Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Marble Party Number 2

My class filled the marble jar for a second time last week, and so we voted on what to do to celebrate. This Friday, we will be having a "Pillow Party." They can change into their PJs, bring a pillow, and we'll have cocoa and popcorn and watch a movie.

Actually seems like it will be a lot of fun.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Today was the last day of school before a fabulous 9-day break for Thanksgiving. Since school in the Delta starts so early (beginning of August) we get a week-long break in the November and another in March instead of the February/April ones that we Northerners are used to. I have to say, it is exciting, though.

The second grade put on a "program" for the school in the afternoon. When I think of Thanksgiving, I don't really feel like it is a religious holiday. Sure, the Pilgrims were escaping religious persecution. But they weren't really celebrating their freedom from the Church of England on Thanksgiving, they were celebrating finally having enough food to eat. Thanksgiving is a day that we can take to reflect on all the things we are lucky to have in our lives. Okay, I guess for a lot of people the thanks is directed at God. But it doesn't have to be, and again, I don't think it is a religious holiday.

But it was at my school. We had a reading from the scripture (I think he said Psalm 100), and then we had a scripted "kid-friendly" explanation of the Lord's Prayer. ("Our father..." "Oh, like my daddy?" "No, Cornesha, it means God. The Bible says he is a father to us all." "Oh, okay." "Our father, who art in heaven..." "Like a painting?" "No, art is an Old English word that means 'is'." "So it is just saying, "God who is in heaven?" "Yeah, like that." etc.) Then we all said the Lord's Prayer together. There were some songs, all but one religious, and then a play.

I thought, okay, this will be about turkeys or Pilgrims or something like that. Nope. It was about 3 kids at an orphanage who are unhappy with their lives and feel like they have nothing to give thanks for at Thanksgiving. Then another kid comes and joins them at the orphanage, and he keeps talking about his Father. Well, the other kids confront him, because if he believes his father will take care of him, why is he at an orphanage? He explains that the Lord is Father to us all, and that we will be taken care of if we believe. The kids convert one by one, and it makes their spirits healthier and they become more polite, so they all get adopted.

Ummm. Separation of church and state? I have so many bigger things to tackle in my job that I try not to be bothered by the things that I can't change. If I was frustrated by administrative glitches, oversights, basic disregard for statutes; the Delta-wide issue of punishment and rewards; the instituntionalized mediocrity; or the blatant disregard of some parents for the interests of their and others' children, I would be stopped dead in my tracks every day. My job is to teach the children. Just teach them. Our classroom is our island, our sanctuary from the craziness. And when that sanctuary is breached, we pick our battles. And then the waters around us are in turmoil -- well, as long as you aren't splashing my island...

Anyhow, teaching effectively won't happen if I alienate myself from the community by opposing "religion" in any way, even if it is appearing in places that I think it should not. But I do firmly believe that everyone should be free to worship as he/she pleases, which also means being able to choose the time and the place. School is neither the time nor the place, because students have to come to school, and have to attend the assembly. If the parents chose a religious school, that's different. But I know for a fact that not all of my students attend church, and that probably means their parents don't either. And I certainly wouldn't want my child's school preaching religion to my child. Debating or discussing multiple religions is fine in high schools, where students can engage in an intellectual debate. But a K-3 elementary school, students are not at the developmental level to be questioning their lessons.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Progress Notes

My foot-cramper was taken to the doctor about the foot-cramping yesterday. I need to check in with the grandma now and see if there were any physical problems.

My little K- has been progressing. He can almost write the whole alphabet legibly and he is beginning to understand the difference between letter names and sounds. He is also doing just fine in Science and Social Studies if I am very patient and read and write all of the work for him (all he does is the thinking.)

The SPARK coordinator (who could potentially give me lots of money) came by today to demand some ridiculous, time-consuming paperwork that she had given me on Monday (which I had completed, even though it is ridiculous). The SPARK program, which is designed to improve early-childhood education and home care, has hired this coordinator whose behavior is not aligned with their mission. She is rude and interrupts my class whenever she pleases, and she gets very upset if I don't immediately drop what I'm teaching to speak to her right then.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Should I name her Robbie Beautiful?

On a suggestion, I asked my students what I should name my kitten. Here are the suggestions (and how they spelled them.)

Nicky (LFRY)
Robbie Beautiful (Robbe Broduful)
Beautiful (Betiful)
Little Princess (Little Princes)
Elida (Elda)
Dora the Explorer (DORA SPLOR)
Quita (Quuit)
Baby Girl
Jicka (Jick)
Princess (Prises)

I think I'm going to pick my own name, thank you very much.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Cancellation

After school today, our principal informed us that we would not be having school tomorrow, due to the passing of one of our senior high teachers. So I will spend tomorrow observing in some classrooms around the Delta, and I'm very excited at this prospect.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Trip to the Movies

Last year, students had to get 30 stars on a chart to get a present (a book) and 60 in order to win the special prize (come on a trip with me.) I only had one child make it to two trips in the course of the year, and some children who never even got the book.

So this year, before school started, I modified my behavior plan. This year, it only takes 25 stamps to get a gift and 50 stamps to get a trip. If students stay on SuperStar behavior for the day, they get a stamp on a chart in their own individual manila folder, which they keep in their desk. As of last Friday, which was the 63rd day of school, I had my first 50 stamp-er. By this Friday, I had my 3rd 50 stamp-er, and I will most likely get my 4th tomorrow. At this rate, those four students could win 3 trips with me this year!

I took two of the 50 stamp-ers to the movies this afternoon. It was the first time either of them had ever been to a movie theater. I let them pick between "Flushed Away" and "The Santa Clause III," and Santa won hands down. We shared a small popcorn. The movie theater smelled like urine. A good time was had by all. Here are my girls in front of the poster for the movie (mimicking the characters.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Working Hard

Sometimes I think that I don't push my students hard enough, that they don't take me seriously, that they don't work for me like they would work for someone else. And that is probably sometimes true. And then sometimes something happens and I realize: these children are six or seven, and ninety percent of the time ninety percent of them are working as hard as they can, some because they would work that hard for anyone, and some who are working hard just because they want to please me.

This afternoon we had our math test on number patterns. And they are getting there, but they still don't have it how I want them to have it. I want them to be able to explain the rule behind a pattern of addition or subtraction, to recognize it and be able to tell me that in this pattern, we are adding 3 each time, and in this other pattern, we are subtracting ten.

This may be too hard for first graders. Perhaps continuing the pattern is all they are really capable of doing and even more, all they need to know how to do. The benchmark is, "Explores patterns of addition and subtraction."

They were not doing well explaining the rule on the test (for example, looking at "3, 13, 23, 33," and saying, "We started on 3 and added 10 each time.") So I was frustrated with them because I was questioning the validity of the assessment I had chosen. So they went to computer lab and I created another one. I took off the "rules" part and I had some where they had to continue a pattern following a given rule ("start on 3 and add 3 each time") and some where they were given a pattern and they had to continue it ("4, 7, 10, 13, ___, ___, ___.") And they came back from computer lab and got to work on it and worked, solidly, for 45 minutes. They brought me the tests when they thought they had completed it, and I circled what they had gotten wrong and sent them back to try it again.

And, except for one student, who really didn't understand at all, and K-, who is still learning his numbers, so was not given the test, they worked. And worked. And worked. And I didn't realize how hard I was pushing them until I was checking the answers R- (one of my smartest students) had fixed. I checked them off, told her she had fixed them perfectly, and wrote 100% at the top of her paper, and she leaned over my chair and hugged me, and held on for a moment.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Field Trip!

Friday, we went on my first ever field trip as a teacher. It was a trip to a planetarium which is remarkably only half an hour away from our school, at a local college. The trip itself went without a hitch, although the planetarium program itself could use some serious help -- it was alternately way over the children's heads and then way under them.

We took the whole first grade, which is about 70 students, in two school busses. The presenter, a professor, had limited English fluency. She would ask questions and the students would stare at her blankly. She showed a video that she and her department had made that starred two white preschoolers who went on an "adventure" to the solar system (they sat in a box in front of a green screen and flashed photos of the planets behind them.) Then she showed some constellations (the kids got a little rowdy in the dark) and then she took them outside to try to make them "orbit" like planets, which they tried really hard to do, but were basically unsuccessful. Then we went home.

But we took the kids somewhere, and now they have been to a planetarium and seen some big pictures of the planets, and gotten a little feeling, I think, for how far apart they are. And that's pretty cool.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My Feet Hurt, Too

I have a crier. Well, I have two criers, but one is not nearly as bad as the other, who cries every day, multiple times.

She cries if she gets a wrong answer.
She cries if she is even a little bit confused.
She doesn't raise her hand and ask for help -- she cries.
She cries if I don't pick her for something.
She cries if she doens't like the lunch choices.

But most annoying, she won't stop once she starts, she won't do it quietly, and she lies about why she is crying (after I waste five precious minutes calmly trying to coax a reason for the tears out of her sobbing, scrunched up little face.)

I don't like humoring criers.

The only legitamate reason I can see for a child to cry is when they are hurt.

So my crier has figured this out, and now whenever she is crying, she tells me that her feet are cramping. It has nothing to do with not getting to write on the board -- her feet are cramping! No, it's not because she doesn't understand the math problem and won't even try it -- her feet are cramping.

Maybe her feet are cramping.

I doubt it.

I called home today and talked to her grandmother about the cramping feet, and her grandmother promised to take her to the doctor. It's an expensive way to weed out a lie, though.

Maybe it is psychosomatic (?) and her feet hurt when she's not using her brain enough.