Sunday, December 21, 2014

Don't Try This At Home

It's hard to believe it's already December and soon a new year will be here.  Friday was our class party with a New Year's Eve theme.   It goes without saying that the last day before the break is extremely exciting for a kid.  It also goes without saying that it is even more equally exciting for a teacher.  This was evident each and every time I passed a teacher friend in the hallway.  

As the first bell rang and I took up my post by the classroom doorway to greet students and chat with teachers as they stood outside their doorways, it began.

"Seven hours!" called over my next door neighbor above the heads of the little ones hanging up their coats and chattering excitedly.

I smiled back, happy that it was only seven hours, but also knowing deep down that seven hours can seem like many more on a day before a school break.

In the lunch line, at least three other teachers reminded me of the remaining time.  Accurate to the minute, perhaps even second.  We all had a little more pep in our step and a ready smile.  I caught myself looking at the clock more often, counting down in my head the minutes until I could be free of the demanding job that I love so much.  

Now, don't get the wrong impression.  Teachers don't want to get away from students and go on break because they don't like their job or the students.  Teachers just need some time away.  From the constant calling out of our name, the unending pile of paperwork, the "too much to do, too little time" feeling that is constantly nagging us, and the management of twenty-four little personalities   It's exhausting.  And we need this time away to recharge and reenergize so that we can come back in January and be the best teacher we can be. 

As Friday passed slowly, and the kids were trying their very best to behave and contain their excitement and anticipation of the holidays, we finally make it to the afternoon.  One of my students was having difficulty with a little mini stapler that he had bought in the classroom ticket exchange.  As he watched very closely, I pushed the tiny staples into the tiny stapler and gave it a try.  It wasn't working.  I pushed and snapped it back and forth and suddenly it stapled!  Right into my index finger!   And by stapled, I mean it embedded itself into my finger better than I have ever seen a stapler staple.  

My eyes met the little student who was the owner of the stapler and both our eyes grew into the size of saucers.   One little cutie who had been watching in fascination while I attempted to get the stapler to work, covered her mouth and began repeating words like "oh no", over and over and over.  She covered her mouth, eyes wide, not quite sure what to do.   

Now, when you work with little ones, you have to always remain calm, cool, and collected.  We have fire drills and tornado drills and scary lock down drills and teachers are the height of coolness and calm. We calm down upset kids, mediate arguments, help with lost items, you name it and we do it.  All with a smile and a very patient temperament.    Even when you have just put a staple into your finger.  I couldn't react the way I might if I were alone or with adults.  Of course, if you think about it, I would never be in a situation with adults where I could possibly staple my finger.  

The fact is, any time there is a ruckus or commotion in the classroom, every single student has to rush over to see just what is happening and what they possibly might be missing out on.   So, there I was, standing at the back table holding my finger out so several little ones could admire (or be repulsed) by this staple in my finger.   And, by the way, yes.  It did hurt. A lot.

I tried to pull it out but it was deeper in my finger than any staple I've ever pounded into my wall or bulletin board.  Great.  Even though only a few seconds had passed, it felt like minutes as the little girl continued to look scared (and still had not stopped her chorus of "oh no") and the owner of the stapler looked helplessly on.  They waited for my lead. 

I pulled at it with my fingernail, all the while assuring them that all was fine.  That it was perfectly normal to have a staple in your finger.  But it simply was not budging.  I pulled again and then finally headed over to my desk to find a staple remover.  I was actually thinking that I would have to use it to get this thing out of my finger.  And, yes.  It was hurting even more.  In fact, now it was throbbing.  

My little crowd followed me to my desk and luckily, I pulled one last time and the staple came out.   Immediately, a couple of my little helpers raced to the sink to get a paper towel and water and soap and a bandaid and anything else they thought might help, including a spork.   It wasn't really bleeding and although it did hurt, I soldiered on.  I showed the darling little girl that it wasn't even bleeding.  

"Hey!  It looked worse than it feels," I told her to make her feel better.  "It really doesn't even hurt."   I smiled my best teacher smile.  

She looked relieved.   The stapler owner tossed the defective stapler into the trash in a show of disgust and support of my finger.  

"I'm fine!  I'm fine!" I reassured them all.  "But I wouldn't recommend any of you try this at home!  Just stick to rulers on pencils and clicking your pens."     

They giggled and you could see they all were ok now that I was ok.  Their worry for me is so heart-warming.  The last thing they want is for anything to happen to me.  A classroom of students is like your own little fan club.  

One of the things I always tell my students when they are playing with something in the classroom, like twirling their ruler on their pencil, clicking their pen, or playing with scissors is to save that for when they are home on the weekend with their parents.  I tell them to walk around their house all day Saturday clicking pens, twirling rulers, and playing with scissors.   They always laugh.     We are at the point in the year where as soon as I remind them not to play with something, they all parrot back what I have been telling them all year. 

It was a great New Year's Party on Friday. We had balloons and decorations and music. The kids played some games, wore hats and tiaras, decorated glasses, ate some food, and limboed.  They laughed and had fun.  Just like a kid should do every day.   They gave me gifts and cards they had made with markers and stickers and glitter.  They hugged me tight before they left.  They told me they would miss me and see me next year.   Two weeks is a long time for a nine year old.  I will most certainly miss them too.

And as I glanced up at the clock for the final time a few minutes before the bell rang and looked down at my bandaged finger that was still throbbing, I realized there was no place else I would want to be.  I was giddy at the thought of having two whole weeks of vacation.   One little cutie came up to me to hug me and tell me she would miss me.  She took her little hand and pulled my hand up to look at my bandaged finger. 

"Is your finger ok?" she asked.  

"Yep," I told her.  "Good as new. Just remember  - don't try that one at home!" 

To all my fellow teachers  - 

     Happy holidays!  Enjoy every minute of your break from school.     


Wednesday, December 3, 2014


There are so many fun little things that happen every day in a 3rd grade classroom (or in any classroom for that matter), but today was even more fun than usual.  For starters, we had our first field trip of the year - a wonderful trip to our nature center to kick-off our Geology unit. Now, as you could probably already surmise, kids love field trips no matter where they are or what you do.  It's a win-win for them: a ride on a school bus, time away from the classroom, and something new!

So this morning, ten minutes after the bell rang, we were lining up again to head to the bus and start the fun.  The excitement was palpable.  Once I had them lined up by the door, I gave them my short & sweet, "Field Trip Behavior 101" speech.  Be polite. Don't interrupt.  Listen & learn. Have fun.  And then I reminded them that if they made it to 3rd grade, they've been on countless field trips and therefore obviously know how to act properly on a field trip.  

"Any questions about what proper behavior is?" I asked, arching my eyebrows as I looked up and down the line of little ones.  

They eyed me back with their best behavior student looks.  

"Super!  Then we're off!" I exclaimed as I marched them out the door and to the bus.

Now, I'll be honest.  I don't like riding on school buses.  I don't like the bouncy, no-padding-in-the-cushions seats.  I don't like all the noise and the small windows.  I don't like the feeling of not having a seat belt.   I get car sick easily so I'm constantly trying to look out the windows at the horizon to keep from feeling queasy.  Which is nearly impossible when you have little ones telling you a story or you're turned around giving student A an evil eye and motioning for said student to sit down.   But, luckily it was a short trip over to the nature center.

Once there, the students were moved around into different rooms and had all kinds of fun hands-on activities to do and things to explore.  If they got a grade for field trip behavior, they would all get an A+. We got back to school, promptly went to lunch and then I announced that we were going to do some reflecting on our field trip experience and our 
learning.   So, I began handing out a 9 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper as I walked around talking.   As I passed by one little girl, she turned to her friend and said, "Oh goody. I think we're gonna get to do a craft."  

Wah-Wah.  Sorry, little one, but we barely have time to get through curriculum and our 10,000 other things we have to do.  And you have no idea, but soon the principal will be in the classroom to do my formal observation. There will be no craft today.  But kudos to you on the optimistic attitude!

After the directions were given and the students began busily thinking about the field trip [side note: little craft girl did not seemed fazed that we were not doing a craft] and writing about the things they saw and learned about, I passed by one little boy who was very diligently writing.  He caught my arm as I walked by and pointed to a word on his paper.   

"This is right... right?"  he asked.  "This is the thing in the rocks.  You know the cave thing," he continued.

And as a teacher, naturally I knew exactly what he was talking about.  We have a tremendous ability to understand "things" and put clues together like no body's business. Some days it's like we are in a constant game of Pictionary.  Or maybe Hangman. 

He had written:  tavern.   Which by that he meant cavern

"I think you mean cavern," I corrected.  "Do you know what a tavern is?" 

At this, three other boys at the table joined in the guess the vocabulary word game and started rattling off a bunch of nonsense.  

"Enough nonsense," I said.  "A tavern is like a bar.  People go there to drink and eat."

They all started laughing a bit and I redirected them back to their papers.

Off on the other side of the room two tiny scientists were debating about the "little shovel thingie" (see what I mean about "things") that they had used to dig up fossils.  

"It's a scowl," one was saying.  

"No.  I don't think that was it.  I think it was a towel," countered student number 2.

I headed over.   "THIS is a scowl," I said to them as I knelt down and gave my scowliest look.   "And a towel is what you dry off with after you shower.   I think you mean t-r-o-w-e-l."  

"Well, that's sure a weird word," said one of the boys.  

"I agree," I replied. And I moved on to the other tables to see what was going on. 

I'm hoping my observation went well.  I'm hoping my principal enjoyed all the wonderful little students I have and all the learning and fun that takes place inside our classroom, not just for a little while, but every day, all day.   

And, maybe, just maybe, I will go off the grid one day and I will hand out some paper and we will do that craft. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Disco Fever

If you've read my blogs you may already know that last December I received the best teacher gift ever.  If you don't recall, it was a spectacular, shiny, mirror ball (a.k.a. cool disco ball that nobody else in my building has) that now hangs suspended from my classroom ceiling.  

Click here to read blog: I Have Something You Don't Have

It's quite a conversation piece, this reflecting ball of tiny mirrors and from the first day of school, my class has asked questions about it.  Questions like:  What is that?  Why do you have that?  Can I touch it?  How does it work?  Comments like: I wish I had one of those in my room.  That is so cool.  I thought teachers weren't supposed to hang things from the ceiling.  (The last comment being said by a future fire chief.  Obv.)

I just shrug at their questions and nod my head at their comments.  I intentionally don't say much about it.  It is just there.  Weeks pass and it doesn't do anything.  It isn't used for anything.  But the students never forget it's there.  They write about it sometimes in their writer's notebook.  They practice their cursive letters: d-i-s-c-o   b-a-l-l.  They look up at it when on the back carpet during reading discussions.  They wait.  

So, today, with just twenty minutes left to go in our day as they sat hunched over their chess boards intently playing, I decided it was time.   I stealthily walked to my desk and clicked from the "Solo Piano Music" station currently playing on Pandora to "Disco Radio".  Earth, Wind & Fire.   Perfect.   Suddenly every single one of them stopped in their tracks.  They may be little in size, but they can pick up on something new in a nanosecond.  

"Disco!" screeched one little boy as he jumped to his feet, chess pieces toppling, and instantly did a pretty good impression of John Travolta in Saturday Night Live stretching his arm in the air with one finger pointing to the ceiling.  Almost in unison, up jumped several more doing some pretty impressive dance moves.  Their smiles and laughter were in complete contrast to the quiet and calm chess playing from just seconds before.  It was almost as if a switch had been turned on.  

I laughed and danced along a bit with them.   "This," I said pausing for effect as I pointed to the mirror ball, "is disco!"

"Turn the lights out and make it spin around," commanded one little boy as he danced over to me.  

"Yeah.  Do that," joined in some others.  

"Oh, that doesn't happen until later," I told them, acting as mysteriously as I could.   

"Let's have a dance party every Friday!" one suggested to the nods of the other dancers.  "But it has to be disco!" 

But we were running out of time.   The bell would be ringing in ten minutes and we had to clean up. 

"Don't turn it off!" begged one little one, panic setting in.   So I asked them to clean up and and I kept the music playing.  It was one of the highlights of my week, that's for sure, watching them laugh and pick up chess pieces while not missing a beat.  

Someone better call a doctor, cuz I think we've caught the fever in my room.  The disco fever.    

Good thing I have a mirror ball.                            

Play Some Disco

Friday, November 7, 2014

Why I Do What I Do

I am a teacher.  Some days that's an exciting blend of learning, excitement, and cooperation.  Some other days it's not even a blend.  It's more of a chaotic, upside down, roller coaster. Or maybe a mood swing.   Either way, it all seems to even out in the end and I like my job.  In fact, honestly, most days it doesn't feel like a 'job' because it truly is fun to be surrounded by little kids all day and work with people that you can also call friends.  

I am a teacher.  I spend seven hours a day interacting with kids - talking, coaxing, listening, pushing, correcting, disciplining, modeling, and laughing.  I spend another 2-3 hours every day organizing, correcting, copying, planning, collaborating, and reflecting.   On weekends, I dedicate several hours to prepare for the week ahead, or look for materials for upcoming units of study.  School is never far from my mind.

I am a teacher. I am constantly attending professional development to improve and learn more.  I read educational blogs and books to keep up with current research and best practices.  I spend every available moment at school talking with colleagues and comparing what works best and sharing ideas.   I am a student myself and invigorated by learning.  Not just the teacher, but a student also.

I am a teacher.  I get yelled at by parents.  I get defied by students.  I get stood up for conferences.  I get more work and less pay.  I get headaches.  I get impatient and I lose things.  I get anxious and stressed.  I get slammed in the media for the profession I love.  I have years of experience but I learn something new 

So, why do I do it, year after year?

For the smile from the shy girl that arrives every day and comes to tell me a story about her night.  For the hug from the boy who got assigned the animal he wanted for his research report.  For the knowing look across the hallway with a teacher who feels the same way I do and can communicate it to me with a look.  For the handmade card carefully drawn by a student.  For the many Almond Joy candy bars I received when the students found out that it's my favorite.  For the laughs when I mess up and show them it's ok to laugh at yourself.  For the students I had last year who stop by for a hug.  For the bouquets of dandelions.  For the little faces that peek in the windows at recess and wave.  For the genuine clapping from the students when I read them a picture book.  For the admiration in their eyes when I show them the cursive letter "z".  For the tears I can wipe away.  For the aches I can lessen.  For the fears I can stop. For the times I see a student help another student and be a friend. For the joy on their faces when I give them an extra recess.  For the "AHA" moment from the student that finally gets division.  For the twenty hands that go up whenever I say, "Can I get someone to help me with ______?"  For the pushing back they give me when I push them to do their best.  For the hours and hours and days and days that I get to spend with each and every one of them. 

I do it because I couldn't do anything else. I am a teacher.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Best "Un" Birthday I Ever Had

I must say, having taught for fifteen years, with hundreds of little darlings in and out of my classroom, that I've pretty much seen it all.  But today, twenty-four little ones proved me wrong.  And in a good way.  

First of all, today is not my birthday.  In fact my birthday is over ten months away, and at my age, I really don't want to speed that yearly date up by even one day, let alone months.

So, today, as I crossed into our classroom with the buyers from lunch, my class erupted into a very loud and very silly round of the "Happy Birthday" song.  As I half-heartedly tried to shush them, some of them circled around me and soon they got to the part where you sing to the person who is celebrating their birthday, and they all shouted, "Happy Birthday, Mrs. Jeppson"....

"It's not my birthday today!" I informed them.  But to no avail. They all knew when my birthday was as it is displayed with their birth dates on our colorful birthday board. They sang and sang and it took all of my best teacher effort to finally quiet them down and get them back in their seats.  "What in the world?" I asked them, trying hard not to smile.  It was after all, very cute.

As I tried to understand twenty or more of them explaining to me all at the same time who had the idea and how fun it was and did I like it and when is my birthday really and on and on and on, I finally said over the noise, "Wellllllllll.  If it is my birthday, then I'm wondering where my cards and presents are."    That, of course, stopped them mid-sentence.  They had not obviously thought this whole fake birthday thing through.

And then they got busy.  Before I knew it, I had several cards and a random bag of mini Oreos and half a bag of chips.  When I returned to my desk, I found an eraser (used) and several tiny plastic unidentifiable objects.  There was a sticker and a few Post-It notes with smiley faces and hearts.  Say it with me:   Awwwwwwwww.

"Well," I told them.  "For an UN-birthday, this sure is the best one I've ever had.  You are all so terrific!   And a surprise UN birthday on top!   Thanks!"   

They beamed from ear to ear.  They smiled and laughed and I did too.  How can you not enjoy such a sweet and kind thing.  I knew I liked this class a lot.  

Throughout the afternoon I continued to collect a heap of paper cards and random items.   At one point, I walked past a student who had a little checklist completed of who had made a card.  Apparently he was in charge of making sure they all participated.  

My step was a little lighter this afternoon, my mood a little happier.  These little ones had put some extra fun into our day and by doing so, had managed to make my day.  They had given me a gift that can not be matched.  It was better than any birthday gift I've ever received. 

As the day ended and one of my students was packing up in the hallway while her mom waited, she grabbed her backpack, turned on her heels and smiled as she waved and said, "Bye! And Happy Birthday, Mrs. Jeppson!"    She didn't miss a beat.

Well played today my little ones.  Well played.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting To Know You....

Ask any teacher and they'll tell you that the first few weeks of school are hectic X 100.  In my school, the first weeks bring the Ice Cream Social, Curriculum Night, and Goal Setting conferences. Basically, it's like 0 to 80 in five seconds.  Or at least that's what it feels like.  This, of course, is on top of teaching little ones for seven hours a day. It's all a blur, really, and by Friday night, I'm lucky if I can stay up past 8:30.  

The first weeks of school are also a beautiful combination of meeting new little faces and personalities, getting to see teacher friends every day, and a sense of excitement for the new year stretching ahead of us all. 

I arrived home today (after car duty), exhausted and thankful that I have the next two days off. Exhilarated to be able to sleep past 5:45.   When I caught sight of myself in the mirror as I got out of my car, I had to chuckle.  The time spent on hair and make-up this morning was no longer evident.  At all. Teaching is a tough job mentally.  But it also can take a toll physically.

It always startles me a bit when I see what I look like at the end of a busy day at school compared to what I think I look like.    Click on the link below and see what I mean.
If you are a teacher, you will totally understand.

What I Think I look like (minus the outfit)

I think one of my little students summed it up best when he said to me before we left school today, "You look tired.  Try and get some sleep this weekend."  

One thing I'm never short of at school are suggestions and honesty. 

So, even though I may not be Julie Andrews and all sing-songy and bubbly and dressed to the nines every day, I'm truly enjoying getting to know my students.  Some are fun and some are quiet.  Some are boisterous and some are serious.  Some are happy and some are creative.  Some are musical and some are shy.  Some are loud and some are helpful.  Some are nervous and some are motivated.  Some are curious and some are polite. Some are careful and some are courageous.  And getting to know them is the very best part of my job.   

Haven't you noticed?  Suddenly I'm bright and breezy?  
Because of all the beautiful and new,
Things I'm learning about you,

Thank you little third graders.  It's gonna be a great year!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Feeling Groovy

It's the end of the first week back-to-school.  This can be a rough transition for teachers to shift from "it's summer and I can do whatever I want to whenever I want to" to "I have twenty-four little cuties that show up at my door at 9 a.m. and don't leave until 4:00 p.m. every day."

In a nutshell, this is how my first week back went: 

The second day of school, I was in bed by 8:30.  And sleeping like a baby by 8:32.  Getting a solid ten to prepare for day 3.  This job is hard.

All those Pinterest thirty-minute weekday dinner recipes pinned during the summer were bypassed for a trip to the nearest drive-thru, or foraging in the pantry for anything canned and microwavable.  Who am I kidding?

The accidental stain from the red dry erase marker at 9:30 a.m. remained on my shirt not only all day long, but into the evening too.  Actually, I think I slept in that shirt.

Thank God for bluetooth in my car, as I certainly didn't have the strength to raise my phone to my ear and hold it there while talking.  The fact that I could even stay awake for the whole conversation should earn me major kudos.

No personal phone calls, emails, or texts have been returned this week. Absolutely won't take the time to listen to a voicemail.  If you tried to contact me, try again sometime in mid-October.  It's not you, it's me.

I can take a pass this week on any Lifetime fitness class as my quads are screaming from squatting at tables to talk with students all week.  On a positive note, my Nike fuelband shows a minimum of 11,000 steps every day.   Winning. 

Eyes are permanently in glazed over mode.  I'm not trying to ignore you, I really just don't care.  

There is a huge blister on my big toe from high heels that I haven't worn since last June. Looking good is feeling good.  

Having to get out of bed every morning to the jolt of an alarm and put on make-up gets old by day 4.  When is the next holiday break?

All extra effort and time put in to blow dry hair is futile.   Was defeated by 99% humidity and A/C not working in classroom all week.  Ugh.

Best efforts to pack healthy lunch every day to bring to school were beaten out by not enough time in the morning and justifying it with my school's "New Improved Healthy Menu".  Whole wheat pizza crust counts, right?

I'm exhausted times 10.  
I've learned twenty-four new names and faces and personalities.    

Next week I'll get in the groove and not be so worn out by week's end. I'll have built up some stamina for caring for twenty-four little ones all day. 

Maybe I'll even stay up past 9. 


Monday, September 1, 2014

Your Ad Here

Teachers in my district have been back since August 22nd readying their classrooms and attending PD (professional development).  This year we had a really engaging speaker join us for two mornings to help us understand cultural competency and incorporate more awareness in our classrooms about diversity.  We had a lot of fun over the course of the sessions and it was time well spent.   

One afternoon last week as I drove home, I began to think about the homeless people in California.  Now, before you start thinking to yourself, "Oh my gosh!  The school year hasn't even started yet and she's already talking nonsense and babbling", let me stop and explain. 

My husband and I spent some time in California over the summer, exploring new places and taking in as many sights as possible each day. As in every city across our country, we encountered homeless people sitting on street corners and tucked away in doorways.  As in every city, these less fortunate people usually clutched a cardboard sign to communicate to the people passing by. They have but a brief moment to try and catch a person's attention.  A minute to get someone to pause briefly and, hopefully, deposit a few coins into the can.  I read their pleas for money and couldn't help but notice that their signs were not the usual ones I have read before.  The homeless people in California have stepped up their game.

For example, one unfortunate man, sitting on a corner in a wheelchair with only one leg held up a sign proclaiming, "On my last leg".  Indeed.  Another held a big sign as he smiled widely and encouraged passersby to smile with him. He happily yelled out, "Smile!" to the tourists flocking around him, no doubt hoping to score some cash.  I chuckled as I read his neat sign announcing, "I'm not gonna lie.  It's for weed."  I guess honesty is the best policy, right?  

For sure the best cardboard plea for money I spotted as we wandered through the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco.  I was amazed and amused enough, feeling as if I had just stepped back into the 60's walking down the street and catching conversations while checking out the stores.  This place is people-watching at it's finest.   Sitting against a pole, along the side of the busy street sat a young man with long hair and dingy bell bottoms. I gave him a quick look and my eye caught the sign he had perched next to him against several garbage bags full of his belongings.  "Your Ad Here" it offered.  Fantastic!  I elbowed my husband and asked him if he noticed the homeless man's sign.  

"Isn't that brilliant?" I said.  "What a great idea!  He might as well advertise while he sits there.  Like a homeless billboard."

"He's probably an advertising major," my husband noted, not to be outdone by the humor in the situation.  

Later in the week at our first staff meeting for the year, our principal asked us to think about ourselves and teaching and share something we are good at and something we would like to work on this year.  I looked around at my teacher friends at school. Wouldn't it be great if each of them created their own cardboard sign?  What would they say?  What would they say about their dedication to the field, the excitement about the year ahead, and their goals for the upcoming year?   What would they advertise about their strengths or their weaknesses?

I thought about my own sign for this year.  It reads:   Find The Good.

All of this reminds me to count my lucky stars and be thankful every day for all I have.  A terrific daughter, a wonderful husband, a faithful dog, and healthy, loving parents and family.  I have a beautiful home, a nice new car, and food and clothing.  I have a challenging and rewarding job where I work with people I admire and can call friends. I am healthy and have been fortunate to be able to travel to many places around the world.

I'm thankful that I have never had to experience times of hunger or, God forbid, homelessness.  If I ended up somehow amongst the homeless on the street, my sign would say something like this: 

Get it? 

Finally, to all my teacher friends, may this year be your best ever. We are all fortunate enough to not be homeless on the street, but to be in the classroom.   Let's have a happy, positive year of change and growth and fun.  Let's appreciate the diversity around us and be appreciative of all our differences.   Let's not be pulled down by the testing and the stress and the sometimes overwhelming feeling of somehow not being quite enough or good enough.

We are teachers. 
 We are the hope and the good that can change a child's life forever.  
Happy first day of school tomorrow. 

Let's do this. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Coming In August.....

After taking a few months off (it was a busy end of the year), I'm happy to announce that I'll be back blogging about life in my 3rd grade classroom next August.

Please check back to read my stories!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Who Let The Dogs Out?

We are not there yet.  It's too early. Even though the calendar shows only six more days until spring, this is Michigan, after all, and we can't count on really "nice" weather until at least the end of April.  So, I'm wondering, who wants to let the kids know this?  You would think with their excessive chattiness and their squirming and wiggling that it's springtime and the weather is warm enough to even, *GASP*, include an extra recess. 

But it's not.  

Today was one of those days when I felt frustrated and overwhelmed and just plain grouchy.  Everywhere I walked in the classroom, I had three or four little ones following me, all talking at once, asking for something, telling me something, tattling on someone, or just trailing along to see what I was doing.  A couple even followed me across the hall and into another classroom.  I couldn't shake them.

Now, 99% of the time, these little shadows don't bother me.  I can handle each of their little issues, all while passing out an assignment or fixing a netbook.  Usually even with a great sense of humor.  But today, my patience meter was registering very low and by lunch time, I couldn't take it anymore.  Thankfully, one of my little helpful cuties started up a movie (our usual Friday lunch treat) and I headed to the microwave to prepare my enticing Lean Cuisine meal.  

As the microwave counted down the three minutes, a couple of students queued up beside me clutching their little Rubbermaid leftovers.  

"Who put their lunch in there for three minutes?" asked one of them.  

This is because I always tell the longer time microwavers to let the shorter time microwavers go first.   They all were getting upset about this microwave hog.  

"It's my lunch," I told them.  "I'm hungry and irritable and I want to eat my lunch and not have to wait for twenty minutes to get my turn.  Today it's 'Teacher First'," I proclaimed, as the microwave counted down. 

They milled about, not wanting to argue, but anxious to get their lunch going and not miss any part of the movie that was already playing. The stern look on my face meant business and they weren't going to poke the tiger.

DING! The microwave announced that the meal was cooked and I carefully and slowly took it out and carried it to the back table. I plopped down and scanned the room, making sure everyone was eating and behaving themselves.  Excellent!  Perhaps I could get an entire ten minutes of time to just simply sit, eat, and relax.   

Within seconds my quiet lunch was interrupted by the boy sitting at the table next to me. 

"Do you want one of my chips?" he asked, holding one out in his little hand.  "They are really good." 

"No, but thank you for offering," I told him.

Kids pick up on everything and they knew I was a little bit crabby, so many of them were trying to help put me in a better mood.  

"Your lunch looks good!" the same little boy offered as my plastic spork piled with rice and chicken headed towards my mouth.   

I held up the Lean Cuisine box with the incredibly appetizing picture on the front and waved it towards him.  

"Well, it looks much yummier on the box," I showed him.  He nodded.  

"But it's Friday!" he added, smiling.    And I couldn't help but smile back and, indeed, I began to feel a little better.

With gym right after lunch and a movie to keep them occupied during lunch, soon the room was abuzz with the little lunchers cleaning up, talking, and changing into their gym shoes. 

Later, as the final minutes of the day ticked away, I looked at the back carpet where some students were playing chess.  I looked around the room at the student partners playing chess and chatting.   And then out of the corner of my eye I caught a little boy crawling across the floor on his hands and knees barking. Yes, that's what I said.  Barking.  Like a dog.  In the middle of the classroom. No rhyme.  No reason.  Just living in the moment, I suppose. I watched for a few minutes to see what he was going to do.  But just like that, he jumped up, walked back over to the chess game and his partner, and resumed their game of chess.  Dog no more.  

Soon we packed up and got ready to leave for the day, and interestingly enough a song kept playing over and over in my head.  A song that seemed a fitting end to my day.  

Here's hoping the weather warms soon so all the little dogs and little kids, and especially the teachers,  can get back outside. 

It is, for sure, time to let the dogs out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Three Ring Circus

Some days, as a teacher, I feel more like I'm the ring master in a 3-ring circus.  Or maybe more like the clown following around the elephants scooping up poop.  We have had indoor recess for the last three months and there is an extreme case of cabin fever in my classroom.   Well, OK, maybe not really three months, but indoor recess is kind of calculated like human to dog years.  You multiply the number by seven.  Whatever the tally is at this point, it doesn't matter.  The fact is, the kids need to get outside. And this seems remote, since the polar vortex has once again gripped the area with cold. 

So, back to my circus. In one ring are the little jugglers performing.  This would be the little cuties who are tossing their pencils and Cheetos from their snack in the air while simultaneously spinning their ruler on the tip of a pencil.  It's a beautiful balance of rhythm and timing. I would take bets that you could give them some plates and sticks and they would be capable of flawlessly balancing them, all while practicing some cursive. 

Ring two is where you will find the acrobats.  These are the ones who can precariously balance their chair on two legs, sometimes even holding their arms out to balance.  They teeter on the chair legs creating excitement and glee for the spectators.  On the rare occasion that they actually fall from their seats, they rebound with the agility of an Olympic athletic and return to their act with barely a blink. 

The third ring of the circus are the clowns, performing their silly antics and shenanigans. Making goofy faces or replying to questions with funny puns or jokes.  The darling little clowns are never without a smile and help to keep the rest of us smiling along with them.  There are no sad clowns in my little circus.

And me?  I would be the ringmaster.  The organizer and coordinator of the many acts taking place in my classroom throughout our seven hour daily show.  I keep us on schedule, completing our performances, and practicing for upcoming acts. 

So, step right up folks and get your tickets to see the show.

Because the circus leaves town soon.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Here Comes The Sun

This winter has been unbearable.  It has been bitterly cold, windy, dark, gray, and just plain long.  It has snowed, and snowed, and snowed and then snowed some more.  So when the temperature reached 40 today and the sun was shining, it was like a curtain was lifted and finally we all realized that winter would, indeed, end.  Now, not anytime soon.  It's only March in Michigan.  But at least now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  And at least we can be thankful for the return of outdoor recess. 

The third graders have been writing research reports on a Michigan animal.  Their report includes a glossary.  I laughed out loud today as I read one of the entries:

My sentiments exactly.  Especially after this winter.  

p.s. No offense Alaska.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Today was our field trip to the farm.  An interesting prospect since it's February in Michigan, not ideal weather to be outside.  However, as luck would have it, the weather finally broke and today was a balmy 39 degrees, a virtual heatwave.  So much so, that I had to be extra vigilant as I reminded the little ones that, yes, they really did need to still wear their gloves and hats and zip up their coats.  

So, let's break this down.  Kids love animals. Kids love being outside, no matter what the temperature.  Kids love field trips.  Put them all together and you have a few hours, outside, at a farm with animals and it's a win-win.   It's also a great time for me to stand back and listen to the students outside our normal classroom walls.  Today, like every other field trip day, I found myself chuckling and giggling over some of the cute things that came out of their mouths.

My favorite comments of the day occurred in the chicken coop.  Seems like every year this is where I hear the most comical things for some reason.   Maybe it's the cramped space.   Perhaps it's the awful smell.  Could be the squawking and quacking we hear from the wall beside us as we talk outside of the room. 

For last year's farm field trip blog click here: Farm Field Trip 2013

"Welcome to the chicken coop," said our guide, holding up an egg for all to see.  "Does anyone know what this is?" 

Several excited little voices responded, "Eggs!" which got our field trip off to a great start.

"Does anyone know what a male chicken is called?" she asked.

"A rooster," replied one little boy as a couple nodded in agreement.

"That's right.  And the female chicken is called a hen," said the guide, pointing to a chart of chicken pictures.  "So how do we get eggs?"'  

"Well, I know," came the confident response from a little girl.  "When the boy and the girl chicken get married they have little chicks."  She smiled looking at her quiet audience of friends, amazed at all her chicken knowledge.

"Yes, well that's kind of right," the guide continued.  "Except chickens don't get married.  It's more like they just have lots of boyfriends and girlfriends."   

"So they cheat on each other?" interjected one little boy.

"No, they just do the chicken dance," countered his friend, moving his arms up and down like a chicken.  

Our guide looked at me, smiling weakly, but I wasn't going to bail her out.  She started this conversation, after all.  

At this our guide very wisely and quickly ushered us into the chicken area where the kids could look at lots of chickens, quail, and even two pot bellied pigs. 

On the bus ride back, the other 3rd grade teacher and I told them all that we would be heading outside as soon as we returned to school so they could play.  They had missed their recess today and really needed to get some important play time.  Simply by adding the recess onto our afternoon schedule, the field trip was becoming the "best day ever!"   Sometimes it's just the little things. 

Forty-two little kids raced outside onto the playground, with snow piled in some areas over five feet high.  The temperature and sun provided the perfect "packing" snow and the kids took off in all directions to have some fun.  We have missed way too many recess times this year due to the frigid temperatures so it was wonderful to see them all so happy and enjoying the snow. 

I scanned the playground and was instantly struck by the random snowballs everywhere.  There were big ones, small ones, oval ones, and perfectly round ones. There were lopsided ones and square ones.  The students must have been busy at recess.

Interestingly, none of them were piled on top of another.  They were all just singular snow balls, abandoned and alone, waiting for another bell to call the kids back out.

I snapped a couple of pictures because I found the entire scene very interesting. 
Do you see it?  

A tribute to winter.
Created by children.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

They Love Me, They Love Me Not

Combine Valentine's Day with our annual Variety Show last Friday, and you could have a recipe for disaster.  Luckily, the day was just a swirl of non-stop excitement and fun.  At least for the kids. 

The kids came to school charged up, clutching heart covered boxes and stacks of tiny envelopes addressed to their friends.  As I stood in the hallway, donning my one and only festive, red item of clothing, a scarf, the cuties wished me an enthusiastic "Happy Valentine's Day" as they crowded through the doorway.  Within minutes my desk was covered with many handmade, personal valentines (my favorite), most of them taped to an Almond Joy bar (also my favorite).  Perfect timing, also, as my supply of Almond Joys from all their Halloween candy gifts was running low.  They are so sweet!  It never gets old to get a card written in little kids writing declaring me "the best teacher in the whole world!" 

I attempted to settle them down a bit before the Variety Show.  Even with a microphone on it was difficult to keep them quiet for more than a minute or two at a time.  They were just so darn excited about the day. They tried.  They really did.  Soon we were headed off to Act I of the show.  My little ones sat down on the gym floor squished together in a row, excited and eager to see their friends on stage.  Now, assemblies and author visits and all-school shows are usually lots of fun, especially for kids, but for a teacher we are on a constant, vigilant watch to monitor behavior and shush as needed.   Trust me when I say no kid wants to feel "the stare" from his/her teacher and look over to see said teacher motioning them over to sit next to the teacher.  

After lunch, my little valentines were so excited for their party that they couldn't stand it.  They passed out their decorated cards and candies and then returned to Ohh and Ahhh at their pile of valentines.  There is just something really special about getting twenty-three tiny, little red and pink personalized cards all in one day.

During Act II of the show, two of my darling little girls sang and danced to a song replaced with their own lyrics about 3rd grade and our school.   It was quite a touching song, tearing me up in some sections.  Especially the part where they pointed to me in the audience as they were declaring me the reason 3rd grade was so much fun.  Last week, they had casually asked me where I would be sitting during the Variety Show.  After the morning's Act I, they asked me to sit in the same place for Act II.  Now I know it was so they wouldn't have to pause mid-way in their beautiful song to try and locate me out in the gym filled with five hundred students and teachers.  I think the most delightful part was when they walked out on stage and one of the girls looked to the other and whispered, "She's there!"  Of course I was there.  I wouldn't miss this for anything.  I felt on top of the world.    I had to fight the urge to storm onto the stage, grab the mike, and imitate Sally Field when she accepted her Academy Award and said, "You like me!  You really like me!"

After the show, we had our party, which consisted of reading, eating the candy from their valentine's cards, eating popcorn, and one of my students making snow cones for everyone.  Hard to top in the kid world. Was there more talking than reading?  Yes.  Was it fun?  Absolutely.  

On mornings like Friday, when I'm being stern and trying to put a lid on the talking, they probably don't love me so much. Or think I'm the greatest teacher ever. 

On days when I'm making math or social studies more fun and engaging, they probably love me. 

On some afternoons, when I'm tired and cranky, and I'm not being very patient with them, they probably don't love me.

On beautiful days, when I take them out for an extra recess, I know they love me. 

On assignments, when I insist they do it over or give me their very best, every time, I doubt they love me very much.

But on days like Friday, when they sing about me in front of the whole school, I know they love me.  

And I love them too.