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Showing posts from November, 2006

The Mr. Smith Papers

Warren came to help the kids with multiplication and asked for a multiplication table. You know, the basic multiplication table. This guy:

Most of the kids had never seen one before, so they didn't know it was called a multiplication table. They just knew that Mr. Smith gave it to them to help them with their word problems. So the next day, when they were trying to do multiplication, they came and asked me for a "Mr. Smith Paper."

That's what they're called now, in my class. It's the accepted name for them. I'm a little worried that one day I'll be talking to other teachers and they'll ask me how I help the kids learn their multiplication facts, and I'll say, "Well, I let them use the Mr. Smith papers until they memorize them..."

Report Card Madness

Report cards come around way too often. OK, maybe they really only happen three times during the school year, but they sure feel like they're always looming over my head. It doesn't help that the report cards are huge (17¼x 11 inches - too big to work on at a coffee shop, on airplanes, or at my desk) not even counting the separate comments section. Nor does it help that they are made of four layers of "carbonless" paper, which means that every time I fold them or lean on them, let alone make accidental marks, I have to correct four copies.

The main problem is that I am not at all convinced that any of the parents read the report cards, or understand what they mean if they do read them. Some of the fields are measured in numbers (1=Far Below Grade Level, 2=Below, 3=Approaching, 4=Proficient, 5=Advanced), some in symbols (check, plus, and minus), and some in initials (EA=Early Advanced, and so on. And there's a lot of fields to be measured. All of the report …

Rainy Day Routine

In this district - at least at my school - the rainy day plan is simple:

Cross Your Fingers and Hope It Doesn't Rain.

That's the official plan. Every time it does rain, all the administrators (and there have been many of them during my tenure) get these shocked looks on their faces and scramble to make a plan. The general attitude is that of, "It's raining? It's raining?!? What the hell is it doing that for? How dare it RAIN? Oh my goodness, what are we going to do???" You'd think that at some point these people - some of whom are very intelligent - would figure out that it actually rains in Northern California. Quite a bit. And that we will still have students, even when it rains. But no, they tend to stare up at the sky as if betrayed by the heavens.

The methods of coping vary. Some administrators try not to call a rainy day recess until the kids come sopping wet into the office to complain. Others do the opposite, and declare a rainy day recess when ther…

Vacation Is Over.

I've had a week off and it's only today - NINE DAYS INTO VACATION - that I am not tired. I am finally not tired. It took me this long to decompress and recover from teaching these wonderful kids. And now I have to go back to work tomorrow. Pray for me.

No Child Left Behind

I've tried to stay away from NCLB in this blog for a few reasons: it makes me angry, it makes me have to explain a lot to people who think the name is great (after all, who wants to actually leave a child behind?) or who think I just don't like accountability, and because teacher's unions are so militantly against it (and I don't think teacher's unions are always actually looking out for teachers or students).

However, here's my brief overview. The best thing the Bush Administration did with NCLB is to name it. Seriously, "No Child Left Behind" - the name is brilliant. The main idea is that it provides accountability for schools, provides more of a focus on literacy, and provides parents with a choice when their local schools are designated as low performing or failing. Schools have to make adequate yearly progress as determined by the state, both as a general population and in specific categories of students such as African Americans, Latinos, low-inc…

Science With Mr. Smith!

Warren came to teach the kids science a few weeks ago. It may or may not have started by me begging him to bring dry ice to the classroom, after remembering his "bubbling cauldron" made of water, dry ice, and 5 gallon buckets last Halloween. Or it may be thanks to his firm belief that kids need science experiments. Either way, we reaped the benefits at Mr. Smith's Science Time.

States of Matter is one of the science topics that is supposed to be covered in the third grade curriculum. It's often not, thanks to the standardized tests that have caused many schools to stick to teaching only the subjects that will be assessed at the end of the year. It's a shame, because children need motivation to learn, not just endless sound/spelling correspondences. For many children (and possibly adults??), there's something about the hands-on drive to satisfy curiosity that makes science different and special and might actually cause them to buy into school.

Anyway. We were fo…

The Gecko

Has learned to eat mealworms. He loves them. He eats them like candy. Somehow, that's grosser than crickets to me.

The More Things Change...

...The more they stay the same. I found this email that I wrote to some close friends back in September 2003. I'm happy to say that things have gotten a little better. A very little. A very very little. And actually, now that I think about it, what's gotten better is mostly that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And I haven't been killed yet!(Actually, we do have some school counselors. That's an improvement! Anyway, on to the email.)School is so hard. There are so many problems... injustices really, that I can't deal with. Some are so little and would seem silly if they didn't add up... not having enough pencils, no scissors, no time to get ready in my room, etc. Some are bigger - how we don't have a PTA so the other schools in the district have so much more than we do. How we get less money from the district because our parents don't fight for it. How we have no support for all the drug babies and kids who are scarred by violence or who ha…

Did You Know...

That according to the district employee directory, there is one person whose sole job is to process TB test clearances? Not that it isn't necessary; everyone who sets foot in a classroom is supposed to have a clear TB test, so that's a lot of people and a lot of TB tests. But that's got to be the most boring job in the district. All TB tests, all the time.

Some days though, I would like to have that kind of a boring job.

Eating Lunch! Or Not.

We have a 30 minute lunch period. Thirty minutes. In that thirty minute time period, I have to walk the children to and from the cafeteria and make sure they get their lunches and don't hurt each other. That takes 7-10 minutes. So now I have a 20-23 minute lunch period. Let's go with the maximum amount of time left, just to give whoever came up with the schedule the benefit of the doubt.

In twenty-three minutes, I have to use the bathroom, as this will be my first and only time to do so from 8:30 am until 2:55 pm. I'm fast. There goes another 3-5 minutes. Now I have 15-20 minutes. Again, I'll go with 20.

Twenty minutes left. Still have to make the kids' homework. That can take between 5-30 minutes, depending on if anyone's in line for the copier, if it jams, if there's paper, etc. Now we have to go with the maximum amount of time left, because if it takes 30 minutes on this hypothetical day, I'm way out of time.

OK, everything's gone perfectly, and I h…