Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Field Trip from Hell

Well, I've had two vodka cranberries and I guess I can venture to tell about the field trip from Hell. Said field trip took place on Thursday ( took two whole days before I felt like talking about it.) We took five second grade classes into the city for an hour-long program on insects, arachnids and snakes. We split up the planning work for the field trip between the five of us (in theory, a good idea--in practice, not so much). The first *#)%&#! hitch was when I took my five "school lunchers" to get their lunches out of the box only to find that in this district, the kids pick up their lunches before they get on the bus (rather than the cafeteria boxing it all up and giving it to the teacher who in charge of lunches). Everyone else knew this. I hate being new. There's nothing that will make you feel like an ass ruin your day like having five hungry kids with no lunch on a field trip. Teachers and parents offered up their own yogurt and spare apple before someone ran to Seven-Eleven for some Lunchables.

Next was the transportation debacle. Apparently "return time" means the time you get back to school, not the time you leave the museum. It seems very obvious in retrospect. I'm not sure what we were thinking when we filled out the transportation form. Fortunately, this screw-up wasn't mine alone. The bad part is that we had to leave the program 20 minutes early. Some kids didn't get to hold the giant snake and their parents are pissed.

At least I had nothing to do with the wreck on the interstate. Now don't worry, we weren't involved in the wreck. We were just parked for forty minutes with 110 second graders in the Nevada desert. Have you ever heard someone pray, "Dear God, please let no one have to go to the bathroom"? I actually asked a girl to QUIT drinking water. By the time the kids ran out of songs to sing I was wishing I had chosen a different career. You've not heard "The Star Spangled Banner" until you've heard it sung by a busful of 8 year-olds. I guess we could have stayed the extra 20 minutes at the museum. We got back to school an hour after dismissal and had to check kids out one by one to avoid losing any of them in the shuffle. The last of them left at quarter to five.

It's possible that from now on my field trips will consist of a bag of popcorn and Google Earth projected onto my classroom wall.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I smell a rat

I think there is a little light in the administration building that starts flashing when I begin teaching on a Monday morning without having my lesson plans written. I've only decided to wing it about three times this whole school year and someone from the district shows up to check for lesson plans every time. It’s getting a little weird. I think there might be an informant living under my own roof. I bet its the Munchkin, though my husband says don't underestimate the Bean. She's only two but she is sometimes just a little too cute and innocent looking.

When I moved out here I found it surprising that actual District administrators come through periodically to check our work. Their unannounced walkthroughs are a way of making sure our school administrators are enforcing district teaching expectations. It's good that they have specific expectations of teachers and that they take steps to ensure the kids are getting a good education. I once taught a whole year with only one five-minute observation. And while I've always tried to do my best by my students, I know there are poor teachers out there who don't feel any pressure to improve because no one is holding them accountable.

It helps that what they expect from us isn't absurd. What they want to see is mandatory student engagement, high level questioning, vocabulary and other stuff that just amounts to best practices in my book. Oh, and they want complete lesson plans on my desk. I better go get on that...

Friday, May 16, 2008

This is why I teach

After we said the pledge this morning I settled at my computer to take attendance and I noticed a neatly folded piece of notebook paper on my desk. It read:
Dear techer,
thak you for your hard work because you are making me
smarter every day and I like that and you are the Best Best Best Best Best
techer I ever had. I like that you tech us every day.

I like that I get to teach them everyday.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Professional Development on a Dime

I have to say that I am impressed with the professional development in my new district. I guess I thought it wouldn't be great because the area is so small. So far, I've seen a couple creative ways to have professional development when there isn't a huge budget for it.

Today we had peer observations. Two people in each grade level volunteered (or in my case, were nominated when out on personal leave) to teach an hour-long lesson while the other teachers in the grade level observed. After each observation, we met for 45 minutes to debrief. I taught a Lucy Calkins writing lesson and it went really well, though teaching in front of seven other teachers and administrators is nerve-wracking, to say the least. My colleague taught a GLAD lesson and, though I'm trained in GLAD, I always take something new away from it when I see it taught by someone else. This was a relatively cheap way to provide the whole staff with some training. The only cost was for the subs (one half-day for each teacher).

Another smart and thrifty kind of professional development was the Best Practices Fair. They called for teachers to volunteer to teach a session during our whole district inservice day. All three sessions I went to were really good, which is more than I can say for some of the professional development that I've paid for in the past.

It just goes to show that there is so much talent within the walls of our own schools. Kudos to the administration for finding ways for us to gain access to each other's strengths.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hoofin' it

Honey got stranded on the side of the highway at about midnight, Thursday. Something really bad happened to the car. It involved sparks and billowing smoke and a big hole in the oil pan. Luckily, he was close to town so he walked to the truck stop/gas station and asked to use the phone (his cell was dead, as luck would have it). The clerk refused to let him borrow the phone! I'm not sure why, but I know it's not store policy because they've let me use it there once before. Their one payphone stole his last dollar, so he started to walk the five miles home. After about an hour spent walking and trying to get someone to stop and help him, he flagged down a sheriff who, after checking to see if he had any warrants (he doesn't) offered him a ride home. The Sheriff said he was "Just out fightin' crime and shit." (I thought that was the best part of the story, so I had to put it in.) Honey said he was prayin' I wasn't up looking out the window at the time he was being let out of a sheriff's cruiser.

I've often boasted that I'm the last person around who doesn't own a cell phone. I thought it was unnecessary to have one because, in an emergency, you could count on people to help you out. I'm not sure this is true, anymore. Are people not as courteous as they once were? Or are we too afraid? I guess I can understand being afraid to stop for a big man like my husband at 1:00 in the morning--but to not let him use the phone at the gas station just seems silly.

He's all better. The car is pretty much deceaced so we traded it in (can you believe they would take it?) and bought something a lot newer and more comfortable gas-wise.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

My Pod

I'm excited to be getting an ESL "pod" next year. That means they'll put most, if not all of the 5th grade ESL kids in my room to facilitate inclusion rather than ESL pull-out. I've got the background for it. Having taught at a mostly Hispanic school I was certified in TESOL and have been trained in GLAD and SIOP (why is everything an acronym?).

It was funny coming out to the School by the Golf Course with all this training. When you teach a whole class of second language learners, everything just requires so much energy. Energy and a tremendous amount of thought put into everything throughout the whole day to just make the content comprehensible. Out here, the kids seem to just soak it all in.

I love to teach second language learners, though. I love seeing how far they come in a year. I love when they finally "get" something that they couldn't do before. And their parents are so darned grateful for what we do. When I came out to this school, I was hoping for some ESL kids and I ended up with one. Then she moved. I'll be glad to have my pod next year. The funny thing is, I won't change the way I teach, much. I've still used GLAD this year and have found that it is just a good way to teach social studies and science in any setting. (Insert witty, last line of post--I can't ever think of a good way to end--and it's 10:00. If I don't go to bed I'll be a grumpy GLAD teacher tomorrow!)