Thursday, October 26, 2006

One of Those Days

Today was one of those days. Not a horrible day, exactly, but one when I kind of wonder what I'm doing here and if the kids will ever get anywhere and if I'll escape this year with any of my sanity still in place. And also, what the HELL is wrong with our country's priorities?

-We don't have enough custodians so we have to send a kid to dump the garbage. And I almost cried when someone said "The janitor sweeps and mops your classroom, right?"

-One of the fourth grade classes (half of my students from last year) STILL doesn't have a teacher. Hey, they almost did me in. Who's going to want to take that job?

-One of my students told me-casually-that his dad had been killed in a gang fight a few years back.

-One of my old students came back to visit and was BRAGGING to a 5th grader that he had straight D's in his classes.

-The school is out of white paper to make copies, so we have to make all our copies on colored paper or white cardstock. And I seem to be the only one who notices that both of those are more expensive than white paper, which appears to be why we don't we have more white paper and less expensive, not-as-useful paper. [Note: some people have pointed out that this could have just been an honest mistake - the person doing the ordering may not have known that we would use so much white paper and not so much other paper. True. Except for the fact that this has happened every year for the last 7 years. You'd think someone would catch on to the pattern.]

-One of my kids (who is black) told me he didn't want to talk to "Mexican kids in that Mexican class" (bilingual Spanish class). In front of all the Mexican kids in my class, who mostly happen to be really sensitive girls.

-I have to go buy dry erase markers, glue, scissors, and erasers with my own money because the school seems to think they've given me enough.

-The computer guy from the district won't fix the computers in my classroom because they're not district property but were donated to me for my classroom. Ummm... guess why I don't have district computers? Not because I haven't been asking for them!

-I had to use an hour of sick leave because there was a fire on the other side of the bridge and it took me an hour and a half to get to school the other day.

-After spending hours putting up student work on various bulletin boards, we're all told we don't have enough student work up and why don't we make our classrooms look more like the slide we are being shown (which is totally cluttered and an ADD kid's nightmare - things hanging from the lights, the blinds, every bit of wall space...)

-Every other kid seems to want to tell me today that I "do too much" and "that's why they hate this class/school/life."

-We haven't gone on any field trips yet because I would have to pay for them, as the budget isn't finalized. The district might pay me back. The one I want to take them on is only $80, but I just don't have an extra $80. Not after I buy dry ease markers, glue, scissors, and erasers.

Sorry for the grouching. Like I said, it's been one of those days. Even the gecko's been a little grouchy, but I read that it's normal for geckos to be grouchy when they are shedding their skin. (Bet you didn't know that!)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Homeless People Is City Wildlife

Our reading program - Open Court - has different themes for each unit. All the stories in a unit are grouped around the theme, and the kids do their own inquiry and research about the theme. Basically, you live, eat, sleep, and breathe the Open Court theme for 6 or 7 weeks. Third grade is a great grade to teach because the Open Court themes are very versatile and interesting: Friendship, City Wildlife, Imagination (my favorite!!), Money, and Storytelling.

We just finished Friendship and got some fabulous ideas on the "Concept/Question Board." The kids put up ideas or questions about the theme and, being kids, they tend to think far, far outside the box. "Can people be friends with animals?" was one of the more highly explored questions, along with "Can kids be friends with kids in other countries who they've never met or kids here who speak a different language?"

Now we're on City Wildlife. I like City Wildlife, because it builds on the kids' natural curiosity about plants and animals. There's always some defining of the term that needs to happen at the beginning of the year. Zoo animals do not count as city wildlife because they are no longer "wild" - they're being taken care of by somebody. Tigers in the wild do not count because they do not live in the cities that we have experienced. The definition that the kids finally uncover usually goes something like "plants or animals that live in our city and survive without being taken care of." Now, the interesting thing is that the reading program did not take inner-city schools into consideration. The teacher's edition specifically says that cats and dogs are not city wildlife. Really? What about all the feral pit bulls running around East Oakland? As the kids would say, don't nobody be taking care of them and they be surviving! It leads to interesting discussions, which are good, as I like to have the students form their own opinion.

The comment that I think the textbook publishers never took into consideration was about homeless people. Working off the above definition, one of the kids said, "So, homeless people is city wildlife too! Don't nobody be taking care of them or giving them a place to live and they still alive." Leave it to the kids to point out that we have people in our cities who aren't treated much better than the pigeons and sewer rats. Should I see if the publishers will include homeless people in their next list of City Wildlife examples?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Silly Spelling Lists

The word "shot" was on a spelling list last week - the spelling list was full of words with the short "o" sound (as in "shot"). Apparently, my friends' students - those who use the same spelling lists - thought of it as getting a shot at the doctor. My kids, when asked to write spelling sentences, all wrote things like, "My auntie got shot in front of her house." Or "I was very sad when my dad got shot." I hadn't really thought of it before giving out the spelling words. Next year, I'll change the list.

Also, when it comes time for the long "o" sound - as in "toe" - I need to remember to take the word "hoe" off the list. In East Oakland, no one has seen a hoe. However, everyone has seen (or knows) a ho. If you don't get that, well... just thank God for your innocence being preserved.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Email Wisdom

All the kids have epals - each of them gets one of my friends to email so that the kids can learn how to use email (many safeguards in effect: I get copies of the emails, the kids' last names aren't used, parents have to give permission, etc.)

There are some funny things that go on in kids' emails. One kid emailed his epal to ask if an A was a good grade because he was sad that he didn't get an A+. Several have asked their epals if they eat vegetables. They don't know how to type (or spell, for many of them) so their emails have either no spaces or way too many spaces between words. They don't really get that punctuation is used in typing as well as writing. The following is one of my favorite emails, from "Amy."

I have 1brother and 3sisters.My favorite color is purple,silver and pink.When my baby sister was born i thought it was going to be a dastater.But it turned out good very good."

Monday, October 02, 2006

More Interesting Past Tenses

Today it was "I knew the dog was sad because he whineded." I don't know why that extra syllable is added on, but that's where I got the name for this blog. Because I am, after all, Light Skinded.