I have unshakable faith in children. They always show me the way. ♥

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I voted...

Every one of my students voted today. Every one. It was really amazing to watch their pride as they left the voting booth with shining smiles.

Two of my students leave the classroom on Wednesday morning to read with a volunteer for about twenty five minutes, and when his Reading Buddy joined our class in line on the way to the voting, Antonio looked at me in a panic, "But I need to vote!" he said.

"Oh, you will," I told him. "You get to be one of the first."


At the end of the vote, we all lined up to head back to our classroom and every student stuck an I voted sticker on their shirt. I wish you could have seen them walking proudly down the hallway back to our classroom. Some of them even strutted.

And here, here is what struck me the most today: I have a little boy in my class that has been having a rough time over the past couple of weeks. We had a meeting this afternoon with his family, and invited the little boy in at the end to talk about how we were going to support him.

At the end of the talk, as things were winding down, this little boy turned to his father, unzipped his jacket and showed his sticker. "Look, Daddy," he said, "I voted today."

In spite of everything going on for him (and believe me, there is a lot), he knew that voting mattered, that it was important.

On Tuesday? I'm going to be him. I'm going to wear my sticker proudly and say the very same thing.

I voted.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

NaBloPoMo

So, for several years of my adult life, I've considered myself a writer. Not a Writer, as A. A. Milne might say, but I identify myself as one who writes. I write, therefore I am a writer.

For several years now, I've felt writing become a deep part of my life. I write in many different ways: email, letters to families, fannish pursuits, reflection, to get something off my chest. I just... write.

It's amazing to think how much I use writing as a tool for reflection and expression, when I didn't even think that I could write until I was nearly twenty-two. (More on that another day.)

There is so much that I write, though, that never makes it into the open. Well, naturally. It's only in the past few years that blogging (or myspace, livejournal, facebook, and etc...) has become a quite normal and regular pasttime for many people. How would I have made my writing 'public' five years ago? I think what I mean is this: so much of what I write is just jumbles of words and bits of ideas... inchoate thoughts, if you will, that form in my head and need to find their way out, lest I forget them. For all intents and purposes, this is a public blog. No, I don't share names or personal details about myself, students, or family, but this blog is available to anyone that happens to click their way here.

So, there is a level of accountability that I feel. I want what I say here to be something I stand behind, even if it's a simple thought I had one morning over coffee. With that self-imposed accountability, I think I become somewhat reluctant to put something here -- here in my blog -- that doesn't feel finished.

Why is that?

I have conversations with friends, with family, with other teachers, and not everything I say is fully finished or even an eloquent pronouncement on the topic at hand. (*gasp* It's not??)

But writing, public writing, has an element of permanence to it. I write, therefore I am. I put it on my blog, therefore I must be willing to stand behind it. Because of that, though, there are a lot of things that I don't put here that would probably be of interest to those of you that read. I know that some of you are friends of mine, some are family members, others are colleagues or teachers, and there may even be some of you that I don't yet know. (If so, comment and introduce yourself! I love meeting new people!) Why do I feel reluctant to put out things that are unfinished? Is it because of the unknown?

Anyway, I'm musing on this tonight because November is coming up. November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I have grand dreams of one day participating in this, but it will never be when I am a classroom teacher. Sadly, November is just too full, and I am far too slow of a writer to be able to accomplish it, even at 1,800 words a day.

There is, however, NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, which I am definitely considering. I might actually be able to accomplish 30 posts in 30 days, as long as I give myself permission to post things that aren't quite eloquent or even finished.



Writing is a habit I have, but blogging is not. What about it, friends? Shall I endeavor to make November a month of blogging? I'd really love to hear what you think. ♥

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

planning ahead...

Someone once said to me that good teachers should be planned ahead two weeks at a time.

I'm not sure why that sticks in my head, but while I think I agree in theory, I'm not sure it actually makes sense to follow that to the letter.

Here's an example. In our school, the First Grade team has developed a set of Yearly Plans. Our Social Studies/Science plan is a bit more comprehensive than the Language Arts one, and really, they are all just works in progress. With Math, we've been following our Math curriculum (for some, Silver Burdett-Ginn. For me, Investigations), so the Math yearly plan was almost empty.

Well, this year, our school system has mandated that all teachers follow the Mathematics Pacing Guide that they've created, which pulls Standards of Learning from the State's website and blocks them out into the various quarters of the school year. (My objection to the way they've blocked some of them out, ie, focusing on counting only in the first quarter and no combining or separating, is a discussion for another time)

So, this year, I've been using the Investigations curriculum, but far less than I'm used to. With a focus on counting (by 1's, 2's, 5's, 10's), number recognition, and etc... I've been inventing a lot of the work that my students are doing [example here, though pictures are missing. :( ].

Yes, I'm planning 1-2 weeks in advance... but every week what I plan changes. I may say that I'm going to do a particular investigation into counting by 5's on a certain day, but it changes based on what I'm seeing the children do (both in what they are capable of and that with which they need more practice).

Isn't that the point, really? To plan ahead, but to tweak and change and throw out entirely lessons that are not appropriate, and instead work with the children where they are, not where I thought we'd be two weeks ago...

Monday, October 6, 2008

an uphill climb...

I sort of failed at keeping my blog in September, huh? So many times I sat to write about the schoolyear and wasn't able to find the words. I think, also, it keeps me from writing about a lot of the day to day moments, because I want to explain, in detail, about September and why I was so absent. Hopefully, this entry will make me feel a bit more settled. Once I feel like I've let it out, that I've let you all know, I can get back to the "small moments" blogging that I so deeply enjoy.

September tends to be a rather difficult time for finding a good balance between my work and home life. With the beginning of the school year comes the emotional adjustment of missing my former students and beginning to learn about new ones. It's forging new relationships with families (through Open House and Back to School Night and Family Conferences that we start during the second week of school), rebuilding Team relationships with my colleagues, and reconciling some of the "me" time that I had during the summer time with the sheer lack of it that I am able to create as the school year begins.

It's a time of great disequilibrium.

And well... this year I have that class.

The class that comes along every few years and challenges every teaching skill that I've developed. Several of my students came in (to first grade) already with a reputation. Everyone in the knows about them. At age six. It is really, really not okay to have such a reputation at age six.

This is the class that I will be despondent to let go of in June, even though I was despondent about being able to meet their needs during the first week of school. You see, in theory, this class should have two teachers, or a teacher and an Instructional Assistant, to best provide for the emotional and the academic needs of each of my twenty-four students. In reality, they get me.

A lot of this is due to budget cuts, some of it is due to other several other educational and classroom decisions that my administration was forced to make at the end of last school year. One of the things I've discovered is that we can be pretty good at putting together groups of children that will make up a well-balanced class (academically, behaviorally, and socially), but no matter how much we think about them, there are things that we are just not going to foresee. So far, many of them have happened in my classroom this year.

This is one of those years that did have me questioning the decision to keep teaching after this year. This is one of those years that had me wondering if I was actually capable of finding my confidence as a teacher again. I didn't get a full night's sleep until the third week of school; I didn't eat lunch until just last week. This has been a test of both will and determination that I haven't faced since my fifth year of teaching.

Somehow, though, I've been able to find my feet.

It's not the best situation for anyone, but I'm determined to make it work. I have twenty-four children, each of whom is deeply amazing in their own right. I have the energy of someone younger (thank goodness), the belief in children as the shining example of why the world is a wonderful place, and the support of so many friends and family members that believe in me, even when I'm not quite there myself. (thank you all ♥). I've also had the support of the administration, as well as several colleagues who are tireless cheerleaders for me. I really cannot thank them enough.

I feel so lucky to have had such a varied and rich teaching career so far. I've worked with some of the most talented educators on the planet, both in my tenure here as well as my time in Boston. I have a toolbox that is full to bursting of ways to support children in many different areas. I appreciate that, for some unknown reason, my mind is constantly inventing new ideas and new strategies to support children when something doesn't quite go right.

It's been a long, uphill, twenty-five days of school so far. We've taken several giant steps forward, and many other steps back. But, dammit, we're getting there. We're making it. We are slowly building a class of deeply caring and aware young people. We will continue to do so, little by little by little, until no one has a reputation in this school that isn't positive.

We're going to be that class, sure. But we're going to be that class that succeeds in the face of multiple adversities and still comes out shining brightly.

Because that's what we do in school. That's what we do in our class. We shine.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

And how!

This week we have been doing a lot of counting. So much. In fact, I'm not exactly sure why my students haven't revolted, except that, well... counting is fun. Seriously. Counting up and counting back, counting all and counting on. Counting by fives and tens. All of it.

So, one of our activities this week was a counting inventory where the children had to count various things in the classroom -- the number of chairs, the number of scissors, the number of cubes in our toolboxes, the number of steps to the cafeteria, to the Counselor's office and etc...

The counting steps one was a big hit.

Before we even started, we talked a lot about the responsibility of doing one's work in the hallway: that other people are working so we'd need to be quiet, the need to walk and be safe, as well as to really concentrate so we wouldn't forget where we were counting.

I love when children show me just how much they do think about these things.

I had to leave for a quick meeting during our Math time, so a glorious colleague of mine was with the kids while I was gone. On my way back from my meeting I passed two of my students walking down the hallway, counting steps, totally entranced in their task, looking at me and waving and grinning, but getting right back to their work. About forty steps later, I passed another pair, doing the same thing and looking fully exhilerated.

After I turned the corner into the final corridor (yes, our classroom is that far away from everything else), I almost literally ran into another pair of students who were grinning at each other in triumph: "Miz F," they told me, "it's fifty whole steps to the Counselor's office!"

"Fifty?" I said. "That's a lot!"

"Yeah," Antonio said. "I didn't even know we could count that high!"


Yeah. Well I did. ♥