Sunday, May 27, 2007

Best and Worst

The best and worst parts of first grade, as written by the 2/3 of my class that showed up on the last day of school. (This year I forgot to say that parties couldn't be written down as the best part of first grade. Last year I believe that I told them they could only write down learning activities...)

The best part of first grade was when we had a Dance Party because I like parties.
The best part of first grade was when we had a party. Do you remember when we had a dance party? I liked when we had May Day Play Day. I liked when we put the names on the reading board.
The best part of first grade was when we planted flowers.
The best part of first grade was reading. I like Sir Small and the Dragonfly.
The best parts of first grade were when we had a party and when I read a book.
The best part of first grade is when we do calendar. Calendar is my favorite thing.
The best part of first grade was when A-- and me made the purple paper. I liked when we planted some flowers. I liked when we sounded the words.
The best part of first grade was when we had a party. I was so happy we filled up our marble jar.
The best part of first grade was when Ms. Hayes did a silly dance to Tooty Ta.
The best part of first grade was when we had the party. It was a great day at the party. We had chips and juice.
The best part of first grade was planting flowers. I like: taking AR tests, reading books, making 100 on tests, having a dance party, putting words on Ms. Hayes’s desk and on the walls, reading word wall, and having a costume party.

The worst part of first grade was word wall, because it takes too long.
The worst part of first grade was when we ate some hot chili. The worst part of first grade was when ms. Hayes do some silly dances.
The worst part of first grade was when we were at the Planetarium. I couldn’t hear what she was saying.
The worst part of first grade was when we do not read. I like to read so my brain can get bigger and bigger.
The worst part of first grade was when we went home from school.
I don’t like word wall.
The worst part of first grade was when Ms. Hayes yells. The worst part of first grade is when children talk.
The worst part of first grade was when we were doing math.
The worst part of first grade was when we was doing word wall.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Zoo Trip!

Thank you so much to everyone who donated money to help fund the first grade's trip to the zoo. Everyone had a fantastic time. The favorite animals were an enormous python who was in the process of shedding his skin, the monkeys who ran up and banged on the windows of their enclosure when the students got close, and the baby giraffe (and his blue tongue.) We also stopped by the "aquarium" part of the zoo (only one room, but it had a catfish in addition to the tropical fish), and the "farm" part of the zoo, where a goat came close enough to be petted. The zoo class was also a big hit. The kids got to see and touch a snake, a chinchilla, a hedgehog, and a chicken. Here are a few pictures from the trip...

Monday, April 23, 2007


I just saw a link to this article about the integration of prom in a town in Georgia. There are some absolutely stellar quotes from (white) students rationalizing their separate proms.

(Sorry for all of the links lately... I'll update with class news soon.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thank You!

A great big thank you to anyone who contributed to my DonorsChoose Grant to take my kids to the zoo in two and a half weeks. I'm so excited to go, and I know they are going to have a great time!

In other news, check out this New York Times article about infant mortality in the South. They talk almost exclusively about the Delta. And it is totally true -- at least two of my students have had baby brothers or sisters who died.

The health of the people in my area is very poor. Proper nutrition is a large part of the problem. Mississippi is the fattest state, in large part because people primarily eat junk food. My students are normal-sized because of the high metabolisms of childhood, but my friends who teach middle and high school say that many of their students are over-weight. I find some of my students sneaking candy during class. I've pulled melted chocolate bars from pockets. I have to keep my reward candy out of reach because otherwise it disappears into sneaky, sticky fingers. My assistant has taken over two drawers of my file cabinet with her junk food -- generic-brand cheetos and oreos and powdered-sugar mini-doughnuts, which she sits and eats in the back of the classroom. Her school bag frequenty contains gallon-ziploc bags of Kit-Kats and Butterfingers. As you might expect, this, and inadequate dental care (all of Mississippi is considered to be lacking dental care professionals), also leads to tooth decay, as I've mentioned before.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Exploring Animals

DonorsChoose just posted my third proposal on its website. I would like to bring the whole first grade to the zoo at the end of the year, but since the closest zoo is over an hour away in Memphis, costs (especially for the busses) are prohibitively high. Please consider giving a few dollars to help fund this trip!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Important Things

Today was "Parent Conference Day." We had a half day, but I had four kids who didn't come at all and two who came who needed to go immediately home (C- had a crick in his neck, I've never seen him cry in two years before, so it must have been pretty bad; J- was complaining of a stomach ache.) So my class was at the enormous size of 11. Instead of teaching everything again tomorrow, we did some other useful and interesting activities.

One thing we did was read the book, "The Important Book" by Margaret Wise Brown. Then my kids got to write their own paragraph about an object. Their answers were GREAT and completely their own (except in that they were following the format and we discussed describing words ahead of time.) I have fixed the spelling and some of the grammar, but here they are.

The important thing about a grape is that it is sweet. And it is
green. It tastes juicy. It is good. It has a stem at the top. But
the important thing about grapes is that they are sweet.

The important thing about an orange is that you eat it. It tastes
juicy. The color is orange. It is bumpy. But the important thing
about an orange is that you eat it.

The important thing about a lemon is that it is really sour. It looks
like an oval. It smells good. The color is yellow. It feels bumpy.
But the important thing is that it is sour.

The important thing about a quarter is that it is shiny. You can buy
something at the store. It has an eagle on the back. It costs 25
cents. But the important thing about a quarter is that it is shiny.

The important thing about a ring is that you wear it on your finger.
It sounds like ding-a-ding ding when you drop it. A ring is sparkly.
But the important thing about a ring is that you wear it on your

The important thing about juice is that you drink it. It is orange.
It makes me happy. It is wet. Sometimes it is made out of fruit.
But the important thing about juice is that you drink it.

The important thing about socks is that I put them on my feet. The
sock feels good on my feet. It was fresh when you get it out of the
wash. It was stinking when it was on my feet. But the important
thing is that I wear the sock.

The important thing about a cat is that it scratches. It is soft and
it is different colors. You can touch it and you can see it. You can
smell a cat. You can not taste it because it might be nasty and yucky
and gross. A cat can smell like anything. If you smell a cat the fur
will tickle you. It smells bad also. But the important thing about a
cat is that it scratches.

The important thing about a plum is that it has a nut in it. You can
eat a plum. Juice comes running down your face. It tastes juicy and
it is purple and it is sweet and it is a fruit. But it is still a
plum. The important thing about a plum is that it has a nut in it.

The important thing about corn is that you put salt on it. It is
yellow. Corn is good to me. You buy corn at the store. But the
important thing about corn is that you put salt on it.

The important thing about hair is that it grows. When somebody pulls
your hair it hurts so bad. You hair is so soft and beautiful. You
hair is brown or black. Your hair is so pretty. But the important
thing about hair is that it grows.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mmm, Juicy Plumps

I struggle with my students' lack of vocabulary sometimes. Today I was frustrated by their apparent unfamiliarity with adjectives besides color words, good, bad, and words I've previously taught (like fantastic, sticky, and long). I had brought in a few objects and I was trying to elicit words about how they felt. Nobody could give me the word smooth, or any synonyms for it. They could tell me that the book was not rough or bumpy, but all I could get beyond that was that it felt good. As in,

K: "This book feel good, Mi' Hay'."
Me: "Why does it feel good?"
K: "Because I like for to touch it."
Me: "Why do you like touching it?"
K: "Because it feel good."
Me: "In what way does it feel good? Is it soft? Furry? Bumpy? Squishy?"
K: "No."
Me: "How does it feel?"
K: "I like to read books? They be helping you learn?"
Me: "Can you feel that with your hand?"
K: "Squishy?"
Me: "No..."

A few minutes later, we were discussing taste words. I described biting into an apple and having the juice run down my chin, and someone suggested juicy. Since some of the other students were unfamiliar with the word, I asked the class to name things that were juicy (and suggested some un-juicy things of my own to highlight the difference, like bananas.)

Rk-: "Plump."
Me: "Plums?"
Rk-: "Yeah, plumps."

Rv-: "Pear-ple?" (apple eating motion)
Me: "Pear...? Pineapple...?"
Rv-: "I mean pear. It look like an apple?"

Monday, March 05, 2007

Ken Light

This was on Mr. Frailich's blog a while ago, but in case you didn't see it, a photographer took pictures of the Delta in the '90s that look as if they could have been taken 100 years ago... or yesterday. Check them out here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Crazy Afternoon

My classroom was infested this afternoon, by a veritable army of winged ants. They were mostly not flying, but they were crawling around on the floor. R- noticed first. "An ant, Mi' Hay'!" she squealed, pulling her feet up off the floor (unlike in Massachusetts, where the ants are mostly innocuous, Mississippi ants almost all bite.) I stomped on it and showed her its little dead body. (We save the crickets by putting them outside, but I draw the line at ants.) And then I stopped thinking about ants.

For about ten minutes.

Then D- raised his hand. "There are some ants all over the floor," he told me. There were indeed. I decided that we would ignore it and continue with our nine-weeks science exam, with one modification: J-, who normally takes her tests on the floor by my desk (because otherwise she cheats), would sit in her seat instead. I was feeling creepy-crawly, the way you do when you see ants even if they aren't crawling on you, and I could see that my kids were feeling that way, too. And then I felt a sharp pinch on my leg. And then another one.

I got my assistant to take over test-reading duty (she's been remarkably helpful this week, after being very little help at all last week, and moderately helpful the week before that) and hightailed it to the restroom, where I stripped off my pants to shake out any ants and check on my welts. Then I went to the office to find the janitor (who has very toxic-smelling ant-killing spray) and the principal (to ask if we could relocate to the cafeteria.) Neither one was there. The principal was at a meeting at Central Office and the janitor was on his lunch break.

So I went back to the classroom and gathered up my students, our journals, and our pencils. We went to the cafeteria, where they were finishing mopping from lunch, and sat down at a table, much to the annoyance of the cafeteria staff, who informed me that they were not going to clean up after us (all we were doing was writing in our journals???) Instead of wasting the last hour of the day, we spent most of it revising our drafts of some stories. We were going to work on the collages we are doing to go with the stories, but the third graders came in for their "planning period."

Basically, that means that a class of third graders sat at a table in the cafeteria for the last half hour of the day, with nothing to do, basically unsupervised. They call it their "planning period" because that is what their teachers call it, although I don't really understand why the third grade teachers need a half hour more of "planning time" every day, especially if it means their kids are not doing ANYTHING (every class has a half hour per day of either computer lab or library.) Anyhow, the kids were already hyper because it was the end of a testing day during a testing week, and one of their teachers is (unfairly) suspended. An assistant teacher sat with them for a while, then he left for a while, then he came back and WRESTLED with another assistant to the cheering of the students, then he left again. I tried to get them to play the "quiet game," but it was really just too loud. By then the janitor had come back from his break and sprayed the room, so we went back for folder-passing and stamping and to read a little Charlie and the Chocolate Factory amid the ant-killing fumes.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

United Female Empowerment Workshops

For the past couple of weeks, I've been helping set up some workshops in Clarksdale for this Saturday. Yesterday, 52 kids from 4 counties gathered in Clarksdale and spent 6 hours going to 5 workshops on things they don't necessarily learn in school: nutrition, fitness, health (on puberty and STDs), gender stereotypes, body image and healthy relationships. Here are a few pictures:

Cutting Up Fruit in the Nutrition Station

Working Out in the Cardiovascular Health Class

Stretching after Cardio

Eating the Results of the Nutrition Station (Fruit Salsa)

Acting Out an Oprah Show on Body Image

Girls from the QC in their UFEW Shirts at the end of the day

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Our Nine Weeks Tests

I have pretty much reconciled with the fact that I give exams at the end of every quarter to my first graders. That means every nine weeks, I test my students on what they have learned during those nine weeks. I've even swallowed the fact that it has to be 25% of their grade for the quarter (like a final exam in college! absurd!).

But you can not tell me, during the 7th week of the quarter, that instead of being in the 9th week of the quarter, the exams will be during the 8th week of the quarter. To clarify, a memo was sent home to parents (note: teachers were not informed, except for the letter to parents we were supposed to distribute) that exams were moved up to next week instead of beign the week after that, as originally scheduled. Ummm... I still have a week's worth of material to cover! An eighth of my material for the quarter! Reading and writing and grammar are ongoing, but it is interrupting a 4-week math and science unit on measurement.

There has been no word about making tests, either. I went ahead and made a third nine weeks exam and a fourth nine week pretest (I create the math tests for the grade), because we won't hear about that, it seems, until the day before.

This craziness is not even close to the craziness in tested subjects and grades. From second grade upwards, all skills for the year are supposed to have been taught by this Friday, which will be the 126th day of school. In other words, teach 100% of the material in 70% of the time and then review for the last 30% of school. If you gave everything the time in merited in the first place, you wouldn't have to review for 30% of the year! Also, upper grades don't make their own tests, which means that teachers have no idea where to steer their students in order for them to perform well. It also means that testing timeliness is entirely dependant on Dr. R-, a former superintendant of another district who now oversees several struggling districts including mine. And she's not so timely and not so good at making tests that actually test what was supposed to have been taught.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Skin Color

I've been trying to explain the terms "African-American" and "Black" in the context of our unit on Black Musicians, Writers, and Artists for Black History Month. We've talked about our unique differences and referenced grandma's grandma and so on. Every time I mention "black," D- raises his hand and tells me that he is brown. In January, we made a bulletin board for Martin Luther King's Birthday where each student picked the color construction paper that he/she thought best represented his/her skin color and cut out a hand for the border. We had red, pink, yellow, orange, white, light brown, dark brown, and black hands.

Anyhow, here is a very interesting video, written and directed by a 16-year old girl. My friend T- sent it to me. It talks about the perceptions African-American girls have about themselves, including their skin color. It is well-worth watching, and it's only about 7 minutes long. Watch it here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

PTO What?

There was a PTO meeting tonight at my school. It wasn't much of a meeting, though, seeing as I was the only person there. Not the only teacher there, not the only white person there, the only person there.

Normally, the school sends home two or three reminders about PTO meetings and gets 6-10 parents. This month, they didn't send home any reminders, so they didn't get any parents. Not even the president, secretary, treasurer, etc.

I called the principal to see what the deal was, and he said there was supposed to be a meeting. The janitor was there to unlock/relock the doors. But nobody showed up.

I proposed, seconded, and unanimously passed a few binding resolutions, just for the fun of it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


I hear "Who that is?" and "On tomorrow, we be going..." and "I'm ain't touching her!" and "I can use it?" and things of that ilk all the time at school. And I'm torn between correcting and allowing that kind of talk in my classroom. On one hand, what I do doesn't really matter because next year, their teachers will not only not correct it, but they will use the grammar incorrectly themselves.

Here are two of the questions on a ten-question spelling test that I was supposed to give this week:

1. The girl's _____ is big. a. fete b. feat c. feet

2. She sits ____ by the chair. a. loaw b. low c. loow

On the other hand, it is important that the students learn conventional grammar. Or is it? Most likely, they will never leave the Delta, and people don't use conventional grammar in the Delta. I do want them to be able to function outside of the Delta, though. And I think that conventional grammar is important.

It's hard to teach it without putting down the way my students talk. I don't want them to think that they are speaking in a way that is wrong. It isn't wrong. It just isn't how the white majority talks. African American Vernacular English (AAVE), or whatever you want to call it (Ebonics, jive), is a complete grammatical system with as many, if not more tenses than standard English. (See the Wikipedia article on it.) I want them to know how to switch to standard English without marginalizing or losing their own way of speaking.

There was a whole big controversy with teaching AAVE in classrooms in Oakland, California, in 1996. The thing is, teaching children to read in their native tongue and then switching them to standard English actually was shown to improve reading scores in studies. It's a very touchy subject, though.

And where do I come in? I don't know or speak AAVE. I don't mark students down on reading tests if they read "He's my friend," as "He my friend," because that is a pronunciation issue with standard English that stem from fluency in AAVE (and not in Standard English.) But I can't teach the translations, because I don't know AAVE. And I can't teach in AAVE for the same reason. Also, I don't have any AAVE or brige books (books in a mix of AAVE and SE). And I won't have my kids for the rest of their school career, just for another short few months.

This past week

Sorry for the long absence. I'm working on lots of different things right now, including a day of workshops for Delta girls, making my classroom even better, and getting a job for this summer and next year. And, of course, my taxes. Hurrah!

Here are a few moments from the past two weeks:

I've beefed up independent reading time in my class. All but one of my students can read, and I would like them all to be reading above grade level by the end of the year. Right now, four are reading at or above the end-of-first-grade level. On the other end of the spectrum, K- isn't reading at all, and four students are reading at beginning-of-first-grade level. When my assistant or I meet with each student to check on how their reading is going and review the books they have been reading, I always have the students read me the title of their book and point to the author (since author's names are typically not on a first grade reading level.) But on Friday, D- was telling me about "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish." She told me proudly, "I know who is the author of this book! Dr. Soup!"

We began our unit on measurement this past week. Students were measuring around the classroom and even up and down the hallways using their feet, and they were very insightful about why different people were getting different measurements.

Because February is black history month, I decided to teach my students about some famous African-Americans. This past week, we studied some black jazz musicians (Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday), this week we are studing some black poets and artists, and next week we will look at some black sports stars. I decided not to focus on anyone from the civil rights movement because I know they will get that later on, and we already spent a week on Martin Luther King (and touched on Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges) last month around his birthday. When I told the class that this month was Black History Month, and so we would be learning about some famous black people, D- looked at me and said, "I'm not black. I'm brown!" We can't really get into the discussion on the arbitrary nature of race assignments because they don't know enough about different races, so we had a little talk about how strange those titles "black" and "white" are, since the 3 "white" people in the class (me and two little girls) are not really white, and the 15 "black" people in the class are not really black, and they are not even the same color brown. On Tuesday, we listened to some Charlie Parker, I read the story "Charlie Parker Played Be Bop," and we tried to write real or make-believe words that sounded like Charlie Parker's music. On Wednesday, I asked who we had studied yesterday, and K-, the little boy who is so far behind and who has hearing difficulties, shot his hand into the air. "We listened to Be Bop!" he told me. "And who played it?" I asked. "Charlie Parker!" he responded. Score!

Saturday, January 27, 2007


I'm trying to teach my children how to express their feelings more productively, which means that I have to teach them to identify their feelings first. Most of my students identify two emotions: happy and bad.

"Bad" can mean anything that isn't happy. When my students use mad/sad, they use them incorrectly about half the time. As in, "How would you feel if someone stole your crayons and then broke them on purpose?" "Sad." "G-'s grandma died. How do you think she's feeling today?" "Mad."

I want them to be able to identify the four major emotions correctly so that they can not only express what they are feeling, but we can work on different solutions for the three "bad" emotions -- scared, angry, and sad.

So after reading a story about a giraffe who is laughed at by his friends because he can't dance, I asked the students to write about something that made them sad. And after reading their responses, I don't know how *I'm* going to deal with this uncovering of feelings. Many didn't really understand, and just wrote things like, "Sometimes I feel happy. Today I am feeling happy because I am on superstar. Sometimes I feel sad." But others wrote about their parents fighting, their father dying, being left alone in their houses, and being hit by other adults.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Delta Dental

We were making patterns today in math, with fruit loops. I gave explicit instructions not to eat the fruit loops. When we finished making patterns, I checked mouths for fruit-loop colored teeth so that I could let non-tainted teeth have some as a reward.

I was horrified.

Many of my students have completely rotten teeth. Caved in, cracked, brown. Or, on the flip side, coated in silver -- not fillings, silver back teeth. At seven.

There is a push, it seems, at the federal level, to provide health insurance for un-insured children. Does that include dental coverage? Because they don't have it now. I was shocked by the state of my kids' teeth today. I've never seen teeth that bad -- I'm surprised kids have teeth by the time they are 15, with mouths like that. Or that they can concentrate in school. It must be very painful. Two of them have broken their front teeth already this year (not in class, thank goodness.)

It turns out that "Give Kids A Smile Day" is a week from Friday, on February 2. I am, of course, too late to sign my class up to get free toothbrushes and toothpaste. Who knows if they would use them, anyhow?

Add it to the list of things to fix in the Delta.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

100th Day of School

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Food at School

At the Parent-Teacher meeting last night, sparsely attended by about 5 teachers, 5 parents, and 5 administrators of various levels, the new "Wellness Plan," was unveiled. The wellness plan that Mississippi created focuses mainly on what will be served in our cafeterias, but evidently (there is a little confusion on my part here) it also carries over to food that can be served in class.

There was a list of approved vending machine snack items which my district seems to believe are also the only things allowable in classrooms. I completely agree that the breakfasts and lunches served in schools should be nutricious and balanced, and that candy should not be a daily treat. But I also think there is a time and place in every diet for a treat, and such treats are frankly quite useful in the classroom.

I give treats as follows: Fridays at lunch, anyone who scored a perfect score on their spelling test gets a piece of candy (a single Jolly Rancher or mini Tootsie Roll, for example.) If you have 5 days of perfect behavior, one of your choices for a reward is a piece of candy. Fewer than 25% of children choose this (most pick to have lunch with me.) When we fill up our marble jar: some sort of party. We have had 3 parties this year, two for marble jar fill-ups (one with cookies, juice, and chips, one with popcorn and cocoa) and another for the holidays (cookies and chips and juice.)

This really annoys me because tomorrow is the 100th day of school, and I'm not allowed to have cupcakes! I'm sure this will fade, as most of the more rediculous of district policies do, but as it has just been introduced, everyone is all about enforcement.

Last night, what annoyed me was our food services director telling us that we (the teachers) couldn't eat anything in front of the students that they could not have. Her example was eating a steak for lunch when they had hamburgers. Basically, it seemed, we are not supposed to eat anything except for school lunch in front of the kids. Well, I'm a vegetarian, and although she claims there are "3 fruits, 3 vegetables, and 3 meats" as choices at every lunch, I just don't think I should be forced to pay for sub-standard food that doesn't meet my dietary requirements. I do not ask that they serve me vegetarian main meal options, I ask that I can bring my own sandwiches and leftovers to eat. Also, those 3 vegetables are tiny containers of overcooked canned veggies or powdered mashed potatoes, and those 3 fruits are usually underwashed bruised apples or tinned peaches. And as for the "3 meats" -- it usually seems that there are 2 choices at the most. Today every single child in my class had a hamburger patty in liquid in a styrofoam bowl. Mmmm. No bun or anything. What is that?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Reading Buddies

Last week, during "pretesting," when we weren't supposed to teach anything and the third grade didn't rotate teachers, Ms. C- and I arranged to have her 3rd graders read to my 1st graders (and help the 1st graders read to them.) It was so great, and all of the kids loved it, and they read non-stop for almost an hour, that we did it again the next day (for a little less time, though.) Hopefully it will be come a regular occurence, maybe for 1/2 an hour a week.

Dear Santa

Better late than never, right? Here are most of them. I'd put pictures but they have names on them. Most of the coloring is nothing special, though. My kids this year just don't love to color like my kids last year did.

Dear Santa Claus,
Santa Claus and you please bring me a XBox 360. Santa Claus I be good. Santa Claus we learn in school. Santa Claus we learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, and learn. Santa Claus I want to be on the good list. Santa Claus wear a red suit and a red pair of pants.
(He was so interested in how much he was learning he forgot to sign it.)

Dear Santa,
We saw you on the fire truck. We missed you so much. You are nice. We love you so much. I like your sweater. Will you come at the front door.
Love, K
(Fire was spelled "fiy" which would be pronounce "Fie-yah" which is exactly how the kids would say it.)

Dear Santa,
I been good. I want a dog please. Plears give Mr. Hayes a car. My mom want a Expedition (SUV) please. I want some bling bling. I want a XBox 360 please.
Love, J
(Mr. Hayes? Bling bling is flashy jewelery. This is from a boy.)

Dear Santa,
How are you Santa? Santa I want a computer and a baby doll that turns around. I was good today. I want a bike. Santa I want 6 rings.
Love, A "hoho!"
(The hoho is hers, not mine.)

Dear Santa,
Could you bring me a sled? I want a scooter and a angel necklace and a chalk board and a table set and four Cinderella chairs and a trampoline. Have a Merry Christmas, Santa.
Yours Truly, R
(Trampoline = chumplean)

Dear Santa Claus,
I want for Christmas six rings for me. Then I wish I have a new Dictionary. We work really hard. My teacher help me learn. She help us with our work.
Love, R
(The way she puts words together is just... odd.)

Dear Santa Claus,
How are you doing today Santa Claus? I have a tree in my house. Please give me computer and a princess. I do not look at my presents. Can you bring me a purse of a princess? M- wants a ball. I don't going to open my presents. And I want Dora.
Love, Y
(Someone told her not to look for her presents before Christmas!)

Dear Santa,
I want a star. I been good. I want a dog. I want a ring. My I have a present? I want 5 rings. Thank you. Will you bring me a ring?
Love, L
(I think she may want... a ring?)

Dear Santa Claus,
I been good this year. I want it to snow today. I want a star. Please give me a star for Ms. Hayes. Santa Claus I want a car. I want six rings.
Love, D
(The car is for her dad.)

Dear Santa Claus,
Can you give me a baby doll? I was so good please can you put me on the good list. Ho ho ho here he comes. Can you give me some rings.
Love, R
(She has trouble with question marks.)

Dear Santa,
Please give me a Dora Talking Kitchen. Please give me a baby doll. Please give me a umbrella. Because I am nice I play with my brother and sister.
Love, T
(She looked up how to spell umbrella in the dictionary.)

Dear Santa Claus,
I want a playstation 2 please. I work really hard for you and Christmas. I want to be on the nice list. I will love you. My family want the presents beside my couch so I can see it. I live in Shelby. Brick house.
Love, D
(Couch=kowch. Playstation=playstashun. So good!)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Selling Stuff

A couple days ago, some vendors came to my school. The principal came on the loudspeaker to the teachers to ask them to stop by on their "free period" (aka planning time, where you are supposed to be working on your room, or tutoring, etc.) Anyhow, the vendors were in the cafeteria, so it was impossible to avoid them at lunchtime.

This is the fourth or fifth time this has happened this year, and I really resent it. If I worked at a mall, I would expect to be solicited by those vendors in the middle of the hallway while I walked to my store. But I work in a school and I don't get paid very much money.

Previous vendors were trying to sell school-related-ish things like personal art kits or educational video games (neither of which I could imagine using in my class, because we need industrial-sized art kits and video games they get enough of at home.) Those vendors sat on the stage and were only minimally bothersome (because the kids were asking about them.)

These vendors interrupted my lunch, one of the only times during the day when I don't need to be interacting with anyone, to try to sell me scrapbook albums and halogen lanterns. Neither of those things is remotely connected to teaching. The school is not offering to buy things for us. I do not think it is at all appropriate to allow people into the school to sell things to the staff unless:
1. It is school supplies and the school will be paying.
2. It is a fundraiser (like donuts) for a school event for our students.

I should not feel even a little pressure at school to be spending my money. Peddle your wares a place where people go to shop. Not where people go to work.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


We've been learning about writing letters in class. First, I wrote them a letter. Then they wrote me letters. Then I wrote them each letters back and they identified the parts of the letter. Then we wrote a letter together. Then they wrote letters to Santa.

Here are some excerpts from their letters to me (as written):

"You my favrit tesher. You make me get smart every day. Every day my bran get bigger. this is my favrit class. I love this class so mush."

"We rad a book. Sometimes it is hot in the class room."

"Ms. H- gives us homework. I love homework. I like homework to do at home. Ms. H- is a good techer."

"I like going to the movies with Ms. H- but she said on Sunday on the 10th but I can weight until Sunday."

"I want to be a funny people. We have air so we can breeth. I will come to school. I will gives some milk."

"I will give Ms. H- a car. I will give Ms. H- a dog. I love school so muth. I will fix Ms. H- ded cat. I will be a nis boy and I will sta on sup sr every day" (super star behavior)

"Ms. H- like to play with us. Sometimes she put an A at us. I like her shos."

Coming soon... letters to Santa.

I'm Is Proficient

(J- was in my class last year.)

Me: "How did you do on your 9-week tests?"
J: "I'm is proficient!"
Me: "'I'm is?'"
J: "I... are... proficient!"
Me: "You... are."
J: "I... am."
Me: "Good..."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Assembly

We had a Christmas assembly on Thursday, where the Kindergarten presented. Kindergarteners are cute and all, but they should never be the focus of an assembly. Their memorization and performance skills are... limited. But it was pretty cute, and kept mostly to the cutesy-Christmas stuff, although we did delve into the Scripture and definetely got to hear a few songs about baby Jesus.

But what else could I have expected? I still find it completely inappropriate for the school to be doing anything religious without either including various religions (still iffy) or just avoiding religious altogether. As I said at Thanksgiving, not everyone everyone is a Baptist. And not everyone attends church. The principal keeps reminding us (in the wak of the abuse scandals) that we can't do anything to a kid that we "wouldn't want done to our own kids." Well, I wouldn't anyone to try to instill religious beliefs that were not my own into my children.

The first grade will be presenting the "Spring" assembly. After the Christmas assembly, it dawned on my that this meant the "Easter" assembly, which in turns means we're probably expected to talk aobut the rising of a certain J. C. I don't know how the first grade teachers will respond to this. We have two teachers who fall into the church-going Mission Baptist crowd, but the other two don't. I am not particularily religous and I oppose any religious instruction or celebration in secular schools, and one of the other teachers is a Jehovah's Witness, so she doesn't celebrate things like birthdays and holidays. However, I'm pretty sure all 4 assistants are part of the MB crowd.

In the meantime, I'm looking for "spring" songs and possibly some lifecycle skits (maybe we can act out the hungry caterpillar book?).