Thursday, December 17, 2009

Not sure who to blame (ignorance ≠ bliss)

I think I'm losing it. Things were going well, but as usual, I'm teetering on the edge. I'm losing patience with my students in the classroom, but it's really not their fault. There is just not enough time in the day to get things done and I feel like I'm constantly trying to catch my breath. I'm also EXTREMELY frustrated with my students' parents. There is just so much blatant neglect and borderline abuse at all times present in my students' lives. I can't handle it. I'm sick of children coming to school half-dressed in this freezing cold weather when they ALL own jackets. I ask them if they were cold on their way to school and they say "I tried to tell my mom, but she was listening to her ipod."

I'm tired of having students with SERIOUS life-threatening medical conditions and not even having an emergency card or working phone number for them. I'm sick of ALL the phone numbers on the blue cards being disconnected, discontinued, with no voice mailbox, a full voice mailbox, or (no kidding) actually a sex line when I see their parents walking around with brand new iphones. I'm tired of the expensive elaborate mohawks and designs shaved into the heads of kids who NEVER do any homework. I'm tired of having parents come in to yell at me because the school sent them a bill for their child's lunch (SURPRISE: This is from the same parents who NEVER check the communication folder and NEVER filled out their free lunch form in the Fall). I'm tired of food and gum inside homework folders.

Most of all, I'm tired of this helplessness I see constantly. I recently asked parents to write down their child's home address and send in 3 postage stamps so that I can send the letters the children are writing to each other in the mail over the vacation, so they will get their own mail and feel loved by their classmates. I need to ask for the address because it is NEVER the same as the one I have on file. I'm totally irritated at the amount of parents who have simply ignored this request and I'm totally depressed for the parents who can't even write the address correctly. I've seen the word "apartment" as "parmen," or "aparme." I've even seen "New York" spelled incorrectly "New Yrk" or "New Jor" Many do not even know the zip code. Every year, I have to google addresses just to find the zip codes. I've had parents send a single envelope with the stamps stuck to it (as if I can use the stamps after they've been stuck). Some of my friends have suggested that maybe parents are worried about their addressed being out of the catchment area, but that's not the case. The addresses I'm missing are the children I know live on the block of the school. They are the same children who have every announcement and communication I've ever sent still in their communication folder. I refuse to take anything out. I want parents to see the months of notices they have ignored.

It's just so much work for me and I need parents to meet me half way. I realized so many of them are functionally illiterate and I don't know how to even begin to reach them. I don't know how they even function in society. I memorized my address in Kindergarten and even though we moved that summer after Kindergarten, I have never forgotten it. It is amazing to me that so many of my student's parents cannot properly write an address. As a result, my students are just so disconnected from the world and it's so hard to get them to connect.

I guess I need this vacation!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Everyday Math 4.2

Every year I have the same sinking feeling when I assign Everyday Math Home Links 4.2 to my students. The concept is nonstandard measurement and the assignment requires that students use their hands to measure the length and width of their beds. Every year I get the same question, "What if you don't have a bed?"

This year I decided to head off this problem by telling students they can measure something else with their hands: the kitchen table, a sofa, a chair, etc.

Still makes me sad.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I have ridiculously cute students

In the past when I have told people that I teach first grade, their first response is usually "How cute," to which I smile and secretly think "It's totally not cute" and a montage of disturbing behaviors such as cursing, spitting, peeing on books, biting, and coloring all over your face with a red marker runs through my head. Yesterday I was on the phone with this manager from Fedex (long story, but apparently it is impossible for Fedex to deliver a package to my school between the hours of 7 AM and 6 PM when the building is open without an hour phone conversation and a demand to speak to a manager) who ended up actually helping me with my delivery problem. Anyway, after he helped me, he asked me if the address was a classroom and I said "Yes." Then he said "What do you teach," to which I responded "First grade." "How cute!" he remarked, and I said, "I know, it is really cute" and I actually meant it this time.

Here are a few of the most recent "cute" stories from my classroom (and they won't break your heart).

1. The Iron Chef- I had just finished the mini lesson for our writing workshop on how to use a storyboard to tell your "how-to" with a lot of details and to illustrate those details using pictures and labels (can you tell I'm huge on oral language?). The children are at various stages in their writing and had either started their storyboard or were finishing their web of ideas. I had three students who had finished the web of ideas and were ready for the storyboard, Etai (a Jewish immigrant student from Eastern Europe), Josue (a Mexican immigrant student), and Daniel (a Dominican student). I kept the three boys on the rug while everyone else worked independently and I had them read their web of ideas and choose their favorite idea. Etai chose "How to tie your shoe," Josue chose "How to get a glass of water," and Daniel chose "How to make a sandwich." When I prompted Daniel to add more detail and tell us what kind of a sandwich, a sneaky grin appeared on his face as he said, "Ham...cheese...salami...and KETCHUP!" The two other boys giggled. Josue remarked "Wow Daniel, I think you should be a chef because that is a really good sandwich and you could call it the 'Daniel Special.'" The boys laughed again. Daniel was beaming with pride. I said, "What a great idea Josue, he could call it 'How to make a Daniel special.'" The boys giggled again. "Yeah" interjected Etai, "and he could be on 'Iron Chef America.'" I started laughing and so did the other boys although I don't really think they knew what Etai was talking about. It was just such a delightful conversation.

2. Good Thing I Didn't Use My Karate- I sent Etai and Martin to the bathroom and when they came back, they needed to urgently talk to me about something that happened in the bathroom. Etai began "Ms. Peace, there was this boy in the bathroom from the other class his name is Jordany and he was hitting everyone and punching everyone and he punched me here (points to stomach)." Martin corroborates also pointing to his stomach. I looked at them a little surprised, "Jordany?" I asked, picturing this chubby Dominican boy from the other first grade class who is always impeccably dressed and such a little gentleman. "Yeah," said Etai "and he's really lucky you know, because I know Karate and everything, but I didn't want to use it you know, because I could really hurt him." His tone of voice was dead serious (Keep in mind, these are little ones). "Wow," I exclaimed. I walked the two boys over to the other classroom and asked to see Jordany. He had a very guilty look on his face when he came out. I asked him if he needed to make an apology and he immediately said "Sorry" to the other boys, his eyes welling up with tears. "Sorry for what?" I prompted. "For punching you in the stomach" he said. "Unbelievable Jordany," I said, "You are so lucky that Etai controlled himself. Did you know that Etai knows Karate?" I asked, "No," gulped Jordany. "If he had used his Karate on you, you would have a split lip." Jordany was trembling. "You are lucky this time, but I don't ever want to year that you have punched anyone ever again. Is that clear?" "Yes Ms. Peace," he replied. I sent all three boys back to class. I had to laugh to myself later picturing teeny little Etai using his "Karate moves" on the much larger Jordany.

3. I Love Ms. Peace- After recess yesterday, two of my students enthusiastically announced that they had written a song during recess and wanted to sing it to the class. Aley (a girl from Africa) and Etai (I know, he's in all the stories), got up in front of the class and began singing in unison "I love Ms. Peace, I wish she was my mom, but I already have a mom." Then they took turns singing the lyrics again and gave me a choreographed hug at the part that says "I wish she was my mom." Then they sang it in unison again. Usually the whole "I wish you were my mom thing" makes me sad, but this time it was hilarious. These two children come from very loving homes and have a close relationship with their moms. They had just made a silly little song for me and enjoyed performing it for the class. We all clapped and I gave them each a hug.