Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Students Like Me So Much They Want Me To Meet Their Parents, As Soon As Possible

I have learned most of the dance moves to Feist's 1 2 3 4 and I have my smartboard to thank. My smartboard and my intern, who probably reported to her site facilitator that her mentor is a crack pot. What else would explain the fact that she times her transitions in "Take Me Out to the Ballgames?" my intern would calmly explain. She would continue her argument that her students ASKED for parent-teacher conferences. There must be something wrong with that picture. What student asks for their teacher to talk to their parents? Students whose teacher demands that they know all eight presidents born in Virginia before they can have a new glue stick, she would point out.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Race Plays a Role

The morning message in my classroom today is about the Little Rock Nine. The message briefly describes the event in history and then asks if students have heard of it? Of the 14 students who signed the message (I'll ignore my frustration with the 5 who didn't) only one had heard of the event. She is African American.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Hear Him

Attempting to get certain 5th grade boys to focus on what their teacher deems important rather than what they deem important can be a real challenge. (I don't mean to sound sexist, it's true for certain girls as well.)

My students had to write about themselves in 100 words or less recently. All but one have managed to draft, do some great revising, edit and get my help with editing, and publish (both on paper and on their blogs). This last young man can't get it done.

On Friday I finally told him that I really wanted him to finish this.

His response?

Me too. I really want to be done with this. Don't let this face fool you.

I don't think it was the face that was sending me the message.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Overheard in a Fifth Grade Classroom

After struggling for more than five minutes to work a decimal multiplication problem the student was told he could quit working on it and go back to his seat: "That would have been helpful to know a few minutes ago."

Seeing email on a student's worst list, the teacher asked about it: "It takes so long to get a response back."

After being chastised for forgetting to put his name on a paper and having the paper bonked on his head: "Come on! It says no name, not no concussion."

Sunday, September 9, 2007


For those of you who don't know me personally (and, quite possibly, those who do) this post may paint pictures a little too personal or intimate for your tastes. Consider yourself warned.

I had an experience last week that truly illustrated for me the realities of a day in the life of an elementary school teacher. I arrived at school at 7:30 and immediately headed off to a meeting. This meeting lasted until 8:15 by which time my class had arrived. Fortunately I am working with an intern who could get the day started. As soon as I got to my room I had to leave to go to Local Screening (discussing a student with ADD). That was another hour of the morning. I got back to my room in time to teach reading and word study before lunch. Lunch was my only break for the day. After lunch I had to be ready for math, writing, an observation by a reading coach, and another local screening meeting. Needless to say, I was feeling rushed at lunch.

A bit of important information (and the personal bit): I have a 7-month-old daughter who is breastfeeding and I spend part of lunch everyday pumping.

After dropping the students off at the cafeteria and making a few copies, I hurried back to my classroom. I grabbed my lunch and the pump and got started. After a few seconds I found my lap soaked. Sadly, it took a couple more seconds for me to realize that I had started the pump without attaching any bottles.

Clearly elementary school teachers need more time for all the things on their plates.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Empty Pep

I have pep rally baggage. Not a suitcase full, not even a tote bag. Just a casual, medium size hand bag. Think Vera Bradley's Betsy. In some faded old black pattern. Maybe the one with chicken eggs. Small bag, from years ago, often forgotten, but still in the back of my closet.

The baggage is empty. And that is my pep rally problem. I have no community spirit. Specifically, I have no school spirit. I skipped pep rallies in high school; college football games were about the food, not the score; and I never went to a college (or high school) basketball game. It is not that I hope my team/ school/ community loses. I just don't care enough to see them win.

And so, with this long drawn out written therapy session over, I will tell you my interpretation of yesterday's pep rally:

1. The 4th and 5th graders should have been dismissed the moment they started acting like hooligans.

2. Students need a greater understanding of why we have pep rallies. There is no sports game. We did not win some major competition. So why would the average student care about who the SCA reps are in the other classrooms?

3. If I am going to preach about "what should be done" - we should have some sort of school wide activity; we should have upper grade students act as "leaders" to the lower grades during the school song and the school cheer - I should be willing to initiate action. But I am not. I like my quilted chicken egg purse, and I am not ready to part with it yet.

Chants, Swearing, and Threats

That describes an elementary school pep rally.

What? You've never been to one? Really? How can that be?

We start every year with a pep rally run by our SCA. We swear in our new SCA classroom representatives and do some school-wide chants to promote school spirit.

This year's should have taken place a couple of weeks ago, but it had to be postponed after we lost power for most of the day and the fire alarm randomly went off requiring a visit from the fire department. So, it was the end of the fifth week before we had our 'start-of-the-school-year' pep rally.

We have it at the end of the day on a Friday. Not surprisingly it's hard to get the kids to behave. One of the teachers in charge threatened to send the fourth and fifth grades back to their rooms if they couldn't behave. I'd have happily taken my class.

Call me a grinch, say I have no school spirit, but I could do without elementary school pep rallies.

William Henry Harrison? Really?

For week 5 in grade 5 my students created top 5 lists in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. On the whole it was intriguing (sometimes disturbing, sometimes enlightening). For all five lists, see here.

The shocking list was the famous Virginians. The kids studied Virginia history in fourth grade so I figured it would be something they could all contribute to. They did.

I had to step in and delete Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Helen Keller from the list. Lincoln and Grant were at least studied in fourth grade, I have no idea where Helen Keller came from. Otherwise their list was fine (notice, I don't use a more glowing adjective). They included the obvious: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, James Madison, Robert E. Lee. They also had some interesting ones: Patrick Henry, Maggie Lena Walker, Harriet Tubman, John Smith. I added Pocahontas to the list (the only time I added to any list, I felt we needed more female representation).

Their final list:
  1. Pocahontas (a testament to the number of girls in my class - 13 out of 19)
  2. Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson (really? why? just for the stonewall nickname? could there be any other reason?)
  3. Thomas Jefferson (good thing he's here; between their fourth grade teacher and myself we have three degrees from UVA)
  4. Harriet Tubman (a stretch, not technically a Virginian, but see earlier comment about female representation)
  5. William Henry Harrison (HONESTLY? WTF? Would you even know he was a Virginian? How did he make the top 5?)