Monday, March 27, 2006

Say Your Name!

One of my amazing college roommates visited me this past weekend and came to school with me for most of the day today. She got to see a fairly typical day -- the kids were well-behaved-ish, but not to any extreme level. Later in the afternoon, my friend Lin (with whom I drove to insititute, who now teaches high school math) came for a little while also.

Some memorable moments:
(The spelling word was white.)
Mi' Hay': Who can give me a sentence using the word white?
A--: My teacher is white.

(When Lin walked in)
J--: Chinese!
Mi' Hay': This is Mr. Y--. He is Chinese... He's also American.
J--: (moving arms) Jackie Chan!
Mi' Hay': No.

Mi' Hay': Who can guess how many pennies are on this sheet?
R--: 90.
Mi' Hay': That's a good guess, but there are 100. Let's count...
(There were 90, I had forgotten a row on the worksheet.)

I had thought that having S-- there would make school better. I enjoyed having her there, but teaching was still teaching and still draining. She pointed out that I am hooked on caffeine (I drink black tea) and that I do in fact have a go-go-go job. I think nobody really takes you seriously when you say you have to be on 100% of the time, but you really do.

She also took pictures during our "spelling theater." This is a picture of J-- being the "tricky e" at the end of the word "like." He's slapping the i and saying, "Say your name!"

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


An Update:

I'm sorry to have been so remiss in my postings lately. Here's a quick update of this week back at school so far.

1. I got my hair cut over break. The regular, "Oh, like the haircut!" comments, and...
Principal: You got a child haircut!
Other 1st Grade Teacher: You looking for a new man?
Students: Mi' Hay', you cut your hair! Why you did that?
Student: I liked it when you had more hair.

2. I told the kids we wouldn't have centers again until they could be quiet. It's been a little better, maybe?

3. I put up curtains. They are blue and green and purple and much more attractive than the shades.

4. I couldn't get into my classroom over break. I went, and was turned away because of waxing. Although I couldn't get in, some theives did, and they stole all of my class's marbles, the candy from my desk, and the headphones off of the computers. The also stole candy, money, and some other things from the teacher next door to me. Some students at my school saw it and knew who it was. It was a high school girl who was one of the early-morning reading tutors and her friends. She is no longer an early-morning reading tutor (got suspended from it when she refused to work with the kids) which is probably good because I might do something spiteful. Stealing from a classroom? Really?

5. Coming back from the bathroom, J-- pushed R-- who fell into another K-- and split his lip open. He went home, I had to file an incident report.

6. The dogs killed 3 chickens and left them in the garage. Gross.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Back to School

Tomorrow I go back to school for a 5/6 day (we get out 40 minutes early) and parent conferences, and I just want to go to bed. My tummy hurts.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Retention Woes

We were talking about the criteria we had for passing students along to the next grade level (in my case, to second grade) in my last learning team (a gathering of TFA people who teacher the same grades). Another first year first grade teacher mentioned a statistic that retention does not help under-achieving boys. Our team leader quickly shot down, saying she had sent on some students last year who were not up to the level they should have been and they were just continuing to fail. But the statistic bothered me, as most of my underacheivers are male. At this point, if I had to decide, I have two regular-ed boys and one regular-ed girl who I would hold back (I am trying interventions to prevent this, though).

In second grade and above, the MCT determines promotion. For my special ed students, their IEPs will determine promotion. I know what the students should know/be able to do when they go on to second grade, so that is not a problem. The problem that I am grappling with is: even if they cannot do those things, should they be promoted anyways (in other words, should I believe the research that says holding them back will only hurt them)?

I couldn't find the exact statistic that T-- mentioned, but I did read an article that stated, "The authors' interpretation of their data is that while children who were retained in first grade did not benefit from retention (primarily because of the complexity and severity of their problems), children retained at higher grade levels did benefit."

So now I have to decide, in the next two months, should these three students (and possibly others) who are not at grade level be promoted to second grade, where the work will be too hard for them and they will continue to fail, or should they be retained, have their confidence shaken, and be too old for their grade, and fall behind and be forcibly retained again next year because of the MCT, and eventually drop out of school because they are just too old and they have such low self esteem?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Cut from the same cloth

A few nights ago, our landlords had my roommate and I over for dinner. Ah, vegetarianism in the Delta. They had fried chicken, I had mashed potato and peas. No complaints, though. They are very nice people -- friendly, respectful of our space, welcoming. Dr. M-- has taken to calling me "Little Bit." So now I have two Delta names (the first is my school moniker, Mi' Hay', of course.)

There was a parent rally at our school the night after the dinner. I had about three parents/grandparents show up, one of whom is the mother of my extremely hyperactive student, J--. She's my age, my size, and has about as much control over J-- as I do (which is to say very little). She was wearing a shirt that a friend had made her for her birthday that said, "Happy Birthday, Lil' Bit," on it.

People everywhere are so much the same. It's the circumstances that change them.

I went observing last Friday with my program director. Constant reflection and improvement is one of Teach for America's core values. My students are loud and my centers are not operable on their own. I wanted to look at how some successful corps members dealt with both issues. I observed my learning team leader, who also teaches first grade, my course leader, who is a 3rd year corps member and teaches 2nd grade, and an amazing kindergarten teacher who is up for a national award. I could see my class getting to the point where my course and learning team leaders had their classes. We're not that far off. It was the kindergarten class that amazed me. The children were so quiet and well behaved and were working the whole time -- not a single child was off-task for the entire duration of our visit.

The observation solidified my conviction that our surroundings influence our behavior. My students are raucuous and off task because I have allowed that to be the climate in my classroom. M--'s students come from the same types of homes in a similar town to the one I teach in, and yet they were acting completely differently. Amazing. Very inspiring, as well.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Headache/Spring Break

Well, my throat is raw and my head is pounding, but luckily it is Spring Break which means rest and relaxation...

...for everyone but me. I'll be sorting my books and heading into my classroom for the two days I can get in to the building to rearrange, put out books, and try to make things better.

Today: all specials were cancelled, which = no planning break for me. Lunch was given out in bags and the students were sent back to class which = no 5 minute get-it-together time while the kids settle into lunch, and they were supposed to eat in the classroom. Right. We went outside to eat.

The noise was ridiculous. Inside, outside. Only mitigated briefly by my screaming in their little faces. J-- shoved T-- into a wall under the backpacks during dismissal and D-- kicked him while he was down. T-- is one of my special students who is just not cut out for a regular education class. He is reviled by the rest of the students in their typical 7-year-old ways where their world revolves around themselves and themselves alone. Even E--, who is probably the second most detested person in the class (when you tell someone to sit next to T-- or E-- that person makes a face and sometimes loudly complains) made a face when I had he sit next to T-- today (which made me so angry, becuase of all people, she should know how it feels.)

Later, when we were making flashcards to take home over break, she colored red marker on her lips and she looked like a little tart. I took her and M-- to the bathroom to scrub their faces because M-- decided to SUCK on a marker. Scissors were used by a select few students and the only mishap we had was D-- throwing a pair across the desk. (Last time we used scissors, T-- cut out a chunk of his own hair.)

Then at the end of the day when I was talking with the custodian, K-- threw a piece of paper and hit me in the head. I don't think he really meant to do it, and I really don't think he did it maliciously but what could I do? He went to the office. I can't condone anything like that even a little bit and he was already on pink. I guess I feel like overlooking it now is what leads to situations later on where students throw pencils at the teachers in order to hurt them.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


I'm so frustrated with the noise level in my classroom. My children are so loud so much of the time. Nothing I do actually gets them quiet for more than about thirty seconds. Even when I'm giving direct instructions, someone will invariably start talking (to themselves or to others, or calling out at me, anything from answers to whining about having to "use it" to "I don't have a pencil!" which is my current least favorite phrase) or wiggling their chairs or desks around (SCREEEEE, BUMP, SCREEEEE, BUMP). Both drive me crazy, but the latter is really hard to pinpoint and occurs almost constantly in the afternoons when they are restless (even if we've just done something active). And what can I do for such things besides request that they stop? (I finally decreased the constant desk opening and shutting by making anyone who opens their desk when I'm talking turn their desk around for the rest of the day, but that takes a little while, interrupts class, and is hard to do to those sneaky desk wigglers.)

Also awful are the "request to stop" non-tattles. We'll be on the rug, which is a tight fit, and suddenly Cartisha will shout "AHHH! LAKANDRIA*! STOP POKING ME!" From this, I get the following information: 1. Cartisha is sitting near Lakandria. 2. Someone who may or may not be Lakandria just intentionally or unintentionally touched Cartisha either forcefully or hardly at all. 3. Cartisha does not care that I was speaking. I don't condone tattling, so I'm in a quandry about what to do. Having either student move is a big hassle, I won't punish Lakandria for something I didn't see her do, and it seems unfair to punish Cartisha if Lakandria is really poking her.

*names changed.