Monday, November 17, 2008

Do I Smell??

Last week was hard. I was feeling really sad about losing Cindy Wilson and thinking about the Wilson family. Let's just say my mind was not in the job, and what I needed more than anything was a good laugh. Enter my new student. Since my mind was not in the job, I had forgotten about an important meeting I had in the morning. I realized I needed to leave the house much earlier than I had planned, so I didn't have time to blow dry and straighten my hair. Instead I put in some gel and scrunch-curled it. Changes like this don't sit very well with kids who need consistency. He immediately walked up to me and said with authority and a scrunched brow, "Different." "What's different?" I asked. He pointed sharply at my head and repeated, "different." "Oh," I said. "Is my hair different today?" He nodded, still looking angry. As the morning went on, the obsession continued. "You grow out your hair?" he asked. "You grew all your hair out last night?" "No," I tried to explain. "I can't grow all my hair out in one night." Finally he walked up to me trimphantly. "I know Ston, I know. I know about your hair." "Okay." I was curious now. "What did you figure out about my hair?" "Oh Ston," he said laughing. "You finally take a shower! You finally take a shower, Ston!" There was the laugh I needed.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Stress of the Test

I can't make this stuff up. This is a real story written by a real girl in my class. Here's a little context. Twice a year we are required to give every student a reading assessment. The assessment we use takes about 20 minutes per kid and determines their reading level. I plan very specifically to make this as low-stress of a situation as possible, while making sure they know how important it is to do their best. This speicific child has been having some struggles in reading and had not grown last year as expected. I told her mom she would likely need to be referred to our Title I reading assistance teachers to get some extra help. A few weeks after I gave her the assessment this story showed up in her Writer's Notebook:
"My Reading Assessment. My teacher gave me my reading assessment today. I was so nervous. When she came and called me out, I almost couldn't breath. We sat down at the table and my heart started pounding so fast I thought it would jump out of my chest. She told me to do my best, but I was so nervous! That night my teacher called my mom. Ring ring. 'Hello?' I said. It was MY TEACHER!! I couldn't believe she was calling at my house at night! When she asked to talk to my mom I couldn't even say anything. I was SPEECHLESS. Why was my teacher calling me at night? Except I knew why she was calling. She was going to talk to my mom about my reading assessment. I gave the phone to my mom. I held my breath the entire time she was on the phone. I thought I might pass out! My mom said my teacher said I did good on my assessment, but I was still going to be in Title I. Title I. I was scared. But I love my teacher and I know she'll help me learn and I'll be the best reader. The End." Is this the most authentic way to see what our kids know?? Made for a funny story though!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why I don't Teach Kindergarten

I LOVE Kindergartners! They are so tiny, and cute, and (usually) so innocent. Sometimes I think it would be so fun to teach Kindergarten just to spend time with the adorable little kids. Then I have experiences that remind me why I can't do it. Its one of the most dreaded days of the year. Bus evacuation drill day. In the morning all the teachers walk around and give each other sympathetic looks that say "Yes, its bus evacuation day". The bus evacuation drill only takes about 20 minutes. That's not the bad part. Its everything leading up to it and afterwards. The entire day is filled to the brim with questions like this, "What if the bus has a fire in the front and in the back and in the middle and its upside down and in water and the bus driver can't talk and the windows won't open and we can't open the back door...what do we do then?" On and on the questions go. Knowing this, I prepped my class carefully. "The bus driver will ask if you have questions," I warn " and 3 kids can ask her a question and then we're done! If you have more questions talk about them with your parents at home." I love third grade. They heard me, they understood, I was home free. We had to share the bus so they could get through more classes at once. We were sharing with the cute, tiny, precious Kindergarten class. My "big kids" sat in the back and I watched as the wide eyed Kindergartners sat on the bus in front of us. I started to feel uneasy when the Kindergartners answered every thing the bus driver said literally. Bus driver: "How are we today?" My class: smiles. Kindergartners: "GOOD! Last night was my dad's birthday and we had a cake and I gave him a present and he liked it and we played a game..."etc. This continued until the dreaded part, "questions?" It was not so dreaded because I knew I had prepared my class. However, 25 Kindergarten hands flew up in the air. "Oh no," I thought. "Here comes the disaster questions." The driver called on a little girl sitting in front of me, "Yes, what's your bus question" she said. The girl said without hesitation, "I really love school and I'm glad I made new friends." The driver and I exchanged puzzled looks. "Ok," she said. "Anyone else have questions about what to do in a bus emergency? " Another Kindergarten hand. "I love dogs," said a little boy. Then and there I decided, I can't teach Kindergarten. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Indians and the Native Americans

A girl in my class has been learning about her Native American roots from her family. In 3rd grade we study Native Americans so she's been very into her cultural roots the last few months. The other day we had done some free writing time and I asked for volunteers to do Author's Chair. (Author's Chair is when students read a piece of their writing to the class and receive positive and constructive feedback from their peers.) This particular student was desperate to be the first to share. She begins reading her story and it goes something like this: "So, a long time ago there were the Native Americans and the Indians. The Native Americans came here on a big ship. When they got here, the Native Americans saw the Indians. The Indians taught the Native Americans all kinds of stuff. The Indians showed the Native Americans how to plant corn. The Native Americans had no idea how to plant or make any food until the Native Americans showed them how. Then the Native Americans and the Indians had a big war. The Indians beat the Native Americans in the war and the Native Americans made the Indians leave the land. And that's why they're called Native Americans." There was about 20 seconds of complete silence while I tried to find something to say. "Ok," I said. "I think we all learned something new today.

A "green dice" hero!

So, I have the joy and struggle this year of having a student with severe mental disabilities in my class. He is incredibly sweet and loving, and adds quite a bit of unexpected variety to my day. He frequently brings toys and random objects from home to school, which always creates problems. A few weeks ago he brought a green die (single dice). I quickly reminded him that things from home had to stay in his backpack. What happens when I try to make him put toys away is this: me:"Put the toy away." Him:"No." Me: "I would hate for you to lose your special toy." Him: "I'm going to throw my toy at him" (gestures to another student). Me: "No, will not throw it at him. I'm going to put it over here on this table." Him: "YOU STOLE MY TOY!!! ITS NOT YOUR TOY!! YOU CAN'T STEAL IT!! I'M TELLING EVERYONE YOU STOLE MY TOY!! DON'T STEAL MY TOY!!" As I see the green dice I know this entire conversation is coming. So I asked him to just keep the die in his pocket. He puts it in the tiny little pocket on his shirt that is barely big enough to hold a single die. Throughout the beginning of the morning I see him take out the die every time I turn around. I keep reminding him to put it away and he reminds me that I "better not steal" his toy. After I pick up the class from P.E. I see him lean over in the hallway and out rolls the green die. The green square rolls all the way down the hallway towards me. I quickly look at him to see if he's noticed the absence of the die in his pocket. He doesn't. I think to myself, "This is my golden opportunity to get rid of this problem." I pick up the die and put it in my pocket, undetected. We go back to the classroom and begin working on spelling. About 10 minutes later my student stands up and yells, "STON!!" (He can't say "Langston" so he calls me "ston"...its one of my favorite things ever!) "STON!! MY GREEN DICE, MY GREEN DICE IS GONE!!" I ask the class to get started on the spelling assignment. "Oh no." I say to him."What do you think happened to your green dice?" "P.E." he says. "Lost at P.E." "Oh no." I respond looking very concerned. "So maybe you should have put it in your backpack like I said huh?" He's panicking now and asking to go back to P.E. to find it. I assure him he can't go down there by himself, and I can't go with him because I have to stay with the rest of the class. But I promise him I will go look for it later in the day. All the while, a big square is sticking out of my pants' pocket where I have the green die. He spends the rest of the morning pretty solemn, lamenting every so often, "Ston, my dice. My dice, Ston!' When I go to pick up the class from lunch, I see he's still feeling very subdued. After lunch he goes to his special education pull-out class, and I knew he was ready to know the truth. "Guess what?" I say with a twinkle in my eye. "At lunch I found your green dice." I present it to him out of my pocket. Immediately his eyes light up, a huge smile spreads across his face, and he wraps himself around me. "Oh Ston!" he exclaims. "Ston, ston you find my green dice, my green dice!" "Now, what should I do with it?" I ask him, holding my breath for the answer I'm hoping for. "Pack-pack," he says quickly. "Ston, put it in my pack-pack." YES! I've won! Problem solved. Just when I think it couldn't get better, I get another warm hug and the words that stay with me still: "Ston, you're my green dice hero!" Perfection.