Teacher Meme

December 8th, 2009

This has been sitting in my inbox for a while. And since it’s 12:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep, I’ll play.

I am a good teacher because I hold my class to high expectations. Everyone can learn and everyone is expected to learn. Everyone in the class may not learn at the same rate or even learn the same concepts but I promise by the end of the school year everyone will have learned something.

If I weren’t a teacher, I would be a librarian. Specifically a Children’s Librarian in a public library. I love the idea of helping kids discover new worlds in books. And I love the smell of libraries.

My teaching style is just me. I can’t subscribe to one philosophy of teaching. I’ve got 20 students in my class that all learn and respond a different way. I need to do what works for each of them. I will say this. My co-teacher and I are the “mean” kindergarten teachers. We don’t fall for the crying your way out of it and we give the office and other teaching staff strict instructions not to baby our students. Because let me tell you, kindergarteners know how to work the system.

My classroom is loud. Well, what do you think happens when you put 16-20 5-year-olds in one room. It’s loud and to the untrained eye looks very chaotic but it’s organized chaos. I can get their attention at the drop of a hat. They know the rules and routines because of the consistency and are pretty much self-sufficent.

My lesson plans are hahahahahahaha. I have a general outline most the time I prefer to “wing-it”. I’ll have a great idea for a lesson plan, start to teach and a student will ask a question, which prompts another question and another and pretty soon my lesson on snow becomes a lesson on how the solar system works.

One of my teaching goals is to make sure every student in my class has a voice. I don’t want any student looking back and thinking they were never given a chance to share their ideas.

The toughest part of teaching is explaining to people why teaching kindergarten is not an easy job. If you think you can make it as a kindergarten teacher I will gladly let you come and teach my class for a day while I sit at my desk, smile and shake my head.

The thing I love most about teaching is summer vacation. You thought I was going to say my students, didn’t you? I do love my students. But just when you are completely fed up with your class and can’t take it anymore, summer vacation begins. And by the time it’s over I miss my classroom. I miss the kids and I want to be back.

The most important thing I’ve learned since I started teaching is First you work on classroom expectations, then you work on academics. Spend the first 3-6 weeks focusing only on behavior. Model everything. Work with your students to create expectations for the classroom. Build a community. Once that is established the academics come easy. You can now focus your energy on teaching and not worrying about who’s poking who with a pencil.

NaBloPoMo Post #15: Kindergarten

November 14th, 2009

I haven’t talked about kindergarten in a while.

Here’s the thing. I (heart) my class. They rock. Sure I’ve got one or two that like to try and push my buttons but that’s only about once a day. The rest of the week is smooth sailing. I haven’t figured out what the secret ingredient to this year is yet.

Maybe it’s their personalities. Maybe it’s the new routine I’ve created. Maybe it’s the fact that they have been told by numerous adults in the school that they are the best class. Maybe it’s the fact that I have sixteen – 8 boys, 8 girls. I have don’t know.

All I know is that when I ask them to listen, they do. When I ask them to settle down, they do. When someone needs help, they are helpful. They are respectful. They are responsible. They are funny and silly and try really hard on their work. When we walk in a line, it’s an actual line. They are fiercely protective of one-another. And they love to arm wrestle. When someone can beat me, they get a party. (I may let somebody win next week.) They understand the importance of admitting they were wrong or telling the truth. They know a bad choice makes me upset but lying makes me angry. They are proud of our class library. They are convinced we have more books than the school library. (There’s a good chance we do.) We work together as a community. They love me and I love them.

I’ll admit it, I’ve got a favorite in my class.

October 5th, 2009

Remember my kid who meditates? Well, after being gone for almost 10 days due to a broken arm, he came back today.
And he’s learned to use “air quotes”. Sort of. He air quotes about every 5th word he says. Today he needed to “tell me something”. (yeah he put air quotes on tell me something).

“Ms. Abby”, I was at “home” because I broke my “arm”. My dad brought me to “school” in the “car” today. I can’t ride the “bus” until my “arm” is “better”.

Can’t wait to see what new habit he picks up next week.

Obama’s Speech to Students

September 4th, 2009

Question: Why are people so bent out of shape about this?

He’s making a speech, actually taking time to address the kids in this nation. Why is that bad?

If you are worried that one hour of listening to the President is going to undo all the teaching and value-instilling you put into your kids then you may want to rethink your teaching strategies because when it comes to peer pressure your kid will be in serious trouble.

P.S. Yes, I planning on showing the speech to my class but not because it’s Obama speaking. I’m showing it because the fact the the President is taking time to address the students of America teaches our kids that they are worth something if someone important like the President feels the need to take time from his day and speak directly to them.

Odds and Ends

April 15th, 2009

I need to blog and I’ve got a lot of things I want to blog about but not much to say about each topic so let’s just cram them all into one post, shall we? Great.

  1. Milo goes to the audiologist tomorrow. Or maybe it’s the opthomologist. I don’t remember which. But he’s got appointments at both. Nothing serious just the routine stuff they do for infants who are born in the States. Mostly to get a baseline incase things come up later.
  2. Milo had giardia. It’s a gross little parasite that comes from drinking contaminated water or poor sanitation. Luckily in the States we have meds that can treat it but unfortunately the meds taste horrid and give the patient stomach cramps so he gets really pissed when we give him the meds three times a day.
  3. I go back to work on Monday. I’m looking forward to being back at work because I miss the routine and just being at work but I’ve heard (and seen) that my class has been less than stellar so Monday probably won’t be a super-happy-yeah-ms. abby’s-back kind of day. It’s going to be more of a oh-crap-we’re-in-so-much-trouble-we’re-lucky-if-we-even-hear-the-word-recess-again kind of day.
  4. School is out May 29. Which means there are only 29 days left of school. And one of those days is the end of the year field trip. One is the student coucil field trip. One is the class picnic. One is 8th grade graduation and one is kindergarten graduation. So it’s only 24 days left of teaching. But who’s counting?
  5. I’m working on a sweater for a friend’s baby. It’s almost done and I am really liking the yarn. I think I may have to make Lexi a sweater out of the same stuff.
  6. We met with our social worker today for our first post-placement report. And surprise, surprise there’s more paperwork.
  7. Yesterday I took both kids, by myself, to a friend’s house. It felt very grown-up to be dealing with a toddler and an infant and not losing my cool – even when the toddler pooped in her pants twice and the infant started scream while I was cleaning up the toddler.
  8. I’m really tired. My bedtime has officially moved from sometime around 11 to 9:15. Which means I’m up way past my bedtime.
  9. It’s spring. Windows can be open. Sun is shining and I can wear sandals again.

More Randomness

March 10th, 2009

I’m guessing until we leave these posts are going to be filled with random thoughts and ramblings. Sorry.

1. I won! Okay, I hardly ever win anything. But I entered a blog give away on Infinita Diversidade and I won. My package (from Brazil) arrived today. I had completely forgotten about it because it took over a month to get here (cuz, you know, it was coming from Brazil). I’m excited about this loot. Check it out:
My Winnings
There’s a big pile of fat quarters, 3 different colors of felt, floss, beads, a handmade birthday card, really cool lace/trim, thread, buttons and ribbon. Plus, the little tan bag with the teapots is actually a bag containing an apron that she made.

Apron from my Winnings

2. We left tonight (in a mini snow storm, mind you) to run errands. We needed to go to REI, IKEA and Target. We got to the exit of REI and guess who threw up, again, for the second time since Friday? So we pulled over, cleaned up Lexi and headed back home. Where she threw up again. Blech. Although now she’s watching Veggie Tales and demanding water and food. I’m thinking she’ll be fine.

3. My lesson plans, preping everything the sub will need, photocopies, and supplies are all ready to go. The finished copies of the lesson plans and classroom routines ended up being somewhere between 75-100 pages. It’s amazing how much you need to tell a person to in order to leave them in charge of 21 kindergarteners. My room is almost cleaned out as well. Only things that still need cleaning belong to the kids so they will be cleaning on Monday and Tuesday.

4. It’s hard to believe that in 10 days we will go from a family of 3 to a family of 4.

Frustrations with kindergarten

February 19th, 2009

I’m not sure what is going on in my classroom but the children seemed to have checked all ability to listen and be respectful at the door. And it’s not just my class. Every teacher in our school is complaining of some variation of this problem.

All of a sudden you are a “cool kid” if you get sent to the office. In order to be in some random club you need to get sent to the office. Consequences have no meaning anymore. Today my class lost learning labs (their absolute favorite time of day), recess and choice time due to behavior. Guess how many of them cared? Yeah – zero.

This isn’t like last year where all I needed was a serious crack down in the rules and the kids shaped up. This is something entirely new. This is a whole new level of defiance. And they are mean. Mean to me. Mean to each other. Mean to other adults. They are rude. There is swearing. And a lot of “I HATE YOU”. There is bullying and lying and stealing. And it’s all in an attempt to get sent to the office. I know their game. Nobody is going to the office. Not anymore.

And I have a plan but I’m not sure how it will work.

Currently our class rules are:

1. Share

2. Keep your hands and feet to yourself

3. Listen to the person who is speaking.

4. Respect people and things.

5. Be safe.

That’s it. Not tough rules to follow. And I didn’t write them – they did.

Tomorrow, the rules are coming down. There will be new rules:

1. You can’t say you can’t play.

2. You can be mad but you can’t be mean.

3. Even when you are mad, you still have to follow the rules.

4. Nobdoy goes to the office.

There will also be a new seating chart. Currently we are at tables of 4. And the tables are starting to get into fights with each other. Not anymore. Nobody gets to sit at tables. I have a class set of clipboards. We will all be doing our work in one big group, in a circle, together. All supplies are now communial. You want crayons, you need to ask politely. You want help, you quietly ask a friend. Finished your work early? Help someone who needs it.

We will begin working and functioning as a community again. We are going to be in this together. If one person needs to calm themselves down we will all stop and take a break and calm down. If 2 kids need to practice walking in a line quietly we will all walk to show them how it should look.

By the time I leave for Ethiopia my class will be back to functioning as a unit. And it may mean no academic teaching for a week or more but right now their behavior is more important to me than whether or not they can do a pattern or count by 5′s.

Eid Mubarak

September 29th, 2008

Tomorrow is Eid ul-Fitr. It’s the celebration that breaks the fast which took place during Ramadaan, which when you are a teacher at a school that is 100% Muslim you get two days off of school.

This year it fell on Tuesday and Wednesday which means that we had school today, we’re off Tuesday and Wednesday and we go back Thursday. It’s a little odd having a weekend, then one day of work, then a weekend, then two days of work, then a weekend.

Today was really not worth having. Most families celebrate the holiday by getting together and going some place fun (a popular place around here is Camp Snoopy or Chuck E. Cheese), eating a huge pile of good food and presents. Lots of presents. So today was like trying to teach on Christmas Eve. Not the most productive of days.

This may jinx it, but…

September 13th, 2008

…my kindergarten class is pretty good this year. Some of you may remember last year’s boot camp. Last year redefined “difficult students” and I came into this year prepared for the worst. I know that I shouldn’t let my opinion of last year’s class influence my opinion of this year’s class but you didn’t meet last year’s class.

This year however…three weeks into the school year and my pro’s list is longer than my con’s list.

The pro’s:

  • They have volume control. This is huge. I can actually say 1 time to the class “use your #1 voice” and for the remainder of the work time all you hear is the low hum of 5 year olds working.
  • They raise their hands before talking
  • They can be trusted to go to the bathroom without me.
  • I can leave the room for 5 minutes and when I come back they are in the same spots I’ve left them.
  • They rest at rest time.
  • They attempt to do their work before asking me for help.
  • They don’t tattle (much).
  • They clean up without tearing around the room and shrieking.
  • It only took me a week to teach them the routine of the room.
  • They remember the routine.
  • When I do have to discipline the whole class by making them practice, they actually realize that if they fix the problem, the punishment is over.

The cons are few and far between. Their biggest issue is lining up. They can walk in a line just fine. They can line up in the hallway just fine but for whatever reason lining up in our classroom or the lunch room causes them to forget all common sense, forget all rules, forget their spots in line and start with the pushing and the shoving and the worrying about who gets to be first (even though we have a line leader everyday). I’m not really sure why they do this but trust me, we’ll be working on this next week.

As far as the kids go, for the most part they are great. There are only 3 that drive me crazy on a regular basis.

I have the younger sister of one of my boys from last year. And she makes her brother look like a saint. Her current favorite activities in class – starting laughing (while I’m talking) just to see how many kids she can get laughing, doing opposite of what I tell the class (for example Me: I need everyone to cross their legs, please. Her: (looks directly at me and sticks her legs straight out).), and in general making a mental list on how many ways she can irritate me in a single day.

The next kid is only going to be difficult for a few more weeks. He understands English but can barely speak it so his behavior is due to the language barrier and at 6 weeks (almost to the day) every non-English speaker I’ve had has started speaking enough English to feel confident enough to participate in the class. And we had a huge break through on Friday. He learned the phrase “what’s that?” so now, he points and asks that about 300 times a day but it’s better than him not having a clue as to what’s going on and chucking stuff across the room out of frustration. Also, next week the ESL teachers start doing pull-out work and lucky for the kindergarteners our ESL teacher speaks both English and Somali so they really like working with her.

And my third is a boy who has made it very obvious that I am clearly a serious inconvenience in his life. Some examples:

Me: A-M, please stop talking we are waiting for you.

A-M: (in a very exasperated tone) Okay. Fine. (and then the talking starts right back up again).


Me: A-M, you need to clean up. I already asked you once and [math, art, learning labs, journaling] is over now. You need to stop and clean up.

A-M: (eyes rolling) Uugh, okay, okay. Fine. (and continues to do what I asked him to stop).

Basically, I’m just in the way of him doing whatever he feels like doing. I’ve already told him that I was going to have to call and talk to his dad about the way he is acting and he looked right at me and said “my dad let’s me stop when I want.” Great. So now I have to fix the behavior of the parent and the kid. Well, it’s going to be a long year for him sitting in the take a break chair.

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.