Friday, September 28, 2007

Flat Friday

OK, weird title, I know, but it best describes how I felt today. Flat. Not in a bad mood, but not in a particularly good one, either. Just flat. I missed my Dori, and her kids were off the wall. She's not going to be happy about it on Monday. I had intended to go into her room, and make sure it wasn't destroyed, but I was in such a hurry to leave this afternoon, I forgot all about it.

Overall, my babies were pretty good today. They even earned an extra treat because they walked back from the gym (all the way from the freakin' 4TH FLOOR!) very quietly and without incident. Yay, Room 104! The only child that gave me any problems today was Mr. T.D.

I realize I haven't really complained about him before, but T.D. has a been a royal pain since Day 1. I had his brother last year (and the year before that, actually. Long story...) and he couldn't be more opposite. Last week, I caught his dad one afternoon as he was dropping off his youngest at preschool, and I had him take T.D. aside and talk to him. The very next day, T.D. was standing outside the lunchroom when I came to pick up my class. When I asked Ms. B. why he was out there, she said he had poured his carton of milk over the head of another little boy in my class! Oo, I wanted to give him a thrashing! So, I made sure the preschool teacher sent Mom or Dad over after they dropped off the little sister. Mom's reaction was to tell him to get his things, and she took him home. However, I don't think it was for any real consequence, though. I really think he just went home and watched T.V. the rest of the day. Quite frankly, I really didn't care at the time, because at least he wasn't there bugging me anymore. (That is wrong on so many levels!)

I know Mom is doing the best she can do, but I think she's only about 22 or 23, and she has 3 kids, ages 7-4. She's really just a child herself. T.D. was in rare form today, and when Mom came to get him, I let her know what's been going on, and gave her some suggestions for consequences that she can do at home. I don't know if she'll follow through, but it's worth a shot. Last week, after the milk incident, she told me she didn't know what to do with him because "he's so bad! I can't even get a babysitter to stay with my kids because of him!" Yikes! I'm going to try and find some things I can give her to read over that might give her some ideas on how to handle him. I'd really like to call up ABC and send over Super Nanny, Jo Frost. She's just what he needs! "That is unacceptable! On the naughty spot, young man!"

I have a great positive for today. Actually it started out as a negative, but quickly turned around. We have snack time, in the lunch room, at 1:30 every day. This was the arrangement we made with the Big Cheese last year when we agreed to have our lunch at 10:30. There was no way my babies could go from 10:30 until almost 3:00 without eating. So he agreed to let us have a snack at 1:30, after the last classes of "big kids" had lunch. We usually just put aside one component from their lunch, like the cookie or apple, and then give it to them for snack. It actually works out best all the way around, because the lunch is too much food for a 5 year-old to eat all at once, and it would just get thrown away anyway. This way, there's no wasted food, which makes me feel better.

Today, however, the 6th-8th graders were having a reward day and needed the lunch room for an ice cream party. So, too bad for us. We were able to get a snack brought to our room, but that meant no potty break for me. Boo hoo. Ah, but then Mrs. W. came to the rescue. She is the grandma of one of my boys, and she's been coming almost every day to help out. She usually helps in the lunch room, starting with our class, and stays until all the kids have been fed, then she does snack with our kids. I didn't see her today at lunch, but when we took our bathroom break in the afternoon, right before snack time, there she was!

She was gracious enough to agree to sit in my room while the kids ate their Rice Krispie Treats so I could run to the bathroom. On my way back from the bathroom, one of the 7th grade teachers grabbed me and asked if I would like some ice cream. Is The Pope Catholic? Yes, thank you, I would LOVE some ice cream! Not only did they have ice cream for the kids, the teachers brought crock pots, and had hot fudge and caramel sauces, as well as strawberry sauce and whipped cream. It was glorious! I guess a better title for today would have been Fattening Friday, huh? Actually, in my defense, I only at a few spoonfuls of my caramel, hot fudge, whipped cream concoction, and then I saved the rest for my son, since he was due to get off the bus at any moment. He thoroughly enjoyed his share of the sundae, as well.

When I got back to my room, Mrs. W. had all the babies sitting quietly, with their heads down. They were going around the room, telling about their last birthday celebration. It was precious. I didn't know she'd be so great at keeping them engaged. I may just have to use her skills more often!

Good Lord! I've had my radio on for some background noise, and The Macarena just started! When's the last time you heard that, outside of a wedding or block party? I'm fighting the urge to get up and do the dance!!

Well, the weather here in Chicago is supposed to be gorgeous this weekend, so I plan to completely relax and enjoy myself. I may just try and soak up the last of the summer rays in my hammock. My sister and nieces are supposed to come over tonight so we can light the firepit and make s'mores. My son and I stopped for a bundle of wood and s'more fixin's on the way home, and I'm looking forward to seeing my girls. On that note, I'll leave with you with today's quote, and wish you a relaxing weekend of your own!

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he
already knows. ---Epictetus

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thankful Thursday

Today, all in all, was not a bad day. It wasn't a great day, but it wasn't bad. I had a group of "kids" from the University of Chicago in to observe this morning. I think D.J. did a fine job of entertaining them. And, lucky for him they were there, because about 30 minutes into his act, I was ready to stomp on his neck! (That's an Englewood phrase, sorry!) But, he was actually able to pull himself together later in the day, so no harm, no foul.

Of course, he's quickly becoming my favorite baby. He has moments when I want to throttle him, but most of the time, he's just a sweet little 5 year-old boy, in need of some love and affection. Today, after rest time (when, of course, he had to moved right next to me because he was being disruptive!) I asked him to turn the lights on, which is one of the most coveted jobs of the day. I told him he could do it because he was so good for the remainder of rest time, which he really was! I did have to ask him, though, why he could be so still and quiet in the "hot seat" but couldn't rest on the carpet. He just gave me a big, goofy grin and shrugged his shoulders.

I'm starting to think the disruptive behavior is his way to ensure he gets to sit next to me for those quiet 20 minutes a day. I know this probably sounds weird, but rest time very much reminds me of sitting in the dark, rocking my son to sleep when he was a baby, so it sort of has intimate, motherly feelings tied to it for me. I play the same lullaby tape I used with my son, so it's very soothing music that evokes wonderful memories for me. Having D.J. next to me makes me want to cuddle him up in my lap. Crazy, huh? It's very hard to ignore him, but I have to, because I don't want to reinforce the negative behaviors that landed him in the hot seat to begin with.

When the music stopped today, I whispered to him that he did a great job of settling down, and would he please turn on the lights. Then I said, "Hold on, come here for a second. I really need a hug. Can I have one?" First, he just looked at me like I was nuts, but then he immediately came to me and let me hug him. But I told him, "I need a hug from you, silly. Can you give me one?" He proceeded to give me a great, big bear hug. It was great! No wonder he's becoming my favorite.

I had to DIBEL about 6 more kids today. And now I'm ticked at myself for not writing down the funny answers I had planned to write about. Maybe they'll come to me later. Darn it! Good thing I bought myself that journal to write things down in so I won't forget what I want to write about, huh? Tomorrow is the end of the 'testing window' for the beginning of the year tests, so at least I won't have to do anymore until the middle of the year. Well, that's not entirely true, because now I have to do "progress monitoring" with all my kids that scored in that red 'intensive' category. Ah, such fun!

My Dori will be out tomorrow, and I miss her already. I'm already worried that her little babies are not going to be on their best behavior for the sub tomorrow. I'm going to have to be sure to check in on them a few times. Dori is going home for a wedding. What fun! I hope she has a good time.

Believe it or not, I didn't come home completely stressed out today, with my head throbbing and the desire to scream at someone. My son is very thankful for that, hence today's title.

Quote of the day:

If all the rich and all of the church people should send their children to the public schools they would feel bound to concentrate their money on improving these schools until they met the highest ideals.
---Susan B. Anthony

I absolutely LOVE this quote! I think I need to post this one at school, too, and share it with the rest of the staff! It's so true! Way to go, Susy! No wonder they gave her her own coin! ;-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Whiny Wednesday

Today was our first teacher institute day, so there were no students present. Um, can you say "yay?" That's the only positive thing I have to say about today, so I'm going to stop right there.

Today's quote:

Ye can lead a man up to the university, but you can't make
him think. ---Finley Peter Dunne

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Testosterone Tuesday?

OK, I've got Dancing with the Stars on, and Tom Bergeron just announced that "It's Testosterone Tuesday!" Naturally, I immediately thought, "There's today's title!" It's better than the title I was going to use, which is Terrible Tuesday.

I really didn't want to spend another day griping, but today was yet another irritating day! OK, I can't make you sit through another day of my whining! On to other things...

Well, a bit of good news today. I found a transfer slip in my mailbox this morning for A.W. You may remember, she's the little girl who's been driving me crazy with her bossy attitude and generally spoiled behavior (see Finally Friday). I have a feeling that the confrontation I had with her mom last week has a lot to do with her transferring. Her mom had picked her up late just about every day since school started, usually after 3:00. By that point, I had already sent her to the office, and was gone before her mom came, so I didn't get a chance to talk to her about getting to school on time for pick-up. Luckily for me, the office has a policy about late pick-ups, and basically, after 3 late pick-ups, a student can be dropped from the program. Because, AGAIN, I am not the free babysitter!! Now, if I actually enforced this policy, I wouldn't have any kids in my class. (Hmmm, why is it I DON'T enforce this?) However, there are times that it comes in handy. This happened to be one of those times.

Now, let me backtrack for a minute. One morning during the first week of school, A.W.'s mom brought her to my door at about 8:15. Mind you, school doesn't start until 9:00, so I couldn't imagine why she was there. She proceeds to tell me that she's going to send A.W. to breakfast, and where can she go after that? Uh, wherever it is YOU are!! I let her mom know that she can not just leave her there, that her mother was responsible for her until 9:00, and that she was going to have to stay with her. Well, her mother didn't like that very much. Did I miss the memo about providing free babysitting before school, as well as after?!

Anyway, now mom is picking her up late every day. Like I said, I usually left before she got picked up. Well, last Tuesday, just as I was locking my door and heading to the office to drop off A.W. and another little girl who hadn't been picked up yet, her mom comes strolling toward my door. So, I say to her, "You do know that after 3 late pick-ups, A.W. can be dropped from kindergarten, right? School ended almost 20 minutes ago." She just looked at me like I was crazy. So, I reminded her that the policy was very clearly written in the handbook she was given on the first day of school. Because I could tell she never read the damn handbook (that I spent hours typing out for my parents!!), I explained to her that we can have such a policy because kindergarten is not mandatory in Illinois. I think that's when it sank in, because her attitude changed, and she got a bit "pissy" with me. Naturally, because I was already annoyed with the situation (this was at least the 6th day she was picked up after 3) and it was the end of a long day, I was more than a little unprofessional and ended with, "I stopped getting paid 20 minutes ago." Was it necessary? No. Did it make me feel better? Hell, yeah!

The next day, her mom was at the door at 2:30 (15 minutes early!) and when I opened the door to put out the sign-out sheet, she practically shoved her way in front of the rest of the parents. Then she pointed to some woman, and told me that from now on, she would be picking up A.W. I haven't seen A.W. since.

She was absent Thursday, Friday and yesterday. When I sent my attendance sheet to the office yesterday, I attached a note letting them know this was A.W.'s 3rd day out, and asking if a transfer had come in for her. They said no, but then, low and behold! There was the slip this morning! She actually transferred to a charter school down the street from us. I was told by another teacher that the hours there are from 8-3:30. I hope that's a better fit for her mom's schedule ;-)

I forget to share a cute moment from yesterday. I was DIBELing D.B. yesterday (c'mon, that's sounds perverted, right?!) and when we got to that crazy part where they need to use a word in a sentence, I gave him the first word, 'happy.' His answer, "Happy means when you see your mom." Aww! The last word I gave him was 'cried.' "Cried means when your mom leaves." How cute is he?

Another positive for today --- no students tomorrow!! It's our first Teachers Institute Day! Let's hope I'm not in such a foul mood when I get home tomorrow.

Quote time:
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ---Alvin Toffler

Monday, September 24, 2007

Miserable Monday

Ok, I really thought today was going to be a great day. I had an absolutely fabulous day yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous fall weather. I cooked red beans and rice for dinner (one of my favorites), I made a huge batch of pasta salad for today's lunch (I planned to share with Dori and Mrs. M across the hall), and I baked Sour Cream Banana Bars with homemade Browned Butter Frosting (YUM!) I actually remembered to bring the pasta salad and banana bars to work, which is a huge accomplishment with my Alzheimer's! The day was going along swimmingly until lunch....

It happened AGAIN. Major backup at the lunchroom! Actually, the backup started at the bathroom, so then we ended up being the last class through the lunch line. Now, our lunch period starts at 10:30, and my last student was served lunch at 10:47!! It's absolutely ludicrous that it takes 17 minutes for them to serve the kids their lunch!! If we were still on our old schedule of 20 minute lunches, my kids would have had to go directly from the lunch counter to the trash can, because they would have had to line right up! Not to mention the fact that I was left with 8 minutes for my own lunch. Ugh! Completely aggravating! Things just kind of went downhill from there.

Without boring you with too many of the details, I was completely annoyed by one of the assistants who kept on coming to my room to talk to me about a function we are having on Wednesday for our assistant principal. I'm trying to teach, and she keeps walking right in and talking to me, as if I were sitting in an empty room! She expected me to just drop everything, and do whatever it was she wanted done. She wasted literally 30 minutes of my morning asking me to print out a banner.

Then she came in again during our rest time. Of course, this is a horrible time to come in and talk ever, since the room is supposed to be quiet so the babies can nap. It was even more inconvenient today because I was trying to test a couple of kids on DIBLES while the rest napped. So, she not only disturbed the class, she kept me from finishing my testing, which has to be done! I was starting to lose it.

She came in again at about 2:15, again completely oblivious to the fact that I'M TEACHING, and just starts talking to me, and wanting to give me money for Social Club dues. So, not only do I have to stop teaching, I have to go unlock the cabinet that I keep the money locked up in and put it away. All the while, I'm passive-aggressively trying to make clear that I don't appreciate the interruption and that I don't have time to chit-chat.

The last straw came about 10 minutes later, when she came back with more money, and wants to start telling me about "someone" being upset about "something," and "let's go in the hall and talk about it," all while telling me the three people whose money she just brought me all want receipts, so can I write them now? Then I lost it! I had to tell her, "No! I can't do it right now, I'M BUSY! It's the end of the day, I'm trying to finish this lesson, I have homework to pass out and go over, we have to get our coats and backpacks..." I think I scared her. Or pissed her off, I'm not sure. Quite frankly, I don't care either way! Get a grip!! Not all of us can walk around all day, making small talk. Some of us are trying to shape the future of our country! OK, a little dramatic, I admit, but come on! She's always done this kind of thing, and it's ALWAYS bugged me, but at least in the past, I had an assistant to pick up some of the slack, so if I had to take 10 minutes out of a lesson to print a damn banner, my assistant could at least keep the kids on task. Now, it's just me. You can't take your attention away from 5 year-olds for more than a minute before they start going nuts.

I'm going to have to just be upfront with her, and tell her tomorrow that she can not, under no uncertain terms, come in my room during the school day. If she needs something, she'll have to come to me in the morning, before the kids get there. She just can't waltz into my room anytime she feels like it, and interrupting our lessons. Yeah, it all sounds great now, but I'm sure I'll be my usual passive-aggressive self tomorrow :(

Another gripe for today...ANOTHER STUDENT arrived today. That brings my list to 27. 16 girls and 11 boys. That's annoying, in and of itself, because (sshhh....) I don't particularly care for little girls. I really don't hide the fact that I much prefer little boys. Little girls annoy me. They whine and cry and scream and talk incessantly. And did I mention scream?

On the upside, if I get one more student, I'm supposed to get an assistant, per our contract. Not that the Big Cheese will go out of his way to see that I get one, but I'm entitled to one, and I'll be damned if I won't fight for one!

Good God, I've got to stop whining! (See what I mean about girls?!) Today's positive is that it was really nice to actually sit with Dori in the teachers' lounge during our prep, eating yummy pasta salad and YUMMY banana bars.

I'm going to leave you today with a quote I actually lifted from Dori's blog the other day. It doesn't have anything to do with education, but it's particularly fitting for the kind of day I've had. Plus, I just really like it! See you tomorrow!

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems,
but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
---Herm Albright

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday, Flying...

Which is what I wish I was doing right now. Flying anywhere! OK, maybe anywhere it isn't 90 degrees like it was in Chicago today. Ugh! Where is the beautiful fall weather we were enjoying last week? Come on 70's!!!

I'd like to be flying away for a relaxing weekend, preferably with family and/or friends. It was a long week! I'm still completely miffed about the Big Cheese. But, I did my ranting yesterday, so I'm going to let it go....

Today, it was B.G and C.B's birthdays. B.G.'s mom brought cookies and juice for the class, as well as goodie bags. Thanks, Mrs. G.!! She's the sweetest mom. I had her son two years ago (and I'll have her youngest child next year) and she was always so willing and eager to help in my classroom. At the time, kindergarten ate lunch in the room (yeah, try and imagine what that was like!!) and she always came to help serve and clean up. It was sooo appreciated. She was also one of the few moms who always sent me little gifts for the holidays, as well as the end of the year. Last year, I had her son in my 1st grade afterschool class, and she still made sure she sent me gifts all year. How sweet is that? I only spent 4 hours a week with the boy, and she made sure I knew she appreciated my work. Her daughter is one of my favorites, of course. She's just as sweet as her mom. The youngest daughter is also adorable and sweet. I just love the G. family in general!! Oh, and since she knew it was C.B.'s birthday, too, she brought him a birthday present. Too sweet!

Writing about Mrs. G. has me in a happy place, so I'm going to just leave you with today's quote. Have a great weekend! (I made a poster with this saying, and it hangs in my classroom.)

It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice!


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday, Throwing...

I'll tell you what I'm about to be throwing....a fit!!! The Big Cheese sent us a memo yesterday, via CPS email, to let us know we'd be having a "walk-through" today (when a bunch of people who pretend to know what the hell they're talking about walk around the school, look in our rooms, and then tell us everything we're doing wrong!), that the board granted us one new position (after doing an audit on Tuesday) to help with the overcrowding (although we really need at least two), and then he had the unmitigated audacity to sign off with, "As you probably have noticed, I am absent today. I am completely stressed out." IS HE FREAKIN' KIDDING!?!?!? He doesn't even know what stress is!!! He has his "administrative team" doing ALL his work! He hasn't been in a classroom with children in at least 15 years! What the hell does he know about stress?! Oooo, he's so aggravating! I immediately replied to his email with, "When do the rest of us get to take our "stress day off?" To which he replied, "When you work as hard as I do!!!" HA! He can't be serious!! Why the hell does he think he's making 6 figures? The stress comes with the job. That's the reason I will probably never pursue an administrative position. When done correctly, yes, it's a very stressful job. When you pawn off all your responsibility on the want-to-be administrators at your school, what stress do you have? Maybe you can sense how much he irked me with his insensitivity to our stress level. Hold on, I need some chocolate now!!

OK, my mouth is happy, and the chocolate is kicking in. Ah, food of the gods! My darling partner, Dori, has taken the initiative to handle working out a bathroom schedule for us after the debacle yesterday that made us so behind on our schedule. I think she just about has all the kinks worked out. Thank you, Dori!!

I had to rush home today because my darling dog, Buster, had an appointment with the vet. We have a standing appointment every other Thursday, because he has chronic infections in both ears. You may recall, from an earlier post, a story of how he redecorated my kitchen for me one afternoon. That's been his new trick lately, and quite frankly, it's getting old! He may be a HUGE pain in the butt, but he's awfully cute...

Today's quote has more to do with the Big Cheese than school:

Skill to do comes of doing. ---Ralph Waldo Emerson

Maybe if he actually would DO some of his administrative duties, he would have reason to be stressed out. If he knew what we did, day in and day out, he would understand our stress. I think it's just been so long since he was in our shoes, that he just doesn't remember. I'm going to try to believe that, and give him the benefit of the doubt, since it's hard to believe anyone can truly be that pompous and arrogant!


OK, I just realized that when I insert a "smiley" into my post, it causes an annoying ad for smileys to appear on the bottom of the post! What's that all about? Guess I won't be making any further use of my smileys on this blog. :( I'll have to make due with these goofy emoticons :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday, Wiggle...

Happy Hump Day! Rather uneventful day today. Not a bad thing, though! The only "bad" thing that happened today was a backup at the cafeteria. The schedule needs to be tweaked, I think. That backup led to a bottleneck at the bathroom, of course. But, other than that, no problems to speak of. No shooting today, so that's a big plus! Thumbs Up

I had to test a few more kids today with the lovely DIBELS test. There were a few silly answers. I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I tested A.W. So far, these past 12 days of school, he seemed to be in another world 99% of the time! I'm starting to think that perhaps he has a hearing problem. For example, when I call his table to line up, he NEVER moves. Even when I call his name individually, he usually doesn't even acknowledge that I'm speaking. I usually have to yell his name, and then he seems startled. Like I said, I'm starting to think maybe the poor baby can't hear me. It's hard to believe he can be that spacey all the time. However, by the same token, you'd think he'd notice all the other kids at his table have gotten up and walked away...hmmm... Anyway, when I tested him, it was one-on-one, at my desk, so we were in close proximity. He actually scored fairly well. I thought for sure he was going to do poorly on the test. He scored right about in the middle.

This crazy test groups the kids into 3 categories: Benchmark, Strategic and Intensive. The Benchmark scores are recorded in green, Strategic in yellow, and Intensive in red (like a traffic light) The goal is to have everyone in green, obviously. So far, my class has been almost evenly split among the 3 levels. Not as bad as it seems. Last year, almost half my class was yellow, and they didn't really move out of there during the year. There are 3 testing windows during the year. Beginning of the Year, Middle of the Year, and End of the Year testing is scheduled by the board. In between, we need to progress monitor those children in the Intensive group, and time permitting, also the Strategic group. They want this done at least once a week! Yeah, cuz I've got NOTHING else to do all week, right? These poor babies get tested to death! In kindergarten!! Oh well, on a lighter note, our Lead Literacy Teacher (who basically oversees all this testing) can't say Strategic, and calls that group "trategic." It makes me giggle every time.

Quote time:

To be able to be caught up into the world of thought -- that is
---Edith Hamilton

I hope I give my students that thirst for knowledge, and the ability to think and explore on their own.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday, Tiptoe...

How do you make a 32 year-old man cry? Have him come to Englewood and spend a couple hours in your classroom! My darling brother came to see me today at work so I could help him with something for one of his classes. Not only did he get the smallest little taste of what my days are like, I actually left him alone with my babies for a few minutes. YIKES! Luckily, my former assistant rescued him. All he kept saying was, "How the hell do you do this everyday?!?!" So, of course, I told him, "The next time you and your sister want to say I'm a bitch, remember this, and you'll know why!" He and our sister just don't get it. To be fair to my babies, they were a bit more wound up than usual because he was there. Whenever there's a visitor in the room, they have a hard time remembering all the rules.

I really want him to come again another day when he can just sit in the back of the room and observe. I'd love him to see my kids in action, doing their lessons, singing their songs, etc... All he could focus on today was the stressfulness of it all. It didn't help that I told him about the shooting going on this morning on the playground. AGAIN! One of the younger teachers drove right past it, and thought her tire had popped. That scared her enough, but when she heard 5 more 'pops' she realized it was shooting. Jeezaloo! I was already in my room, working, so I missed all the excitement. I didn't even know what was going on until my girlfriend came to my room, and then I saw all the cops. Never a dull moment around this place, that's for sure!

Unfortunately, my brother felt the need to mention the shooting to my dad this afternoon, so I'm waiting for my parents to call and try and talk me into leaving my school. It happens a couple of times a year. So far, I've been able to just ignore them!

Oo, some possibly good news! I spoke to our clerk, Mrs. J., last week about a new afterschool program that she's trying to get into our school. She asked if I would be interested in being the site coordinator for the program. Naturally, I said yes. Actually, it was more of a "Hell yes!!" I've always worked the afterschool program because I need the money. I'm still trying to pay off my graduate school tuition! By the time I finish that off, it'll be just in time to start paying high school tuition for my son. Whoopee!

Anyway, the site coordinator position is great because I won't actually have any kids or a class of my own. I simply will oversee the program. Plus, the position pays more than a teaching position. All in all, it's going to pay $14 more per hour than the other program I always work. So, bully for me! I still need to get all the details from the man whose program it is, but it sounds good to me!

Quote of the day:

Education is the transmission of civilization.

---Ariel and Will Durant

I thought this quote was especially fitting today because my brother went on and on about how my kids were acting like a bunch of uncivilized animals. He was going nuts with 26 5-year-olds, so he should see when I have over 30! OK, I don't want to jinx myself, so no more talk of more students! Have a great night!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday, Marching...

There's a really cute song that is the "theme song" for the current unit in our reading program. Every unit has it's own theme song, and each day's lesson is supposed to start with the kids singing it. Most of the time, we skip it, because let's face it, how many times can I listen to the same song? But, the first unit, "Smart Start," has this really cute song called Today is Monday. It goes like this:

Today is Monday,
Today is Monday!
Monday, marching (we march in place)
All you happy children,
We wish the same to you!

Today is Tuesday,
Today is Tuesday!
Tuesday, tiptoe (we tiptoe in place)
Monday, marching (we march in place)
All you happy children,
We wish the same to you!

Today is Wednesday,
Today is Wednesday!
Wednesday, wiggling (we wiggle our whole body)
Tuesday, tiptoe
Monday, marching
All you happy children,
We wish the same to you!

The song continues in this way with:
Thursday, throwing (we make a throwing motion
Friday, flying (we put our arms out like we're flying)
Saturday, snoring (we put our hands together, next to our tilted head, like we're sleeping, and of course, we snore!)
Sunday, singing (we sing 'fa la la la la!')

By the time we get to Sunday, we're doing all 7 motions. It's a great way to "get the wiggles out" as I like to say to my babies. It tires me out, that's for sure! I tried to upload an audio file of me singing it for you, but luckily for my pride, it won't let me!

No real D.J. report today. He had a wonderful day. I am a little concerned, though, about J.H. He's the little sweetie who said "flowers are for giving to your mom" when I was testing. Last week, he missed a day of school because his mom told me he had been throwing up the night before. Well, Friday, when he got to school in the morning, he just had that 'sick' look to his face. His mother brought him in while yelling at him, and carrying on about how he didn't want to get up that morning. She was on the phone, mind you, while she's carrying on, and yelling, and generally causing a ruckus in my classroom. Then I hear her say something like, "Your son didn't want to get up this morning! You better get him!" into the phone.

Now, J.H. is one of the students in my class whose sibling was in my class last year. Mom used to do some of the same crazy stuff last year with his sister, and she drove me NUTS! Now, she's pulling the same stuff with J.H., and I don't like it. After she left Friday, he just put his head down on the table. At first, I thought maybe he was just tired, and like his mom said, he didn't want to get up, maybe he stayed up too late, whatever. But, as the morning went on, he kept his head down on the table, not talking, not participating, but not sleeping. After lunch, J.H. asked if he could stay back from gym. Now, what kid wants to miss gym?! I asked him to come over to me so I could talk to him, and when I went to put my arms around him, I realized he was really warm. I told him he absolutely could miss gym. So, he went to lie on the carpet, and I went to call his mom. She proceeds to tell me that he's faking, and that no, she won't come and get him. Suffice it to say, I was not happy.

By some miracle, she did come a little while later, and took him home, but she made it clear that she was pissed, and insisted that he wasn't really sick. Get a grip, lady!! This morning, when she brought him to school, she made sure to tell me that J.H. was fine all weekend, that he played and ate just fine, etc. Well, he still didn't look so good to me. And, lo and behold, as we were walking down the hall to lunch, I turn around to see him spewing all the way down the hallway. The poor baby tried to find a garbage can to throw up in, but there wasn't one. He was trying to hold it in, literally, with his hands. He finally managed to climb up on a chair and hang his head over the giant garbage cart and finish throwing up. My poor baby. He stayed back from gym again, then continued to lie down during rest time. He did get up eventually when we were doing some drawing, but he just kind of sat at his table, not really moving much.

I didn't even bother to call his mother, since she made it abundantly clear in the morning that she didn't want to be bothered with him today. I did tell her what happened when she picked him up, though, and she seemed annoyed. She told me, again, how he was perfectly fine all weekend. Whatever!! I just hope he's better tomorrow, because I don't know how much longer I can watch him suffer.

I had another new student arrive today! Yikes! That makes 26 children in a room with 24 seats. Hmmm, that's just swell! Ok, that's all I'm going to say about that, because I don't want to do anymore complaining today :(

Quote for the day:

It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought -- that is to be educated.
---Edith Hamilton

Have a great night!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Finally Friday!

I made it through another week in Englewood. Hurray! Today was relatively uneventful, which is a good thing! D.J. had a decent day, which is great because I was too tired to deal with any real problems today. He had a couple of incidents here and there, but nothing that was really upsetting. He had to be taken off the rug again at rest time, and I had him come sit next to me behind my desk while I worked. A few minute later, he says to me, "I'm stuck." I ignored him, because he's not supposed to be talking during rest time. He said it a couple more times, so finally, I looked down at him, and he held up his feet to reveal that the laces of his two shoes were tied together. Apparently, he got a little bored! Then, he tried to tell me someone else did it! What a character! Naturally, I busted him out on it right away, and he didn't even bother trying to sell me on that story. I told him he'd better figure out how to untie it, since he did it, and that actually kept him occupied for the remainder of rest time. When rest time was over, though, I couldn't get the knot out, so he decided he would just cut the laces apart. Whatever!

To be completely honest, little Miss A.W. has been more of a thorn in my side the past few days than D.J. I mentioned last week that I had her brother 7 or 8 years ago when he was in kindergarten. She's really a pistol. Her only problem is that she is the single most spoiled little girl I've ever come across. There's a huge age difference between her and her next oldest sibling, so she's basically been raised as an only child. As the mother of an only child, I can attest the fact that they are generally very spoiled. But she is to the extreme! She is the bossiest little thing you've ever met. When she's not bossing people around, she's tattling on them. She basically doesn't think any of the rules apply to her. She has lost her 'end of the day treat' almost every single day, so I'm hoping the message sinks in pretty soon. Today she really ticked me off when we were doing math. I had the kids using these plastic links to count and pattern. When they finished the chain I asked for, I had them put it around their necks, and I took pictures of them one table at a time. Well, while I was helping another child, A.W. decided it would be ok for her to pick up my digital camera and play with it!! I wanted to smack her! When I told her mom at the end of the day about it, her mother was furious, and started reading her the riot act. Naturally, A.W. started crying, and then I felt bad! My logical/teacher side was thinking, "Good, hopefully she'll never do it again." The mommy side of me felt bad that she was crying. Damn my mommy side. I immediately hugged her, and told her I wasn't mad, but I don't want her to EVER do it again, and that she needs to start following the rules. What a wuss I am! OK, I guess I'm not the bad-ass I pretend I am.

Well, I haven't said more than 5 words to the Big Cheese this week, so I'm going to let that count as today's positive thing. It's Friday, I'm exhausted, and I still have to help my son with 2 projects tonight before he goes to his dad's for the weekend, so I'll be signing off now. I'll leave you with today's quote:

We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own.
---Ben Sweetland

Have a great weekend!

Thrilling Thursday

OK, maybe I lead you on yesterday by promising a Thrilling Thursday. Sorry. But, I'd rather have a run-of-the-mill Thursday than a pull-my-hair-out Thursday!

Let me get my D.J. report out of the way. The morning actually started out wonderfully! He was perfectly still and quiet during Read Aloud time. (I always read from a series of children's books by Barbara Parks about a kindergarten girl named Junie B. Jones. If you've never heard of them, and you have children, you should seek them out. I promise, your kids will love them. My students can never get enough, and I've been using them for years. Barbara Parks writes the stories from Junie B.'s point of view, and uses the most wonderful, authentic 5 year-old language. I can't say enough about this series! But, for your sake, I'll stop here!) D.J. obviously enjoys hearing about Junie B.'s adventures. He really, for the most part, had a great morning. Even after lunch went smoothly. There were a few moments during rest time that were a little iffy, but his shoes stayed on!! He obviously was trying hard to be still and quiet, and when I turned the lights on, he came up to me and told me he had gone to sleep. I don't think he really did, but it didn't really matter. I was proud of him for doing what was expected of him, and he seemed pretty proud of himself. Now that I'm thinking back on the day, I don't really remember having any major incidents with him at all. Good job, D.J.!

The art bags were a smashing success! Yay! The kids were so excited to be taking them to art today. It was adorable! I love how happy the little things can make them. Plus, they're getting a little taste of responsibility by having to take care of these bags, and make sure everything is put back in them after art and so on. Now, I just hope no one takes them home.

I was able to spend some time making labels today with the kids' names to put around the room in various places. I've been putting off making the "official" labels because we still have kids randomly showing up throughout the week. Wouldn't you know it, the minute I finished typing out my class list, assigning a number to each child, sending the list down for copies, making name plates for the table, art bags, etc. I get a new kid! Well, now N.A. is number 24, instead of number 1, where she should be alphabetically. I always assign my kids numbers because it makes so many other things easier. We can label things quickly by just using a number instead of a name. For my babies who have difficulty with their names still, it's usually easier to write a number, so I ask my kids to put both on their papers. This way, if I can't make out the name, I can at least figure out who the paper belongs to. Plus, when done correctly, it makes alphabetizing my kids files, papers, report cards, and such, so much easier. But, without fail, I always get a few students after the start of the year, so they just get added at the bottom and have to take the next number available. I've been promising my kids that I would put their names on the tables, on the coat hooks, on the mailboxes, and on our assorted charts around the room. They were very excited today to see their names on the tables. And, I must admit, it adds to the "cute" factor of the room.

Good grief, I managed to even bore myself tonight with this dribble about school. Let's get to the quote:

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
---Abraham Lincoln

I have no idea why I have this quote among my "educational quotes" but since I'm sure reading the above felt like it took 6 hours, I figured, what the heck! Speaking of 6 hours, that's all that's left of school for the week. Tomorrow's Friday! Yahoo! See you there!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wacky Wednesday

Well, my little friend, D.J. had a rough day today! The morning started out horribly, with all the usual behaviors. (see previous posts!) When we went to lunch, he still hadn't really calmed down. Next was art, and I didn't get any complaints, so I guess he wasn't too bad. But, rest time was a different story. Like yesterday, he asked to go to the carpet. Again, I told him he could try it, but if I had to say his name, back to his seat he would go. Well, it didn't go as smoothly as yesterday. He rolled around, wiggled, touched the kids near him, kicked the kids across from him, and this all happened in the first couple of minutes! He also took off his shoes. He did that in the morning, too. Doesn't sound like a big deal, right? Well, it's a bigger deal than you would think.

It's actually a CPS "rule" that the kids can't be without their shoes on, mostly for emergency reasons. If the fire alarm ever rang, whether for real or just a drill, we would have to exit the building immediately, and they don't want any kids outside barefoot. Makes perfect sense to me. Especially when we have fire drills in the winter and there's snow on the ground, etc. I had to ask him several times this morning to put his shoes back on, so when he took them off AGAIN at rest time, that was the final straw. I told him to put his shoes on "right this minute and go to your seat!" (I was running out of patience at this point.) Naturally, he continued to wiggle and jiggle in his seat, eventually moving to the floor and under the table. About a minute before the rest time music ended, I looked at him, and he was half under the table, flat on his back, arms and legs out spread-eagle. But, he was still and quiet, so I ignored it. A minute later, the music stopped, I turned on the lights, and realized he was out cold. Again, selfishly, I let him sleep for a bit. Again, he woke up during snack time. This time, however, when I came back, he was standing next to his seat, crying. I thought he was crying because he missed snack time. I told him I brought him a snack, and he should sit so he can eat it. No response. I asked again. No response. I walked over to him, put my arms around him, and immediately realized why he was crying. He was soaking wet! He had an accident while he was sleeping, the poor baby! No wonder he woke up!

I put a call in to his mom, and his older brother came and got him. About 45 minutes later!! The poor baby had to stay in those wet clothes all that time. I just don't understand some of my parents. Technically, no one should live farther than 8 blocks from the school. That's the way CPS is set up. That's why there are so many neighborhood schools. If it takes you 45 minutes to come 8 blocks, something's wrong. And it's called, my child is not my priority! No wonder this baby has issues! OK, I don't want to start a rant, because it's late, and I'm tired, so for now, I'm going to let the subject rest.

I got a new student today. I had her sister last year. That makes 13 of my 24 students whose siblings I've already had. Weird! I've never had a class like this before. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that no more kindergarten students come this year. I'm officially out of seats! 24 is too many for a kindergarten class, especially one without an assistant. But, I shouldn't even be complaining since some of the other grades are far more overcrowded than we are. My friend in 2nd grade has 37 students!!

The only positive thing that comes to mind for today is that I was able to put together "art bags" for my kids today. Metra had given us plastic pencil bags one year, with 2 pencils, an eraser and a 6" ruler inside. (Actually, they might give them to our school every year, I'm not sure.)
Anyway, I had a bunch I had put aside, so I pulled them out, wrote each child's name on one, sharpened the two pencils, and put 8 brand new crayons (the basics - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black) inside so that they would have something to take to art class with them. They were so excited! It was nice to see them so happy about something so simple. The bags are definitely going to be "school only" bags, because if they ever went home, I'd never see them again. They'll take them to art tomorrow for the first time (I didn't have them all finished before art today) so we'll see how it goes.

Quote time:

All I really need to know ... I learned in kindergarten.

---Robert Fulghum

Of course, this is one of my favorite quotes of all time! :)

This has been a very full and busy day. As I walked in the door from work, a friend called me asking what was for dinner, because he was hungry, so naturally I told him to come on over and I'd whip something up. I also had my son's best friend over for dinner, because the boys were going to hang out together for the night while his mom and I went to a Parents' Club meeting at their school. She's the president, and I'm the vice president. Since both of us are single mothers (!) you know, we have nothing better to do. NOT! (I only got out of being president because I've been in grad school. I couldn't escape VP, though. I waited until after the election last May to tell everyone I'd be graduating in July!) So, I threw together some pasta with broccoli, broiled orange roughy and a big, tossed salad, fed all the boys, basically pushed my friend out the door (after we shared a yummy piece of triple chocolate cake!), ran to Dunkin Donuts for a Box O' Joe and a dozen donuts, and made it to the meeting with about 5 minutes to spare. Now, it's about a quarter to 11, my son is still putzing around and thinks I don't hear him, so I need to go yell, and then hit the sack. Right after a healthy dose of Nyquil! My cold seems to be on it's way out, thank goodness.

Be sure to check back tomorrow to see how my Thrilling Thursday went! Good night.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What a glorious day!

The minute I woke up and realized it was in the low 50's this morning, I instantly knew it was going to be a good day! I don't think I've mentioned yet how much I HATE hot weather. These past few weeks at school have been absolutely miserable!!! We don't have air-conditioning, so I have to try to open a window (without having everything on my desk blowing onto the floor) and depend on one little oscillating fan. It's been rough. Today, though, when I woke up at 6am and let the dog out, I almost let out a scream of joy! Yes As much as I do enjoy having all four seasons (and in Chicago, that can happen all in one day!) I prefer spring and fall. My fantasy year would be 5 months of spring, followed by one month of summer (so the kids can go swimming), then 5 months of fall (my absolute favorite season!) followed by one month of winter (we have to have a white Christmas!). I've been looking for somewhere on the planet that stays between 65-75 all year. I've been told that San Diego, Colorado and Tahiti all have that type of climate. I've never been to any of them, so I'll have to take their word for it!

OK, OK, I know I'm not talking about school yet! Sorry... My Apologies

So, today, when I got to school, I was in a FABULOUS mood (Thank you, Mother Nature!). Then the morning started a little rough when my little darling that I mentioned yesterday started acting up. D.J. decided he didn't want to sit still, or in a chair, for that matter, during our Read Aloud time. He thought it would be more fun to fall out of the chair, then slide around under the table, then move under another table, then start kicking my big metal storage cabinet while lying on his back under my table. This went on for a while, but he was seriously disrupting the story for the other 23 kids, so I had to deal with him. Up til this point, I had been trying to ignore him, as to not give him any negative attention. I just calmly repeated my request for him to sit in his chair. Now, I had to stop reading and address this issue. I told him I needed him to sit in his chair quietly because he was interrupting everybody's story time. Then I told him he had 3 seconds to get in his chair, or he would have to sit in the hall (like he has almost everyday already!!) Miraculously, as I started counting to 3, he got up and walked to his seat, and SAT DOWN! Hmmm, maybe we're onto something here. I used the counting to 3 trick a few more times before lunch. I was afraid he was enjoying it too much, though, and was going to start acting up just so I would count. But, he maintained himself fairly well, I must say. Naturally, the 3rd time I had to do the counting, a few of the kids starting counting with me, so I had to nip that in the bud right away! The last thing I need is for him to start acting up to get even more attention from the other kids!

D.J. was still a little iffy when we went to lunch, but he surprised me by walking all the way there without me having to say his name even once! After lunch, we had 10 minutes for a bathroom break, and then off to library. I gave Ms. M. (the librarian) a heads-up about the rocky morning he was having. Low and behold, when I picked them up 40 minutes later, he got a good report!! Yay!!

Next was rest time. It's my favorite 20 minutes of the day! Raise The Roof 2 So far, each of the 5 days have been a little different for D.J. One day, I let him have 'carpet squares' (remnant squares I bought somewhere that I let some kids lie on during rest time. Some lie on the carpet, which fits 8-10 kids, and the rest stay at their seats.) and he actually fell asleep. A couple of the days, he just wiggled and jiggled, falling out of his chair, crawling around on the floor, etc. Today, I guess he was feeling pretty proud of himself, and he asked if he could go to the carpet. Usually, this spot is reserved for the very best behaved, especially since they lie so close to each other, and it makes it easy to talk and play. I wanted to reward his positive behavior, so I told him he could have one chance, and if I had to say his name even once, he had to go back to his seat. He said he understood. Well, guess what? I didn't have to say his name!!! He actually went to sleep. When the 20 minutes was up, I selfishly let him keep sleeping, even though I woke everybody else up. I know, SO wrong, but I was so tired, and I'm still struggling with this horrible cold.

When we went to snack, D.J. was still sleeping, and when I came back to the room, he was awake. Luckily, he didn't think that we all went home and left him there! I brought his snack back with me for him, so I let him eat in the room with me. My partner, Dori, was in the room with me, and we both lavished him with praise for being so calm, etc. When the rest of the class came back, we went to the bathroom and got drinks, a couple of the KIDS remarked, "D.J. is being so quiet!" I wanted to laugh, but of course, I couldn't. I just eagerly agreed, and when we went back into the classroom, we all gave him a round of applause! It was wonderful! D.J. was simply glowing. When it was time to go, I gave him a job to do (passing out something to the rest of the class) and I made sure to pass on a message to his mom, via his brother, about what a wonderful day he had.

OK, I hope none of you think I'm delusional enough to think today is what the rest of the year (or even week!) will be like. I certainly don't think I worked any magic on him. Every mother in the world uses the counting to 3 thing!! But, the bottom line is, D.J. had a good day!!! Hence, his teacher had a good day! Of course, he promised me he would have a good day tomorrow, too, but I'm not holding him to it!

Obviously, by now, you know that I figured out how to insert my favorite smileys! I promise not to be so annoying with them in the future!

Today's quote:

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
---Henry B. Adams

This is one of my favorite quotes. I try to remember it whenever I'm dealing with a child like D.J. I don't want to him ever think back on kindergarten and only remember getting yelled at all the time. Hopefully, he went home feeling proud of himself today, as he should have. Those are the memories I want him to have. I hope to have a positive influence on all my students' lives. One of the reasons I love kindergarten so much is that kindergarten is the beginning of the educational experience for children. This is where the foundation is built for their future. OK, I don't want to get up on my soapbox, so I'm gonna leave it at that. See you tomorrow!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sniffly, Sneezy, Coughy Monday

Well, it's first cold of the school year. I don't think I've ever gotten sick this early in the school year before. I think it has something to do with the enormous amount of stress I've been under so far this year. It has lowered my resistance. You would think my body would have built up a high resistance to germs from being around all these germy little babies all the time. Their noses run (and I get to wipe them!), they have a weird obsession with drawing on the table with their spit (oh, yes they really do!), they crawl up in my lap and then sneeze in my mouth, you get the picture!

So, bottom line, I've been pretty miserable the past couple of days. Actually, when I woke up feeling icky yesterday, I thought it had to do with the fact that I got home from my sister's birthday fiesta at about 5am Sunday morning. But, turns out, I was just getting sick! I took a nap in my hammock Sunday afternoon, since it was a glorious, sunny day here in Chicago, and burnt my face. Now my nose is killing me, between the sunburn and the "constantly blowing my nose" burn.

Hey, teach!! This is supposed to be about school, remember!?

OK, so today I finished up the ridiculous DIBELS testing. A couple of hilarious stories-- I was testing L.W., and just like all the other babies, I had to show her those stupid pictures. Now, I name all the pictures for the kids every time I turn the page ("This is rooster, doctor, fly and soldier") while pointing to each one, so even if the child doesn't know what something is, they at least hear the name once from me. Usually what happens is, they remember what I said, but then can't repeat it. For example, when I was testing J.H., he wanted to answer with "insect" but he said, "umm," Of course, he was making the sweetest little confused face while he was answering! But, back to L.W. So, I ask, "Which picture begins with 'rrr'?" I'm sure in her head, she remembered me saying "rooster." However, she answered me with, "Cock-a-doodle-do!" I almost lost it! Dear, sweet L.W. gave me a few more giggles. Like A.B. did on Friday, when asked to name the letters in the row, she immediately started saying, "a,b,c,d,e,f,g..." The only difference was, she sang it!! How cute is that?! Finally, when I asked her, "What sound does 'insect' start with?" She looked at me, smiled, and said, "bzzzz." I can't take it! I love it when they give me that look that says, "Jeez, Lady, you are really stupid! How do you not know that?"

Now, here's a little something for the "awww" file. K.W. was out in the hall with me, and didn't do very well on the first two parts of the test. If you read Friday's post, you may remember that the last part of the test is where I give the kids a word, and they have to use it in a sentence. So, the first word on the test is "happy." K.W. smiled and said, "Happy is when you get something you don't have for your birthday!" Way to go, K.W.! That's worth 12!

One of my little darlings is proving to be quite a challenge in the behavior department. This is only Day 5, and he's been put in time-out every one of those 5 days. Usually, several times a day! He can't sit still AT ALL, constantly makes noises, throws things, and so on. He does not like authority figures, and is quite defiant. His mom happened to be in the office this morning, but by the time I realized who she was, it was too late to talk to her. I happened to see our preschool teacher in the hallway when I was looking for the mom, and she asked if I was looking for that parent. When I said yes, she told me that she just finished talking to her about her son in preschool. Apparently the misbehavior is not only happening with my student. Ms. J. told me that in all her years of teaching (and she's retiring at the end of this year, so we're talking quite a few years!) she's never had a child that acted this bad. I was telling her a little about what my darling has been doing, and she says "Yep, his brother does the same thing." Luckily for her, she can tell his mom to stop bringing him if the behavior doesn't change. That's not so easy for me. Not that it hasn't been done, though. I have had to drop kids before because they were so disruptive. Since kindergarten isn't mandatory in Illinois, we can get away with it. I think I'm going to have to share that info with mom, and hope that she's willing to work together on changing things. This early in the year, it's hard to tell sometimes if these behavior stem from actual medical conditions (i.e. -ADD, ADHD) or if it's simply a case of no discipline in the home. My guess is the latter in this case. I've been keeping anecdotal records about his behavior, so we'll see how it pans out.

I didn't speak to, or even cross paths with, the Big Cheese today, so I wasn't quite so irritated today. Just sick :( I was able to send the first homework packet home today, as well as my Kindergarten Handbook. All in all, a pretty good day!

Quote time...

Children require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction.
---Annie Sullivan

I only wish the higher-ups at the Board of Ed. understood that. Then I wouldn't have to test babies, and they wouldn't be expected to read at the end of kindergarten, along with all the other things they're supposed to do. What happened to kindergarten being about socialization? These poor babies aren't even allowed to play, because it takes away from instructional time. I'm going to stop right there because, like I said, this has been a pretty good day, so I don't want to start complaining now! See you tomorrow!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Thank God, Goddess, Allah, Buddha, Thor, Zeus, Whoever! It's Friday!

Today was one of the single worst days I've ever had in this school. Unless you work there with me, you wouldn't be the least bit interested in the details, but suffice it to say, our principal is a major jackass! He's about to have a handful of grievances filed against him with the union, and I just may be one of them. I really don't have the energy to rant about it, that's how exhausted, physically and mentally, I am after today. I'm going to fill up my tub, turn on the jets, and take a nap. Yes, in the tub! It wouldn't be the first time!

On a positive note, my babies didn't seem to drive me as crazy today. I guess I was too busy being pissed off at the Big Cheese! Actually, now that the first week is over, and they're starting to get into the swing of things, I think this is going to be a pretty good group.

I had to start testing my kids today (oh, yes, really!) with this ridiculous standardized test called DIBELS (the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills). If you're curious about the test, you should read this article by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post. It questions the validity of the test, much like we do at school. The name of the test is goofy enough, but it's even funnier for us to talk about how we "dibbled our kids today." It sounds perverted!!

The testing did give me a couple of good laughs, though. Some of the kids' answers were hilarious! The last section of the test requires the children to use specific words in a sentence. For example, if I give them the word "green," they could say, "The grass is green." We have to record the number of words used in the sentence. Don't ask, I told you the test was stupid! One of the words given, for 5 year-olds, mind you, is "ago." One of my babies said, "I saw the car uh...go!" Too cute!

Another part of the test involves showing the kids a page with rows of random letters, both upper and lowercase. They have to move across the page and name the letters. First of all, tracking letters on a page is not an easy task for most kindergartners, most especially on the 4th day of school! They have to point to the letter, name it, then move to the next letter without accidentally skipping down a row. When they get to the end of the row, they have to know to go to the next row, not just some other random spot on the page. Talk about pressure! I always break the rules the first time I test them, and show them where to go. In some cases, I even point to the letters for them, which is a HUGE no-no. I suppose I shouldn't really give them any help, so then they'll score really low on the beginning of the year tests, and then the end of the year test scores will make it seem like I'm really one hell of a teacher! ;D

So, I was testing A.B., and I said, "Oh, this is a fun one! You get to tell me about letters. Do you know your letters?" Of course she nodded, "yes." I open to the page and tell her to begin as I hit "start" on my palm pilot. (All testing is done with a palm pilot, which is the ONLY good thing about DIBELS. It makes scoring the tests instantaneous, and it keeps track of the scores, as well as other information for us. The wonders of modern technology!) She immediately begins pointing and moving straight across the row saying, "a, b, c, d, e, f,....) I think the row looked more like, "s, T, o, l, D, m, M..." I had to stifle a giggle. I also had to let her get all the way through the row without stopping her. If a child gets the entire first row incorrect, the test automatically stops, and you get a message on the palm that tells you to discontinue this portion of the test.

The other component of the test requires the children to listen for sounds (phonemes) in words. The words are represented with pictures in the test book. I don't know what idiots were paid to put this book together, but they couldn't have picked out worse pictures! (See, this is when I seriously consider a career change, because, HELL, I could put a better book together for this test!) Anyway, the pictures are not actual photos, but are illustrations. One of the pictures is of what, to a 5 year-old, would look like a horse. Sadly, for the test, it's a MULE! Another looks like a bug, but I have to tell them INSECT. Another is a bear up in a tree, and I have to confuse them by telling them it's a CUB. Crazy! There's a picture of a bed, but the test word is QUILT. There's a picture of a dish, but they have to know PLATE. OK, enough!

I have little J.H. out in the hall with me for his test, and I'm trying to go over the example page. I have to say, "This is 'mouse,' 'flowers,' 'pillow' and 'letters.' Mouse begins with 'mmm.'" Right away, J.H. says, "Flowers are for giving to your mom!" So sweet! But, I don't have time to savor the moment, I just have to keep plugging away at this ridiculous test. "Which pictures begins with "fl?" (Already, the stupidest thing I've ever seen. Why would the very first question you ask this baby be about a blended sound?!) The test goes on from there, and I have to say, "Pillow begins with 'p.' What does "letters" begin with?" The picture on the page basically showed a pile of envelopes. Well, little Miss K.C. looks at me, looks up at the ceiling deep in thought, and says, "Um, hmm.... mail.... 'mmm.'" Now why in the world do I have to tell this baby she's wrong? She sees "mail" in the picture, and mail does start with the 'mmm' sound. Ugh! Have I mentioned I hate this test?

Well, nonetheless, I was amused the majority of the time I was administering the test. I have a few more kids to go on Monday when we get back. I almost wish I could videotape them while I test them, and then post the videos for your enjoyment. Just the little faces they make when they're thinking, and the funny things they say, kill me! Yeah, yeah, I know, that's why I'll never leave the classroom. I'm forever destined to be held captive by those little cherub-like faces. Damn my love of children!

While I've been sitting here typing, my "basement guy" arrived and started working downstairs. That would be great, except tonight he's working on moving a pipe, so he had to shut off all the water in the house. So much for my long, delicious soak in the tub :( Maybe I'll just lie down. Can you do that at 6:30 in the evening? I'd better just do something else, otherwise I'll fall asleep and be up at 3am! I might as well keep on writing!

Tomorrow is my sister's birthday, which is one of the reasons I'm going to need to be well-rested. The plan, so far, is to go out with a bunch of friend to hear one of my favorite bands. Ooo, I just realized I can put a link to their website here. Yay! However, this blog is supposed to be dedicated to school only....well, just this once, I'll make an exception. I have many, many friends who are musicians, so we always have someone we can go see on the weekends. My very good friend, Tony, used to be the lead singer in one of my other favorite bands (RICO) but left a couple of years ago to start his own band. I affectionately refer to them as TAB. They were the featured entertainment at my recent graduation bash this past July. It was the single greatest party I've ever been to, let alone thrown! You should check out the link. You can hear samples of their music. They rock! Anyway, we'll be partying with TAB tomorrow night in honor of my sister.

Then, on Sunday, my dear mother will turn 60. The only reason she came home early from her villa in Italy (she came home Wed.) is to celebrate with us. Normally, my mom is gone from May til October. Nice, right? She's had a bit of a rough year so far in 2007. In January she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Without putting all her "business" out there, she had to postpone her departure this year for Italy, and wasn't able to leave until June. Then she came back early, so I think she's suffering a little withdrawal since she wasn't able to spend her usual 6 months away. Health wise, she's doing pretty good right now, so that's all I'm going to say on the subject.

OK, quote time:

It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. ---Albert Einstein

This one spoke to me today as I was questioning the lunacy of having to test my babies after 3 days of schooling. Now, I don't have a problem with testing, per se, and I've always done my own evaluative testing to get a baseline starting point every September. I need to know what they know. It's really the whole DIBELS thing that bugs me. I hate to do anything that might squash their love of school and learning. I don't want any of it to feel like a chore or "work." Learning should be fun!!

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Welcome, Dori!!

My darling teaching partner has started a blog! Yay! I'm going to take full credit for giving her that push she needed to get it going. :D (Truth be told, she started one a long time ago, but she admitted she wasn't very consistent with posting.) Now, if you check in on her, you will be amazed at how she manages to be so positive about things, when all I do is complain, and we work in the same hell-hole!!! She's the sweetest girl, and I just love her! She's Faithful.

"We're 4 days smarter today!"

Even though I'm not one of those people who lives and breathes by my horoscope, I still read it everyday because it's on my opening page every time I turn on my computer. I actually crack myself up, because when it's convenient for me, I can find the truth in whatever it says, and believe what I want. Here's today's:

"Though you're working hard at whatever you do, you're also likely to be thinking about increasing your income. Perhaps you are seeking a new position, or an entirely new career altogether. If this is your desire, dear Taurus, start looking today. The signs are all perfect for it! You're also likely to appear stronger and more confident to colleagues and to those higher up in the hierarchy. Make the contacts you need and move ahead with your plans."

I couldn't help but laugh this morning when I read it because I've done nothing but complain this week about my job! When I started my masters program, I thought I might want to use the degree to move out of the classroom and do something else. Perhaps work for the Board of Ed, or a textbook publisher, or something. I don't think I'd want to get out of the classroom forever, but a break might be good for me. Sometimes I think just a change of environment would be just as effective. I've been working in Englewood for over 10 years now. It wears at your soul after a while. In the beginning, I came home and cried every night because of the way these kids had to live. The unstable homes, the lack of decent food and clothing, the lack of respect or appreciation for education, the violence in the neighborhood, and so much more. I shouldn't have my kindergarten students telling me what to do when you hear gunshots. It's just part of their everyday existence.

The first year I was at this school, there was a shootout on the playground right at dismissal time. One of my babies literally walked right in the middle of it, between the two animals shooting at each other across the playground. Most of the other kids were still in the classroom with me. The school was immediately put on lock down, and I immediately thought I was going to piss on myself. One of my favorite little girls just looked at me and very calmly said we needed to get down on the floor, away from the windows. That was almost more upsetting to me than the actual shooting. How in the hell could this just be a normal thing for 5 year olds to deal with in their lives?!

Since then, I've become a bit numbed to all the craziness. This past school year, we couldn't go outside for recess for the entire month of May because they were shooting outside almost every single day. The sad thing is, that hardly even phases me anymore. Yeah, I was annoyed that we couldn't go outside, but the actual horror of the situation was almost lost on me. I drive through the worst parts of Chicago on a daily basis, see things that most people only see in movies, and I don't even bat an eye.

Sometimes, the logical side of me is stunned at how blase I've become about it all. But, if I were to stop and think about what's really happening, I probably wouldn't be able to go to work. If I thought about how, at any moment, a stray bullet could find me, (or GOD FORBID, my son!), if I thought about how, at any given stop light, someone could try and carjack me, if I thought about how I could get caught up in a police chase, I could never drive through those neighborhoods. I have to drive through some pretty scary places every morning just to get my son to school. Then, I drive through some really crappy parts to pick up a friend and his son (Dad works at my school, son attends the school) before I finish my journey. None of that would be possible if I stopped to worry about every thing that could happen.

So, getting back to my horoscope, perhaps I should be mass-mailing my resume today. Maybe I should consider changing careers. I've always said that if I wasn't a teacher, I would be an accountant. Math was always my favorite subject in school, and it was my minor in college. On those days when being a teacher really sucks (like payday, for example!) I often wish I would have studied accounting and become a CPA. Lord knows, I'd surely be making more money. But what I wouldn't be making is a difference. That's what keeps me going back to Englewood everyday.

As far as the accounting thing goes, though, my brother is opening a bar (I'll give you details another day) and I'll be doing his books, so maybe that little taste will be enough to sustain me. If not, at least I'll have a job where I can have margaritas while I work, and no one will care! Hmm, I bet no one would care at school, either.... Haha! It certainly would make the day more interesting!

Well, tomorrow's Friday already, and I will have made it through the first week of school with my babies. Only 166 days to go before summer vacation!! I'm making that my positive for today!! :D

Today's quote:
The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.
--Anatole France

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

That didn't take long....

Yesterday, I mentioned that we lost our assistants this year, so we have no help at all with our class. I can't believe I didn't whine more about this yesterday because it already caused a problem at the end of the day. Technically, our work day ends at 2:45 when our class is dismissed. I know that seems kind of weird, but that's our contract. However, the kindergarten students are not dismissed like the rest of the school. They need to be picked up at our classrooms, and signed out by whoever picks them up. Now, 98% of the time, I'm at school long after the last of my children is picked up, which is usually after 3:00. (For those of you not in the know, CPS teachers are the unofficial "free babysitter" for the community!!)

Anyway, like I said, I almost never leave on time. On the rare occasion when I did need to leave on time, my assistant would handle dismissal. Not a problem, because the assistants work until 3:15. Well, now we have no assistant to help with dismissal. Now, normally, this wouldn't really be an issue, because like I said, I'm there anyway. But yesterday, I had an appointment for my dog with the vet right after school. It didn't occur to me until lunchtime that I wasn't going to be able to leave when the bell rang. "Now what?" Long story longer, I left about 3:15. By the time I got out of there, I was annoyed, so I stewed all the way home.

It occurred to me that the earliest I'll ever be able to leave is 3:00, which is 15 minutes past my "real" end time. That might not seem like much, but that comes to a minimum of 75 minutes per week. That's equal to almost 2 prep periods every week. I suppose some would think this is really petty, but it upsets me nonetheless.

[Side story----when I got home to get Buster, my dog, after driving like a lunatic from school, I rushed in the back door, opened the kitchen door, and found that my little darling decided to play with the garbage that day. Now, there were at least 3 pot's worth of coffee grounds in the garbage can, among other lovely items such as egg shells and leftover salad. Not only were there coffee grounds from one end of my kitchen to the other, there were also coffee-paw prints everywhere! All I saw was red! I couldn't deal with it at the moment even if I wanted to because we were already late for the vet. It was exactly what I DIDN'T need yesterday! The real kicker was that I just spent a good bit of time the day before sweeping, vacuuming, and then mopping the kitchen floor. Not once, but twice!! Don't worry, Laura, he's still alive!]

OK, back to school. I've already bored you enough with the mundane minutia regarding this dismissal problem, so let me just say this. I ended up getting into it with my principal in the middle of the hallway over this issue. It wasn't pretty. He caught me at a bad moment, and then said something that set me off, and boy, did he hear it. We repeated the scene after school, again in the hallway, when he had the gall to ask why I was still there at 3:00 ("I thought you needed to leave when the bell rang.") He hasn't heard the last from me on this issue, because now he's just pissed me off. He forgets that he needs me more than I need this job. Actually, I reminded him during this after school scene, and he said something like, "Oh, I see, now that you graduated and got your masters, you're too good to work here." I know he was trying to be funny, especially because he saw how pissed I was, but all it did was piss me off more. We're going to have to sit down and come up with a plan here, because I'm not letting it go.

He already gets almost an hour a day out of me without pay because I come in early everyday. Now that's my choice, so I don't expect him to even care, let alone compensate me. But this after school issue is NOT my choice, and I shouldn't have to give any more of my time unless I get compensated in some way. It doesn't even need to be monetarily. I'd be thrilled with an extra prep period or two. Again, I know some would think this sounds petty, but not everyone understands how much time teachers already give without being paid. We grade papers, write lesson plans, prepare lesson materials, and so on, all on our own time, at home. I don't know of many other professions that require that kind of sacrifice of time. Doctors don't take patients home with them, waitstaff don't serve people once they leave the restaurant (unless of course they're moms!), you get the idea. We're already grossly underpaid, so I think it's ballsy to expect us to give even more. Good God, I need to climb down off my soapbox now, I can feel my blood pressure rising again! (I tried to edit out the raunchy language Laura warned you about, but this was the best I could do. Believe me, this had been edited!)

OK, let's see, what is today's positive.....? I didn't get my morning Dunkin Donuts coffee today (large hazelnut, extra cream and 4 Splenda) because the drive-thru line was too long this morning, so I was in desperate need of some caffeine. I was looking through the fridge in the teachers' lounge, and I found a 2 liter of Diet Coke that I had left there in June, marked with my name and room number. I can NOT believe it was still there, since things tend to disappear in that fridge, labeled or not. Needless to say, it almost didn't make it through the day. With the stress of the episode with my principal in the afternoon, I drank way more than I should have. But, it did alleviate the pounding in my head :) So, that's my positive for today -- Finding a full 2 liter bottle of cold Diet Coke! And, there's enough for a morning cup tomorrow!

Here's today's quote:

The soul is healed by being with children.

--Fyodur Dostoevsky

This really held true today, because it was hard to stay in that moment of anger when I was with my babies. They crack me up, and give love so freely. Some of them just met me yesterday, and they all greeted me with hugs this morning, not to mention several times throughout the day. It's funny, the worst behaved ones are the ones that want to hug me the most. They're also the ones that need those hugs the most. OK, before I start getting all mushy, I'm going to sign off for the night. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The children have arrived!!

Today was the first day of school for CPS students. That means my son also started school today. It was a very bittersweet day for me. It seems like a week ago I was taking him for his first day of preschool, and this morning he started 8th grade. 8th grade!!! Good Lord, I'm old! I seriously had to fight back the tears this morning as I drove away. Graduation day will be here in about a minute. OK, enough with that, I'm getting sad again.

So, my babies came today. I already know which ones are going to get to me this year! The funny thing is, out of the 5 that drove me nuts, I had 4 of their older siblings. 2 just last year, 1 the year before that, and the one girl's brother was in my kindergarten about 7 or 8 years ago. That actually helped because I had no qualms about telling their moms exactly what kind of day each had. Usually I tend to sugar-coat behavior reports in the first week or so when the parents ask. I figure the kids need time to adjust to me, the rules, school in general, being away from mom, etc. But, with these 5 little darlings, I'm going to need their moms' help in nipping the behaviors in the bud. Especially because...

We lost our assistants this year (did I already mention that?). Without another grown-up in the room with me, this first month is going to be killer! One of the most difficult things today to get accomplished was going to the bathroom. Sounds silly, I know, but usually one adult would take the girls while the other took the boys. That's partly because our building is old and was built with the girls' bathroom on one end of the hall, and the boys' way on the other end. The other reason was simply because it takes less time to have the class split like that. Today, I had to go it alone, so it took twice as long. Add into that the fact that many of my babies still need help with buttons, zippers, buckles, belts, and so on, and we're talking literally 20-30 minutes just to use the bathroom! We have to do this 2 or 3 times a day. That's an hour or more of instruction time spent on going potty! Hopefully, they'll get in the swing of things by the end of the week. Hey, at least nobody wet their pants today, so that's something.

As a matter of fact, I shouldn't really be complaining because I didn't have any criers, either. Again, sounds silly, but that's one of the biggest problems I have at the beginning of every year. All it takes is one wailer to set off a chain reaction, and next thing you know, you've got a roomful of kids crying. Other than those 5, most of them were wonderful. Just about half of my kids already know me, and vice versa, because I had their siblings. I have to say, it's a nice feeling to know that these parents specifically requested their children be in my room based on what they experienced when their older children were with me. And, it's nice to start the year knowing my parents so well. (Well, look at that. Today's positive item!)

One last complaint - I know I mentioned last week that our lunch period was extended from 20 to 30 minutes. Well, I just found out today that only the KIDS' lunch is extended. Ours is still only 20 minutes! We are to either sit with them for the first 10 minutes, the last 10 minutes, or we can just pick them up 10 minutes early. What kind of crap is that?!?! My partner and I decided we would just stay for the first 10 minutes, since we usually do that anyway just to help the babies. It's hard for them to move through a cafeteria line, trying to juggle their lunchtray without spilling it. So, we figure we'll help them all get settled into their seats, then leave for our 20 minutes. So actually, I suppose we're still gaining 10 minutes, since we've always helped them, and then only had 10 minutes for ourselves.

On another positive note, all but one of my babies was in uniform today, and they all looked so adorable!! I wish I could post their pictures here for you to see. I've been contemplating asking their parents to sign a consent form that would let me do that. I would love to at least post our class photo. I'm going think on that a bit more.

Well, it's time to start the nightly yelling about "get your homework done!" One more reason I love summer vacation. :( Here's today's quote:

Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.

--Sitting Bull

Saturday, September 1, 2007

I think I'm starting to get the hang of this

Please check out my friend Laura's blog - Live Happy She's really the one who inspired, and then encouraged, me to start blogging. I just figured out how to put a link to her blog on here, so I'm very excited. She's even more nuts than I am (you are too, Laura!!) so I'm sure you'll enjoy her blog as much as I do. Ever since Laura started blogging, I've been checking in on her every day, sometimes several times a day. (yeah, I'm a loser!) Through her blog, I've developed a little group of other bloggers that I regularly check on, too. I'll add them to my list later.

Wow, 3 posts in one day! I'm on a roll! Seriously, I'm done for the night, I promise!