Friday, December 18, 2009

Holly Jolly Holiday Program

A few days ago, I went to my school's Holiday Program. I remember singing in my own school's Holiday Program in 5th grade. I was extremely excited to see my kids performing and enjoying themselves. Since I was technically on my Winter Break, I was not delegated to supervise any students or direct any parents to the gym...I was able to just sit down and enjoy the show. I say this like I didn't go down to my room at all to help out with organizing, getting props ready and making sure everyone got down to the gym at the appropriate time....just couldn't help myself!! I think the two highlights of the entire program were the Alvin and the Chipmunks performance. There are three brothers who are in 2, 3, and 4th grade who played the roles of Alvin and his brothers. They were absolutely could tell they really put a lot of work into perfecting their parts! They were great!!

The second highlight was during the 5th grade performance. They were signing the Jingle Bell Rock song and towards the end, 3 of my students grabbed toy guitars from underneath the risers and started rocking out...seriously!! One was doing the classic move when you get on your knees and bend backwards. Another one was doing scissor kicks in the air!! It was incredible!!

I was not around for all of the planning, rehearsals, and other preparations that went into making it a success, but I absolutely enjoyed the was a treat to see my students having fun putting on a great show!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Change- Hopefully for the Better

I have been reflecting a lot on what I want the classroom environment to be like in the Spring when I student teach. Luckily, the nature of my program is such that we have a vested 'ownership', so to speak, of the classroom. My CT has told me that when I take over in January, I will be calling the shots. We differ in some of our philosophies about instruction, discipline, etc. There are some things that do not work for me in the room. Below are some of my thoughts on one of the behavior management techniques that my CT uses that do not mesh with my own philosophy: An explanation of how it works and how I want to use it differently when I am teaching.

What I See:
 Number System: When a student misbehaves, they are usually given one verbal warning. Any other misbehavior after that initial warning, students are given a number. The numbers range from 1-4.
o 1 = Not showing respect for themselves, others or property.
o 2 = Not following directions, which includes being off task and talking.
o 3 = Disruptive- out of seat, loud noises, bothering other students, etc.
o 4 = Not prepared for class, missing homework, books, notices to be returned, etc.

 There is no set amount of numbers that students get before a steeper consequence is implemented.
 At the beginning of the year, we would send out a behavior report every Friday informing parents on how their child behaved throughout the week. Explanations of what each “number” meant were included with the report and it had to be signed by a guardian and brought back on Monday.
 By about October, we were not sending out behavior reports any more
 The idea of getting a number really has no impact on student behavior. One of the consequences of getting multiple numbers throughout the day is making a phone call home for students to inform parents about their misbehaviors. This is done in front of the whole class during instructional time.
 I have had trouble with this system because my CT does not have a standard set of numbers that a student must get before a phone call is made. I also do not like that phone calls are made during instruction time and in front of the entire class. It embarrasses the student and kills time that could be spent teaching. I don’t feel like this method does anything to correct and resolve poor student behavior…it simply dishes out a what the teacher feels is a punishment, but what the students just chalk up to another part of the day.

What I Want to See:

Since this is not my own classroom, I understand that I can not just say “out with the old and in with the new”. I have given a lot of thought to how I can reconcile her inefficient system with my desire to correct behavior, not to punish, and to maintain student dignity and respect. Since students are already used to the number system, I would like to maintain it. I would like to establish a limit to the number of numbers that I will issue out before further contact is made with parents/guardians or administrators. This is how I see the number system in play: A student incessantly talks when lining up and walking in the hallway to specials, lunch and the restroom. The first time the student does not follow the expectation of no talking in the hallway, I will tell them that they have a number 2 because they did not follow the expectation of no talking. I will tell them that I know they can do better and expect them not to talk in the hallway. If this behavior continues, I will tell them that they have another number. I will also talk with this student about what unacceptable behaviors I have seen and ask them what we can do together to make sure that it does not happen again. For example, does she need to stand somewhere else in the line so she isn’t tempted to talk, if I give her a silent signal when she is talking, will that help her to check her behavior? After we have this discussion and agree to whatever steps we have talked about, hopefully the behaviors will be changed for the better. If after this second step, the student is still not following directions, they will receive a third number and either a phone call will be made by me sometime throughout the day to their guardians or a note will go home with the student explaining their behavior throughout the day, to be signed by guardians and brought back the next day.

This is not set in stone, so to speak. I don’t know if it should be after the third or 4th number that I call/write home. If I refuse to use instructional time to call parents and I along with my school administration are against sending students out of the classroom unless safety is in question, what will happen with the students who continue to misbehave after their 3rd number? Will I continue to use down time to conference with these students, only to spend even more time after school calling home or writing behavior reports? These are some of the kinks that I haven’t worked out yet but I’ve still got a little time to figure it out before I meet with my CT. I’m trying to flesh my thoughts out as much as possible so she understands my rationale for amending the current system.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

No Laptop = Accomplishment

Wow, it has been a crazy few days for me!! On Thursday night, my computer ‘caught’ a virus and died on me! I had never had a virus on my computer before so I started freaking out, which is a typical reaction for me when facing an unfamiliar crisis. So, I took it in to a computer shop to get repaired on Friday and I got it back today. That makes a whole 4 days with no computer….and let me just say it was the longest 4 days of my life!!!! The first couple of days were the roughest because I seriously did not know what to do with myself without my laptop. I am ALWAYS on my computer when I’m home. If I’m doing homework, watching TV, talking on the phone, eating….I’m always on it! I soon realized how much time I wasted on sites like Facebook, YouTube, and incessantly checking my emails when I know that I probably don’t have any!!! I decided to take the incredible amount of free time that I always wish I had and do some things that I have been wanting to do.

Early this semester, I blogged about filing away my lesson plans, handouts, and other teaching resources acquired from my classes. This summer, I organized the papers I had into a system that works for me. So, this weekend, I decided to file away all of the lessons, reflections, and other resources into my expandable file folder. It took about 3-4 hours to get everything organized and put away, but it is all done!!!

I also took time this weekend to read 2 new books that I bought. They are not any of the ones I mentioned in one of my recent posts….I got a B&N gift card for my bday and of course I had to spend it. I didn’t feel so bad this time because I actually read them!! The two books are Literacy Work Stations: Making Centers Work by Debbie Diller and Discipline with Dignity by Richard L. Curwin, Allen N. Mendler and Brian D. Mendler. I bought these books because I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do differently in the classroom when I take over and the major themes are discipline and work stations. I have an incredibly challenging class of students and I feel like the classroom management system is very ineffective in managing behaviors. I haven’t exactly figured out how to talk to my CT about amending the system. I don’t want to abolish hers (even though I won’t use it in my own classroom), but I want to tweak it and make it fit with my own style and philosophy. Any suggestions on how to have this discussion with my CT??

In regards to work stations, we use them during Guided Reading, but they are pretty pointless. My CT has the students either work on a reading assignment that she was not able to cram in during reading or work on a math review/introduction for the lesson in the afternoon so she won’t have to do it in the afternoon. This is great when our students need the occasional additional intervention for a specific topic, but not every day. Diller’s book, to me, is geared more towards the primary grades, but I can absolutely adapt it to fit my 5th grade classroom. In the paraphrased words of Debbie Diller, a literacy work station is an area in the classroom where students “use instructional materials to explore and expand their literacy”. I feel like in my classroom, it is used as a glorified study hall. One of my goals for next semester is to incorporate literacy work stations into our Guided Reading block and give my students an opportunity to work independently on meaningful work to practice what has been modeled by the teacher during instruction time. How are you using literacy work stations in your classroom??

I plan on writing more explicitly about the new things I want to implement in the way of discipline....stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's My Birthday!!! is my birthday!!!!!! Woo hoo!! Many people usually get all excited about there birthday celebrations, but seeing as though for the last 5 years, my birthday has always been during finals week, I'm usually never doing much celebrating on the actual day. I figured with me being at school, class, and work all day until 6pm, it would be more of the same but I could not have been further from the truth!!

Today, my CT sent me on an errand to make a billion copies. I was a little irritated that she wanted me to do this during the middle of the reading block, but I didn't make a big huff about it. When I got back, I was greeted by a "Happy Birthday" from the entire fifth grade. The other class came in when I left to go make copies and they put the finishing touches on their birthday cards they had been working on since yesterday...yes this means they had been keeping this secret from me for an entire day and a half!!! I was almost moved to tears when every single student got up to give me a hug and their card! My CT and the other student teacher both gave me small gifts. This was a day I will never forget! The students and staff were so sweet...I really felt special today!

I think the thing that really put me over the edge was that one of the students who gives me the most attitude every day in the after school program was unbelievable affectionate, kind, and respectful today. I cannot even count the number of hugs I received from her today!! I made sure to thank her for each and every hug she gave and told her how much it made my day!!!! Just when you start to wonder if there is any hope left, a breakthrough happens right before your eyes!! I absolutely love teaching and the impact you can have on a student that you don't even think is listening to I love teaching!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It Feels Good!!

Today is my last day in 8th grade. This experience started off rocky, but has evolved into a learning opportunity and a chance for me to grow personally and professionally. I went in this morning to talk with the principal and thank her for allowing me in her building to gain experience with the Middle School level for the last 6 weeks. I really feel that even though there were bouts of tension with the CT's, things have turned around and I have been able to grow from it.

Anywho, the principal told me that she has been impressed with my performance and would love to have me in her building next year!! She said she has heard nothing but great things about me in the classroom. She told me that she would prefer to have me at her school next year, but at the very least, in district. "We need you around" were her exact words. Imagine my jaw hitting the ground, because that is just about what happened!!

WOO HOO!! I could barely contain myself! It feels awesome to know that even when the situation seems rough, people are still out there watching and taking note of the good work you are doing. My talk with the principal has opened my eyes to how important it is to stay positive and optimistic because you never know what the outcome of that mental shift may be. I definitely plan on staying in communication with my CT and the principal at this school. I don't think I see myself working in that school, but I know the experiences I have had there will lend themselves to many more opportunities in the future.