Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I opened my classroom door and immediately started vacuuming, sharpening pencils, cleaning, the tables, etc. Part of my normal morning routine now includes planning the guided reading lesson for the day, so I took out my little bin and noticed that the last set of guided reading books, the ones I had planned to use on Wednesday, weren't there. Hmmm? I thought. Then I looked at the reading chart to see which group I would see that day and I noticed the clothespin had been moved to the next group. Hmmmm? I thought again. So I checked the "Just Right" baggies of that group, and sure enough, the book was in each of their baggies. I really couldn't figure out how the substitute would have known what to do. Oh well, I thought, and started planning for the next group. A few minutes before I had to pick up the kids, the substitute came into my room to get her things (she stores her stuff in my room) for the class she was subbing for today and I asked her about the day yesterday.
She said "Oh, yeah, we did everything. We did the word sort and the kids said they were supposed to glue, then they wanted to do the calendar, so we did that. Then they wanted to read their "Just Right" books so we did that, except that a couple of kids insisted that they had to stay on the rug to do a reading group. I asked them, 'What am I supposed to do?' and they showed me the [guided reading] bin and the set of six books. They told me I had to show them the book and then they would read it to me."
Needless to say, I was beaming with pride. My students had guided the substitute through our entire morning routine including the guided reading group. Maybe all of my efforts are paying off. It seems that they have really internalized the structures.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
It's December. This program was supposed to start the first week in October. We still haven't started. I am so desperate to get it off the ground that I have repeatedly inquired about when I am tutoring and which kid I will be tutoring. I even made up a possible tutoring schedule using times when a school aide could be with my class (like right when they come up from lunch), which I now can't even offer because I need to use that time for oral storytelling. I offered for them to pay off my preps and tutor then. I have tried all I can so that this training, which probably cost at least $15,000 can actually be put to some good use. Why does administration waste our time and money like this????? It's ridiculous. It makes me so angry. I can't count on administration to do ANYTHING for my students EVER!!!! It's all up to me. That's the honest truth.
I'm writing a letter to the parents this week asking for a donation of a reem of copy paper for those families who can help. I hope I get at least 5.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Muchas personas en el área de educación creen que la enseñanza en español en la ciudad de Nueva York actúa como una muleta para los niños hasta que aprendan el inglés, pero lo que no toman en cuenta es que el español es un idioma muy complejo y que nuestros niños imigrantes acá en Nueva York son de diferentes paises y regiones y que tal vez no hablan el mismo dialecto del español. El trabajo de la maestra bilingue no es solamente enseñarles el inglés estándard, pero también el español estándard. Me hace desesperar cuando la gente cree que solamente traducir les va a ayudar a los niños tener comprensión de algo. Por ejemplo, casi la mitad de mi clase es mejicana y la otra mitad dominicana. Tenemos algunos niños ecuatorianos, puertoriqueños, un boliviano, un hondureño, y un colombiano. La mayoría de los recursos que tenemos en español son traducciones de textos originalmente escritos en inglés. Primero, las traducciones son muy malas y suben el nivel de lectura del libro dos o tres niveles porque usan un español muy alto. Segundo, el español que hablan los niños es lenguaje social, no es lenguaje académico y para muchos niños es muy difícil leer el lenguaje académico que encuentran en los libros. Tercero, cada país tiene sus regionalismos y vocabulario distinto. Hay como 8 palabras distintas para "cerdo." También, la gente asume de que los niños con apellidos latinos o recién llegados de países hispanoparlantes hablan el español. Tenemos muchos niños de centro y sudamérica que hablan idiomas indígenas (como es el caso en mi salón) y para ellos el español es el segundo idioma y el inglés será el tercero.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
That's not what I really wanted to post about though. We have been told by our administration that we need to come up with our own professional goals and to help our students set their own goals in all subject areas. At first, I was really annoyed that they were saying this with the upcoming parent teacher conferences and all of the stuff I had to do, but I have to say that really thinking about my goals has given me a little push to do better (not that I'm not doing everything that I possibly can each day!!!), but somehow this process got me doing more. I decided that my goal for this year was to send all of my first graders to second grade reading at least close to the June benchmark (level I). Believe me, from past experience, and based on where my kids are right now, this is no easy feat. I have a room full of B and C readers and it is November. I had to tell those 19 out of 26 parents at parent-teacher conferences that their children are promotion in doubt and that they need more support at home. We will do our best at school, but the parents need to provide the basics at home: a quiet place to do homework, a homework routine, take their children to the public library---I even gave them the forms to fill out for a library card and the addresses of libraries in the area. Even the parents who don't read or write can do these things to support their children (they will need support filling out the form, I should make sure they get that help). They all promised to do their part and understood the importance of literacy for their children.
Okay, now to my part. For the past couple of years, I have been working with small groups in reading within the reading workshop. I have done guided reading and strategy lessons, but I haven't been consistent and I haven't used a structure that is predictable to my children. For all of these years, I have attended calendar days at TC and we have had staff developers at our school, and we have had support for planning for small groups, but there was one big missing key--- how to make it sustainable and functional within the classroom structure. You see, TC teaches you to group kids fluidly, which is great. It's true, not all B readers need the same thing, and not all kids are using the same strategies. This idea of fluid grouping was the factor that prevented me from implementing any sort of consistent group work. I was always stressed out about what I would teach, who would be in the group, how I would take notes, which guided reading book was perfect for teaching that skill, how I could confer too, etc.
This year, I just decided, "F--- it!" My kids aren't reading, they're not moving up levels, I am going to make a groups chart (that is not fluid), and I am going to do guided reading with one group each day according to the chart. They will be grouped according to reading level, and THAT'S IT!!!! Also, that guided reading library that I had been hoarding because I didn't know now to catalogue or level the books came out. I dumped all of the books onto a big table and sat there for two hours leveling them and organizing them into leveled bins. It's amazing that after 3 and a half years teaching first grade, I can level books like a machine. I'm pretty confident that I can accurately level at least A-H books myself.
So, I put the chart up with the groups, and we did a shared reading of the chart so the kids could see what color group they were (I labeled them by colors). I told them that I would meet with one group each day and that they would get to read some of these new books (as opposed to the nasty old ones that populate my classroom library). After the oooohs and ahhhhs were over, I did the mini-lesson, and just as I had instructed, the red group stayed on the rug. They made a little circle and put their baggies behind them. I took out the leveled book that I had just organized at their instructional level and I did a guided reading group. I didn't worry about if I was doing it right or not and I didn't pressure myself to teach sight words or this or that. I had changed my whole view of it. I gave the students what I thought they would need to read the book and a little more.
For example, one of the D level books we read had the word "Takes" in it a lot. So before we read the book we talked about a word that they know "cake" and how if they can read cake they can read a tricky work that they will see in the book. I put the word "take" on my little white board and they all blurted out "take." Then we added the "s" and got "takes." I asked if anyone could find the word "takes" on the page, and the lowest of the group pointed to it. When they were reading, a couple of kids forgot our good work and said "tacks." All I had to do was point to the chart and they remembered "takes."
Anyway, this week I met with five groups and I have to say that this is more than I ever did before. I took a step back and somehow brushed off all of that pressure and TC ickyness, and really looked at the big picture. I still don't have time to confer (and that's okay), when they are in those small groups, I am working so closely with each one, that I can confer with a couple of them right there. The other kids are still not reading, but that's okay too. As we cycle through these guided reading groups and as they get more of those scaffolded books in their baggies, I really think that their stamina will improve.
This is like my little mini inquiry for the year. I'm very curious how this will impact their reading if at all.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Back to the chaos. It really concerns me that my students get completely out of control if there is someone other than me in front of them. Even with my student teacher, I can't step away from the rug for a moment without the kids turning malicious and completely obnoxious. When I take them to recess they are completely out of control. We calmly walk down to the cafeteria and I seat them with their partners in neat rows. They are nice and calm. The moment I hand over control to the school aide, they get totally crazy (and it's totally unfair, they have a great school aide, a truly wonderful person). I can't stand picking them up from recess because I find out that they have been catapulting food from their forks in the cafeteria, three kids are at the nurse because someone bashed their heads into the floor (then I have to explain that to parents), and that they ended up not being allowed to play. I take the hands of the ones who are in tears and ignore them at the same time as we make our way up the stairs. The kids know, I will not talk to anyone about recess until we are safe in our room and everyone is on their rug spot and their hands are raised. Then I open the floor to apologies only. After everyone has apologized to the wronged parties, then they can give compliments to each other. We do this routine every day in an effort to get them to start thinking about appreciating each other and making better decisions when it comes to how to treat your classmates.
Even the prep teachers struggle with my group. I have to refocus them after any prep and clean the room (it is usually a disaster zone after a prep). My strict discipline and attention to structure and routine really helps my students when they are with me, but how can I empower them to make those same decisions when I am not there? They act crazy with their parents, so that is not a route to take. It's about them. I always tell my students that they have the power to decide what kind of a person they want to be. They always choose to be a good friend and an honest person when confronted with the choice, but I want to see them doing it on their own, internalizing these values.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
First year-- Management:
As a first year teacher, management is usually the most pressing issue. I remember a time when my first graders were violent, overly emotional, and always asking to go to the nurse. I remember when the physical set-up of the room created dangerous blind spots where kids would hide to carry out their misdeeds. I remember kids punching each other during my mini-lessons, throwing tantrums on the floor and kicking me, and interrupting lessons to say "I hate you" over and over like a broken record. One time, I called the students to the rug and asked them softly to make a circle. When I looked around the circle, one kid was covering his face and crying, when he pulled his hands away, they were covered in blood. One of the bullies in the room had kicked him in the face on purpose. I remember thinking that the kids were really disturbed and getting too involved in trying to solve all of their problems. I thought that their emotional state made it impossible for them to learn and I felt bad for them. I made it a point to visit other teachers during my preps, teachers that I really respected and admired for the environment in their classes. After seeing similar kids in other rooms I realized that the issues I was facing were up to me to solve by firming up my structures and routines.
I started with the classroom environment. I knew I had to open up the space. Those little nooks I created with the furniture that I had envisioned as quiet reading spaces for my students had to go. Even the barriers around the rug had to go as well. I needed a room with no blindspots. I had to be able to see everything that was going on at all times. One Friday after school, I stayed really late and I rearranged my entire classroom.
When the kids returned on Monday, I introduced them to the new environment and to the new rules. I remember telling them, "When I tell you to do something, there will be no backtalk, all you will say is 'Yes Ms. Peace' and you will do as you are told." I told them "I will ask you nicely the first time, but the second time, I will not be nice anymore." This kind of strict management wasn't my style, but it was a matter of safety. The kids listened and started doing as they were told. I stopped feeding into their problems and distanced myself from them in a way, and it worked. Their behavior improved and their learning improved as well. Over time, we were able to recreate our classroom community and even do fun projects together. I will never forget how relieved I felt when the last day of school finally came. I remember thinking that I couldn't take back my first year of teaching, but things would be different from Day 1 the next year.
Second Year: Basic Core Curriculum:
I had an especially challenging class my 2nd year of teaching including an emotionally disturbed child who was dangerously violent as well as a child functioning at the level of a 2 year old who would threaten to pee on books during my lessons. In addition, there was a lot of construction in the building that year and we all had to leave every day at 4:00 PM only to encounter a mess from the construction workers in our rooms each morning. I think this was one of the most challenging years that I will ever have as a teacher (hopefully), but because my structures and routines lent to solid management, I was able to handle it.
With the management down, the second year of teaching is where I really got a grasp of the basic core curriculum. I had been through the curricular calendar in all subjects for a full school year and started my second year with plenty of ideas of how I could improve my teaching in Reading, Writing, Word Study, and Math. I had solid mini-lessons in Reading and Writing and was conferring with students in both areas. I got really good at adapting Everyday Mathematics to the meet the needs of my students. I still use materials that I created during my second year. Science and Social Studies were still very fuzzy for me. I would try to integrate them through Read Aloud or Shared Reading, but I wasn't very good at either of those components of literacy.
Third year: Science and Social Studies. Intervention. Leadership.
With management in place and a good grasp of the core curriculum, I was able to focus more attention to Science and Social Studies. I integrated social studies by using related texts for shared reading and read aloud. Everything just seemed to flow together so smoothly my third year. The kids were making the connections too. It was a truly amazing year, one of the best I think I'll ever have as a teacher. My students were bright, motivated, and had exceptional social skills that year. They were readers and writers from day one and they absorbed everything like a sponge. I had two really neat kids in the room who brought the level of learning up through their conversation and general motivation to learn. All of the other kids wanted to be like them.
My kids were doing science experiments and social studies projects. They were reading and writing with incredible stamina. I was able not only to confer with them, but also to start pulling small groups in Reading, Writing, and Math. This was the first time in my teaching career that I was able to consistently work with small groups. Although I had had some training with strategy groups and guided reading groups, I didn't feel strong in my small group work. I was also unprepared. My guided reading library was pathetic and I hadn't really analyzed the books to pinpoint areas of possible struggle or teaching points.
During the extended day time I started teaching the Fountas and Pinnell "Phonics" curriculum as an intervention for my small group of students (we were already using Words Their Way with the whole group). Going through the lessons of another quality year-long curriculum was extremely helpful in working with small groups, but I certainly wasn't by any means an expert. I was consistent, however, in delivering each lesson. I wanted to see how the kids would progress with this program. After following it for a whole year, I saw major improvements in my small extended day group. They even surpassed the students that were not identified for intervention. I also had amassed a large stockpile of little baggies full of words and pictures. I had catalogued each lesson to keep for the next year.
Outside of the classroom, I got more involved in committees and took on more leadership roles. I had earned respect over the past two years for being a hard worker and for being dedicated to the students and in light of high turnover this year, I was one of the more experienced members of my grade level and among staff.
Fourth Year: Bringing it all together. Small Group Work.
Although I am only a couple of months into my fourth year, I have definitely noticed that my lessons seem to flow seamlessly into one another. I don't seem to run out of time anymore and know exactly what to do with extra minutes. Shared reading comes naturally, and Read Aloud happens every day and for the first time I am doing shared writing and language experience with my students. While my students need a lot of support this year, I feel better equipped to help them. We started Words Their Way and Fountas and Pinnell "Phonics" on day 1. Their reading stamina is still too low to pull a guided reading group during that time, so I have been working it into my extended day and added a lot more shared reading support throughout the day.
My goal for this year is to get my small group and intervention work to feel as seamless as everything else. I want to catalogue my guided reading library since I was able to order a lot of new sets of books from a grant that we got last year. I want to get my reading groups firmly in place and functioning regularly. I want my class to be a place where the children are thinking and making connections. I want them to feel that learning is fun and stimulating and that they have access to everything we do in the classroom. I want them to feel the confidence to achieve and to be responsible for their own learning. I want them to take pride in their work and to feel good about trying their best rather than trying to be perfect. I want them to take risks and to feel safe doing so. I want first grade to be one of the best years of their lives.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
This morning, during our morning meeting, I asked the children if anyone had talked to their parents about who won the election, if anyone knew who would be the next president. Many hands shot up. I called on Robert, one of my few African-American students (the rest are hispanic). With pride, he said "Rock Obama." (so cute!) I said "That's right, Barack Obama" and I had all of the children practice the pronunciation of his name. After Robert said that, the kid in front of him, Aaron, turned around and silently pointed all around Robert's face and to his arms with a questioning look as if to ask, "The one with your skin color?" Robert nodded with a huge pride-filled smile and Aaron turned back around and uttered a barely audible "Yes!" complete with a satisfied expression and a fist motion. This was just an innocent moment between kids trying to make sense of the world. I happened to catch it out of the corner of my eye as I called on another student who had begun to talk about how they celebrated throughout the neighborhood all night long. I was so touched and so proud in that moment that Robert could be beeming with such pride and see himself in the next president of the United States.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Halloween was a perfect example of this. In the morning, we did shared reading all about Halloween. We read "The Ghost And The Sausage," "Five Little Pumpkins" (complete with lights out at the appropriate time). Then we all gathered on a circle on the floor for the long awaited pumpkin carving (November is our writing unit for "How-tos" so pumpkin carving is the perfect seasonal introduction to this type of procedural writing). The children directed me as I carved off the top and passed it around the circle for all to touch and smell. Then we sketched shapes for the face. I scooped out the insides to loosen them and we passed the pumpkin around the circle so everyone got to scoop out some of the fruit and seeds. Then they watched as I carved out the eyes popping each one out as as the OOOOOOed and AWWWWWed. For most of my kids this is the only place where they will see something like this. We talked a lot about how the pumpkin looked, smelled, felt, etc.
Finally I finished carving the mouth complete with two teeth and we put a light inside. We closed all of the curtains and marveled at our jack-o-lantern. Then I took out my big book "A Dark Dark Wood" and I read it once through completely scaring the crap out of the kids at the end. They laughed and giggled and demanded "again, again!!" So we read it several times through, with the kids raising their voices at the end to scream "A Ghost!" It was so much fun. But, I couldn't help but notice that several kids were not interacting at all with our shared reading. They were startled and even laughed at the end, but they were not able to read along the 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th time we read it. One was pulling at the elastic on his sock. Another had his body turned away, and yet another was tugging at shoe laces. Everyone else had their eyes on the book wanting so badly to read it themselves.
After the story, we had a few minutes before lunch. I told the kids that at the end of the day, we would have a raffle for the jack-o-lantern that we made. We talked about how we would put all of their names into a basket and pick one lucky kid to take it home. I showed them the shopping bag that they would carry it in. I asked the kids if they would take it back to school on Monday, and they all replied "Nooooo, you keep it at home." Then we talked about how three of my pumpkins that I had had for the past couple of weeks had rotted and I had to throw them away. We talked about how the pumpkin came from a plant and could rot just like other fruits and vegetables. We concluded that they could enjoy the jack-o-lantern at home for a few days and then whoever won it would have to eventually throw it out. The conversation was very interactive and elaborate.
Finally the end of the day came and it was time to raffle the jack-o-lantern. The kids watched as I folded cards with each of their names on them and placed them into a basket. I mixed up the names and closed my eyes. Kids had their fingers crossed and excited looks on their faces. Some even whispered, "I hope it's me." I pulled out the name and showed it to the kids. They called "Kevin!" and cheered and clapped for Kevin. Kevin, who is one of my sock-pullers, and is generally checked out at all times looked confused and didn't have ANY idea what was happening. Kids were saying "Kevin, go get your pumpkin." I motioned to him and he stood up, still looking completely bewildered. I said, "Congratulations Kevin," and gave him the bag. I told him how lucky he was to take the jack-o-lantern home. He put it on the hook with his bookbag and all the kids congratulated him. I couldn't help but thinking "I should have chosen someone else." He didn't seem understand what was happening at all.
I was trying to figure out what it was. He is a native English speaker (one of the few in the class). He is generally bright and capable, but doesn't work up to his capacity. He is often distracted. He sometimes says comments that do not make much sense or are not applicable. It seems that he speaks before thinking it over. The year I had his brother in my class, we had a costume party for Halloween that year and he wore a ninja costume, so I know there is no objection to Halloween on the part of the family.
Anyway, to sum it up, I felt disappointed. All of this effort to make a really special day for the kids and Kevin had no idea what was happening. I wished that I had rigged the drawing to give the jack-o-lantern to a more deserving kid. My disappointment was emphasized today when Kevin came back to school with the jack-o-lantern still in the bag. He handed it to me with his homework. When I asked him why he didn't leave it at home, he said that he had left it in the cafeteria on Friday while at his after school program. He walked off to change his book after I checked his homework and never inquired about the pumpkin again. I threw it away after school today. What a waste!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
After reading the article, I quickly looked up my school to confirm that he had designed it, and indeed he had. I feel honored to teach in one of his buildings. In fact, I always knew there was something special about the physical structure of the school. My classroom gets fresh air, is flooded with light from giant windows, and gets little street noise. My classroom is also huge with unbelievably high ceilings. It really is a palace for my children. When they draw the building in their stories, it always looks like a castle.
THIS is the kind of vision that we need! Our schools are for the children, their families, and the community. They should be the pride of the neighborhood. Safe, clean, and intellectually stimulating for all who enter. Thinking about Snyder and Riis and the vision they had for empowering the poor and disadvantaged, I am thoroughly inspired. My school serves the same population it was built for, just in another time and with immigrants from different parts of the world. We need to do all we can as teachers to make our classrooms those magical places for our children.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Saturday, October 4, 2008
- To start off, it is not designed for children with low skills. I have children in my class who cannot count to 20, cannot accurately count out 10 objects (including their own fingers), and cannot write their numbers. The program is designed for children with grade level skills and above. If you actually analyze the majority of activities that correspond to the lessons, they are so far above the state standard for the grade, it is no wonder our children can't do them. To their credit, they did add a small section at the bottom of the homework assignments to practice basic skills.
- The second issue is that often the homework assignment does not necessarily correspond to the lesson that was taught in the classroom (although the latest addition has improved slightly in this respect). I have to spend 20 additional minutes teaching the children how to do their homework.
- The third issue is that Everyday Math is so different from the way many of my students' parents learned math that they are unfamiliar with the vocabulary and the structure of the program.
- The fourth issue is the "spiral" format of the curriculum. You jump from one concept to the next "exposing" them to a wide range of concepts that then get revisited later. The children never feel successful during this "exposure" and don't get enough practice with basic skills.
- The fifth problem (I feel like I'm going on forever!) is that the homework assignments are very dependent on parents READING the instructions. If most of your children's parents are illiterate, how are they supposed to manage this?
Thursday, October 2, 2008
So....today I decided to slow things down. From the first instructions of the day (what to take out of your bookbag), I spoke slowly and clearly. During the morning meeting I carefully did some shared reading with them and took time to reflect on the new month of October. My writing workshop was the same. I really took my time speaking and what I noticed was more engagement among the students. I didn't have to stop once during my writing workshop minilesson for management. When they went back to their tables, they were more focused than ever before. We even got to fit in a share at the end. We did an interactive read aloud after writing and then off to lunch.
Despite the fact that I slowed our pace today, I definitely noticed that we were able to get more done than usual. I think there is something to be said for using your time delicately and trying to work with the pacing of the children. When we are in a hurry and stressed out, that energy trickles down to the children and they call out, act up, and tune out as a reaction.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
What should you put in the folder?
1. Your daily/weekly schedule
2. A class list (including a break-up list with child and teacher assignments in case there is no substitute assigned)
3. An overview of the flow of the day and routines you use with the kids. I structure mine like most substitute plans, but leave out the prep. Always leave information as to where to pick them up, where to take them at lunch, who is your school aide, etc.
4. Lists and charts- A line partner list, table spot and rug spot map.
5. EASY activities. You never know who your sub will be. A lot of schools (like mine) have very capable regular subs, but sometimes substitute from SubCentral shows up and might be incapable of doing ANYTHING (sorry to all the excellent subs, but I'm sure you've seen it too!). You can stick to all your regular subjects, but make them userfriendly.
Examples (Keep in mind, this is first grade):
- Morning Meeting- Most subs can write a morning message and read it with the children. This helps them to introduce themselves to the kids. I also tell them to let the children circle sight words. They can also change the day on the calendar and review our web of the Fall season with the children.
- Word Study- Do NOT have your sub do your normal program (ours is Words Their Way). I usually keep paper with a big box for a picture and a single line. Since this is for the emergency folder, I do not focus the words on the sounds we are studying, but instead write the name of an animal on each sheet (one per child). You can put them together later (post sub) to make a "Book of Animals" for the class to read. The sub can read all the words with the kids, though.
- Read Aloud/ Literature Response- I usually leave a simple book for the substitute to read aloud like "Ms. Nelson is Missing," or "The Carrot Seed" in the folder. I instruct the sub to read it aloud to the class and then I include paper with a big box and some lines at the bottom to write about their favorite part.
- Reading- The sub can just pass out the "Just-right baggies" and tell the children to read quietly for 15 minutes using the timer.
- Writing- I usually leave simple paper and tell the sub to let them write a "snow story" or something of high interest. Usually their writing is crap when their is a sub, so I don't let them use their real writing folders on these days.
- Reading (after lunch)- I always have mixed level bins of books in the room too. I tell the sub to put one bin at each table and to let the kids read from their books for 25 minutes after lunch.
- Math- I leave copies from the Everyday Math Math Masters book of simple addition problems or the connect the dots by 1s and 5s. The sub can also count with them using the number chart and practice simple addition together. There are a lot of simple math worksheets available online as well.
- PREP- Give them a little job to do during their prep. I usually ask them to sharpen all of the pencils and clean the tables. This helps me out for when I come back.
- Extended Day- Don't forget this part. I usually leave a simple project (like making bookmarks) for this time. They can read their Just-Right books again if they finish early. The kids are tired and the sub is too.
6. Dismissal Procedures (including a list of kids who go to afterschool)
You see, part of being a teacher is having the opportunity of professional development (PD). Another part is being forced to partake in PD that you don't necessarily want, need, or will do anything for your children. The Dept. of Ed. WASTES hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on useless PD. Like the time all FIRST GRADE teachers from my district gathered at a school for the election day PD. After spending the first hour opening boxes upon boxes of books and teachers guides that went along with this program, we were introduced to a year-long science program for THIRD GRADE (I know, not even our grade). It was the teachers (of course) who even noticed that the boxes were labeled "THIRD GRADE." The best part was that this particular curriculum spent an entire year covering "sound" which is only a small part of the third grade scope and sequence and covered nothing else. We didn't even get to take home the teacher's guides to at least give to the third grade teachers at our school. I felt bad about this because we had taken them out of the shrink wrap to follow the workshop. I'm sure those books ended up in a dumpster. We were promised that grade-level materials would be delivered to our schools. Guess what... we never got it. All I could think was that some bozo had the job of organizing the election day PD and probably had a budget of $40,000 or so and had no clue about what to do so he paid some company from Oklahoma (I kid you not) to come in and teach us something. This is how we WASTE money in the NYC public schools.
With all this talk of budget cuts I am often disgusted at how publishing companies and curriculum designers get rich off of these huge contracts with the NYC public schools. Like Everyday Math--- does it even work? Is it appropriate for our students? They make millions of dollars off of our kids. OUR KIDS, who have everything to lose if a program doesn't serve them. Or KAPLAN!!!! People would be shocked to know that our fourth graders are all given (excuse me, PURCHASED by the dept. of ed) a copy of KAPLAN test prep for their high stakes 4th grade test. Some people might think, "Oh, how great, they get a book to help them." NO!!!! Look who gets RICH off of NCLB-- KAPLAN! By the time we realize these programs are flawed, we move on to the next flavor of the month and spend millions of dollars on an entirely new curriculum, training, and materials. That's how it feels. I have been trained on so many programs that we don't use, can't use, or have become outdated.
This was my mentality going in to the PD this past week. I feel pretty bad for the facilitator, because I can honestly say that a majority of us were feeling this way when we walked into the cramped Literacy Coach's office on Thursday morning. I am happy to report that the program I trained for last week turned out to be something I truly believe in and something that will provide REAL intervention for our struggling readers in first grade.... but it is dependent on administration. This program requires one-on-one tutoring and it will ONLY work if the administrators schedule the time properly. We'll see. Hopefully it won't be another wasted PD.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
1. Triage Nurse- From the time you pick up your class in the morning, several children are usually already complaining about various ailments and you need to figure out which ones are real and which ones are fake, which ones require the nurse, a call home, or a little TLC in the classroom, and which ones are totally ridiculous. An experienced classroom teacher in his or her role as triage nurse can do the following:
- Spot a case of pink-eye from 30 feet away.
- Distinguish between bed bug bites, allergic reactions, and infectious disease.
- Know who is actually going to throw up and who is faking.
- See a fever in a child's eyes.
- Administer treatment of a "drink of water" for ailments such as headaches, sore throats, and stomachaches.
- Administer the treatment of a "saltine" to children complaining of stomachaches from being hungry.
- Bandage microscopic paper cuts that you're not sure even exist with mini-bandaids.
- Use the "is your finger going to fall off?" measure to determine who goes to the nurse and who stays in class.
- Knows when ice is actually needed.
2. Janitor- For the record, I have already had to clean up urine this week from a child who peed his pants with no warning. He didn't even ask to go to the bathroom. As a teacher in an urban public school, the reality is that you can't rely on the janitorial staff to show up when called. You need to be equipped for the following:
- blood (on tile, rug, or fabric)
- urine (on tile, rug, or fabric)
- juice that spilled in a bookbag and is leaking all over the floor and on another child's jacket.
- mice (and their feces)
- ketchup (that kids hoarded from lunch and then exploded all over their pocket or something else).
- spilled milk- it smells if you don't get it all out.
*** I leave vomit for the janitors, but it's a good idea to have scotch tape and some extra chairs handy to cordon off a vomit area and some air freshener so everyone doesn't vomit. Last time I had vomit in the room it took the janitors 45 minutes to respond.
3. Mediator- Kids fight. They do. They often have poor social skills and low self-esteem and get in nasty fights even in the lower grades. As a teacher you need to not only break up the fight, but simultaneously teach them a new social skill to avoid future fights and build up their self-esteem all the while administering stern consequences for their actions. It is a delicate balancing act.
4. Social Worker- Kids and their families need help and sometimes you are the only one who can help them to fill out the forms for services or tell them where to take their children to the doctor for free or how to get their child glasses.
5. ACS worker- While teachers do not work for Child Services, we are often the ones who end up having to decide whether or not to call. As mandated reporters we are REQUIRED by law to report abuse or neglect and could be held accountable if anything happens to a child after we have suspected abuse. As a side note, I am told by children almost weekly that their parents hit them. It is a sensitive matter how to deal with each case and whether or not to call it in. Teachers have to work fast if they notice an injury such as a burn or bruise on a child. We ask the children what happened and I usually have another teacher get the story as well so we can compare answers (in my experience, I have learned that administration cannot be trusted to do this!!!!!). We have to notice patterns of bruising. We have to be delicate with children. We have to be delicate and stern with the parents. I have had to tell them "You need to bathe your child" "You need to clean his/her uniform" "You need to get your child to school in time to eat breakfast." We bear the brunt of parent rage if ACS has indeed been called even if it was by a neighbor or the school nurse. We are often interviewed by ACS workers (who to their credit have HELPED many of my students. None of their visits have resulted in a removal of a child from their home in my experience). In one case, the ACS worker had the abuser (an unwelcome and intimidating relative the family was having a hard time getting rid of) removed from the home and got new bunkbeds for the kids who were sleeping head to toe with their siblings.
6. Full-time secretary- The paperwork and administrative tasks that teachers are responsible could staff a FULL-TIME SECRETARY!!!! I'm not kidding. I really think I have enough to do to employ someone else full time.
7. Teacher- The best part!
WASTING INSTRUCTIONAL TIME!!!! It's so laughable. I totally agree that punctuality is important and that we absolutely should try our best to take advantage of every minute of instruction, but the fact that she accused ME of this was so hilarious. The administration and lack of control REGULARLY wastes our instructional time. How many times has the fire bell been PULLED this year? (2 so far). I remember last year, they used to keep us in early morning committee meetings for so long my kids were waiting in the gym for over 40 minutes for me. How much time have I wasted trying to use the photocopier that will never work? How much instruction has been lost since the copier hasn't worked? (As a side note, it is currently working...hooray!) I get to school 50 minutes to an hour early every day and I stay probably an average of 2 hours extra each day and I'm being accused of wasting time. I do all that precisely NOT to waste time. I do it so that everything is ready for the children and all of the paper work is finished so I can sacrifice all of my preps to assess them and she dares accuse ME!!!. Well, I have news for her. I feel empowered. As an elected member of our schools School Leadership Team, I have decided to join the C-30 committee for the process of hiring our new principal (and I know she SOOOO wants it). She had better change her tone because I will NOT be spoken down to like that, especially not in front of the children.
A similar thing happened to me two years ago. I had forgotten to sign the attendence book for teachers one day because I had gotten to school so early that the book wasn't even out and it slipped my mind to do it before I picked up the kids. The principal asked me to start clocking in with a timecard. This was a principal with a lot of power, a very intimidating person. I was so angered that I said "No, I have NEVER been late, so there is no reason for me to clock in. I simply forgot to sign once. It won't happen again." She looked at me dumbfounded, turned around and walked back to her office. She never bothered me again about petty things. You have to stand up for yourself. You are the best advocate for all teachers, students, and parents. Even if you are not tenured (as I wasn't at the time), you have to otherwise they will walk all over you. Good hard-working teachers are a hot commodity and administration knows that. Why do you think my class and the class of my team member and favorite colleague in first grade are overpopulated this year when other first grade classes have numbers so low they are in danger of being collapsed? They tried to send some of my kids over to the other class, but the parents weren't having it. And you know what, I don't blame the parents. I will try my best to meet their expectations and they deserve it and their children deserve it.