Be all that you can be. Find your future--as a teacher.

Musings of a second-year teacher.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Take Me Back!

I am happy to report that I am no longer unemployed! This is a somewhat delayed response, as I've been busy enjoying my summer and not so busy updating my blog. Ironically, I found out that I was being rehired exactly a month (to the day!) after being told I was laid off.

The one caveat with being rehired is that I will no longer be in Kindergarten. Instead, I will be the new 4th grade teacher! I am quite excited to have students who can write their names, zip up their pants and (hopefully) refrain from having accidents in their pants. On the other hand, I will most definitely miss my daily hugs, carefully colored pictures and status as 20 kindergartners' "best friend."

I am excited about the challenge of a new grade. I'm also nervous because I know that, in many ways, I will feel like a first year teacher all over again. I know some things to expect and then I know there are other things that I am unprepared for. Stay tuned to find out about my adventures in 4th grade. I'm sure they will provide for some definite entertainment!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

From Filing Permanent Records to Filing for Unemployment

The school year is finally over and instead of beginning a relaxing summer, I find myself starting the job search process. Due to the economy, my school has struggled this past year and anticipates that they will continue to struggle next year. Therefore, us "new" teachers (I thought I might be safe with two years under my belt!) were told we would not have jobs again next year.

Which leaves me here- once again jobless and filing for unemployment. I'm relatively confident that I will be able to find something by fall, however, it is highly probable that I will have to move to a new area. It's been discouraging because after two years, I feel like I'm finally hitting my stride. I've gotten to the point where I feel comfortable with all the staff and I truly feel like I fit in. I now feel that I know the majority of students and families at my school. I finally feel like I truly know what to expect during the course of a year with five year olds. However, it's time to start ALL over again...potentially in a area, possibly in a new school, and probably in a new grade. I can't quite get a grasp on what emotion I feel most- it seems to vary by day. I'm disappointed and discouraged that I won't be in Kindergarten again and it is not due to my own choosing. I'm nervous about trying out a new school or a new grade and feeling like a "new" teacher all over again. I'm excited about what may be ahead because I did not intend on ending up at my current school and I've turned out loving it. All in all, I'm not sure what I think or what to think.

So for now, I'm crossing my fingers (oh, and filling out quite a few applications, too) that life will work out the way it's supposed to. It's possible that the next time you read this blog, I'll have a whole new grade to tell you about!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Little Humor Makes Up for a Lot of Hassles...

There is never a dull moment in Kindergarten. Today was a day where I found myself "collecting" a lot of my students' quotes. I thought maybe it would be a good time to share a light-hearted post with my readers and fellow teachers. (A little humor is needed at this point in the year- I think the kids and teachers are eagerly anticipating summer vacation!)

My students often have comments to make about my appearance. They are brutally honest, so I never lack for feedback on anything new I may try with my hair/make-up/outfits. Today, I tried out a new lavendar eye-shadow (which, if I may say so, I thought looked rather nice). The minute one of my little boys walked in, he looked at me and said, "Do you have polish on your eyes? They're pink!"

Oddly enough, it seems my little boys have the most to say about my appearance (go figure). My kids are quite sweet and like to shower me with notes daily (which means they are writing independently-yay!) Today, I received a note from a little boy that said, "I love you. You are pretty." I receieved a note last week that said, "Your a good tchr. You r pruty." My job's on the line this year- do you think I could use that note to support my teaching efficacy?

While my students' notes provide endless smiles, their actions tend to provide giggles, gasps and groans. Yesterday, we switched seats for the last time of the year. A few students were absent and I had some overly eager kids volunteer to clean out the desks of those students. One unlucky volunteer discovered the value of organization while cleaning out a desk. After pulling out multiple papers, loose markers, and four half-empty raisin boxes, she discovered a magnificent treasure- a "fuzzy" apple! Yes, dear readers, I had a student store an apple core in the back of her desk. You can give me your best guess as to how long this apple had been molding in the back of her desk...obviously more than a day or two from the green mold that covered the entirety of the apple. Once again, this is something that was never covered in any of my education classes. I now know that I need to specifically remind students not to store extra snacks inside their desks...

I'll leave you with one last tidbit for the night. As I've said before, kids are brutally honest. As I'm sure you also know, students come in all shapes and sizes. I have tiny students, short students, tall students, and a few students who could probably share clothes with me... I overheard one student say to another student today, "Your tummy feels like jello!" Thankfully, in addition to brutal honesty, kids are also still blissfully ignorant and unaware of our society's views on size. Both students seemed to find this remark hilarious and I, personally, enjoyed the complete truthfulness of the statement. (Because honestly, a little extra chub DOES feel a little like jello!)

Oh, the joys of teaching!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Potty-Training Not a Pre-req?

I'm on a roll tonight, so I'll throw in one more blog entry. I've got to share my latest complaint about Kindergarten: the bathroom. Somehow, in the midst of lesson planning, web quests, curriculum evaluations, and portfolio-creating, my college education failed to acknowledge a significant problem with Kindergartners: their inability to properly use the bathroom.

Now, I realize that this (hopefully) does not apply to teachers in other grades. But I spend a heck of a lot more time dealing with "bathroom issues" during the day than anything else and not once was this covered in my education classes. I feel that you should be warned that you will not have time to implement that creative, wonderful, ingenious lesson plan because you will be too busy cleaning pee off the bathroom floor or calling a custodian to your bathroom for the third time in one day. Seriously...I understand that I work with little children, but is it too much to ask for a day where no one pees on the bathroom floor?

As if dealing with pee on the bathroom floor isn't enough, I've had a repeat offender in the accident department. Unfortunately, he doesn't like to tell me when he's had an accident. I have to sniff him out. And even when asked, he won't admit what's happened. So, I spent a good deal of last week playing "investigator" to determine the "odor-offender" and then determine why he hadn't gone to the bathroom. It's difficult because I don't want to jump on students if there is a medical problem causing these accidents. However, I also don't want students to learn the behavior of waiting until the last minute to go to the bathroom and then having an accident. I seriously think it would have been useful to have a class that prepared you for the best way to discuss "your child's inability to make it through a school day without having a smelly accident" with parents. Alas, that was not offered at my college...

Perhaps one day, when I have exhausted myself as a classroom teacher, and desire to move onto different things, I will petition for more practical classes to be included in a college education. In addition to How-to-tell-a-parent-their-Kindergartner-MUST-be-potty-trained, I would like to see the class How-to-tell-a-parent-their-child-should-not-have-to-wake-them-up-in-order-to-get-to-school-on-time, How-to-find-time-to-teach-around-constant-mandated-assessments, and Be-Your-Own-Psychic: Predict-what-mundane-thing-parents-will-get-mad-at.

All jokes aside, there is quite a lot to be said for experience and the practical knowledge you gain from teaching that you cannot prepare for by reading a book. And while I must occasionally complain about the pitfalls of teaching, there are quite a few rewarding moments as well. All I can say the time I get around to having my own children, I think I will have learned all the ways NOT TO and TO parent...I'll be prepared!

The future of reading: Literacy Centers?

Once again, I've failed on my promise to maintain regular updates. Once again, it's almost the end of the year and I've barely updated about my class. But yet again, I'll leave you with a quick blurb and hope to update before another three (or four, or five) months go by.

While I have quite a few topics I'd love to elaborate on, I must narrow it down to one. So tonight, I'd like to mention my school's recent "discovery" of literacy centers. With a new principal and a new county superintendent, there have been lots of changes within our school this year. One of our principal's goals was to re-vamp the way we teach reading. We are currently using a Harourt series which has some good information, but we could definitely add something to our reading program.

At a county-wide meeting, we discovered another school had implemented "literacy centers" in their Kindergarten classroom. I suppose the idea of literacy centers is not a new one, however, the idea of trying something this independent with Kindergartners scared me. Literacy centers seemed like the answer to my dilemma of "how do I keep all my students engaged in activities that are individually challenging?" As a Kindergarten teacher, I have found it incredibly difficult to break lessons down and give students assignments that are appropriate for their skill level when they are unable to read directions, unable to remember more than two directions at once, and generally unable to work independently. However, the teachers that implemented literacy centers said that after a few rough weeks of learning the routine, their classrooms had adjusted nicely and were doing well with literacy centers. Fortunately, our principal let us go observe these teachers to truly see how literacy centers looked. I was amazed at how quiet, calm, and focused these students were!

I am excited to possibly try literacy centers in my classroom next year, yet I am still skeptical. I am rarely able to get all my students completely quiet. I have tried, and tried, and TRIED to teach them the importance of listening at the appropriate times and being quiet at the appropriate times, but it seems impossible. I'm still not sure how much of this is due to the "chattiness" of my students and how much of it is due to my need for more classroom mangagement experience...hopefully, either way, I'll luck out with a well-behaved class next year (a girl can hope, right! :) )

I'm interested to hear from others who have tried literacy centers in K. How have they worked for you? What lessons have you used? How did you teach the routines? What are your rules and routines? Also, on a whole different tangent, how did you fund your supplies? We have no extra money at our school to buy supplies for literacy I'm curious what alternative methods are out there. seems like an interesting site and I'd like to learn more about.

That's all for tonight! I'd love to hear your thoughts on literacy centers...share them all!:)

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Great Debate

I realize that this will be my second entry in one night, but considering this may be a long post, I thought it warranted an entirely different entry.

Within my county and my school, there has been a lot of turn-over during the last year. We began this school year with a new principal and new assistant principal. Our new principal has begun to look over the way we currently have been doing things to see what can be improved. She has decided that our school reading program needs an "overhaul" and has taken to testing all of our students to determine their reading level. There are quite a few sceptics in the school who believe this is not the best route for our school. Being a new teacher, I still have loosely-formed opinions and I'm interested to see how this program will work out. I'm cautiously optimistic, but I'm also interested in what other people have to say. Our new "reading program" has a strong emphasis on students learning Dolch words. I've been told that educational philosophies change in the same way a pendulum moves. In this case, the "new" reading philosphy that encourages Dolch words was also popular (so I'm told) quite a while ago.

I don't doubt that learning Dolch words is important. Learning sight words is an integral part of the process of learning to read. However, I am slightly concerned about the volume of words our Kindergartners will now be expected to read. Until this point, our students were expected to know approximately 45 sight words at the end of the Kindergarten year. Now, our students will be expected to read Pre-Primer, Primer and First Grade words by the end of Kindergarten. According to my calculations (if my sources and calculations are correct), our students will now need to read 133 words at the end of Kindergarten. I am intrigued to see what our students will be able to do. I think some students will achieve this goal. However, I'm concerned for many others. If you've followed my blog, you may remember that I had quite a few students up for retention last year. These students could barely read ten sight words. What will happen to students like that? They were overwhelmed at the prospect of reading 45 words. What will they do when we try to tell them that they need to read twice as many?

I'm curious to hear about the reading programs that other schools use. The program my student-teaching school used was very different, however, I was never given a formal explanation of the program, so I'm not necessarily sure what it would be classified as. Any advice, thoughts, etc. on this reading program or on a reading program that has been implemented and worked well would be greatly appreciated!

No Snow and No School

It's our fourth week back to school since Winter Break and we've yet to go a whole week! I thought this would be the week where we would go five, full days, but I got a call at six this the morning telling me school was closed due to heavy rain. I have a secret to admit: I LOVE getting those phone calls! I love them even more when school is closed and it turns out to be a BEAUTIFUL day. I was able to run in the gorgeous sunshine (instead of in the dark, like a normal school day) and I was able to go out and do all my errands. Is it bad that I'm crossing my fingers for a delay tomorrow?

On a different note, it appears that I will soon have a high school "observer." The high school next to my elementary school has a program for students who are interested in becoming teachers. As part of this program, the students observe in a classroom and then eventually teach a few lessons. I was surprised when I received the email asking if I would like to be a mentor for a student. I would love to help out a high school student who is interested in becoming a teacher. However, I still feel like I'm learning a lot myself- am I really ready to help prepare someone else for the teaching profession? I wrote back to the coordinating teacher and explained that I would be more than happy to have a student observe in my room, but I lacked experience. She didn't seem concerned, so it appears soon I will not only be teaching Kindergartners, but I'll also be teaching someone else how to teach. I'm hoping that I know more than I realize, because I certainly don't feel as knowledgeable as the mentors I have had in the past...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Report Cards and Vomit: Oh, How I Dislike Thee...

Quick thoughts only tonight. In an attempt to present both sides, I'm going to find a positive to each of my complaints.

Complaint # 1: Report Cards
I dislike report cards for a few reasons. The first reason is that the report card is a very inaccurate measure of my students. Some students who struggle in class appear to be doing well on a report card. Sometimes a student may go from identifying 0/15 letters to 10/15 letters, but when calculated for a report card, both scores are "N" for "Needs Improvement." The second reason I dislike report cards is that they are overly time-consuming. They require quite a lot of unneccessary work. First, we test students and record what they can and can't do on a skill sheet. I then calculate whether the student receives a "S"- Successful, a "P"- Progressing, or a "N"- Needs Improvement. I record these grades on a paper copy of the report card. Finally, I record each score on an electronic report card. I find all these steps seem rather redundant.

On the bright side, almost all of my students mastered all of the skills they were supposed to learn this six weeks. It makes me very excited to be able to mark so many "S" 's !!

Complaint # 2: Vomit
Well, this really can't be helped. However, it is one aspect of teaching that I may always cringe to think about. A stomach bug must be going around right now, because I had one student get sick on our carpet today while we were singing a song. This is not the first time my carpet has been the unfortuante recipient of a poor, sick kindergartner. I wonder how many kids will get sick on my carpet before the school deems it too germy to endure another year? (With the current budget cuts, my guess is quite a few more kids...)

On the bright side, my student who got sick was in the front row. Which may not seem like a blessing, until you realize that the whole situation would have been MUCH worse if another student had been the unlucky recipient of the throw-up.

I promise next time, I will share happy stories about Kindergarten!

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Favorite Part of the Day

I've decided that I have two favorite parts of the day: the very beginning of the day and the very end of the day. I love these few moments each day where the classroom is still calm and I have just a few children in the room. This is the only part of the day where I really have time to talk and listen to the students and hear whatever story or tidbit they have to share. I feel as if I'm constantly having to tell my kids, "we're not talking about that right now" any time they want to share something off subject. I hate having to do that, but with my loquacious Kindergartners, we'd never get past calendar time if I let them share it all!

I particularly love the end of the day because I have the ability to silently observe my students. My school has two bus "loads." The majority of my students leave first and then I have about 5 students that stay in my room for another ten minutes or so until their buses are called. My "second load kids" have taken up "playing school" all on their own. It is incredibily amusing to watch them reinact what we've done all day. I struggle to get these kids to sit still all day, but as soon as they are "playing" school, they sit as still as can be! It was intriguing to watch them today because I never realized how much they absorb. They like to pretend they are teaching calendar time. My one student who had decided to be teacher was holding up sight words, just as I do in the morning. The words coming out of her mouth were the exact same words I say! She held up the card and asked one of the other children what it said. He wasn't sure, so she said, "Do you want to ask a friend for help?" When the friend didn't know the word, she said, "Let's sound the word out together" and she proceeded to help sound the word out.

I enjoy this afternoon routine for a few reasons. Number one being that it simply makes me smile to watch my students play school. Number two being that all this time I've thought they weren't paying attention! Little did I know, my Kindergarteners are very skilled at appearing way more interested in their hair, their neighbor, or their shoelaces, when in fact, they are actually listening!! Amazing...and one of those moments that makes me smile and reminds me why I love children and why I love teaching:)