Friday, November 30, 2007

Oprah, Disney Channel, & Fifth Grade Thoughts

I guess my first mistake was using a quote from Oprah Winfrey. The other quote this week came from Lady Bird Johnson.

(My students reflect on and respond to two quotes a week as part of their homework.)

The one from Oprah Winfrey states:
"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down."

On Fridays the students discuss the quotes from the week. Sometimes they have fantastic, deep, thoughtful ideas to share. Other times I wonder if we were all reading the same quote. No matter what, it has always been an interesting discussion and one most of them actively participate in.

Their responses to the Oprah Winfrey quote were apt and showed them making connections. Sadly, most of those connections were to Hannah Montana or The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Not the most high brow discussion.

My classroom is a house of share, and you have made it a den of thieves

Funny things that happened on the way to the book fair:

- A disappearing, reappearing wallet.

- Mob like money deals.

- A black market economy that involved tax evasion.

As furious as I was, it was hard to be mad at the entrepreneurs who justified their product. They were just meeting the demand of the class: the scarcity of the raw material made their product a hot commodity.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back to Really Working

I've had an intern working in my classroom for the past four weeks. She did all of the planning, teaching, assessing, and grading. I went in a observed a handful of times. The rest of the time, I was out of my classroom. I observed in first and second grades, I delivered literary magazines to numerous classrooms around the school, I organized some books in the reading room, and I read blogs. I haven't figured out how I'm going to keep up with my blog reading as I return to the classroom. Actually doing the job I'm being paid for seems daunting now. Fortunately, a new intern will start his time in my room in December and take over for four weeks in April. I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


A project was due on Tuesday. A student came to school with empty hands and tears in his eyes: "I had it this morning!" "I left it at home."

Tuesday evening, a post was left on our class discussion board. A post to a forum about the project. Specifically, a post to a thread entitled "Need Help! Ask questions here!" in a forum about the project.

This post asked for help: "I really need help ASAP I can't find my project check up and forgot the topics." Part of me says: "Maybe he was just checking his work before he turned it in on Wednesday." But the student in me, the student who can still taste procrastination in her breakfast cereal, has other thoughts.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Plaid and Science

Reactions when the guest scientist walked in:


"Where is his lab coat?"

"He's wearing plaid!!"

Reactions when the guest scientist walked out:

Buzz of questions.

Students with stars, of both varieties, in their eyes.

Missing ScienceSauruses. My suspicion is they are brushing up on plate tectonics and the life span of a sun, so they can talk like a scientist, too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Changed for the Better

I am in pre-mourning. My intern will be leaving after Thanksgiving. T-24 days. T-16 school days.* I am not sure I know how to teach without an intern.

An intern forced discipline on me - I had to: talk through my thoughts; justify my choices; grade assessments on a regular schedule; and keep an organized classroom. Lazy teaching was not an option. However, my mind grew accustomed to the "What abouts?" "What ifs?" and "Tell me mores." I found myself energized about teaching and excited about lesson planning; the classroom became a club house.

The questions became conversation: "We should trys." "Wouldn't be cool if wes?" "Next time, we shoulds." We found ourselves suppressing giggles in class, rehashing (mostly re-enacting) our highs of the day, convincing our students that we could tell each other mind jokes. We became a team.

I know the dance moves for teaching alone. I can say my lines and jazz my hands. I will high step and kick ball change. But the stage will be lonely; I will miss the big musical numbers of team teaching.

*These days might be off. As I have said before, I am a slow writer. It might be T - a week now.

How We Entertain Ourselves

One of many email conversations between Tree and Jenny:

Tree: Your nonintern is looking for you.

Jenny: I assume you mean J?
I'm in the reading room working with A.

T: Thanks, when he wonders back this way I will direct him.
I am having him come into my class and talk to my students as a scientist next Thursday. He is going to answer their parking lot question of "How do worms make babies?" He did not want to touch the widow spider questions.

J: I think you should prep them to ask the widow spider questions no matter what.
By the way, that's a great use of his time! Way to go!

T: Do you think it is because he is actually a black widow spider and he lives in fear of the day his mate eats him?

J: That would explain a lot. Does he have to get married for his mate to eat him or just in a monogamous relationship? Is that the sort of question your students have?

T: I am not sure if any of my students would think of that question, but it is a good one. Do black widow spiders get married?

J: Another good question.
What sort of questions do your kids have about black widow spiders?

T: Does the husband know the wife will eat him? Is the wife bigger then the husband?

J: Good for them. Why doesn't J want to get involved with these questions?
Is the husband knows the wife will eat him I would expect even more severe commitment issues than our species has.

T: I cannot understand your third question.
And it is because Jon is a black widow spider. He also does not like Rent.

J: The final sentence should have started with "if" rather than "is". Does that help?
Even the Seasons of Love song? Because that is just wrong.

T: Makes much more sense now. True. But maybe, the male black widow spiders look forward to such fate.
Especially the seasons of love song. He called that song that keeps repeating those numbers. He made an argument about how it was post-modern and the writer/ actors/ singers were too self aware of being post modern. I am not a fan of the term post modern because it takes the fun out of everything. Thanks Professor Singerman!! Can't I just like it because it is pretty??? But I digress, my argument was, BUT THEY BREAK OUT IN SONG!!!! BUT THEY BREAK OUT IN DANCE!!! And that doesn’t really help in a post modern debate.

J: I've never seen so many connections between male black widow spiders and men as I have today.
I like your argument. I don't care if it doesn't help much in a post modern debate. I think he's overanalyzing Rent and should just sit back and enjoy.

T: They are singing on tables!! They are singing to an answering machine!!!
But then again, this is the girl who LOVED West Side Story because THEY DANCE ON THE STREET!!! IT IS COORDINATED!!!

J: I'm less a fan of West Side Story, but I'll give you the coordinated street dancing joy.

Somehow, we do manage to teach our students.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Email conversation between me and AB:

* Did you get this month's newsletter? And do you so not secretly want to go to the big conference.

* I totally haven't gotten it yet! But I'm sure I will secretly want to go to the big conference… what are the details? Any chance (our principal) would send us?

It is during our work week: July 22–23, 2008; Simmons College, Boston.

* Who needs work week?How much fun would Boston be in the summer?

* How great would it be if there was a baseball game that weekend!

If there is a baseball game then, we have to ask to go .

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Geeky Mom

The other night my four-year-old daughter was eating some M&M's from her Halloween take. She began sorting the M&M's by color. So, I decided to take it up a notch. I worked with her and we created a graph with her M&M's. We put all the blue ones in a line, the yellow ones in a line beside the blue ones, the red ones in a line beside the yellow ones, and so on. Then I asked her questions about them. Which color has the most? Which has the least? Which two colors have the same amount? She ate it up! (Sorry, bad pun.)

She continued talking about it as she ate them. "If I eat a blue one there will only be five blues." "If I eat a yellow one yellow will have the least." And so on. I enjoyed watching her and discussing what she was doing and thinking.

Then, the next night I let her have some goldfish at the end of the meal. This is what she did with them on her own.

Clearly, she's as geeky as I am.

Broken Nails and broken hearts

I am very vain. I like having shiny hair. I like being a petite stature. I loved my perfectly manicured nails. No polish on these babies, the natural rosie nail beds and white tips did not need to hide behind bright reds varnishes.

I loved my nails. But today, I broke two nails. Broke Two. Normal wear and tear of the teaching day? Not for me. Heavy labor? Only typing and some dictionary browsing. Classroom catastrophe? Not in the classroom - intern has commandeered the teaching.

No, the only cause of this disaster effect is emotional. One of my favorite students is leaving. He is smart, and funny, and caring, and creative. But he is also slow in transitions, still developing his fine motor skills, often 2 steps behind during the lesson, and defiant to strangers. Will his new teacher see beyond is round about monologues? Will the new teacher know that through his garbled speech he is making a connection between Native Americans and steps in multiplication? That he only needs gentle reminders about eye contact and off task behavior? That he needs a couple of weeks, not a couple of days, to fully understand a new routine?

Will the new teacher write off his glimmers of insight as anomalies inside this often off task student? I wish I had faith enough in education to say yes, the new teacher will see and foster his potential. That no matter what the school, no matter what the county, that any educator will see this whole child, creating an empowering environment for this child that supports the weaknesses and encourages the strengths.

But I don't have this faith. I am suspicious of the county he will be moving to. I do not know his new school. I do not know if he will be lost in a broken system, where he will be defined by his weaknesses rather then his strengths.

And I am powerless; and my nails are showing the result.