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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blogger Apprentice

OK, so I know I posted that I was going to take a "spring break" from my blog, but I couldn't wait to share some exciting and positive news!  Months ago a friend at school put me in touch with one of her friends who is a former teacher turned children's author.  She thought her friend could help with blog advice, as well as increase my blogging audience and connections.  We emailed back and forth some introductions and, long story short, she asked me to be a guest blogger on her site!  I was excited, nervous, and a little anxious as I have never blogged on other sites.  

If you are not familiar with Maria Dismondy, she is an award winning author who writes wonderful stories to help kids learn about self-esteem, social skills, and respect.  Make sure and check out her website:  Maria Dismondy  

My class and I love her books, especially Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun.  We read it several times during the year when situations come up and they need to be reminded of doing the right thing.  It's frequently "in use" in my room during IDR time also, when students choose it to read and reread throughout the year. 

Thank you so much, Maria, for giving me the opportunity to try something new and guest blog.  I look forward to having you guest blog on my site soon!  

Read My Guest Blog on Maria's Site



Now I know I'm no blogging superstar.  But I haven't been kicked off the island yet. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring Break

Today marks my 100th blog!  Since September I have been blogging several times a week and have spent well over 100 hours writing, editing, and polishing blog posts.  

Today also marks the first day of our school spring break.

I'm going to take a much needed break away from school and spend less time on the computer to relax, renew, and reenergize as I prepare for the final couple months of this school year.  

I'll see you back here the week of April 8th.  Please check back then to read the latest blogs.

So, whatever you're doing for your spring break - enjoy!  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Occupied

I can't believe I have been blogging and sharing stories of my days with eight year olds since September, and have not once mentioned any potty humor.  It goes without saying that working around kids, especially elementary age kids, life frequently involves potty humor, including, but certainly not limited to, body sounds.  

For example, with almost 100% certainty every day,when we all gather on the back carpet for reading or discussion and sharing, one little one will move a little too quickly and, let's just say, toot their own horn. At least by this time of the year, the giggling is kept to only a few seconds and the blushing of the guilty one is minimal.  I always try to just keep reading or chatting, but I usually have to chuckle a little myself.

Today, the students were busy on the laptops finishing up their Michigan history timelines.  Three fourth grade girls that were in my class last year, entered our room and approached to give me a birthday treat.   I walked the three girls over to my cabinet where I store my candy, which just so happens to be right next to the boy's bathroom.  If I have my cabinet door open, it blocks any boy attempting to enter, or exit, the boy's bathroom.    Anyway, as I held the candy box out and the girls chose a piece, a loud voice boomed from the other side of the bathroom door.

"Hey!  Someone is in here!  The bathroom is occupied!" shouted the voice.  The fourth graders smiled and scurried out of the room.   I began to shut the cabinet doors, not thinking of how loud they are.  One of them sticks so I really have to push it shut.  As I shut the first door, the voice behind the door roared again.  

"Come on!  I said someone is in here!  Why are you banging on the door so loud?  Give me a minute!" 

Now, to be clear, I wasn't banging on the door, but the cabinet doors are so close to the bathroom door, I could imagine the confusion.  From his side of the door it must have sounded like someone was desperately trying to break the door down.

Needless to say, the classroom had erupted by this time in laughter and howling.  I tried to hide my own amusement as I crossed back over to the other side of the room and simultaneously tried to get the students focused and back on task.  It didn't take long as these little things occur many time during any given day. 

A few minutes later, when the boy emerged from the bathroom, no one even noticed. He seemed unconcerned that moments earlier he had thought someone had tried to get through the bathroom door.   I casually strolled over to his desk and squatted down beside him. 

"That was just me giving candy to a birthday girl and closing the cabinet doors by the bathroom," I whispered to him.  He smiled.  "No one was trying to break the door down and get into the bathroom.   Sorry to have scared you."  He smiled even more and his eyes sparkled in amusement.

"Oh, really?   That's funny, because it sure sounded like the door was gonna fall in and I was on the toilet!"  He explained.   

Lest I receive TMI, I patted him on the back, smiled, and moved to the other side of the room.  

Shortly after that, one of my little cuties was talking to me and showing me her beautiful timeline.  She was pointing out her illustrations and reading the captions when suddenly, her eyes looked down at my boots.  I followed her gaze and we both saw it.  On one of my black boots there was a white splotch, that looked exactly like bird poop.  She pointed and took a step or two back.

"What is on your boot?" she questioned, quietly.  So as not to alert the masses, I presume. 

"Yikes!  I don't know," I quietly whispered back.  "Glue?"  


Her and I both knew it wasn't Elmer's on my boot.  Her and I both knew that we had been out for an extra fifteen minute recess just a half hour ago.  Her and I both knew that somehow, someway a bird had managed to hit the boot target and I was now walking around with bird poop on my boot for the whole world to see.   

In a split second, she was over rummaging around under the sink and quickly returned with an antibacterial wipe.  She pushed it into my hand.  

"Here," she directed.  "You can wipe it off."

I wiped it off, threw away the wipe and stood at the sink scrubbing my hands.  She reappeared and cozied up next to me.  "Aren't you glad it landed on your boot?"  

I winked at her. She most certainly had a point.  

Because as we all know, poop happens.



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nobody's Perfect


I like to think I'm good at what I do.  I arrive at school early each day to prepare.  I work almost every night for a little bit and a few hours each weekend.  I spend a lot of time online looking for ideas, reading educational articles and research, and of course, blogging.  I attend professional development, try new things, and reflect on my practice daily to improve. I have lots of patience with the little ones, give extra time to ones who need help, appreciate each child's unique abilities and personality, and try to always keep my sense of humor.  I collaborate and cooperate and coordinate.  

But no matter what I do, I know I'll never be perfect.  I make mistakes. Often.  I flub up lessons.  I give miscues.  I sometimes get crabby with the kids.  I've even walked the kids to art when they are supposed to be in spanish.  Occasionally, I mess up the date on the board or give too many directions and confuse the little darlings.   

But no matter what I do, I know I'll never be perfect.  I still have a lot to learn. Every time I talk with another teacher or walk into another classroom, I learn something new or see something wonderful.  Every professional development or new software program or technology that comes my way, I work hard to learn and incorporate into my classroom.  There's new curriculum to read up on and incorporate.

Even though I'm certainly not perfect, some things can be.  Like the perfect storm.  And we all know that practice makes perfect and have heard the beauty of someone who is pitch perfect.  Maybe we've thought about the perfect crime, and there is no denying that everyone loves a perfect gentleman or would like to be a perfect "10".  Hopefully, we all one day find our perfect match.

Dictionary.com defines perfect as follows:  (note #4)

per·fect

 [adj., n. pur-fikt; v. per-fekt] 
adjective
1.
conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type: a perfect sphere; a perfect gentleman.
2.
excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement: There is no perfect legal code. The proportions of this temple are almost perfect.
3.
exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose: a perfect actor to play Mr. Micawber; a perfect saw for cutting out keyholes.
4.     entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings: a perfect apple; the perfect crime.
5.
accurate, exact, or correct in every detail: a perfect copy.


Now, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to be perfect.  I rather like my flaws and my mistakes.  They help me to grow and learn and be better than I was the day before.  

After all, no matter how hard we try or how much we want to be, nobody's perfect.  Not even a teacher.  


Listen to "Nobody's Perfect"




Monday, March 25, 2013

The Big Kid

Today my daughter came to visit my classroom and kids.  She usually visits a few times every year, but hadn't been in yet this year because she moved to Chicago in September for a new job and hasn't been home much.  She is leaving next weekend for an exciting opportunity volunteering in Costa Rica for six weeks so she came home last weekend.   She'll be living with a family and working with little ones in orphanages.  I'm excited for this great adventure for her! 

I mentioned to my class this morning that we would have a special visitor this afternoon - my daughter.  They all smiled and acted excited about meeting her.

"But doesn't she live in Chicago?" asked one little boy.  They know she moved to Chicago because I told them all about her in September and I also frequently visit her on the weekends and tell them about my travels.

"Yes.  You're correct.  She does.  But she was here for the weekend and really wanted to come in and meet all of you!" I announced.  "I'm always telling her how wonderful you all are so she wants to see for herself"

They smiled, proud that someone would want to come and meet them and happy that I told her how wonderful they are.   And then we carried on with our busy day. Occasionally, throughout the day, one of my students would come up to me and ask what time she was going to come in or check to see that she was still going to come in.  

"Yes.. yes..." I reassured them over and over.  "She will be here after computer lab."

A anxious hand shot in the air.  "Does she know how to get here?" he checked. 

"Yes..yes...," I answered.  "She has been here many, many times.  Although not as many times as all of you."   A few chuckled at my little joke.

During computer lab, one little girl came up behind me and grabbed the sleeve of my sweater.  "What if your daughter goes to our room and we are not there? Then she won't know where we are and she'll leave," she said in a panic.  

"Not to worry," I replied.  "I told her we might still be in computer lab, so she'll come find us." 

Once back in our room, excitement was in the air.  My daughter would be there any moment!   I was reading aloud from a book when my daughter breezed through the door, carrying a cupcake shaped container filled with cupcakes.  There was silence, followed my lots of giggles, and whispers back and forth.   I think they had all imagined that my daughter would be like an older brother or sister, a little taller, but still like a kid.  My daugher, is in fact, quite grown up and it was obvious, she was not quite what they had visualized.  

I introduced her and the giggling continued.  Honestly, I haven't seen them this giggly all year.   

"Let's play a little guessing game," I told them.  "My daughter is going to be going to visit another country to volunteer for six weeks.  You know the game, 'Where's Waldo?'   You try to guess where she is going."

Most hands went into the air and some couldn't help it and shouted out country names.  One by one they guessed with an occasional clue to help pinpoint the location.  I had pulled the map down to help them and also get in a little geography by letting them point out each guessed place on the map.  

Before too long, one little cutie had guessed Costa Rica and the game came to an end.  Next up, we served rainbow colored cupcakes, which, as you can imagine, was a huge hit. Some students asked my daughter questions and then the class settled in to play chess for the final few minutes of the day.  

As I was talking to a few students one of them said, "Hey! You should show your kid what happened to our map!"  It had broken the other day and when they replaced it, they put another world map up.  So our maps are now both world maps instead of one US map and one world map.   For some reason, the kids find that very interesting.

"My what?" I asked her.

"Your kid," she answered and pointed to my daughter, just in case I couldn't pick her out of the crowd.  

"What's my kid's name?"  I challenged her.  "Do you remember?"

She guessed wrong, but then again, and got it correct.  

"It's funny that you're our teacher and you also have a big kid," she explained.  

I'm wondering if that was meant as a compliment about me looking young, or more the fact that little kids can't conceive of their teacher having a life outside of school.

It doesn't seem like so long ago that my daughter was in the 3rd grade, giggling with her friends and eating cupcakes. And now she's the big kid.  

So what does that make me?







Thursday, March 21, 2013

Winning!

I spent the day today with some wonderful teacher friends at the annual MACUL conference in Detroit.  What in the world does MACUL stand for, you ask?  It's the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning.  It was a great day filled with terrific speakers, wonderful topics, and lots and lots of useful information. A computer geek teacher's dream.

After a slow, traffic-filled drive downtown, the day began with our check-in at registration where we received our name badge and this spiffy bag.  "You Can Learn Virtually Anything" it reads in bright neon green letters.  Get it?  A tech conference? Virtual?  Those techie people are hilarious. 

And we were off for a day of learning!  One of my teacher friends had typed up our schedule, the room location, and the times.  She even included a map so we could all quickly scan the sheet and locate where we needed to be at any given time.  (Thank you!)   I must say, the schedule she gave us was much better than the ones we had in our bag.  Ever notice how it's always the teachers that are so prepared, organized, and on top of things? Now combine that with knowledge of technology and you've got a real winner.

We all went our separate ways, with a plan to meet up for lunch. 

My first session was on Pixie and Wixie and project based learning.  It was informative, but not what I had anticipated, since it included many ideas and information I already knew.  But, my day suddenly began to get better.  Just as we were all exiting out the door, the speaker called out my number for the "prize", some Frame 5 software to create claymations.  I was so excited!  I never win anything.  And I mean never.  If I was in a drawing with one other person, the other person would win.   So I spun around and bounded up to receive my gift.  I'm excited to test it out and see if it will be something I can use with my little ones. 
My winnings from today!

Next up was lunch, a visit to the exhibition hall, and then we set off to our afternoon sessions.   Unfortunately, the presenter didn't show up for the next one, so I quickly went next door where they were presenting information on STEM.  Although it was quite interesting, it was geared more for high school teachers, so not much of the information was going to be of use to me.

I met up with one of my teacher friends for the next presentation, which was two vibrant women that had lots of fun and useful technology tips and sites.   Once again, I received a winning ticket and collected my "You Rock" sippy cup, filled with gum and candy!  I started to think that I should stop off and get a lottery ticket on my way home. 

The final session was a speaker my other teacher friends had previously seen and raved about, so I was excited for this presentation.  As they had said, he was funny, personable, and had a terrific presentation about student engagement and teachers needing to love what they do and love what they teach. 

So, what are the big take-aways today, besides my prizes?  Well I found the coolest table by Promethean.  It's all interactive and works like a Promethean board, except it's a table.  I would LOVE to have one of these in my room for small groups.  Heck, I'd love to have one of these in my room for any group!  Too cool!   


I also learned that everybody in the world (slight exaggeration) has an iPad and everyone at the conference (not an exaggeration) had one today.  I felt like a dinosaur when I got my MACUL 2013 free pen out of my bag and started actually writing down some notes.  Everybody looked at me as if they felt sorry for me.  I think a few people even moved their seat away from me from embarrassment.   But, hey, I guess it is a technology conference after all.  I saved face a bit by using my iPhone to check mail and google some sites being shown by the presenter.

I definitely learned about some new technology/apps I can't wait to start learning about and trying out in my classroom.  I left today excited and buoyed by the fun and positivity of the day.   

So, without further ado, I'm going to get my scribbled notes out of my bag. I just hope I can read them well enough to type them correctly onto my laptop.  I'm glad I got the opportunity to spend the day with teacher friends and learn new things. 

Now I'm off to voki.  Go ahead.  Google it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Put A Smile On Your Face

Mondays can be hard.  Especially when you don't get much sleep over the weekend.  But Mondays can also be great.  Especially when you go into them with a smile on your face and a positive attitude.  That's exactly what I did today.  I jumped (well, OK, not really jumped) out of bed when my alarm went off at 5:45 a.m.  I smelled the coffee brewing as I raced (well, OK, not really raced) downstairs for my morning cup of hot, fresh coffee.  I clicked on the news and picked up the New York Times crossword puzzle that my husband left for me on the table.  I sipped the hot brew as I correctly (well, OK, not all of them) answered the clues and filled in the puzzle.  

Soon, I was showered and dressed, had walked the dog and grabbed my lunch and bag and left for school.  

I love watching the kids arrive on Mondays.  They're a little sleepy, a little slower than usual, but always smiling and happy to be at school.  I hear stories of their weekend fun, watch them greet one another, and love the fact that they know exactly what to do.  I so enjoy the hugs I always get from several of them as they enter the classroom.

I told them that today was going to be the best Monday of the year.  That we only have 11 more Mondays left in this school year.   I made a pouty, sad face to show them that I'm already feeling a bit sad that they will be moving on to fourth grade soon and there's nothing I can do about it.  I was suddenly hit with the fact that I will miss every single one of them.

There were a few times today I caught myself heading over to the dark side (negativity), but within seconds I was back in a more positive frame of mind.   For six and a half months I've completely altered my attitude.

So, just in case you didn't have the most positive of days, here are some stories from my classroom that I hope might put a smile on your face.

Whenever I make a mistake, I tell the students it's "teacher error" and we all get a laugh out of it.  I remind them that everybody makes mistakes.  I tell them that's why I need them - to help keep me on track.  They love when they spot a mistake, sometimes an incorrect date on the board or telling them to get ready for art, when we are actually going to music.  By now in the year, when I do make a mistake, they all smile and just say, "teacher error".   I think it helps minimize their feelings when they too, make a mistake. 

At lunch today I had one little girl and boy ask me if they could eat with me at my back table.  

"Sure," I happily replied.  "To what do I owe this pleasure?" 

Both looked at me like I was speaking another language so I helped bail them out.  

"I'm glad to have you join me for lunch.  Why?"  I interpreted. 

"Well, I don't want you to be lonely," explained the one girl.   Awwwwwwww......so sweet.
She doesn't realize that being surrounded by twenty-two little kids in a classroom prevents any feelings of loneliness.

"I just want a change in scenery," added the little boy as he plopped his lunch on the table next to mine.   

Kids.  Gotta love them.  An eight year old that yearns for a change of scenery.  I wonder what he'll be doing when he's twenty?  Probably traveling the world!

After our lovely lunch, the darling little girl threw away my trash for me and wiped the table with an antibacterial wipe.  

"You can come back tomorrow," I urged her.  "You're fun to eat with and you clean up your stuff and mine too!"   

Not to be outdone, the little boy pushed in the chairs and picked up a few imaginary things on the floor.   

Our day flew by, as it always does as we went through the day's activities and assignments.

A few minutes before the bell rang, the students were all standing by their desks, packed up and anxiously waiting for the bell to ring.  

"If you can hear me, come on over and line up," I said in a barely audible voice.  

Whosh!  Six boys and two girls instantaneously were standing beside me, while the rest remained behind at their desks.

"Wow!" I began. "Isn't it interesting?" I said with a quizzical look on my face. 

"Isn't what interesting?" said one of them as she looked up at my face.

"Well..... it's interesting that I barely said that loud enough for you to hear and look how many of you heard me.  But when I say directions out loud, with my microphone on, hardly anyone gets them the first time.  I wonder why that is?"  I smiled, just to show I was kidding around with them.  They love that.

Just then the bell rang and one little boy yelled, as if right on cue,  "Just in time.  Saved by the bell!"   And the crowd of little kids streamed out the door to the buses and the cars that would take them home.

And just like that, another Monday gone.  And only ten more to go.  That should put a smile on your face.


Click Here to Smile  (and dance around a little too!)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Put Me In The Zoo

 Last week I was urged invited to be a part of our school's Teacher Lab.  Basically, it's where a bunch of teachers, and a few other people, visit a classroom to watch the students and the teacher in action.  They observe a lesson and look at student engagement and thinking.  I didn't join "Teacher Lab" because I wasn't interested in being in "Teacher Lab", but that's a whole nother blog.  

So, on Friday morning, as I reviewed the schedule for the day with my class, I informed them that we would be having lots of visitors in the classroom during math workshop. I explained to them what "Teacher Lab" meant.    We have visitors on occasion, so it wasn't going to be anything new, however, on Friday afternoons we aren't usually involved in math and the students were concerned they wouldn't get to play chess, our normal late Friday afternoon activity.  I was more concerned with having my peers in my room on a Friday afternoon, with my squirming, active bunch of little ones.  

The teachers began streaming in around 2:30 and I transitioned the class into math workshop.  Teachers were everywhere as I settled in at the back table with one of my math groups.  Another group of students grabbed their math game or iPad and got settled on the back carpet.  The other group chose their math assignment and partnered up at some desks to begin.  After about fifteen minutes, students rotated around the room to a new activity, sidestepping around the adults. 

Thirty minutes later, after the fifteen or so people thanked us and left the classroom, five or six hands shot up into the air.  It was a little after 3 p.m. so I assumed they were going to remind me that we still had time to play chess. 

I called on one of the students.   She squirmed a bit in her seat before beginning. 
"Ummm.... can I say something about all those people in our room?" she began, with a nervous laugh. 

"Of course you can," I told her.  "I'd love to hear any thoughts or comments."  At this, at least four more hands waved in the air.  Seems they all wanted to give some input.  I love that about them.

"There were so many of them!  I felt weird cuz they were watching me and stuff," she continued, trying to put her thoughts into words.  Eight or nine little heads bobbed up and down in agreement.  

I reminded her, and the class, that the teachers were watching them to learn. I had told the students that they would be teaching the teachers today.  I told them to just do what they always do and to pay no attention to all the visitors.  

"I counted fourteen people in our room,"  one little boy.  "That means we had thirty-five people in here!"   

"Plus Mrs. Jeppson makes thirty-six," added another girl.  "That's a lot of people in our room!" 

The room was suddenly abuzz as the students told one another what they thought of the experience.  

"Two teachers sat behind me and watched me while I played a game on the iPad," one boy announced.  

Not to be outdone, another student interjected, "Well, we had four teachers watching us work on the Button Doll math.  And they were asking us questions and everything!" 

I let them share and talk a bit more before I grabbed their attention back.

"Does anyone have any other comments or thoughts besides the number of people in the room?" I asked.  "Before we move on?"

"I kind of felt like I was in a zoo or something," one little boy declared.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"Well....  because.... you know... they were staring at us and watching us.  Some were even whispering and talking about us," he explained.  "Now I know how the animals feel at the zoo!" 

In my own mind, I had been thinking it felt more like being under a microscope.  

Before I left school on Friday, a fellow 3rd grade teacher, who was a part of the lab, thanked me for having them in my room.  I explained to her how awkward I felt and she assured me that a lot was learned.  I met up with another teacher friend in the hallway as I was leaving and she told me they had a great conversation in lab about math workshop and appreciated me letting them come into my classroom.

I've been thinking about the zoo comment this weekend.  I've been thinking about what a great group of students I have, who on a Friday afternoon, adjusted their normal schedule and carried on with a lot of adults in their space watching them.   I've been thinking about how important it is to learn from one another.  

I pulled out my copy of "Put Me In the Zoo" which was one of my daughter's favorite books when she was little.  I think two parts in the book describe my Friday best:


                                    "Why should they put you in the zoo?"
                                    "What good are you?  What can you do?"

I hope we were put into the zoo because we can do good things.  And we're willing to try new things together. And because my students can help teach teachers.
                             

Or maybe it's more like this:

"With all the things that you can do,"
 "The circus is the place for you."
   

   
And it would definitely be a three-ring circus.

   









Saturday, March 16, 2013

Take A Number


Imagine a doctor, seeing twenty-five patients, with different ailments and symptoms, from various backgrounds in his office at the same time.  Imagine having to diagnose, treat, assist, and care for all twenty-five patients at the same time.  That is a teacher's day, every day.  We have twenty+ students of all different abilities and backgrounds, personalities and needs.  We are obligated to help them learn, grow, and succeed.



In third grade I am constantly working with students to become more independent and use some problem-solving skills, but it seems there are usually five or six students at any given time throughout the day waiting for me.  I've often thought that I should get one of those "Now Serving" machines at the deli counters where you can take a number and then you wait for your number to be called.   Although I don't have that, thanks to Pinterest, I do have cute little laminated numbered pencils that I use during Writer's Workshop time.  Students take one when they are ready to conference with me.   I call out the next number and watch for the excited, lucky "winner" to leap from their desk clutching their writer's notebook and pencil.   It's a great way to keep them all on task, writing, while they wait their turn.

As a teacher, I try to differentiate throughout the day as well as use workshop models so that all students are getting what they need.  But there are times during the day where I can't possibly be with each one of them at every moment.  I'm greatly out numbered.

Today in the midst of calling numbers and conferencing with the students, one student approached me to offer some friendly advice. 

"Don't you wish you had eight arms like an octopus?  Then you could call back eight students at a time and you'd get done faster?" He said this as if I should have already thought of this myself.  

"Well, that's a great idea," I began.  "But I don't really think I want to be an octopus.  I would have to live in the sea, and quite honestly, octopus kind of freak me out." 

He chuckled.  "Yeah, they kind of freak me out too.  And you would look really weird."

He walked away, probably to work on another idea of how to help me speed up my conferencing and get to him faster.

Pass by any classroom and you'll probably see a teacher surrounded by kids.  They might be walking beside her to ask a question.  They might be surrounding the teacher in a circle, so she can't go anywhere until she listens to their comments.  They might be haphazardly lined up by her desk or table, waiting their turn to show an assignment.  They might be outside the classroom, trying to push their way to the teacher to get help zipping a coat.   

I've thought about what it would be like, if as a teacher, I worked with my students, like a doctor sees patients.  If I saw them one-on-one and listened carefully to their needs without any interruptions or time constraints.  A teacher's job is like no other for many, many reasons.  We deal with a lot of students for a lot of hours every day.  We work hard to meet their individual needs while, at the same time, teach them cooperation and sharing. 

But I'm not a doctor.  Or an octopus.  

I'm just a teacher, doing my best to help every student succeed. And if you have any suggestions or comments for me, will you kindly just take a number and have a seat?  

Because I may be a while.






Cootie Bug Lunch

My class is so terrific!   This week they finished up their first Cootie Bug (if you don't know what I'm talking about, read earlier blog One For All, All For One ).  I had told them that each time we complete a bug, they get to pick a reward of some sort. 

Naturally, they were really excited to chose something special so ideas were taken, written on the board, and the voting began.  There were ten ideas, students voted for their top choice, and then the top three were voted on. It was between no homework for the night, inviting a friend in for lunch, or fifteen minutes of "free choice" time. In third grade any free time is a rare commodity, as our days are very hectic.   At the end of voting there were eleven students who wanted no homework and ten who wanted to invite a friend for lunch.  So, instead of going with the most popular, I let them each get the choice they wanted.   It was interesting to see the students excited about no homework for the night, and other ones looking forward to lunch with a friend, not minding homework the least bit.

On Thursday, five of my little ones went to ask a friend to our room for lunch.  Imagine my surprise when four of them asked me if they could invite their darling little kindergarten buddy!  We are buddies with one of the kindergarten classes and every other week we get together with them:  a third grader is paired up with a kindergartner.  They read books together, play math games, write stories, play outside on the "little kids side", and just have a great time together.  The third graders love being the 'teacher' and helping their buddy and the buddies really enjoy having an older kid help them and give them such wonderful attention.  It's a win-win situation for all.

At lunch, they went and picked up their buddies, pulled over chairs for them and dug into their lunches.  The chairs were a bit too big and the tables were a little too high, but the third graders carefully got their little friend settled in.

It was so cute to see the little kindergartners talking with a table of third graders who helped them open food packages and laughed and talked.  It could have been a little intimidating for these tiny, five year olds to come into the "big kids" room and eat lunch, but they seemed very comfortable. 

At one point, one of my third graders came over to me and asked me if I wanted to hear a cute story about her little buddy.   "Of course," I told her.  "I'd like nothing more."

"Well, you know, my little buddy [insert name] picked up a piece of cheese and took a bite and told me it tasted like cheese!", she laughed.  "So, I told her it tasted like cheese because it was cheese!" she explained further, still giggling.   "And do you know what she said then?" she asked.

"No idea," I responded.  Because I really had no idea.

"She told me that she didn't know cheese was so delicious!  Isn't that too cute?" she happily smiled. 

"Too cute," I agreed and, happy that I also was impressed with her kindergartner's degree of cuteness, she rushed back over to her lunch and her buddy.

I watched as the third graders helped their buddies out with cleaning up and even saw one wipe some lunch remains off the face of her little buddy. They hugged each other and said goodbye, the recess bell rang, and off the third graders went.   

This week I learned that my students are even more remarkable than I thought.  The kindness they displayed, the cooperation with one another, and the simple fact that when they have the choice of inviting any friend to have lunch with them, their top pick is a little five year old friend.  

I spoke with the kindergarten teacher and she confirmed that the ones who had been to our room for lunch were so excited and had a great time.   So we decided we'll surprise all of our students next week and instead of getting together for our usual buddy time, we are going to all have lunch together.

Because, Cootie Bug or no Cootie Bug, my students deserve it!




Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Name Game

As a teacher, being called "mom" is a regular occurrence during any given day.  I love seeing the reactions from the students when they slip and call me mom when they are trying to get my attention. It runs the gamut from red cheeked embarrassment and a little laughter to acting like they are some kind of ventriloquist that just threw their voice across the room.   I always smile and sometimes even play along.  Believe me, after hearing your name on repeat all day long, it's a welcome change to be called mom.  

Today, one of the little girls came up to show me her beautiful newspaper project she had been diligently working on.   She squeezed in close to me as I sat at the back table helping another little one next to me.  

"Does this look good to you, mom?" she sweetly asked.  The other student and I stopped what we were discussing and turned to look at the now red-cheeked little one.  

"It looks stunning!" I informed her, smiling ear to ear to show I didn't mind being called mom and trying to ease her embarrassment.   "And I sure hope you cleaned up your room like I asked you to this morning!" I added.  

She laughed and headed back to her seat carrying the work-in-progress.  I definitely think her mother would have agreed that it was, in fact, a stunning piece of work.

Students I had in my class last year tend to call me by their new teachers name when we meet in the hallway.  Whenever they do, I have some fun with them and call them a different name too.  It goes like this:

"Hi Mrs. [4th grade teacher name]!" they say to me as they pass by my room.

Within seconds, they see their error and either blush with embarrassment or smile.  

"Oh.... hi [random student name, but not theirs],"  I reply.  "How's 4th grade going?"

Since they are in 4th grade, and they put up with my sarcasm and sense of humor last year, they always play along.  

To change it up, the next time they mistakenly call me another teacher's name I might say, "Hey [correct student name]!  How is 2nd grade going this year?"    That usually stops them in their tracks to explain that they are in 4th grade this year.  To which I respond, "Oh.... sure you are.... right.....how did that happen?"  as I keep walking.

I know when my own daughter was little, she would often call me by her teacher's name at home.  I wonder if that happens with any of my students?  In a child's mind, I imagine there is quite a connection between a child's teacher and their mother, at times.

Teachers are called "mom" for many reasons.  It might be because we are kind and helpful and loving and patient.  It might be because we praise them when they deserve it and discipline them when they need it.  Maybe it's because we want them to be the very best they can.  We want them to grow and be happy and safe and be good people.  We want them to be successful and confident and independent.  We teach them and support them and encourage them and guide them.  We are proud of their accomplishments, both in and out of school.  We help them get their boots on and their coat zippers unstuck and remind them to keep their desk neat.  We give them band-aids and take care of them when they are sick.  We referee arguments and model how to be a friend.  We answer questions, read books to them, play outside with them, and joke with them.  We listen to them and show them how to listen to others.  We miss them when they leave for the summer and move to the next grade or school.   I guess it's no wonder we get mistaken for a mom.

I'm both a mom and a teacher and although I'm extremely proud of being called a teacher, I am equally honored by all the little ones who have slipped up and called me "mom". 

I hope I've done them all justice.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Dear Rainy Day,                                               

Why did you have to come on a Monday, of all days?  Don't you know Mondays are my day with the entire afternoon without specials?   Don't you realize that I have loads to carry in on Monday mornings and I had to figure out how to do that while attempting to balance an umbrella?  You teased us with warmer temperatures over the weekend and then rained on our parade. 

For a while, I thought you would hold off and allow some time outside to run and play.  But, alas, that didn't happen and instead, there was a room full of rowdy, antsy, energetic little ones surrounding me as I made my way out the door for a few minutes to escape during IDR.   

Your clouds blocked the sun from our classroom windows and even our little solar powered monkey wasn't dancing.  Not enough light in the room.  My class looked longingly out the window all morning, hoping that the sun would come out, so that they could go out. But we didn't go out.  Thanks a lot, rain. 

We heard you rain, pounding down on the vents, and knocking against the window, only reminding us of the missed play time and fun to be had outside.  We watched the puddles accumulate around the slide and the tether ball court outside our window.  

We are aware that we need you for our spring flowers to grow and our plants and trees to drink.  But, just for the record, can you please come again another day? 

Like one in July or August.

Sincerely,

Room 24