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.