like a wrecking ball:

It’s official. I may not have a teaching partner next year.

Wisteria got her observational review, and it was horrid. Supposedly she has no classroom management and doesn’t have a good rapport with students… which is something I’m not altogether sure I agree or disagree with. I know she cusses at them. I know she’s “put her hands on them” (i.e. Gibbs-slapped them).

That being said, Wysteria is one of my favorite people at the school and I can’t imagine not having her around. She’s been the one to keep me sane. She’s the one who taught me all my tips and tricks, led me through dark times, and made me both laugh and cry (from laughing).

I’ll be devastated if she leaves, but I know she’s gonna fight it with all she’s got.

 

One of my students tried to kill himself last week. Thistle tried to hang himself twice, once at home and once in the psych ward. Come Thursday, he was back in my classroom.

Nothing like sending a student back to school before he’s dealt with a serious issue…

He seems to be doing alright for now. He’s been drugged to oblivion, and now all he wants to do is sit and draw. I’m working on bringing him back into doing work, because for the first couple of days I was concerned that his medication might interact with some other issues that he has so I didn’t push him. I guess we will see. 🙂

 

Also, my friend Topaz had to be rushed to the hospital the other day. She collapsed in the hallway and had to be escorted out on a stretcher. Seems like she has had this happen before and hadn’t told anyone about it. Of course no one knew what to do, and her little gemstones were terrified–seeing your teacher fall is definitely terrifying. It was utter chaos, and of course I was the only one able to contact the mother since I have her older daughter in my class. Sis wasn’t answering the phone for Orange, no matter that her younger daughter is in Orange’s class.

Good to have connections, I guess.

 

Today was the first day of M-STEP testing, as well. Thankfully I started with the girls–they listen well and they tried so hard. It took them more than 3 hours to get finished, and there are a couple still who aren’t finished yet. I’m hopeful that most of them did well. I guess we will see in time!

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how to spell help:

I can say with some irritation it’s been a while since I have posted anything here. It’s not that I plan to not include what I’m doing… it’s simply that between my Master’s program and teaching full-time, I don’t have the energy some days. Other days it’s just that I don’t remember.

Anyway, I’ve had a lot happen in the last few weeks–we made our own fossils out of plaster, 30 kids earned 2 weeks of lunch detention with the principal, I found out that I actually get to keep my laptop (which blows my mind because it’s pretty expensive, honestly–but SIG funds paid for them as our incentives last year so there’s that), and oh yeah–my Kid Power package came.

I’m really excited to get moving on this project with my students. For those who don’t know, Kid Power is a UNICEF-based project that allows kids to help other kids. My class wears the special bands and goes about their normal day, but their steps add up to points, and their points unlock food for kids who are starving. As an added bonus, there are lessons provided by UNICEF about the culture of the places we are helping, as well as a series of games and other activities from these countries.

The best part? This program was free to me because I applied to the school program.

Now, you could go out and buy these bands. They sell individually at Target for like $40. Or you could by a classroom set from the UNICEF website… Which, in the case of my expected class of 35 or so, would set me back a heavy $1,750 (without tax, of course). But UNICEF also selects schools to participate, and they receive everything free–bands, a tablet to sync everything to (with its own massive data plan), charging blocks, power cords, and a bunch of other cool stuff.

Needless to day that’s the route we went. DPSCD isn’t rich, after all.

Luckily, we got selected. They only serve something like 30 schools a year.

I managed to get all of the bands unwrapped and plugged in, then registered and synced last night. Each one displays the time, steps taken, points accumulated, and the user’s name, which will help when I’m charging 40 bands at a time. I’m not sure I’d want to try and sort that mess back out!

I let the kids wear them today, and play with them. And do you know, my kids were begging me to run errands and to stand up to do their work? They were running in place behind their chair, and even trying to run in place in their chairs. They did Zumba on GoNoodle, and they jogged in place in line. They wanted to get their steps in… and some of them got nearly to their daily goal (12,000 steps; each point costs 2,400 steps and food packets cost 10 points)! They are thrilled to bits to have a new “toy”… but they also had some really good conversations about helping others, and that was awesome to hear.

I told the kids about my own experience in elementary school, where I created and ran my own fundraiser to buy toys for children living in a group home, and they were excited. It might seem like a smaller thing now, but at the time it was a BIG deal. And I want my kids to love helping others too!

I can’t wait to see how things go through this program!

livin’ on a prayer:

I don’t normally spend a lot of time in prayer. I’m still figuring out where I stand on God, given some of the things I’ve gone through in my life. It’s an issue that I have been struggling with for years, honestly, and I don’t know that it will clear up anytime soon.

Either way, I will admit that I prayed all the way to work today. Not active prayer–I didn’t promise God anything, or offer to change myself, or beg for help. I just had God on my mind all the way to school–which is enough for me right now.

I did make it to school safely, though I had to pass a lot of accidents on the road. Seems that the ice caused everyone to slip all over the place and a lot of ambulances tore by us on the left-hand side of the freeway. I’m glad I left early!

 

Today itself was pretty uneventful. Students did what they needed to do. I re-Sorted my students into their Houses and got them working on a test review. We’re getting ready to make our own fossils, so we started addressing that too since I want them to know how to behave.

I also prepped them for the Network Leaders coming in tomorrow. I don’t want them to be surprised when a troupe of adults walks through the room and asks them a bunch of questions, but the do know how to behave when they are in my classroom, so that’s a relief too.

We celebrated two birthdays today, both in my morning class–Colt and Cat both turned 10 today. Colt’s mother brought everyone home-made cupcakes, and we sang Happy Birthday (the 3-verse version) for Colt. We followed that with a high-speed version for Cat, which she enjoyed immensely and wanted us to do again for the entertainment value. We declined, but I know I could have quite easily started it over again several times!

 

I did have to write up Ash, which was a bummer for me. He’s a good kid, but a bad student–his parents don’t care, so he doesn’t care. I hope he can turn himself around soon because I know he is better than juvie… which is where he says he wants to go. I’m pretty sure he’s just talking tough because another student in the class nearly ended up there over the attempted arson before Christmas.

There’s simply no way it should take him between twenty and sixty minutes every day, conveniently when I’m supposed to be teaching the class, to go to the bathroom. I don’t know what he’s doing in there, but I sure know he’s not “using a stall” for that long. Apparently the Queen agrees with me, because Ash doesn’t get to go to lunch recess anymore–instead, he gets to go sit outside her office door with his lunch every day until he gets himself figured out.

 

The Queen also continued her attack plan on the 4th grade today–she kept about 12 kids from both classes in her office for lunch, where they were lectured on the expectations of the school. They don’t get to go out until they have themselves together–which means they aren’t running around screaming in the lunchroom, being general pains-in-the-asses in class, and remember what the actual rules are for daily life.

This started on Friday, when I mentioned during my data meeting that the kids were out of control. One of them, either Ash or Elm, had put a “Kick Me” sign on Sporty Spice’s back two days before. Both classes were running wild in the lunchroom on Thursday, and Sporty can’t manage 50 kids alone. It’s not even fair to ask! Her partner-teacher during that time, a lady I’ll call Umbridge, doesn’t do much to support Sporty–she just sits there and stares until something goes wrong and then flips out about it.

The Queen was livid. She was so far past angry that she moved into that scary-calm, when your face is carefully blank and your eyes contain the pits of Hell. You know what I’m talking about, right? Anyhow, the Queen decreed the Plants weren’t going outside and That Was That. She also pulled a few of the Animals, because realistically some of them act like that as well. The rest went to lunch.

Since the Queen came to my partner-teacher’s (let’s call her Wisteria) room 20 minutes late, our lunch was extended by 20 minutes, per royal decree. We left, bemused, and figured she would only keep them there for a few minutes. You know, straighten them out, let ’em have it, and then send them to lunch. No problem.

Boy, were we wrong.

We came back from our lunch and moved into my room–and found out the Queen hadn’t sent them down to lunch yet… and it was 20 minutes past their lunchtime. I think she’d lost track of time honestly. She said she’d take them downstairs and all I can figure is they lost their fool minds… because they were gone for another hour, nearly, learning how to travel and behave in the school hallways and lunchroom.

Of course, all I could do is laugh. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen. I mean, you can’t give the principal the respect she deserves? Holy moly!

 

this is not a drill:

I don’t even know what to say about today.

It started off the same as any other Wednesday. Come in, eat a part of breakfast, go to Playworks… And then things got hairy.

Playworks is an AmeriCorps program (like City Year), but it has a different aim. Playworks aims to teach kids how to play and work together, while City Year corps members work on behavior, attendance, and grades in English and math. City Year attend classes with students, while Playworks is led by a corps coach.

Anyhow, we had Playworks this morning, so we showed up for our dedicated hour. I got a chance to work on my homework while the kids played with Sporty Spice (here come the fun name changes! 🙂 ). She’s all about furthering education and wants to run a school of her own one day, and while she can’t be left alone with the kids because of liability issues, she was excited to see I brought my homework. She told me with a lot of enthusiasm that I ought to sit and do it. It was a pretty nice feeling!

We came back and struggled with our math problems, took care of Pickle Me Wednesday, and sat through a surprise lecture by Hawk about how to eat healthily. After she left, I sent Slytherin table to the bathroom… and that’s when things went south.

The Queen came on the loudspeaker demanding a lockdown, high-pitched and anxious. Panic on the loudspeaker is never good. I sent another student to get the Slytherins and all four tables sat down on the floor with books. Door locked, lights off and shades down, we waited silently for adults to “test” our preparations by jerking on the door handle, banging on the door, and begging to come in.

When that didn’t happen, I started to panic.

When my students started asking if it was a drill, I asked them calmly if it mattered. “We treat drills like they’re real every time, don’t we? That’s what we have drills for. To practice.”

Luckily, that was enough to get them back on track to how to handle a “drill.”

We couldn’t have been sitting there for more than half an hour, but it was the longest half hour of my life.

The official story is that two men came to the school to pick up a child. While one came in, somewhere between nine and twelve cop cars, marked and unmarked, pulled up. The cops all piled out and drew their guns–apparently the man in the car was wanted for some kind of serious crime besides the theft of the car he was driving from my hometown (a good half-hour away). The best information that we have is that it was related to drugs and possibly included firearms as well.

Why did they come to school, you ask?

To pick up one of my students, who had called home and complained of sickness.

 

They would have come into my classroom.

 

Talk about nightmare-fodder.

a new year means new things:

I know it’s already the 10th, and that puts me behind. At the same time, I know that I need to do something to better myself, something to keep my days from slipping away. So here it is–I want to write a little, every day. I want to make a running memory of my years to make sure I don’t forget the millions of things I’m learning.

To start, I work for a school in the “new” DPSCD district. This is only halfway through my third year of teaching, but I can tell you that I’m already a much stronger teacher than I used to be. I’ve learned to love but not to bleed, to be liked but not walked on, to push but not to demand the impossible. I’m not afraid to say silly things, and I’m not afraid that I will ruin anyone’s childhood anymore either. I’m not afraid to play with the kids and I’m not afraid to throw things, stand on desks, or get messy (yes, there are plenty of stories there too).

I teach 4th grade. It’s a hellish year anywhere, but the urban setting seems to have given my students a much more aggressive shove into puberty–everything from the petty fights and unwarranted tears to an overly large helping of bad attitude and attempted arson. Let’s add to that the fact that I’m a female teacher, and that most of my boys are being raised by their mothers only (yes, it makes a difference!) and that every single one of my students is African American, and it makes for some interesting cultural and racial conversations.

I have to appreciate their willingness to have those conversations though. I don’t start them, and I don’t tell them what to think. Instead I just ask them questions and let them draw their own conclusions. Usually I get a surprising amount of honesty and at least a couple of good laughs.

Anyway, I’m off track.

So this blog is going to be a record of my year, of moments and experiences that I have and how my days go. I’m also going to add in past experiences and thoughts as I have time, because some of the things I learned from those are important. I know a lot of people don’t care, or don’t know, or don’t want to know… but you’re here. So I’m assuming you do.

I have two classes, “B” and “A.” “B” class is my homeroom class–I have them in the morning, and I teach them math and science, as well as a class called “Test-Taking Strategies” and a math centers block. “A” class just gets math, math centers, and science. All that being said, “B” is the higher level class; it operates at a 3rd-4th grade math level and a 3rd-4th grade science level. “A” class, however, is operating at  1st-2nd grade level in both areas, although they are coming up as the year goes on.

I also have two City Year corps members. More on that later.