Thursday, February 28, 2013

Job Perk

I was sitting at my desk sorting through mounds of paperwork and organizing today at recess when I heard a tapping on my window.  I turned to look out and here is what I saw:

Right outside my window

Within seconds, several little giggling girls smashed their faces on the window and waved!   We gestured back and forth through the window for a moment, me smiling and giving them a thumbs up on their snow handiwork.  

I opened the window to compliment them as they patted more snow onto their snowman.  

Dog face?
"We built this here so you can see it out your window," two of them screamed.  And it truly was, right outside my window.

"It's terrific!" I confirmed.  "I love it!"

"Does its face look scary?" one snow builder asked as she dug out the eye spot.   "Does it look like a dog?"

"I think it's the best snowman I've ever seen!" I declared.  "If there was a best snowman outside a window contest -- you would win!"

They squealed and laughed and admired their work as I closed the window and returned to my work.   When they came in from recess they were very worried the fourth graders would destroy it when they went outside for recess.   So I hung a note in the window that read:  Please leave this snowman alone.    And I added a smiley face.    I watched as some of the fourth graders circled around the snowman and read the note and touched it, but didn't break it or ruin it.   Then they ran off to make their own snowman. 

Now, I can assure you, teachers don't get a lot of job perks.  But we get some things that no other job in the world offers.  

Like snowdogs men right outside our window.

I'd Like To Buy A Vowel, Please

Every year there is a particular word or two that third graders, collectively, seem to have a difficult time spelling.  For example, last year it seemed the word 'beautiful' was the word that no matter how many times we spelled it together, or talked about it, or corrected it, not many could get it right.  Finally, we came up with some ways to try to remember it and ended up with saying, "Be - A - U - ti - ful", stretching out each letter part as we spelled it and that seemed to help some.   

This year the word different is "the" word.  Usually it is spelled  d-i-f-f-r-e-n-t.  Today, as  I was conferencing with the students on their "Michigan in the 1600's" writing piece, many of the students had the word 'different' in their draft.  Many of them had it misspelled.  I went to the board and turned to the class.

"How in the world do we spell the word "different"? I asked the busy group of writers.

Three cocked their heads and rolled their eyes to the ceiling, in deep thought.  Four or five stared down at their paper, clearly avoiding the question. One went to the bathroom.  Naturally, six brave, confident students raised their hands.   One little hand was waving urgently in the air.  

"I know! I know!" called out the hand-waver. And without waiting, he began. 
"d - i - f - f - r - e - n - t," he said, smiling proudly.  

Two little ones clapped and nodded their head in agreement. Others watched my face to see if they should agree or not.  

"Hmmmmm...." I began.  I picked up a purple marker and asked him to repeat the letters so I could write it on the board. 

Once the word was on the board, I asked them if they all agreed that it was correct.  They all started to go back to their writing, but were still watching me to see why I was making such a big production about a silly word.  They are astute enough to know that if I am still standing at the board, there must be something amiss.

"A lot of you are using the word different in your writing pieces, but you're not spelling it correctly.  The word on the board isn't spelled correctly.   Look at it carefully and see if you can find what's wrong,"  I challenged the class.

Again, many looks at the ceiling and a few attempts. There was a line at the pencil sharpener, as they attempted to avoid the question.

"I'll give you a hint," I offered.  "It's missing a vowel."

"D-i-f-f-E-r-e-n-t," one little girl announced.  "There is an "E" between the f and the r."

I wrote it on the board.  "Can anyone think of a way to remember how to spell this tricky word?" I asked them.  "Maybe if you think "diff-ER-ent"," I suggested, loudly emphasizing the "ER" sound.

"But the word is "diffrent" not "diff-ER-ent"," said one little one, now getting a bit upset about the whole thing.  "Why is it spelled that way?"  

"It's just like "Wednesday"! one little girl explained to him.  "Spelling is a tricky business."

Indeed. And then we all got back to writing.   I saw several students go back to their writing pieces and erase and fix the word different.  I heard a couple students say it out loud as they inserted the "e".   

Maybe tomorrow we'll tackle the word "which" and I'll remind them that "wich" is only used after the word sand.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Oh, snow day!  How I love you! You are unexpected and wonderful in every way.  You remind me of being a kid again by giving me a glorious, unplanned day ahead of me with no expectations or requirements. I can do whatever I want, eat whatever I want, and don't have to be anywhere (unless I want).

Oh, snow day!  Your timing was perfect last night.  As I monitored the Doppler radar and hour-by-hour weather maps, like a trained meteorologist, you didn't let me down.  You dumped five-six inches of heavy, wet, icy, snow mix onto the roads and made them too slippery and dangerous for our little ones to get to school safely.

Oh, snow day!  You are beautiful and bright, burying my yard with snow and brushing the trees with an icy white blanket.   I feel peaceful when I look at your snow covered landscape and the beauty of nature.

Oh, snow day! You reenergize me and help me stay positive.  Please feel free to come a few more times this season. 

Snow Covered Backyard

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program

It was bound to happen some time.

After six months of regular blogging, I've hit the proverbial wall. I am blog blocked.  Without an idea.  Frozen at the keyboard.  I have started four blogs this week and not a one is worthy of publishing.

Not to worry.  I'm not going to lose my positivity.  I just need some time to collect my thoughts and I'll be back.    

Look for me tomorrow.  
                     Especially if there is a snow day.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

This post marks my eightieth blog!  Never in a million years would I have thought six months ago that I would be a regular blogger, with an actual following.  I've come a long way (as evidenced by my earlier September blogs).

So, pardon me while I brag a bit about some numbers.  There have been over 6,500 visitors to my blog.  Some are repeat visitors, but I will boast about it just the same. 

There are readers from 25 states in the United States.  In addition, there are visitors from fifteen other countries!  Russia and Germany are my biggest audience; as I've said before, I'd love to hear from some of you!

"Wear The Pink Dress" [Read Post] is the most popular blog with 365 hits.  Least favorite/amount of reads is "The Best Things In Life Are Free" [Read Post]  with only 6 hits. An epic fail. 

I have received 202 comments and all of them have been positive.

In just one day I received 278 hits!

I've changed/updated the blog page design twelve times and have learned to insert HTML code as well as "blogamations" (animated blog designs).

I've logged countless hours writing.  If you asked me to estimate the number of hours, I would have to say at least 100 hundred by the time I write, edit, and design blog posts.

By far, the most important and amazing number, is the number of days I've remained positive so far this school year.  (Drum roll please....)

For 182 days, I have tried to remain optimistic, friendly, happy, and positive. 
For 182 days, I've tried to help others when they are not feeling "it".
For 182 days, I have tried to look on the bright side and not let things get me down.

I'll have to say, the glass is definitely now half full.

    Thank you to all of you who read, follow, and promote my blog!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Way's Always A Good Time

Today was the Variety Show at my school and what a fun time we all had.   If you don't believe me, take a look at the video of the "teacher dance".    Filmed by one of my students, on my iPhone, it shows what a good time we have at my school.    How great it is to be able to ask a student to use your phone to record the dance, and not need to do anything but hand him your cellphone.  And this is a 3rd grader.  I love the way he even videotapes a bit of the audience!

 A special "shout out" to the teacher who choreographed the dance (and led us through it) and the two "stars" of the show who lip synced and caused the crowd to go crazy.  As I said in a previous post -- We Rock!    Or at the very least, we know how to have a good time!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Spoiler Alert

We've practiced (once) and prepared (sorta).  We have planned our outfits, made our signs, and listened to "our" song.  Tomorrow is our big performance in the 2013 Variety Show.  The teachers will perform, as they do every year, as the final act of the school show.  

The kids go wild when they see their teachers up on stage, singing (lip syncing), dancing, and having a good time.  So, it's fitting that this year, thanks to our wonderful choreographer/teacher that we will be dancing along to, "Good Time" by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen Click here for song

For a brief few moments tomorrow, the teachers get to feel like the rock stars that they all are.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor.....

 The following is an email received from my principal earlier this week that I felt would make a great "guest blog" on my site.  If you're a teacher, you can surely relate to the story and could add many stories of your own.  If you're a parent, you can see that we, indeed, learn many things from you.  And if you're neither a teacher or a parent, you will get a feel for the learning and work that takes place every day inside schools everywhere and the lessons we are continually learning together.

[Posted with permission]

Dear Staff,

As I continue my observation-fest, I find myself thinking that it wasn't too long ago that I was in the teaching trenches like many of you. It's such a difficult job to do right over a sustained period of time, let alone a single day. And I have a vivid memory of one of my earliest flops that I'd like to share. During my first year of teaching, I was faced with a very difficult class to manage. I tried everything I could remember from my methods classes but to no avail. As a last resort, I issued a collective consequence to the class stating in a most positive voice, "We will rise or fall together."

The next day, I walked into school and was summoned to a meeting with a very angry parent. The counselor (counselors at the time served in an administrative capacity) was there primarily to moderate the conversation. The parent, let's call her Mrs. X., looked pretty upset, and I had yet to learn the strategies I use today to first diffuse a situation. I asked what the meeting was about and Mrs. X. began riddling me with questions. I didn't know what hit me. In the end, she asked what specifically her daughter had done to contribute to the classroom misbehavior. In truth, she had a lovely daughter, who was engaged in our literature conversations and wouldn't hurt a soul. The meeting ended as she stood up and said, "Then since you can't tell me what she's done, she will not be serving the consequence you've created for the class."

I walked away from the meeting feeling lower than low. I was ashamed, revealed as a fraud, and the worst part was that I still had a very large problem on my hands. My choices were pretty simple: adapt, migrate or die. I went to my teammates individually (admitting my defeat to the group at once was too hard to contemplate) and sought advice. Most of the strategies they gave me I had already tried. One asked if I had found out who the chief instigator was. That sounded like a good place to start. I needed to fix the problem soon. My greatest fear was that my principal would find out, and he would see me as someone who couldn’t control his class. In other words, he would know the truth. I needed to change.

In the following days, I started paying more attention to the students and less to the content.  There was a young lad, Student Y, who appeared to be the ring leader. As we read our novel out loud, I would watch as he purposely tried taking classmates off task, with jokes, disparaging comments, and other rude behaviors. I didn’t love Student Y that week but felt a sense of relief now knowing to whom the impending consequences belonged. But things really didn’t change much.

One day I was walking past the office when the principal called me in. I sat down and realized I had hardly ever stepped foot inside his office. I recognized a few books on his shelf and noted his diplomas on the wall. My leg was shaking out of nervousness, not a usual ADHD moment for me. My principal asked me if I had solved my problem yet. Two thoughts crossed my mind: someone had ratted me out, and the problem didn’t belong to me, it belonged to Student Y. I felt very defensive as I was asked to explain my problem-solving strategies. When I told him I had figured out who the main culprit was, he asked me if I had learned his story yet. “His story? I asked” “Yes, his story,” he said. “It’s hard not to like someone once you learn his story.” I thanked him for his suggestion, all the while thinking, “What does he know? He probably hasn’t taught for years.” As I was walking out of his office, he said, “Adam, if this job doesn’t change you, then I haven’t done my job.”

During one of his in-school suspensions, (apparently Student Y was having issues in other classes as well) I asked Student Y to join me in my room during my prep period. I asked a million soft questions of him, trying to make room for the big questions about his behavior. In my mind it made sense for Student Y to see me as an ally, so I gave him a copy of Light in the Forest, the book we had been reading and told him we could read together and catch up on some work as opposed to just sitting in the office all day. He resisted. The more I pushed for being productive, the more pushback I received. Finally he stood up and bellowed, “I can’t read!” Yes, here was a Bloomfield Hills student reaching 7th grade without the ability to read. Almost immediately, my anger towards Student Y turned to sympathy. I had learned his story and felt humbled by my findings.

I would like to say there was a Disney ending to this story, but there wasn’t. I’m reasonably sure, Mrs. X found me to be fairly incompetent. My relationship improved greatly with Student Y as I went out of my way to help him with reading, but unlike many that came after him, I never heard from Student Y again. I heard at one point that he dropped out of high school.

With just one incident in my classroom, three "teachers" taught me some very valuable lessons. Mrs. X. taught me that all students are individuals. Student Y taught me that each individual needs to be understood and not merely handled. And my principal taught me that relationships with students, parents, and the principal are everything in education. And I learned that there is so much grey area in what we do. It’s not about right and wrong, good and bad. It’s about the story we want to tell.

So why the long tale of past lessons learned?  Primarily to acknowledge that we’re all on some kind of journey that requires help along the way, and the greatest mistake we can make is not reaching out for help when needed. I’ve asked you to make great changes from past practices, and will continue to ask you to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of education. My expectations are as high for you as they are for me. And when I stand in your shoes, I think you must feel at times as though you’re not appreciated for all the changes you’ve made instructionally, or how the office is run, or all the additional pieces of equipment you’ve had to move to make room for yet another school activity, or for the flexibility asked of you to cover a classroom or an additional recess coverage, or for taking on yet another technological initiative, or … And to make matters worse, you must think when will all this change end, knowing full well it never will as life is change. I want you to understand that I know how you feel and appreciate all your efforts with the understanding that if I don’t continue to promote change, I won’t be doing my job.

So as a small token of my appreciation, I am declaring Monday, February 18 as a Principal’s Appreciation for Staff at Way. That’s a fancy way of saying when you step into the lounge on Monday, there will be a nice selection of goodies for your enjoyment (although I can’t compete with a chocolate fountain). Please enjoy, and I thank you for being part of this journey we share.

[Principal's Name]

... and what a magnificent selection of  treats it was!  Thank you!

Old MacDonald Had A Farm

Today was a field trip to our district farm.  It was a very windy and cold day, so let me just say that I had to work hard to keep positive while standing on my feet in a smelly barn and chicken coop for forty minutes.   One way I kept positive was to watch all the fun the kids were having and listen to some of their comments.  So, here are the highlights for your reading enjoyment. 

[in the (smelly) chicken coop, when the blower on the ceiling came on to heat the coop]

"On no!  Now it's blowing the smell right onto me!"

[student making quacking noises to the ducks, who were inside a pen warming up]

"Mrs. Jeppson!  Mrs. Jeppson!  Look! I can speak duck!"   Note: the ducks were quacking and quacking.  It did look like they were talking back to her.

[as we stood inside the barn]

"I love the smell of hay!  I just LOVE it!"
  (and no, for the record, I didn't probe and ask more questions)

[while watching the goats]

"Goats are so cool!"  
  (I concur!)

[while walking with a couple little girls]

"I don't think I'd like being a farmer," began one girl.
"Me neither!" agreed the other girl.  "There is way too much poop!"

[while in the barn, we were measuring an animal pen that had a lone sheep inside]

"Hey, look at that sheep," pointed out one observant little one.  Ten kids immediately pushed and shoved to get better view of sheep. 
"This sheep has been causing trouble with the other sheep, so he had to be put in the pen by himself," explained the farm guide. 
"So, he's in time out?" chuckled one sharp boy.  Collective laugh.
"You could say that....." said the guide, smiling. 
"Baaaaaaaa," came the reply from the sheep pen.  

[While walking near some peacocks]

"Peacocks scare me!"
"Why do they scare you?" I prodded.  "Have you had a bad peacock experience?"
"Any peacock experience is a bad peacock experience to me," stated peacock-phob student as she hustled by the birds.

"Did you know Old MacDonald had a farm?" I asked one student in a sing-songy voice as we walked back toward the bus.  
"E-I-E-I Know!" he joked along.  Funny boy.

I love 3rd graders.  They are funny and happy and cute and bubbly.  They are caring and smart and interesting and lively. They are unpredictable and honest and curious and fun to be around.   

So, even though it was cold and windy and a little on the smelly side, the trip to the farm today was great because I got to enjoy it with a bunch of little kids.  Any time you mix kids + animals, it's bound to be a good time.

And if you don't believe me, ask the duck.  Here a quack, there a quack, everywhere a quack, quack......

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Spoonful Of Sugar

My fingernails were painted bright red. I put on my red scarf and my heart pin.  I even added a touch of red lipstick.  It was Valentine's Day.  And if you haven't heard, Valentine's Day in an elementary school is a VERY BIG DEAL.   First of all it's a holiday, which means you can have a party.  Second of all, it's the day when you can bring in your carefully written valentines that you picked out special from Target three weeks ago in anticipation of the big day. And, finally, and most importantly, it's the day when you get to eat candy.

In my classroom, we have a read-in on Valentine's Day and then exchange valentines and have some treats.  This year's menu included pink rice krispy treats, red heart shaped jello, and strawberries.  Not too many sweets, because nowadays every single valentine card includes an attached candy.   There are Skittles valentines, and Airhead valentines, and lollipop valentines, and Tootsie Roll valentines, and .... well you get the idea.   Basically twenty some pieces of candy attached to tiny pieces of cardboard.   I, too, had picked out my valentines for my class.  I found little mini heart buttons and carefully addressed them and put them on each student's desk before school. 

The class was on task all morning, looking forward to their afternoon of merriment.  After recess, I announced the much waited for exchange and the students circulated around the room putting valentines in the decorated boxes and envelopes.  As they moved about the room, I sat at my back table, watching and digging through my own pile of quickly accumulating valentine candy. 

Within minutes, a student came over to me. "I have a big problem," she said, as I took a bite of a Tootsie Roll.  

"No you don't," I answered.  "No problems allowed on Valentine's Day."  She laughed but I could tell she meant business.

"Well, I still have a problem," she began again, clutching a neat stack of valentines.   "I only received twenty valentines.  There are twenty-two students in our class. And, of course I didn't give myself one so somebody didn't give me one."

Wow.  They actually count their valentines to make sure they receive one from everyone.  Of course, as a teacher, I told them they all must make one for everyone in the class.  Besides being amazed that she had so quickly counted them, and taken herself out of the equation, I decided I needed to solve this problem before she alphabetized them and somebody got in trouble.  No doubt several valentines were scattered on the floor of the hallway, or perhaps, still in the backpack that brought them.  

"Boys and girls, let's finish delivering valentines so you can go back to your desk and read them and have lots of candy!" I directed.  "You have one minute."

And then I leaned over to the little girl with her twenty valentines.  I quietly told her that sometimes valentines get lost or fall in the snow when you get off the bus.  I assured her that her not receiving the valentine was not intentional.  I told her that it would make the person feel really, really bad if they knew they lost her valentine.  

She was thinking about it and I could see she wasn't certain if this was still a problem or not.  I handed her a Tootsie Roll and winked at her.   She spun on little light-up pink shoes and headed back to her seat.  Whew!  Major Valentine's Day problem averted.

The students ate candy and read books and talked and read and re-read their little valentines.  It isn't often that they can just have an hour of fun and friends and candy. No teacher directions to follow, no assignment to complete. 

I received my share of Valentine gifts also.  I scored a nice box of Godiva chocolates, two new coffee cups, lots of chocolate, a bag of Almond Joys, and a fun heart shaped box of candy with "BFF" on the front from my BFF.  By far, the surprise gift on my desk today was the best.   This is a little solar powered dancing monkey!  It's beyond fabulous!  

Dancing Monkey (solar powered)
Since Michigan isn't known for much sun in the winter time, I placed it under my lamp on my bookshelves and it began to shimmy and shake!  Needless to say, the kids loved it too!  So, thanks teacher friend (you know who you are).  I know that any time for the rest of the year when I need to smile and feel more positive, all I'll have to do is watch my cute little dancing monkey!  

I really think this was one of the best Valentine's Day ever.    I truly enjoy watching the students interact and be social.  Our days are filled with learning and thinking and we don't have much "down" time in between. 

And although I'm sure we all had more than a spoonful of sugar, in these final long, dark days of winter, we all need it to help carry us through to spring.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

If You Can't Beat 'em, Join 'em

The mark of a great teacher is not a neat and tidy desk.  It's not a quiet room, silent and still.  It's not papers always neatly checked and stickered.  It's not perfectly organized files or eye-popping bulletin boards.  It's not an uncanny ability to coordinate stylish professional clothes with sensible shoes.  The mark of a real teacher is being able to maintain your sanity on the third consecutive day of indoor recess.  In the winter.

Now, I know what all you laymen are thinking.  Oh you teachers!  You are constantly on some kind of winter break or spring break or holiday break.  You only work from 9-5 and you have summers off.  How hard can your job really be?
Well, let's start at the beginning, shall we? 

Arrive at school at 7:45 a.m. and wrestle school bag, bag of valentine gifts for students, lunch bag, and stack of math journals from back seat.  Strategically balance load so as not to injure shoulder or back.  Head to classroom, drop heaps on desk and floor and put name badge on.  Head for coffee.  Check in on mentee, talk about the day, and see if she needs anything.

Sprint back to room to begin getting classroom ready and review plans and prepare materials for the day.   Write morning greeting on board.  Fill out planner for the day.  Post daily schedule on board.  Copy.  Review journals from yesterday.  Read and comment on writing from yesterday.  Sort and arrange math workshop material.  Attempt to clean up stacks accumulating behind desk.  Give up after ten minutes.  Place another stack behind desk for "later".    [Later = when you come in one day over spring break to clean up behind your desk because you ran out of room]

About this point, glance at the clock and take a few final minutes before the bell rings to use the bathroom and refill coffee. God knows it may be hours before you get the chance to do either of these again.  Once the bell rings, any and every minute will be filled with kids. 

Each day this week, the volume of the talking and the fidgeting and the silliness has escalated and is directly proportional to the number of outdoor recess minutes turned into indoor recess minutes.  Quite simply, we are all cooped up in a small room, all day. We need air.  And we need to run.

Shortly after noon, when the classroom speaker announced:  "Extras in the kitchen if you'd like to walk down and get them!" my classroom became instantly silent.  This is because we all knew that there would also be a declaration of whether today would be indoor or outdoor recess.   We all held our breath.   
The voice on the speaker continued.  "And due to the icy conditions on the blacktop and fields, today will be indoor recess."

I didn't mean to, but I groaned out loud.  Loudly.  The students sympathized a bit with me and expressed a bit of disappointment themselves.  Even though they would still get recess, indoor recess playing Clue or Dominoes could never compare to running around outside free as a bird.   And speaking of birds, about that time one of my students approached me at the back table.  I was slowly chewing my strawberries as I vacantly stared out the window at the play structure.  I was becoming immune to the noise and chaos in my classroom.

"Indoor recess is like being in prison!" he exclaimed, kicking his foot at the floor.  I knew he was trying to tell me that he didn't like it anymore than I did.  And making a mental picture of my students as cute little jailbirds cheered me a bit.  

The afternoon got louder.  The children became increasingly restless.  For the first time this year I had several kids arguing.  It was more and more difficult to get their attention, let alone complete any lengthy assignments.  I was certainly not my usual positive self.   I secretly berated myself for letting them make their Valentine envelopes yesterday.  I had used the "more fun" activity yesterday, to survive Day 2 of indoor recess.  

At about this time, a tornado drill was announced.  Students haphazardly stood up and we lined up and headed to our tornado drill spot and assumed the position.   All of them moved quickly, and amazingly quite quietly, and sat on the floor and covered their heads.  And then over in the corner I heard one of my students whispering, "I'm in the corner!"  I looked and he was, most certainly curled in the corner, but his body was contorted into a move that would have impressed members of a Cicque du Soleil show.  Within seconds another boy had joined in and they had rolled themselves up and were moving about on the floor.  I rolled my eyes at the other teacher in the room with me, moved closer to the boys, and asked them to please sit in the correct position.      

With only forty minutes left in this day, I reassured myself that I could make it.  That tomorrow most certainly would be outdoor recess and things would go back to normal again.  That time outside to run and play would reset everything back to how it should be.  After herding the students back into the classroom [jail] I was struck with an epiphany!  They could clean out their desks!  They all needed to, it would allow them to move, and they could talk.  And as a bonus -- their desk would be neatly organized and clean.   So they cleaned their desks and we ended the day in the library, checking out books and reading.

And just like the mark of a great teacher is not the neat and organized desk, the sign of a good student is not the neat and tidy desk either.  

The sign of a good student is their ability to maintain sanity when their teacher is losing a bit of her own.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Take Two Aspirin And Call Me In The Morning

Put another tally mark up for indoor recess.  It's day number two.  The mornings aren't the tough part, it's the afternoons, when we are into the fourth or fifth hour of the day.  Mid-afternoon I could feel a headache coming on. Probably a result of being awake since 3 a.m. this morning, wolfing down some questionably dated yogurt for lunch while I checked homework, and being surrounded by little kids with not-so-little voices.  

So in an effort to try and keep a positive outlook, I made a list of all the positives around me every day.

1.  I have a fifteen minute drive to work each day.  A peaceful, beautiful route that readies me for the day ahead.

2.  I have a wonderful group of teacher friends in my hallway.  Always available to talk, help, share, and keep me smiling.

3.  I have a wonderful group of teacher and non-teacher friends in my school.  

4.  I regularly receive notes and pictures from students proclaiming my brilliance and "niceness".  It's like my own little fan club.

5.  My electric pencil sharpener still works after almost a year -- a new record!

6.  Students from last year still stop by and say "hi" when they pass my classroom every morning.

7.  I get to celebrate holidays like Valentine's Day and make paper heart envelopes and exchange valentines and eat sugary cupcakes.

8.  I always have students who will help me clean up book shelves, organize papers, and assist with any "teacher helper" task.  All I have to do is start to say, "Who wants to volunteer to help me....?"  and fifteen hands shoot up in the air.

9.  I get to hear funny kid conversations every day.  Priceless.

10.  I have technology at my fingertips and help with said technology.

11.  I have a job that is constantly changing, challenging, and rewarding.  Virtually every minute of every day.

So even though I came home tonight with a splitting headache, I wouldn't change a thing about my day.  

Now I'm going to sit back and enjoy a nice, relaxing dinner.

Right after I take a couple of aspirin.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My "A" Game

Today should have been a "breeze", a great start to the week after ending last week with a snow day.  I arrived bright and chipper this morning, organized, and excited to see the kids again and get started on some learning.  I was refreshed and revitalized by the three day weekend.  

I'm not sure where things went amok, but it was shortly after the bell rang.  I stood outside the classroom door, greeting the students as they arrived, and chatting with some about their Friday snow day.  Business as usual.   When I went into the classroom, things seemed a bit confusing and loud, but I chalked it up to the new seat arrangement.   They are just finding their new seat and getting settled in, I reassured myself.  They'll get focused and working soon.

After about five more minutes, I was beginning to lose hope.  They were loitering about in all corners of the room.  The majority were not in their seats and didn't look as if that was a priority.  I announced via microphone that they were to find their seat, get settled, and copy tonight's assignment into their planner.  I pointed out that the bell rang almost ten minutes ago and we were losing precious learning time. 

That worked for a bit and the students copied notes into their planners and began a math journal page. But within a few minutes, the decibel level began to rise again.   I quickly glanced at the clock and knew that this day wasn't going to go the way I had hoped.  

But then I remembered that I am the poster child for positivity this year and that I needed to pull myself together and smile.  Only I could turn this day around and I was going to do it!  A little bit of chatting wasn't going to beat me.  Rah! Rah!

Again, it worked for a bit.  But I was learning that I was no match for the squirming, chatty, wiggling, energetic bunch of twenty-two little ones.  Especially after indoor recess was declared.  In all honestly, all I wanted to do was sit in a chair and read a book, maybe sip a cup of coffee and not have to be constantly in charge and "on".  

Like always, a few of the intuitive little ones noticed I wasn't quite on my "A" game today.  They watched me from the corner of their eyes and said, "Thank you," when I passed out an assignment.  Eventually, one brave one approached me as I stood by the Promethean ready to explain math workshop for the day.

"What did you do on the snow day?" she asked enthusiastically. I looked at her cute little headband and her tights and her sparkly nail polish. Should I tell her that I spent part of it working like I do every day?  Should I tell her that I was readying curriculum for this week?  Making a new seating chart?  Going over NWEA reports?

"I slept in and I stayed in my pajamas all day and I watched TV!" I fibbed.  After all, she was just trying to cheer me up a bit.

"Wasn't it great?" she squealed.  

"It sure was," I confirmed.  And she bounced back to her new seat. 

It wasn't that anything was wrong today; it just seemed that everything was a bit off.  There was too much talking and too much silliness.  There was too much time in the hallway and too much interrupting.  There were too many times I had to repeat directions and stop and wait for their attention.  My room was a moving, wriggling wave.

I continued into the afternoon, self-talking myself to stay positive.  It helped when I ran into a few teacher friends in the copy room and they relayed the same issues in their classroom.  At the end of the day, as I left with a fellow teacher and shared with her my woes of the day, she reminded me that it's winter.  That these are the toughest months for both the kids and the teachers.  Couped up.  Cold weather.  Darkness.  

I have had several careers.  I've traveled and presented.  I've hosted meetings and coordinated projects.  I've balanced budgets and trained untrainable people.  I've answered phones and typed statistical reports.

But, as a teacher, I come home most days pretty tired.  But some days, like today, are completely exhausting.  

I'm going to bed early tonight to be rested for tomorrow. It's another day and I need my "A" game back.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Best Things In Life Are Free

I've been thinking of all the wonderful things around me every day that are free.   For example, I got to enjoy the 3rd grade musical, The Cuckoo, without it costing me a penny.  I had front row seats.  In fact, I saw the evening performance last Wednesday, and the matinee on Thursday morning.  Both free.   It was a well choreographed show with eighty-four little children singing, dancing, speaking, and playing glockenspiels.  Although it wasn't quite Broadway ready, it was entertaining and certainly worth the price. I give it two thumbs up.

On Friday,I went into the teacher's lounge to refill my coffee (not free - we contribute to a coffee fund) and enjoyed two home baked, delicious, chocolate chip cookies for free.   

Our school book fair was last week and I received eight books, donated by parents, for my classroom library.  

Every day I receive help, advice, suggestions and encouragement from teacher friends and staff, and it's all without cost.  Almost every week, since I started the blog, I find a small gift or a note on my desk. 

The kids in my classroom give me wonderful free things all the time.  I get lots of beautifully colored pictures, notes, and small gifts they make.  

By far, the best free things are the smiles and the hugs I get from the kids every day.  Many times throughout the day, a student will come up and hug me, or pull my hand into theirs. They look up and smile brightly as I help them or ask them questions, or just talk about their day.

Now, we all know that time and hugs and smiles don't cost a penny.  But, even if they were for sale, you couldn't put a price on them.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Look At Me

"It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see."

-- Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Whistle While You Work

Every year in my classroom, there is a whistler or two.  I'll hear them during work time, whistling.  While they get their snow gear on they will be whistling a happy tune as they hop around on one foot trying to get it into their snow pants.   They whistle while they are getting their mail from their little mailbox, or stacking their chair at the end of the day.  One time last year I heard one little boy whistling 'Auld Lang Syne'.  In May. In the bathroom.   Now there's a happy kid for you.

As a teacher, whistling is something you can't really allow.  This is because, inevitably, it will annoy everyone around them.  Some are annoyed because they can't think.  Some are annoyed because they want peace and quiet.  Some are annoyed because the person is trying to annoy them by whistling. Some are annoyed because they are unable to whistle, therefore, they are not going to allow someone else to do it.

Within mere seconds of a whistler beginning their tune, someone will be tattling.

"Mrs. Jeppson!  [insert whistler's name] is whistling!"  This is always said with great disdain.  How dare them!
It's usually followed up by me saying, with a loud sigh, "Can whoever is whistling please stop.  It's bothering others who are trying to ________".   That normally quiets them.  At this point in the year, I don't even have to say anything.  Inevitably, one of the students will take care of it by repeating above phrase to the classroom.  They have even learned to place my loud sigh at just the right spot.  It's a polite group of students this year so they always stop and we carry on.

Usually the whistlers like to perform during IDR (independent daily reading)  for more impact.  A quiet room.  The teacher away for a few minutes with a para peeking in sporadically. Perfect for the whistler.  He/she is able to annoy, but the chances of getting caught are remote since there isn't an adult in the room.   Even our wonderful paras can't detect just which one of the twenty-two innocent little faces, strategically hidden behind their Magic Tree House books is actually whistling.  No doubt, though someone will rat him/her out.

This year I'll have to admit I have more hummers than whistlers.  Often during the day you can hear someone humming.  Especially if there is any coloring going on.  For some unexplained reason, humming seems to be accepted more in the classroom population than whistling.   I'm not quite sure why that is.

Every time I hear someone whistling I think of the song "Whistle While You Work".  Not to worry, I have no intention of posting the link to that song.  It's incredibly annoying.  And there's lots of whistling in it.  Bleh!  So I googled jobs that include whistling and here are the jobs they mentioned:

Traffic Cop 
Train Engineer

Add to the list "teacher with kids outside for recess when they need to get them back in the building".

Fascinated, suddenly, by whistling, I looked up "whistle while you work" and I found an interesting article about how whistling relieves stress and is a good thing to do while working or extending yourself mentally.  It's really worth a quick read, particularly the section on "paralysis by analysis".  Simply put, we can paralyze our self when we over analyze and try to control every single thing we do.   I've seen that first hand with students when they take a test.  Often, the best students don't perform as well as they should because they become "frozen" mentally as they try to over think and analyze every question and answer.

Read Article

Do you know how many idioms include the word whistle? Me neither, but there are quite a few.

My personal favorites are:  blow the whistle on, clean as a whistle, bells and whistles, just whistle, not whistling Dixie, and wet one's whistle.

Now I'm definitely not a whistler.  Never was and never will be.   I annoy myself if I whistle.  But, I don't know.  After reading this article, maybe there is something to this whole thing.  

As a teacher, my job sure has its share of stress and mental strain. I think the next time one of my little darlings starts to whistle, I'll join in.   And we can whistle while we work.

At least until we get asked politely to stop.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Daily 5K

I do a lot of walking in a day. Walk to my classroom.  Walk to art. Walk to Spanish.  Walk around my room.  Walk to the printer. Walk back and forth in my room.  Walk across the hall.  Walk next door.  Walk to music.  Walk to the bathroom and stop off at the copier.  Walk to the teacher's lounge.  Walk to the office. I'm in constant motion pretty much all day long.

I need to wear a pedometer for a few days and see just how much walking I actually do in a given day.  I really realize just how much I walk when I take a moment from my day to actually sit down.  I especially like sitting in one of the student's desks.  It gives me a different perspective when I sit where they sit.  The students think it's funny when I sit at their desks.  

Today, mid-afternoon, I plopped down in a student's chair while she was sharpening her pencil.  The students were working on laptops, putting the finishing touches on their animal research reports.  I sifted through her carefully organized papers and saw that she was working on her table of contents.  I casually asked the student next to me how things were going and then starting typing away.  

Shortly, the little girl returned from the pencil sharpener and stood very close to me.  She didn't seemed pleased.

"Hi [insert student name]!"

"You are sitting in my chair," she declared.  As if she owns it.  

"Oh!  Yes, I am!  I'm just helping you type and taking a little break from walking around the room," I explained.   "I'm feeling a little tired."

"Well, now I don't have anywhere to sit and I need to finish my report," she said. She's a dedicated student and I can see the anxiousness beginning to appear in her face.  She simply must sit down and finish her report.  There is no time for me to be silly.

"I have an idea.  Why don't you do my job and I'll finish up your job.  We can swap!  What do you think?" I suggest.

[scratches eyebrow.  Bites lip]

"Well...." she began, pondering my swap. "What exactly is it I would have to do?"

"Mainly just walk around the room, check each student's report for spelling and content, answer any questions that come up about technology, keep students on task, and be helpful and nice,"  I counter.  "It' easy AND it's fun!"

My little sales pitch seemed to work and she looked at me hesitantly and said, "Hmmmm. OK."   But I could tell her little heart wasn't into it.  She just wanted to sit back down and finish up her table of contents in her beautifully done animal report.  She wanted me out of her chair.

"Or...." I said to her as I started to get up from her chair.  "We could just trade jobs tomorrow."

She smiled and let out an audible sigh of relief. 

"OK!  Let's do it tomorrow instead," she confirmed.  

And so, I picked up my fifteenth lap around my classroom and stopped occasionally to chat with a student and check on their progress.  I dare say, besides getting in my walk for the day, I even managed a few squats.


... and because my blog has to do with walking, the song below has playing in my head.   "500 Miles" by The Proclaimers