a true story.

A class of kindergarteners were dropped off with a specialist teacher. The normal specialist teacher was out so the founder of the school subbed.

The class entered the room and tore through the room screaming and fighting for seats. As teacher left she overheard the sub say “Take your seats. Your teacher is still here.” Umm…no. The teacher had left for her prep time.

30 minutes later, the teacher returned to pick up the class. Before she left her doorway she heard shrieking coming all the way down the hall. Can you guess where it was coming from?

She returned to her students to see another teacher repremanding the class. When she entered the room the sub greeted her with “Are these your students?” (at this point a smart teacher would have said no and turned around and walked out of the room). The sub then went on to tell her how terrible her class was. All of them. Every student. Terrible. And also informed her that 5 students had earned a detention that afternoon.

The teacher’s response? A very firm “Turn your voices off and put your heads down. Now.” And the room was silent. Quietly they lined up and quietly they walked back to class. Rest time was quiet and reading class was quiet.

When the detention announcements were made the kindergarten names were not on the list. When the teacher asked the sub if he gave the list to the school secretary he said no. The teacher asked if he would still like the students to report to detention. “When is it?” he asked.

“Tonight or Wednesday.”

“They can just go Wednesday.”

The teacher oh so patiently explained that kindergarteners don’t think that way. Consequences need to be as immediate as possible in order for them to be effective. It would be best to have them serve detention tonight.

The response? “It’s okay. They don’t have to go.”

“But if they don’t go, they will think that their behavior was okay.”

“It’s okay. They can just be okay. The whole class was terrible. They can be okay and not go to detention.”

Once again, the teacher tried to explain. “If you say you are going to give them a consequence and you don’t follow through, the next time you give them a consequence they will have no reason to believe you. You will have lost all authority with them.”

“It’s okay. They are in your class. You can give them the consequence tomorrow.”

The teacher opened her mouth to explain, again, sighed and walked away.

Seriously. True story.

The Field Trip or Why Was That Not On Your Website?

April 20th, 2008

Friday was the big field trip. Despite the luming rain clouds, we loaded about 60 extremely excited kindergarten and 2nd graders onto a bus and drove them a half hour to the coolest playground ever. We pulled up in front of the play area and were greeted with orange construction fencing and a “play area closed” sign. The very friendly park ranger informed us that 1. the play area was closed for repair (even though the website said open April – November) and 2. they require a reservation for school groups (also not posted on the website). He told us they had been trying to get that information up for a long time. He then gave us directions to another play area close by that would be big enough for our group. We drove there. It was not. Not even close. Plus, there were no bathrooms. The kids did enjoy the novelty of it while we called the bus driver and told him to come back and pick us up. I have no idea why he left in the first place. He came and got us and we drove back to school to use the bathrooms. (This is after several phone calls to the school secretary having her look up parks in the area for us.) After the bathroom break we got back on the bus and drove to a small park that I knew had some cool climbing ropes. It’s a bunch of cables and cargo nets that look like spider webs to climb around in. The kids had a blast. They told everyone that we took them on two field trips in one day and that the second field trip was to the Spider-Man park. Not to mention they got to eat their lunches outside. Good thing they had no idea that we were completely making the day up as we went along. At least the rain held out until the last 10 minutes of our time at the park.

No Rain No Rain No Rain

April 17th, 2008

There is a 30 percent chance of rain tomorrow. If that happens there is a 100 percent chance of a riot in my classroom. Tomorrow is the day we are scheduled to take the kids to Chutes and Ladders (the coolest playground ever – 16000 sq. ft. of tunnels and slides). My class has been trying to earn the field trip for a week. And if we don’t take them….well, let’s just say if it’s raining, I may be calling in sick because I’m not sure I want to be there.

Kindergarten Boot-Camp

March 30th, 2008

For those of you keeping track, no, my class still has not earned everything back. In fact, on Friday (a half-day, nonetheless) they lost some of the stuff the earned back. They were so close and then they had to go a screw it all up again.

We were doing shaving cream art. This is an activity that I save for days right before a vacation or days when not too many kids are in school (like half-days). It involves giving every kid a glob of shaving cream and letting them smear it all over their table. They practice writing numbers and letters in it and in the process it cleans of the tables. Plus, to clean it up all they have to do is rub it until it disappears and then I just wipe the soap slime off the table with a wet rag. It’s also a time when they can (in theory) sit and chat with their friends, listen to a fun cd and get a little messy.

But not Friday. Oh no. Friday they started off great. Everyone was ready and excited for shaving cream art. They spent the first few minutes using it correctly (and my rules are pretty simple – use your own glob, don’t clap your hands or slap the table because it splatters it everywhere, and stay in your seat) we had music on, there was a lot of good conversation and then something in their little brains fired off and all 18 of them went berserk. They were tearing around the room, stealing shaving cream from other tables, shouting at each other, flinging it everywhere. So shaving cream was done. They spent the next 5-10 minutes cleaning it all up and the last 10 minutes of art with their heads down practicing being quiet. So art’s gone again for awhile.

I don’t mind if we spend the rest of the year practicing how to act like 5 and 6 year olds. They actually seem to do better when they have less things to choose from. I really think that this group gets over-stimulated very quickly and does better with way less options.

Have you ever read this book?

May 23rd, 2007

Three or four years ago I was checking out library books for the preschool and I came across a book about a kindergarten teacher. And I’m kicking myself for not writing down the name of it. Here’s what I remember – the book actually looks like it is about a woman who plants a garden, but by the end you realize the “garden” is her class. (I know, it sounds cheesy and there are way too many books about making kids bloom and all that but this one I liked. It was well written.) Anyway, the illustrations were either watercolors or colored pencil and very simple. That’s all I remember of the book. If you’ve read it or know the title can you let me know what it is? It’s been driving me crazy. Thanks.