Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wish Granted

SNOW DAY!!!!! Some of my fellow teachers have expressed how unhappy they are about this but I am elated!! I NEED this day and I would take an extra day in June over a day in December any day!!!!

What are your opinions about snow days??!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Positive Behavior Facilitation

I've been gone for way too long!! I honestly have not had the energy to post anything. So many amazing, insane, unbelievable things have happened since my last post. Of course, when I actually sit down to write, all of those events escape my memory!!

A while back, I posted that I was talking a course to be certified in Positive Behavior Facilitation (PBF). This 6-week course was absolutely life changing-for my life both in the classroom and outside of it. The focus of PBF is that we cannot not make anyone change their behaviors, nor can we change it for them. PBF suggests that if we focus on becoming more self-aware about our own beliefs, triggers, and ways of dealing with conflict, we will model and encourage the positive behavior and choices we so desperately want to see in our students.

By looking inward and reflecting on my beliefs, thoughts, and feelings when I interact with others, I was able to realize the contributions I make to situations of conflict. It is so easy to say "Bobby really made me mad!" or "Susie,you are so disrespectful" in the heat of conflict. However, with self-awareness comes the realization that no one can make you mad, but instead something they did triggered something on the inside and made you react that way. PBF would suggest also that in the case of 'Susie', using 'You-messages' (instead of 'I-statements')backs the students against a wall and makes her defensive and more unwilling to resolve the conflict.

The PBF training was incredibly rich and has changed the nature of many of my interactions with my students, especially with my more challenging personalities. By thinking more about what I am bringing to the situation (feelings, beliefs, baggage, etc.) I am better able to set the tone for the interaction rather than reacting to the tone set by the student.

Here is one of the pieces of 'brain food' from PBF that I believe resonates profoundly in my classroom:

-We cannot expect more of our students than we expect of ourselves. We must act the way we expect our students to behave. If we want to work effectively with difficult students, we must be willing to change ourselves. Although we rarely appreciate our most difficult students because of the time they take and the frustration they cause, their presence can lead to growth if we learn from the obstacles they throw in our way.
**Allen Mendler and Richard Curwin (1999)**

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Great Reminder

I made it, I made it through to Fall Break!!!!!!! I have seriously been looking forward to this weekend since Labor Day weekend! I have to say that yesterday was probably one of the best days I’ve had in my class. My students were so engaged in learning all day that I almost wondered if someone hijacked my class and gave me a new set of kids!!

Honestly, I think much of their engagement in learning yesterday was due to my attitude and demeanor. Yesterday I was full of energy and excitement about the learning taking place. In writing, I have noticed that my students are writing about the same two topics all of the time: birthdays and going to the park. I asked the class if they had any more events in their lives that they could write about. They talked with a partner about the possible topics and I went around and listened to them. I was so excited to hear so many great moments from their lives that they could write about. When we came back whole class, I shared some of the stories I heard. I was so full of excitement and really wanted my students to see that they have so many great stories to write about, they just have to dig a little deeper to find them. I believe my enthusiasm for writing was incredibly contagious because they entire class, even some of my more reluctant writers got started right away on their stories. What’s most important is that they stayed focused on writing for the majority of the writing block…INCREDIBLE!!!!! It is absolutely amazing how the teacher’s attitude/enthusiasm/beliefs about learning can impact learning.

I noticed the same effect during our Math lesson on Place Value. I was teaching that in the number 83, the ‘8’ isn’t really ‘8’, but rather it is 80 because it represents 8 tens. Since this was the first lesson, I assumed that most of my students would not understand this point and would need more practice before getting it. Boy was I WRONG!! They got it and after a few more examples, could even explain WHY/HOW they knew that the ‘8’ did not represent ‘8’. I clearly showed my utter delight in their ability to think so deeply about the problem. Again, this enthusiasm was totally infectious and when students went back to their desks to practice independently, they were engaged and motivated to work through more examples, even ones that were more difficult.

We all have our difficult days, days when we don’t know how we will make it to the final bell at the end of the day. However, when we have those great days, the ones where incredible learning takes place and students are motivated and in-tune with each other and you, bask in all of its glory. These are the days that remind us of how much we love teaching!!

*On another note, I will be starting PBF (Positive Behavior Facilitator) training this coming week and the first class is on Saturday from 8-3:30!!! There will be a total of 2 Saturday classes and 4-5 classes during the week from 4-8. I'm really bummed because the first class is on the day of my niece's birthday party (turning 6). I will have to make it up to her. I will be posting on the training and it's usefulness in the classroom.

I wish you all a weekend full of rest and enjoyment!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Real Deal

So, after my first 12 days of teaching, there are several adjectives to describe how I am feeling: exhausted, stressed, fulfilled, exhausted. I don't care what anyone says, even the most challenging student teaching experience cannot prepare you for what it is like to be teaching your own class!!!!

Let's see, I have 3 students will Special needs, on of which is quite severe. I have a Teacher's Aid in my room and it wasn't until last Friday that I realized I needed to communicate with him what I wanted him to do with the students on his load because we just got a Special Ed. Teacher a couple of days ago.

Administration expects for all components of curriculum to be fully implemented, but I am still teaching routines and procedures that take up a RIDICULOUS but NECESSARY amount of instructional time each day. This whole procdures/routine thing is new for me because I saw very little of that during student teaching.

I have learned so much in the last couple of weeks and am so completely and totally overwhelmed with the zillion and one things that are constantly running through my head!! One thing I have been struggling with is how much time I spending doing 'school stuff' every day. I'm at school over an 1 hour before I need to and I leave about 3 hours after I'm allowed to, only to go home and do more work until about 9:30 when I get ready for bed.

I feel like as a brand new teacher, it makes sense that I would be spending a little more time at school because I'm playing catch-up (in regards to materials, time management) to other more experienced teachers. Also, over the last couple of weeks, I have had family and friends comment about how much time I'm spending at school and working on school stuff. During this FABULOUS 3 day weekend, I have been doing a great job.....haven't touched any school stuff since I left school at 5:30 yesterday!!! I have spent time with family and really enjoyed myself. I want to find more of a balance but I'm really not sure how.

No matter how much time I spend prepping for work, I know I will never be as prepared as I would like to be. However, the perfectionist in me still continues to strive for the impossible.

Question: How do you set boundaries and limits for the amount of time you devote to school??

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

T-2 Days!!

School starts in 2 days and I am a ball of nerves and excitement!! We had a Convocation today, where all of the certified district staff (and many non-certified) gathered for a "Pep Rally" of sorts. I cannot even count how many of my former teachers I have run into over the last couple of weeks. I am still making adjustments to not calling them by their last name, but it is definitely going to take some time to address them as!!

My classroom is complete!!!!! In my mind, it is never complete, but it is ready to go for my kiddos on Thursday.

Student Work Display Board: "Steps Toward Success"

Word Wall

Small Group Teaching/Teacher Work Space

Computer Station/SMART Board

Organizers for Guided Reading Groups

Span of the Room

I am laughing to myself now as I look at the class schedule my principal requested from us. The funny part is that she only asked for one, but I made THREE different versions of the schedule, which each one containing more specific details than the last one!! I am so detail oriented that my version must be very explicit in what I would like to be doing every minute of everyday. Even though I know it will almost never turn out that way, at least I have an idea of where we would be in a perfect world.

Today, we gathered as a school to discuss our Personal Learning Plans (PLPs). PLPs are a part of a district initiative to push teacher to set their own PD plan and to collaborate with others who have the same goals to make it more effective and ultimately result in increased levels of student achievement. I have teamed up with my other 2nd grade teachers and the 1st grade team to provide students with authentic literacy experiences to increase student reading achievement by using The Daily Five framework. After our group collab meeting on Sept.10, I will post more details about it. I am excited because I have the book, but have not been able to read it. It sounds like an incredible framework for use during the literacy block and I cannot wait to get the ball rolling with it!

I hope your preparation and/or initial days of teaching are going well!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Finishing Touches

New Teacher Week is over!! I met my mentor for this year and she just so happens to be one of the other second grade teachers in my school...who knew??! My initial impression of her when we met earlier this week was not one that screamed 'mentor' but after meeting with her today, I'm more optimistic about what our relationship will be like as the year progresses. She is going into her 15th year of teaching and is incredibly knowledgeable about so many facets of teaching. I am excited to be able to collaborate with someone so rich in classroom experience.

I have finished with all major parts of setting up the classroom- pics to come when I put on the finishing touches!! This weekend, I will be working on the following:

- Writing out plans for the first 1 1/2 days of school (community building, etc.)
- Completing my classroom procedures/routines/management plans
- Finishing my classroom newsletter
- Sleeping in at least one day this weekend!!!!

I'm gonna spend the rest of the night adding upcoming meetings, and PD to my calendar. Can you believe I already have two days for which I need to request a sub???! Didn't think I would be making sub plans so soon!

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's A Comin'

I have been working hard in my room lately. I am such a perfectionist so I have found that this whole classroom set-up thing is taking way longer than I would like. I finished two out of 3 bulletin boards today, relocated my classroom library, laminated my labels for my literacy work stations, and set up my Word Wall.

The morning was full of craziness because my AP came into my room and asked if I would like to sit in on some interviews for a Special Ed position. I asked her if she was sure she wanted me and she said she really wanted to have various perspectives on these candidates and the majority of teachers were still on vacation. I felt honored and incredibly nervous all at the same time!!! The interviews were very interesting and resulted in no real front-runners for the position. I absolutely respect all of the administrators of the world who have to make such pressing hiring decisions...yikes!! Well, throughout the 3 interviews, my AP, was complaining of stomach pains. She is pregnant and due at the end of the month (our principal had a baby a couple of months ago and will be returning next week from maternity leave). You could tell she knew something was up but she wouldn't let her mind think it was possible because in her words she "could have a baby yet because there is way too much stuff left to do"! Well, after the interviews, her husband took her to the hospital just to make sure everything was okay and what do you know....HER WATER BROKE when the reached the hospital. So, as of this very second, we have no AP and no Principal in the building!! I'm sure this will prompt an early return for our Principal but what a crazy set of events!!

My mind is fumbling around because I feel like there is way too much to focus my mind on!! I am working on some administrative tasks, classroom procedures/routines. Tomorrow, I'll be planning my literacy block for the next month with the literacy coach and working more in the room. It would be FANTASTIC to be able to be FINISHED with my room by the end of the week!!! Fingers crossed!!

New Teacher Week starts Wednesday!!!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Classroom Photos- In the Midst of it All

I am sooooo incredibly tired tonight. I had a great day full of a workshop about Google Apps and an afternoon spent in my classroom. I was able to start attacking the million and one boxes the former teacher left behind. My room is starting to look like a CLASSROOM!!! I'm too sleepy to comment on each picture, but I'm going to upload the ones I took of my classroom- halfway through the clean-up process. I plan to add captions to them tomorrow. Just a note: all of the shelves in the room were TOTALLY stacked with boxes. It may not look like it, but I really am making progress! I'm headed off to bed to gear up for an ELL Workshop all day, and hopefulling dropping by the school after.

All the stuff on top of the shelves is yet to be filtered through

SMART Board and Small Group Teaching Area

Materials Storage and More Boxes!!

Back of the room- I moved the 'teacher's desk' to the awkward corner but it was taking up optimal instructional space where the kidney table is now

The books and shelves will be the classroom library- after filtering through the tons of books that are all in the WRONG bins!!

**As you can see, I decided to comment on the pictures anyway! Hopefully I will have the energy to post about the workshop tomorrow!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Reality Sinking In

Well folks, it's official - I have the keys to my room and the building! I spent 3 hours this morning in my room. I wish I could say I whipped the room into shape during that time but we ALL know that is far from the truth!!! I walked in and it looked so much cleaner and orderly than what it was like when I first saw it. The first thing that caught my attention was how much stuff there was! Boxes, books, files, boxes, and more boxes! I was convinced that most of it probably wasn't mine because many of the boxes had other names/rm #'s on them. Well, I asked the office manager and she said that only one of the boxes belonged to someone other words, all that stuff is mine!

This is both great and not so great at the same time. I have no clue where to even start with going through the tons of boxes, organizing books, creating space for work stations, small group teaching, and of course the list goes on! So after talking to our fabulous Office Manager for about 15 mins and standing in pure awe at the task that was in front of me for another 15 mins, I decided to start 'small'. I went straight for the teacher's desk and file cabinet. There were so many handwriting and math practice packets, I almost couldn't stand it (poor trees!). I didn't want to throw them away because as a newbie, I have NO CLUE what I will end up using or not using. So I filed them away in color-coded file folders (purple-handwriting and manilla- math packets). I organzied the supplies in the teacher's desk. I also organized the storage drawers that housed wall charts (content specific), construction paper, and Language Arts/Math binder resources the previous teacher left behind.

With these minor tasks complete, I have no clue where to go from here!! I took my hero Debbie Diller's advice and drew a map of my classroom in order to plan for instructional space, however I feel like I need to get all the stuff in my room organized and put away before I even think about moving furniture!!

I think I'm going to first- NAP! Then I think I will finish up my planning for the first week of writing. After that, I really have no idea what to tackle next. Time is winding down and I want to be as efficient as possible with my time. Considering what I've done so far- What would your next plan of action be??

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Changing Names

Okay, every time I look at my blog title, I have the urge to change it. As I am done with student teaching, I feel like it is slightly misinformative as to what I will talk about on this blog. Does anyone know how I can change the title of my blog with out changing my URL- I really don't want to throw off my followers?? Thanks!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gearing Up

It has been a whirlwind of a week! Taking all of the suggestions I received from my last post, I decided to start full-force with planning. I have planned out the first week of Math and am starting on the first week of Writing. Last night, I wrote several pieces for my Writer’s Folder for Workshop. I will be using the pieces as the foundation of my minilessons for the first week. I also did the overall plan for unit 1 so now I will start working on my daily lesson plans for writing during the first week. I am really hesitant about planning more than 1 week in advance because I have no clue who my students are, let alone where they are academically. All teachers must submit lesson plans the Thursday before the week they are to be taught, so right now I am feeling pretty good.

I also got news that I will be meeting with my principal next Friday as a part of New Teacher Week. Hopefully then, or sometime soon after, I will learn who my students are so I can mail out an introductory letter to them and their families!
Best News of the Day: I get to pick up the keys to my classroom on Friday morning!!! I plan to stick around for a few hours and navigate my way through the tons of stuff in the room. For some reason, I feel like some of it belongs to other teachers, so I’m gonna try and determine to whom it really belongs.

Plan of Attack for the Next Week (in no particular order):
• Plan out first week of Writing
• Aug 4- Plan Literacy Block with Literacy Coach
• Get more info about science/social studies curriculum and plan to teach (I would almost think we didn’t teach science/s.s. because since May, I have only heard these subjects referenced maybe twice- compared to 1,000,202 references to Math and Literacy)
• Complete Classroom Newsletter
• Finish and Mail Intro Letter to Parents
• Create Plan/Activities for First Day of School
Our first day of school is a half day. What does your very first day of school look like?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bundle of Emotion

I have been feeling a little overwhelmed and stressed lately. I just moved into my new apartment and have been busy unpacking and organizing. With school starting in 4 weeks, I am starting to feel the pressure of getting ready for this school year. I have so much stuff on my To-Do list but I have no clue where to begin. I have been working on my Classroom Management Plan and thinking through various routines and procedures. I am currently working on setting up my class newsletter and intro letter to my students' families. I have also spent quite a bit of time reviewing curriculum, but now I feel like I need to just start planning. I would love to meet with my grade level teachers but I do not know who they are (long story) and my principal and vice-principal are on maternity leave. Needless to say, I am a big bundle of emotions right now!!! Advice....suggestions on how to effectively navigate these next few weeks?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


In my last post I talked about an issue I was having with a girl I work with to coordinate a tutoring program. Well, after a drama-filled day yesterday and today, the "heads in charge" had a meeting to put everything out there. This particular girl, to whom I will refer as K, brought up the fact that everyone hates her, she doesn't know why, and she's tired of trying to make everyone happy so she's giving up. WHAT???!!! My first thought was that she needed to look in the mirror because the major problem wasn't everyone else it was her. We began to have what felt like an "intervention" for K. It at first felt a little dramatic, but it actually turned out to be very productive.

I learned a lot about K, from how many people don't get along with her to how she doesn't like to open up to others. All of this, along with other factors have landed her in the middle of a toxic mess. I then shared my perspective on self-reflection and how if everyone is perceiving you in a negative way (even people who just met you a week ago, like I did), you need to do some self-reflecting about what you're doing and how to modify it so that others are more receptive to you. I think she received what I was saying, but I know I learned a great lesson too. I had pretty much written her off as the girl with the bad attitude who was all about herself. I am going to trust that what I saw in her during our meeting was sincere. First impressions are key, but I think everyone deserves a second chance to redeem themselves.

Whether this is with colleagues or students, no one should be labeled or outcast because of what they've done in the past. K and I now have a fresh start and I hope that nothing but great things come from it. We all have needed a 're-do' at some point in our lives and I am glad I was able to provide an opportunity for someone else to have one this time around!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Teacher Camp

Right now, I am away at "teacher camp" as I call it. It is a summer internship that is a component of one of the teacher scholarships I received during undergrad. This is my last summer requirement and it is a little awkward since the majority of the 4 weeks is geared toward preparing us for student teaching and the interview process....double check for me! It is my personal goal to humble myself as much as possible and take away as much as I can.

On pretty cool thing about the program is that we will be tutoring middle school students in the inner city in reading/writing/math. I, along with 7 others, volunteered to spear-head the tutoring program. In other words, we are planning the structure and format for the 4 week tutoring program. We will then meet with the other 50 interns and present our proposal for how the program will run. I was a little hesitant after volunteering for this role because I was turned off by some of the "larger-than-life" personalities we have in our planning committee. I totally respect and appreciate the experience and knowledge that other colleagues bring to the table, but I absolutely detest when others feel that their perspective is superior to that of others in the group. There is one girl in particular who seems to feel like she should be calling all of the shots and we should all be following her lead. Collaboration is essential in teaching and I just get annoyed when people don't seem to have received the same memo.

So, in keeping with my philosophy of self-reflecting after a long venting session, I have learned a great lesson in the importance of respecting all work styles, even when I may not feel like mine is being respected. Arguing never did anything to solve an issue and I'm sure it won't start now!! We have a meeting of the minds this evening, so I am praying that as educators we can stay civilized, open for collaboration, and respectful. The main goal is to tutor students in their areas of need and we most certainly cannot achieve that if all of those responsible for the program are bickering the whole time about how things should be.

Lastly, during one of our seminars today, our presenter left us with a great quote:
"Complaining is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but doesn't get you anywhere". I love this quote because when we as teachers complain about what is not working or who is not doing what, we spend are time doing something, but not getting anywhere. I will continue to strive to use my time trying to actually get somewhere rather than complaining about it....I challenge you to try it too!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Writing and Planning

I recently took my Spanish Language Proficiency test and to be honest, I’m trying not to think about it too much. I have a bad habit of worrying myself to death about little things and big things alike and I am trying to make a change for the better. I do, however, think I did fairly well...I get the results back on July 2 so I will provide the fantastic update that is to come!

I’ve been trying to take it easy this week because I have all week training on our Every Day Math curriculum. I am really excited because I know very little about it and I cannot wait to learn more about implementing it in my classroom. Since my posts have been so scarce lately, I am trying to set myself a goal of posting the highlights about it at the end of next week.

This week, I have been reading up on our district’s writing curriculum. There is a teacher’s book in the series called “The Nuts and Bolts of Teaching Writing”. It has given me a lot of insight into what Writer’s Workshop really looks like. One of the things that the district in which I student taught lacked was a Writing curriculum. In 5th grade, we were able to squeeze in about 90 mins of writing in each week…on a good week!! With this curriculum, we have 45-60 mins each day of writing!! I think this is so awesome and truly necessary to developing great writers. I am excited about all I am learning.

In preparing for the upcoming school year, I would like to know what suggestions you all have about using your summer to think/plan/organize for next year. What are priorities for you in the summer, in preparation for the upcoming year? Thanks for sharing!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Getting Back In the Groove

Since graduation, I have been in a blogging slump. I have still been reading others’ blogs but have been struggling to make my own posts. I am in the process of packing up my life and transitioning back home for the summer (just the summer!!). I will be hunting for apartments when I am all settled in two weeks. I recently had a meeting with my building principal for next year to discuss Professional Development this summer. During the first week in June I have one half day of Math PD and another half day of Reading PD. The Math series is Everyday Math, which was not used in the district in which I student taught. I am anxious to learn more about the curriculum and start thinking about how I will teach it to my kiddos!! This district does use pacing guides and it is my understanding that the expectation is that you stick to it with little deviation from it. I don’t feel totally uncomfortable with this since it is my first year and I probably won’t have the time I would like to devote to “out of the box” teaching, but hopefully more experience will bring more opportunities for broadening my horizons.

There was something that my principal brought to my attention that I am not exactly sure how I feel about it. She wants me to consider a possible change to my position- working part-time in the 2nd grade classroom and spending the other half of the day being trained for Reading Recovery. I don’t feel comfortable with this because I don’t like the idea of being a part-time teacher, nor do I want to go back into the world of observations, homework, and tests just yet. She said that it will be my decision but she wants me to keep it in the back of my mind. I am pretty confident my mind is made up already, but I would love to hear some different perspectives from my bloggy friends out there!! Thanks!

Friday, May 7, 2010


I have been doing quite a bit of running around today....getting ready for my GRADUATION tomorrow!! It feels so good and I am so excited to end this chapter of my life and move on to the next. This time last year, I was really upset that all of my friends were graduating 'on time' and I wasn't. Everything happens for a reason and at least I can say that it took me five years because I am a double major and I studied abroad for a summer!!!!! I look forward to spending time with my family and friends this weekend. Congrats to all of those who are graduating this month!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Reflection on Student Teaching

This last week has been bittersweet. Even though I will still see most of my students over the next few weeks (after school program, field trips, etc.), it was tough to say ‘goodbye’. They threw me a going away party and they all went around and said what they enjoyed about having me as their teacher. I was almost moved to tears when one student said that I was tough on them, but it was because I knew they could be great!! In spite of the incredible challenges I have faced this year with my placement, I would not trade it for the world. The bonds I have formed with the staff and children in my school will never be forgotten. This experience has helped me to formulate my ideas and opinions on what is important as an educator. These are just some of the lessons I have learned.

 Collaborate with other Building Staff- two heads are better than 1!
 Discipline with Dignity- when students are respected, they will respect you (most times!)
 Be Humble- don’t act like you know it all. When students see you at your vulnerable points, they learn that everyone has them and they can be overcome.
 Don’t take it Personally- many of the disrespectful behaviors students may exhibit don’t have anything to do with you personally. It is often that they lack strategies needed to deal with their feelings in a more constructive way. When you don’t take things personally, you are more able to attack the problem, rather than the child.
 Laugh- there are many stressful times throughout the day, so in order to remain sane, you have to laugh. Do your best to make light of trying situations.
 Take Time for Yourself- This is something that I still struggle with personally, but I understand how critical it is to have a life outside of the classroom. The more burnt-out you are, the more that weariness will transfer to the students. Refresh yourself so that you can be refreshing to your students.
 Always Look for the Positive- Being a ‘Debbie Downer’ becomes a burden not only to those who have to listen to the constant negativity, but also ‘Debbie’ herself. The perspective you take on the things that transpire in your life/career determine the resulting path those events take. We want our students to be positive and always look for the best in themselves and situations- we should expect the same from ourselves.

It is my goal to live by these lessons that I have found so important to my growth as an educator. I have tried this entire year to practice taking my own advice. If I expect something of others, I should be willing to do the same thing. I know there are many more lessons to be learned on my journey as an educator and I am ready to face them with humility, laughter, and a positive perspective.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Making Time for Interventions

My last day being the lead teacher was Friday. My CT was absent all day and I was only present for the morning so it was a whirlwind of an am!! I taught the Math lesson in the morning so that the substitute teacher would not have to worry about it. The lesson was on Stem-and-Leaf plots and I actually think it went pretty well. I spent a lot of time going over the concept and doing quite a few whole class examples. Most students seemed to understand the concept, but one thing that I think about frequently is when I can pull the students who don’t get it and work in small groups with them to help them understand the concept.

I know that my Math curriculum will look different next year, but it is so important to find to provide for interventions wherever possible. I feel like failing to do so simply allows for those students to fall through the cracks. If it is my goal to make sure all students succeed to their highest levels, I must create opportunities consistently through the day to help those students who may be struggling. In my current classroom, I have pulled struggling students when others are working on independent practice problems. This worked fairly well, but it was difficult to provide assistance to students working independently when they needed it. The battle still wages in my mind on how to help all students within a very tight window of time that is the school day.

How do you provide interventions during your Math block? What other suggestions do you have on helping struggling learners during the school day?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Realize....

Today was the second to last research day before our State Fair Showcase tomorrow evening. Students have been researching information about a state they randomly selected. They have been researching information about this state’s government, economy, early inhabitants, statehood, political features, and physical features. This has been a very long and tedious process because many of my students struggled to find information in books and on the internet that was not “right there in their face”. This is a skill that takes time develop, but you can only get it if you actually read the information in order to find the facts. Since there are still some students conducting research, while others are done creating their poster boards and began working on a second state, this was a very chaotic time. I felt like I needed to be in 18 different places at once!

My CT helped out quite a bit today and I cannot imagine what it would be like to do all of this by myself. I have been giving a lot of thought to what things will look and feel like when I am in the classroom by myself. I know that things will be more stressful because I will not have an extra set of hands, but because of this, I will need to be incredibly organized in order for things to flow the way in which I want it to.

After I pass my certification test :) I plan to spend my time looking at pictures I have taken of primary classrooms, books, and other resources that will help me establish a system in my classroom that is most conducive to learning.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Welcome Back

It felt so weird being back at school today, especially since I feel like I’ve been away for so long (2 days in the last week). I got to school early, like I usually do, so I had some time to get things ready and get back into the swing of things. This is my last week being the lead teacher and I feel such a sense of relief. Next week, it will be so nice to just work with my small groups, grade a little throughout the day and help out during lessons when needed. I have given some thought to coming back some days after I graduate, but I’m not sure. I definitely plan to come back for the trip to the zoo and their 5th grade Promotion. I, however, have a nightmarish vision of coming back to help out and being worked like an animal while I am here and being more stressed out than ever. Then again, I could be using that time to review for my Language Proficiency Test and just enjoying some R&R. I figure I really need to soak up this time I have being behind the scenes while I can!

I have some really great observations set up for the week of May 3. I will be observing 3 outstanding teachers at my school in 3rd grade, Primary Cross-Cat. and 2nd grade. I am thrilled to be able to observe the second grade room because of my new position as a 2nd grade bilingual teacher. This particular teacher has great command of literacy work stations and that has been a passion of mine all year! I plan to take lots of notes and help out whenever I can.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's Official!

Today, I officially accepted the 2nd grade bilingual teaching position!!! It took much thought and reflection but I am at peace with the decision I have made. I visited some of the bilingual classrooms (kindergarten, 3rd, and 4th) and had the pleasure of sitting in on a Reading Recovery session conducted totally in Spanish. The district places a strong focus on bilingual literacy and students are taught to read first in Spanish. It was incredible to see everything that I have learned and implemented myself about reading instruction (Running Record, reading prompts, Writer’s Workshop)! I am excited about teaching in both languages and fostering bi-literacy in my students.

In the second grade classroom, I will teach in English for 30% of the day (focusing on English Language Development) and Spanish for 70% of the day (Reading, Writing, Math, Science, Social Studies). This percentage breakdown may be altered to include a slightly higher percentage of English Language Development. My principal told me that because of my Reading endorsement, she thinks I would be a great fit at second grade, a grade at which data shows the bilingual students become stagnant in their English Reading scores. I am encouraged and eager to work toward this challenge.

The school staff was very friendly, but it always feels a little awkward stepping into a space that is not yet yours. I know how I felt before I became acclimated at the school at which I am student teaching, but now I feel such a strong connection to the incredible people I have been able to work with this year. I cannot wait to truly become a part of the staff.

I am truly blessed to have a full-time teaching position for next year. :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Here's the Run Down

I was a nervous wreck all day, waiting for a phone call from the school with which I had an interview yesterday. Just thinking about the fact that I had an real, live interview just yesterday boggles my mind! Well, I was busy all afternoon helping the new interns get acclimated to the district, but I was dying to check my phone. I went down to the room and checked it around 2:30 and of course, there was no phone call. I was a little disappointed and began wondering if they were going to stand me up. Then, my CT told me that even though they had not called me, they actually called her to check my references!! For whatever reason, I guess I did not think they would actually do that. Every other job I have applied for just kind of takes your word that you are good…I guess this is real life!

Anyway, I went back to be with the other student teachers and at the end of the day, I checked my phone and I had 1 missed call from the school and a voicemail….oh boy. This was it. I was so excited and so were the other teachers in my building. They asked me to put the message on speaker and I did. We were all huddled together in the middle of the hall way, waiting to hear a decision and of course, the principal asked me to call her back. She dished no information over the phone. When we heard this, there was a collective sigh of disappointment because we all wanted to know right then! I love those ladies….they are an awesome group of teachers who have supported me throughout all of this!

Okay, so I called back and left a message. She was in a meeting. An hour went by and I decided to call back. She said that she and the interview committee were very impressed and she would like to offer me a position as a……..2nd GRADE BILINGUAL TEACHER! So, in this very instant, I felt totally elated that I was offered a job, but then the reality set in that I would really have to make a decision about whether or not I want to wait for a position in the district in which I am student teaching or take this opportunity.

I met with the principal at the middle school here in town that I have been in communication with and she talked to me about the two possible vacancies for next year (6th grade writing/reading and 8th grade Spanish OR 6th grade self-contained classroom teaching history, science, math with struggling students who do not qualify for special education services). She made me feel more comfortable about possibly working with the 8th grade staff that I had such a different experience with, but I am not a big fan of teaching middle school Math and Science either. I think the biggest factor with this situation is that she cannot guarantee me that I will absolutely have one of those positions next year. I know she would do all she could to make it happen, but there is no guarantee. In this job climate, 1 in the hand is worth two in the bush.

I will tell the principal of the elementary school my decision on Monday, after I go for a visit to the bilingual classrooms and talk with the director of curriculum and instruction for the district (per the request of the director and the principal). I will be doing a lot of thinking and reflecting that I will make the best choice for me. I just feel so blessed to be able to say I have an offer on the table!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

First Job Interview

Today I had my very first interview for a position as a Spanish teacher. This was a position that I was called about an interview a couple of weeks ago and soon after they called back to tell me the position was no longer available. Well, it is available again and I had my interview this morning. I was nervous but definitely not as much as I was with the anticipation of the interview a couple of weeks ago. I arrived about 20 minutes early, as my interview was at 9am. School starts at 9am so the principal was very busy. I did not get called back for the interview until 9:20. The anticipation almost killed me as I watched 3 other teachers enter her office with note pads and pens. Then it hit me, they would be participating in the interview questioning too!! YIKES!! I silently hyperventilated, then composed myself.

I greeted each person at the table and then they introduced themselves. Interviewing me were the principal, office manager, bilingual teacher, and a 5th grade teacher. They began to ask questions about me personally and why I was interested in the position, my experience student teaching. Not so bad, right?! Then, the bilingual teacher told me that she was going to ask me some questions in Spanish….OH BOY!! I knew that this was a definite possibility, but now I knew I had to put my language skills to the test. I haven’t taken a Spanish course since Spring Semester 2009 and haven’t had a serious conversation in Spanish since then (except when I had dinner at a Mexican restaurant about a month ago!).

Well, the first question she asked was one submitted by another bilingual teacher. It was incredibly long and very confusing, but I did not want it to seem like I didn’t understand it, it just was poorly written. After the interviewer read it a couple of times, she too agreed that it was poorly written and came up with her own interpretation of the question for me to answer. This helped quite a bit. I know I probably did not speak as well as I would have liked, but the interviewer told me at the end that my Spanish was beautiful so I guess that counts for something, right?!

Okay, to make a long story shorter, they are considering me for two positions. One is as a Spanish teacher (what I originally applied for) and the other is as a 2nd grade bilingual teacher (did not apply for). The Spanish teacher position did not entice me at all after the explained it. The Spanish teacher pushes in to all of the classes every other day. She has no room, but rather a desk in the library. All I could think about was having a cart that I roll around the school with all of my things in it because of the seemingly nomadic nature of the position. After I heard the description of that position, I was excited to hear what they had to say next. The principal said based on my credentials, she believed I would be a great candidate for the position. The principal asked what I thought about this proposition and I said it sounded exciting, but I was a little nervous about how prepared I would be for the position. I am a Spanish major, but have taken no course work in ESL nor Bilingual education. I am absolutely open to the position and if offered, would do whatever it took to be fully competent and qualified to teach in that position.

After the interview, she asked if I could come back in an hour to meet with the director of bilingual education for the district. OF COURSE! I returned and she talked with me in Spanish and then switched to English (complimenting on my Spanish too!). She then told me that I would need to apply for type 29 certification- Transitional Bilingual Certification and take the State Content Test- all of which would have to be done and successfully completed by the end of the summer.

I never considered bilingual education because I was not highly qualified to teach it. Now that this opportunity has possibly presented itself, I am curious and very interested in investigating this option.

There was another person coming in for the interview after me and the principal said she would let me know tomorrow about her decision. I felt like the interview went well, but I won’t know for sure until tomorrow.

I am still considering a possible opening with a the middle school I student taught at for 6 weeks, but I am struggling to know in my heart what would be the best fit for me.

What advice do you have for how to know what and where I should be teaching. I want to make sure I make the right decision, but I have no clue what that may be.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Evaluating my Evaluation

Today I debriefed a Guided Reading lesson I taught about 1 month ago with my building principal. I wasn’t too nervous because my principal is very laid back and does not make situations tense at all. I thought she would tell me all of the things she noticed during my lesson, but she did not. Instead, she pulled the trick that I have become all too accustomed to- “How did you think your lesson went?” When this question was first posed to me by my student teaching coordinator, I must admit that I was a little irritated. I did not want to hear about what I thought, I wanted to know what she thought! I have learned that they do this to help you self evaluate and also to gain more insight into why you taught the lesson they way you do to make more informed evaluations.

There were two important things she noted. One was the fact that both me and my CT taught our Guiding Reading Groups in totally different ways (1 more teacher centered and the other more student centered). I personally believe this difference in style can be attributed to the fact that I was working with my stronger readers, while she was working with the group with the more profound reading challenges, who may have needed more direct scaffolding. She also asked me, in a perfect world, what my G.R. lesson would look like. I talked about the literacy work stations, management board and spending the majority of my time with students who needed the greatest level of intervention, and having more fluid groupings. It was nice being able to talk about some of these things and gain more confidence and comfort with articulating aspects of Best Practices. Whenever I have a job interview, I will know exactly what to say…I just need follow through!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Making the Most of It

Although this was a very busy week for me, I took out a chunk of time last night to write my formal lesson plan for my writing lesson for today. I have not had much feedback on how effectively I teach writing and I wanted my CT to evaluate me on this subject. I gave my CT the formal lesson plan and a camera because I wanted her to capture some of the lesson in pictures (to include in my portfolio, of course!). She took some pictures but did not really take many notes on my lesson. When I asked her about it, she said that she totally for got to take notes on my lesson and that she would do it right then (3 hours after my lesson was taught). I was a little frustrated because I know that she was getting her sub plans for Monday together during my lesson. The comments that she did end up writing were very generic and her simply affirming my success with the things that I said I wanted her to pay attention to. How can you give me feedback if you are not even watching the lesson?

So, I’m going to do my own self-evluation:
I taught a lesson on Persuasive Writing. We read Hey, Little Ant earlier and the week and came up with reasons why the kid should squish the ant and reasons why he should not squish the ant. Today, I wanted students to write a paragraph for one reason why the kid should not squish the ant, using ample secondary support. We reviewed the story an the reasons we came up with for both sides. Then I had students determine which two ideas they felt were most important about why the kid should not squish the ant. I told them that they would choose one of those reasons and write a paragraph, but first I wanted to model it for them.

Prior to the lesson, I chose one reason to support why the kid should squish the ant and wrote a paragraph modeling the incorporation of a topic sentence and support. We read it aloud and students helped me identify the examples for support I included. Next, I had students select partners. One partner would “talk long” about reason #1 (which was selected earlier in the lesson) for two minutes. After two minutes the other partner B would talk about reason #2 for two minutes. While each partner was talking, they were to discuss support about why that reason justified not squishing the ant. After they discussed with a partner, we shared out some of the examples they used for each reason. Then I sent students back to their desks to write 1 paragraph about one of the reasons, reminding them of the topic sentence and supports that needed to be included. After 15 minutes, students shared out their writing whole class and we gave Thumbs Up to that person when they were able to identify the required components within their paragraph.

*I think that allowing students to choose their partners made their conversations have more substance because they wanted to talk to the person they chose to work with. I have learned that if I want students to focus on a certain skill when working in partners, they are more likely to engage in the skill if they are able to choose their partner (of course with the expectation that all talk and behaviors are centered on the focus of the lesson)
*Creating a paragraph to model the focus of the lesson helped students to understand what I expected of them when they wrote their paragraphs. It also helped me to think about what aspects students may struggle with because I went through the entire process myself.
*I gave each partner a letter (A or B) so that they would know which reason they needed to talk about with their partner. If I were to do this lesson again, I would have had the paper letters prepared ahead of time because it took about 3 minutes of my time to find the paper and marker to do it during the lesson.
*I feel that by incorporating the conversational piece in the lesson and modeling the paragraph for students made them feel more confident and prepared to go back and write their own paragraphs. I was so pleased to see all of my students engaged in writing when they went back to their desks.
*Overall, I think the lesson went well. I prepared quite a bit for it and I think that preparation resulted in my students being able to apply the skills and focus of the lesson in their own writing.

~In these last few weeks of my student teaching experience, I am doing my best to turn every negative situation in to a positive. I want to end this year, walking away with as much growth and preparedness to teach and this is a great way for me to ensure this happens~

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Teeter Totter

Today was an emotional roller coaster for me. I called the school this morning to confirm my interview for the K-5 Spanish teacher position that was supposed to be on April 9. About an hour later, they called me back and left a message saying that the position for which I was going to interview was no longer available because instead of offering Spanish as a foreign language, they decided to offer….yep, Mandarin Chinese! They apologized for the inconvenience. I spent so much time over the last 24 hours stressing and worrying about what if they offered me the job and then I had to decide whether or not I wanted to take that position or wait for one in which I was more interested. I feel such a connection to the district in which I am student teaching, but the whole waiting game is what is driving me crazy! I prayed about the situation but still felt like I could control the situation. Today I learned that there is no point in stressing about things that have yet to come to fruition. My faith shows me that God will put me exactly where he wants me to be and when he wants me to be there. I have learned a very valuable lesson in trusting that all things will work out the way they are supposed to. I still don’t know where I will find employment but I am going to be open to the options that present themselves and be confident that I will be lead in the direction I am supposed to go.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hodge Podge

I had a talk with my CT during our CAL today about what I wanted to focus on during these last few weeks of student teaching. We reflected on the growth that I have made and the fact that I want to spend time tweaking and improving some of my teaching strategies. One of the issues that I brought up is the trouble that I seem to have with following through with authentic assignments that I give my students. For example, I wanted my students to complete their Black History biographies and be able to publish them so they could be displayed in the hallway on a bulletin board. The students completed them and they were graded, but it has been very difficult to get all students to publish their work. Now that it is time to move on to persuasive writing, I find it very unlikely that students will be able to have their work displayed. I also talked to my CT about how I wanted her to give me more informal feedback regarding my teaching.

Surprisingly, she agreed that she should focus more on paying attention to my lessons and that she would do a better job of that. So, needless to say, I was a little disappointed to see her texting on her phone throughout the entire afternoon! Oh well. I will have to continue being my own self-critic. I can only try so much, but I am honestly just appreciative of the fact that I was able to sit down with her and talk some of these things out. One a totally different note….I got a call to come in for an interview for an Elementary Spanish teacher position!!!!!!!!!!!!! They called my permanent home and left a message, hoping that I can make an interview at 1pm on Friday….yes, this Friday. It is such short notice, but really, what am I going to do…say no??!!! I think not! Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Debbie Diller Delight

I enjoyed my first day at the Illinois Reading Council Conference. I planned out my day the night before, but I had no clue how intense and exciting the day would be. I attended four different workshops: one on teaching reading as a new teacher (pretty dull; all presenters did was read from the PowerPoint) and one on Guided Reading (which was actually pretty practical). The highlight of my day was the afternoon because it was a DEBBIE DILLER afternoon! I attended another workshop during her first morning session, but I made sure to go to the first one after lunch. The workshop was Spaces and Places, based on her most recent book about organizing the classroom for effective learning. My student teaching program provided me with an opportunity to set up the classroom at the beginning of the year, so it was nice to have some working knowledge of classroom arrangements.

One of the most interesting pieces of advice that I plan to use in my classroom is the importance of setting up specific places in the room in a specific order: whole group, small group, classroom library, writing station, word wall and other stations, classroom math corner, and portable work stations (in that order). The absolutely last things she said teachers should organize are student and teacher desks. Diller believes that desks are not the optimal learning space for students and should be used primarily for independent practice work, not for whole-class, small group teaching experiences. She also said that the “teacher desk” is a magnet for “visual noise” (clutter). The teacher desk should not take the prime position in the classroom.

I always thought it was best to get the students’ desks situated first. However, after hearing Diller speak, I am thinking more about my use of desks and the message that sends to my students about learning. My students do spend the majority of their time at their desks, restricted from natural, fluid interactions with their peers. When I have my own classroom, I want to create an environment of collaborative learning and one that values the knowledge and experiences of each student. I would love to see in my classroom the whole-group learning space on the carpet, where students can be closer, feel more connected and more engaged in the learning experience. This does not happen in the classroom that I am in now, but Debbie Diller has given me a vision and a plan to put it into action.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Improved Relationships

Lately, I have been struggling with some of the same disruptive behaviors as I have been since the beginning of the school year. One thing that has changed for the better is the dramatic decrease in blatantly disrespectful attitudes. This is coming particularly from two students: Sarah and Patrick. Until the last 3 or 4 weeks, I had nothing but confrontation with these two students. If I said anything that they did not want to hear, I would be on the receiving end of total defiance and disrespect.

As of late, however, things have changed between us. They are by no means angels, but I think the way in which we interact has changed. I have been working more on using ‘choice words’ and not engaging in arguments with students about their disruptive behavior. I have also done more to get to know them as kids outside of the classroom. I attended Patrick's basketball games and practiced with Sarah after school studying for the Spelling Bee. These two students now handle my redirections of their behavior more maturely and respectfully. They both give me hugs throughout the day and greet me every morning. We all have our ‘slip ups’ occasionally, but for the most part, I think we are on the upswing! I hope it only gets better from here!

It is my goal to continue to work towards breakthroughs with a couple other challenging students. I understand most teachers probably won’t have ‘breakthroughs’ with all of their students, but I feel like it is my responsibility to put forth my best effort to make it happen for each and every student.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Letting Go

After being observed for my read-aloud lesson on Diary of a Wimpy Kid today, I am inspired to implement some of the suggestions I received today about releasing control and responsibility for learning to my students. I have talked with my students numerous times about how important it is for them to take responsibility for their own learning. It is up to them to learn what information I am teaching them. I understand that when I teach, I do most of the talking and work. I think a part of me doesn’t trust my students to learn what I want them to learn without me giving it to them. In internalizing some of the comments from my evaluation today, I am thinking more about how to shift the role of ‘teacher’ on to my students.

Relinquishing a little bit of my control of teaching my students has the power to incredibly enhance the confidence and learning experiences for not only the children who become the ‘teacher’ but also for those receiving the information they provide. In order to make this happen, I need to think about what it is that I want students to learn and how they can learn it without me giving it to them. It will take much thought, effort and training for the students but the end result is one will ultimately benefit my students.

Do you have any tips about how I can build more autonomy in my students? How can I deal with not hearing my voice so much?!!? Thanks!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Positive Energy

My CT was out today, so we had a guest teacher in the room all day. The first 15 minutes of the day went incredibly well. After that is was all downhill from there. Their behaviors were not anything out of the ordinary. There were chatty students, disrespectful students, and everything in between. The guest teacher in the room is someone who has been in our class several times this year. She knows the students and the students enjoy having her in the room. It was great to have another teacher in the room who was totally engaged in helping the students and being another set of hands for me. When my students worked in small groups on a review packet for their Math test, she moved around from group to group as I did to check in with students and help them understand the concepts. It was one of a few times that I felt like I had support, even though she is still in school to become a teacher too!

At the end of the day, after we were both stressed out about how rowdy the kids were, she told me something that is still resonating within me. She said that as challenging as my kids are, she has lived through worse. WOW! I knew that someone out there somewhere has a bunch of kids more challenging than mine, but it was very encouraging to hear her say that. It really made me take stock of the beautiful minds and charisma of my students that makes me smile every day when I walk through the doors of my school. I appreciate my students and I know that I am a better person and teacher because they are in my lives.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lunch Time Drama

There was an “episode” today involving me, my CT and my class. There was no confrontation or anything like that, just simple repetition of what is the norm. The difference this time that abut 5 other teachers were able to see what I experience day in and day out. So, today during lunch, I finished eating early and decided to go back to the classroom. I was planning some interventions for Math dealing with elapsed time. I talked to my CT and told her I wanted both of us to pull a group right after lunch as a review of the concept. My CT was still in the lounge when I left. Well, the bell rang signaling the end of the lunch hour. I naturally assumed that my CT would pick up the kids, seeing as though I was working in the classroom and she was in the lounge which is literally about 50 ft from where the students line up outside. So, I continued working in the classroom, getting things ready for the Math intervention. Our students always take a restroom break right after lunch. So 10 mins after the bell rang and no one showed up at the door, I assumed it was just taking a little longer. Well, about 1 minute later, the office called down to my room to inform me that my students were still waiting to be picked up from the playground.

SERIOUSLY??!!! I was livid!! Yes, I could have walked down to get the kids, but I am so frustrated with always having to be the one to drop what I am doing, while she always gets to enjoy extra leisure time. The positive of this whole situation is that the principal, secretary, and parent educator were privy to what happened today and were actually quite upset that it took place. I hate that my students had to stand and wait for their teachers to show up, but I felt like I needed to take a stand. The crazy part of it all is that my CT did not even bat an eyelash at the situation; it was just business as usual. I will take this situation and chalk it up to another lesson learned.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Job Fair

Today was the huge Mid America Job Fair at my University. My student teaching coordinator made a huge deal about this Job Fair and even brought in the assistant HR director to one of our seminars to give us some tips on how to stand out. I had big plans to spend yesterday preparing for the big day but those were foiled because I was sick! The bug came out of nowhere but I felt absolutely miserable all day. Fast forward to today....I feel better than I did yesterday, but still not 100%. Either way, I had to pep myself up for the Job Fair. I met with 5 districts and one of them was the district in which I'm student teaching now. I felt fairly well about 2 of the 5 districts, and totally uncertain about the other ones. It was difficult to read their body language.

After spending half a day at the Fair, I am still left feeling up-in-the-air about my job prospects. I know it's still early and I also know that most districts don't know what they can offer yet in lieu of the economic hardships they face. I plan on emailing some of the HR directors I met with today to thank them for the opportunity to meet and learn more about what their district has to offer new teachers. My reasoning is by putting my name out there again, they may be less likely to forget about me. I don't know if my logic is sound, but that is what I'm thinking right now. Do you have any tips on how to go about pursuing a position with a district outside of simply submitting my application? As always, all suggestions are welcome!!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Math Woes

On Wednesday, I gave my students a test of Math Topic 12- Area and Perimeter. Throughout the entire Topic, I did all I could to make sure that my students understood the material. I had them take notes in their Math Journals, we completed the first couple of problems on their homework together so they would understand exactly what to do, and I also had small group interventions with the students that did not seem to understand the concepts. I also created a study guide before the test and we spent one entire Math lesson working in groups to review for the test. With all of this said, I just knew that my students would do better on this test than they had on any other. I could not have been more wrong. I had one student get a 2 and everyone else earned a 1. I was almost in tears after grading these tests.

Well, I came to school today and showed the tests to my CT. We looked at the test questions, how many students missed each question, and what type of question was missed. We wondered, and have wondered, if the problem with our students’ performance on Math tests results from not understanding the questions. Many of our students struggle with reading comprehension, so it would make sense that they would possibly struggle to understand the questions on the test. So today, we gave the same test again, only this time, I read each test question aloud. The hope was that students would better understand the questions if they were read aloud and thus they would be able to show what they really understand about the topic.

I still have about 5 more tests to grade, but right now, the vast majority is scoring the exact same as they did on the previous test. I am at odds with what else I can do. If students do not do their homework and do not focus on the content presented during the lesson, how can they show an understanding of the information? I do not know what else I can do outside of providing interventions and working diligently to engage students in the lesson each day. Any suggestions?? All are welcome!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Board Meeting Wash Out

I attended my first school board meeting tonight. It was decided that a community forum was needed in order to address the expected budget cuts for the next school year. I know that Springfield is one of many districts affected by the budget crisis in the country and particularly the state of Illinois. I feel I have a vested interest in what happens with the budget in this district because of my desire to stay in district for my first year of teaching.

I expected to go to this meeting and listen to the explanation of the real issue from the mouths of the people making it. This did come to fruition. The members of the superintendent cabinet spoke about the fact that our expenditures exceed our expected revenue for next year. After hearing the issue, I expected that the audience would be allowed questions which would be answered by the superintendent. Only have of this expectation came to be. There was a Q & A session, during which very relevant and pressing questions were posed; almost all of which went unanswered by the superintendent. I have never seen someone dance around such a tough issue like 56 instructional leaders, reading teachers, and other instructional professions positions being cut. I left the meeting feeling more uncertain about the state of the district than I did when I came in. If our own superintendent was unwilling to provide us with substantive responses to our concerns, can we really expect him to take our concerns into consideration when making proposals for what next year will look like? Tonight was a lesson learned in how political our field can really be.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


In the Science lesson I taught on 2/19/10, the focus of the lesson was on the process of photosynthesis. I anticipated this being difficult topic because of the terminology (carbon dioxide, oxygen, photosynthesis). I also thought it would be a difficult topic because it was not concrete/tangible. It is very difficult for students to “feel” or “see” the photosynthetic process. In alignment with my plans, I gave students a passage to read about photosynthesis with a partner. We came back whole group to discuss it. After asking questions to guide their comprehension, I observed that some students were not “getting it”. They were able to respond to the questions I asked in a very rote manner, but they lacked a connection to the entire process.

Then, in a split second, it hit me. I knew I needed to find a way to make photosynthesis come alive and that is exactly what I did! I stood up and started acting as if I was a tree. I wiggled my legs, acting like they were roots, pulling up water from the ground and used my arms to pull in carbon dioxide from the air. Then, I had one of the students come up behind me and act like they were giving off oxygen. Next, I had someone come up and poor water on the tree (me). Then, I had students come up in serve as the sugar and sunlight. I made the photosynthetic process come alive! The kids loved it and can tell me not only the components of photosynthesis, but also which student had that role in the reenactment!! The kids truly enjoyed being an active participant in their learning experiences. I think their physical involvement helped them make stronger connections within the concept of photosynthesis.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Second Round of Conferences

Parent Teacher Conferences were today. It was a long day, but I think it was made even longer because out of 8 scheduled conferences, only two showed up. One of those was a home visit that was an incredible experience, and I don’t mean that in a good way! Well, my CT, Parent Educator, Special Ed. Resource Teacher and I went to the home of one of my students. It started out crazy because as soon as I walked through the door, my student’s grandmother said with a very snippy tone “Who are you?”. I immediately felt on edge and it made me question for a split second who I really was and why I was there! After I got over that shock, I got a strong whiff of the marijuana that was filtrating the house. Grandma was spraying Febreeze, trying to mask the odor, but it was clear to all of us visiting the home what it really was.

I don’t think the marijuana would have bothered me so much if she was there by herself, but there were 6 little kids under her care at home, all being exposed to this illegal drug. What adults do on their own time is their business, but when kids are affected, the game changes. The student who lives here is consistently off task, does not turn in homework, and is a distraction to others. I think it is important to hold students accountable for their conduct in the classroom, but thinking about what they deal with at home definitely sheds light on what may be contributing to their behavior.

Goal: I will think more holistically about how my students behave and perform in class. There is no excuse for their behavior, but there may certainly be factors outside of the classroom that explain their behavior. Understanding these explanations may help me to better meet their needs in the classroom by creating an atmosphere that counteracts the negative forces they may face at home.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Hectic Day Indeed

Wow, what a day this has been. In my meeting with my coordinator, I talked with her about how things were starting to look up a little bit with me and my CT. I felt like we were making strides to increase the time we spend planning and the amount of support and guidance she gives me in my journey through student teaching. No sooner than I had this talk with my coordinator did things go completely down hill. First off, her husband and daughter showed up 30 minutes before the end of the day, completely disrupting the class, of course. She was totally disengaged from what was going on in the classroom because she was totally immersed in conversation with her family.

At the end of the day, one of my students punched another student in the back. As this was the second time I talked to this students about keeping her hands to herself (not to mention the fact that the principal spent the entire lunch recess talking to all fifth graders about respecting each other), I immediately wrote her up for a level 2, which requires intervention by the principal. While all of the commotion was going on, my CT did absolutely nothing to intervene. So I walked the rest of the class down to go home, came back to get the girl who hit another student, and took her straight to the principal. All the while, my CT did not intervene once to see what was going on. I was all alone in this process and it was my first time every doing it.

I needed her support and she wasn’t there. She left soon after I got back to the room (not sitting down with me like we had planned to discuss my writing unit or my science plans like we had discussed). Then she tells me “Don’t stay here all night”. Easy for her to say and she doesn’t even stay the time she is required to be here! Some of the teachers talk about how I am always the first to arrive and the last to leave each day, but what other alternative do I have? If I don’t come early and stay late, things won’t get done. I cannot count on her to support me and pick up the slack as I transition into “the teacher” in the room. I know this was a huge venting session for me but it feels good to release it all. One of my goals for next week was to find something outside of school to engage in to release stress. After today, I need to find something!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


One task that seems simple but has proved to be a great challenge for me is checking in/grading homework. In fifth grade, the students get so much homework each night that it is very difficult to check it all in, grade it and get it back. I see homework as a way to practice the concepts learned in class. So, there is not point in students spending time doing the practice incorrectly and not having an opportunity to go over it and adjust any misconceptions they may have had. My CT collects homework by calling individual students over to check it off. I prefer to collect everyone’s homework at the same time and check them in. I feel like my method allows me to look at the homework with a finer eye. The problem is that when I collect the homework, I have very little time to look over it, grade it, and get it back to students. My CT’s method allows her to get it all checked in, but she does not check over the work a meticulously as I would like to. I have to find a way to get homework checked in and give feedback to students so they know how to do the concept.

Goal: My goal is to check in homework using my CT’s method, but rather than looking over every single detail of the homework, I will glance through them to get a general understanding of commonly missed questions, pass back the homework the next day and go over those misunderstandings whole-class as a quick review of the material. I also will try to adjust my lessons so that I give students 3-4 minutes at the end of the lesson to get started on homework. This will also give me time to look over some of the homework that was turned in that day and make notes about what to review the next day.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A New Approach

I am ending this week feeling like I am standing on unleveled ground with a subject that I actually felt very comfortable teaching. Reading has been such a pleasure to teach because it is my favorite subject and it lends itself to using great instructional methods. It took a while to get used using the basal and learning the structure of the teacher guide and the flow of the week, but now that I’ve got it down, it is a source of comfort because I know what I need to do each day because it is prescribed for me. I have, of course, incorporated my own activities that add diversity to the learning experience and give students opportunities to creatively apply the strategies and skills they have learned. Nonetheless, I have felt secure in using the basal because I know what I need to teach and many suggestions on how to teach it.

Now that the pendulum has started swinging back to a more holistic approach to reading instruction other than the currently prescribed curriculum, I am a little nervous about how I can effectively stray from the basal while still teaching the content and priority standards required by the district. I am excited that I can be a part of this new wave because it will give me more depth to reading instruction abilities. I know that I have what it takes to successfully give my students meaningful experiences with authentic literature and with ‘Just Right’ books. I think that I will begin to feel less stressed about it all by thinking more deliberately about how to change the face of the literacy block in my classroom.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Shall Return

Wow...this has been the craziest week and a half of my life!!!! I have been super busy since I am planning for completely taking over my second subject. I started with Reading and now I'm on to Math! I have to have all of my lesson submitted the Friday before the week I'm going to teach them. I don't think I realized how busy this would make my life during the week! I plan on posting this weekend about the lows and highs of the week. I hope everyone is having an incredible week...the weekend is almost here!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fighting Words

I witnessed my first fight in my classroom today. It was by no means the first one of the year, but it was the first one for which I was actually present. It was a skirmish (using one of our vocab words this week!) between two students that have had an altercation before. After talking to parents and working with the pair to resolve their issues, we didn’t see any real problems. We put them in the same group when we rearranged desks and we didn’t have any problems to begin with. Recently they had been going at it a little and we decided to move them. We wanted them to try to work it out, but given their history it wasn’t worth it. Today at lunch, there was an issue with one of the boys throwing crayons at the other one. I intervened and told both parties to stop throwing things and if they didn’t have anything nice to say, they shouldn’t say anything at all. This seemed to do the trick, but boy was I wrong!! We were lining up for recess and I purposely called groups to line up in a way that would not put those two students together. Somehow, unknown to me, they were standing right next to each other in line. I turned around, saw them, and attempted to tell them to separate, but before I could, D. turned and shoved P. with full force-even knocking another student in his path to the ground. I was so flustered in that instance and had no clue what to do. I immediately moved D. out of the room and called for the principal who happened to be standing in the hallway at the time. I then asked P. if he was okay and sent him to my CT. We had to send the other girl who was collateral damage to the nurse for a bruised nose. I’ve always wondered what I would do if a fight broke out in the classroom….now I know.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Shooting Stars

On Friday, I requested an announcement be made wishing our basketball team good look at their game. I felt so bad, because the secretary add libbed "good luck boys" at the end of the announcement....we have 1 girl on the team. I made sure to clarify this statement in my class with "good luck boys and girl".

This morning I went out to support some of my students playing in their first basketball game. I told them that I was coming, but I don't think many of them believed me. So, I showed up, all decked out in the school colors and ready to lose my voice cheering them on! I had never seen a kid basketball game before, so it took a while for me to get used to the double dribbles and traveling that happened with just about each pass! By the second half, the team got into a rhythm and put down some nice shots. So who won.......WE DID!! GO STARS!! It was really great to see kids shine on the court, who do not shine as much in the classroom. Everyone is good at's amazing when they actually have a chance to show it. The looks on their faces at the end of the game were priceless! I'm glad I got to see those faces instead of ones of disappointment. I would say about 85% of the team is comprised of pouters, whiners, and sore losers. I hope they keep on winning...but I hope if they do lose a game, it can be a teachable moment about how to lose graciously. The game next Saturday is at 8:30am...I may just be there in spirit because my flesh will probably be snoozing!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Desk Arrangement Disaster

Attempting to try something new, we put our students in groups of 4 to give them an opportunity to work more collaboratively with assignments and to motivate some students who have had some behavioral and academic challenges by grouping them with some students who are positive role models in both areas. This was such a challenge because we had more people who needed role models than we had role models to group them with. We have quite a few students who cannot be paired with almost half the class because they are easily distracted by those students. I have come to the conclusion today that our current arrangements WILL NOT WORK!!! There were two of four groups that were off task just about all day. It was only when their groups were broken up and dispersed throughout the room that we saw even a hint of change in behavior. I really don't know if I want go from groups to maybe pairs or just try a new set of 4-person groups...gotta figure something out for Monday!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On the Bright Side

So, no snow day today....BUT.....we only had 9 students come to class today!! I know it is going to be torture getting the other half of the class caught up on what they missed today but I absolutely LOVED the smaller class (not that my class of 18 students isn't small to begin with). I was able to do things with this group that fail miserably when the rest of the class is to enrich content, allowing students to complete independent work on the carpet (which usually becomes a disaster when more than one student in on the carpet!) With me and my CT there, we were able to provide more one on one attention, which was great during our math lesson on mixed numbers and improper fractions. Even though the students who actually showed up today are the more 'rambuncious' of the group, they were amazingly well-behaved!! I even wrote two POSITIVE notes home for two students who are often the most difficult to deal with. Even though I did not get my snow day, they day didn't turn out to be too bad!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Learning as I Go

My 2 weeks of winter break were nice and relaxing. I was able to get quite a few books read and of course, I purchased some more! I am currently reading The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and it is a great book! Break technically isn't over for me until this Friday because my student teaching program does winter break based on the university schedule, not the school district schedule. I, however, decided to come back this past Monday. I just felt like it would be better for me to come back when my students did. Them seeing me here all day, everyday from the start helps them to see me not as "the assistant", but more as a "real teacher". It's funny though because they asked me today if I would be there tomorrow because last semester I was not in the classroom because I had to attend my methods classes.

I have assumed all morning routines and have been planning and implementing lessons for reading. In addition, I have been planning work station activities for the students to complete during Guided Reading. Our theme is Voices of the Revolution, and our anthology selection has been about Paul Revere. One of the work station activities was called "Old Words, New Words", in which students search the selection for 'old' words that the author uses that are not used much today (ex: porringer). Then they were to look up a definition for the word or use context clues to define it. Finally they were to write a 'new word' or a synonym to the old world that we use today (ex: bowl). The second activity was writing a narrative from the perspective of Paul Revere's horse (how he felt during the ride, what his/her personality is like.

I wanted to do the same two activities for the whole class because I felt like it would allow students to work together and get help from each other because there was a strong likelihood they were working on the same activity. Unfortunately, it did not go as planned. It wasn't a total disaster but there were quite a few students who were not very productive during this time. After observing which students were working, I noticed that most of my students who struggle with reading were the ones who were off task/disruptive. I think the task of the "Old Words, New Words" was a bit too challenging. Even with my assistance, it still wasn't clicking. Lesson Learned: I have to work harder to differentiate these activities. It would be great if they all could do the same one, but that is not realistic. I am well aware of differentiation, but for whatever reason, it never occurred to me to differentiate work station activities. Well, those who know better, do better!

I have cut my hours down at the after school program from 3 to 2 days/week. I must say, it felt pretty great to be home before 6:30pm!! I left school at 4 after getting some things ready for tomorrow...hopefully I'll take advantage of this and get to bed a little earlier! We are supposed to get about 4-7 inches of snow, high winds and cold temps...snow day??!!!??!