Hug Your Family

I tend to add some comments to my homework to remind my students to share themselves. To acknowledge who is important in their lives and let them know. Show them. You know - before their big fifth graders and don't want to hug their moms and dads anymore.

So yesterday I wrote "Hug your family."

In their agendas the next morning I had a few notes in agendas - most in the form of a smiley face written by mom or a check mark from dad.

Today, one of my students wrote it again on her own.

Then she walked up to me, and said - simply - "Hug your family."

Then she gave me the biggest hug possible from her little fourth grade arms.

My extended family.

Conference Time

This year is flying by. I can't believe it is already the end of the first quarter, and I haven't blogged more than - um - once? It's not for lack of activity, that's for sure. I attribute the lack of blogging to the sudden lack of time. I swear someone stole a few hours a day from me.

The end of the quarter also means - (insert scary music) - CONFERENCE TIME. This is the 2nd year I have offered home visits as a conference option for parents. Why come to me, when I can come to you!??

I have had a handful of these conferences in the past few weeks - but tonight's visit was the most exhausting. I can honestly say I was only able to squeeze in 3 sentences of actual teacher conference dialogue between the two boys chatting - with me - at the same time - about EVERYTHING. Only one of the boys is my actual student - but the other is an older brother that once attended our school. I walked in the door and they greeted me with hugs. AND, oh, the wonderful smells of home cooking. I do not encourage that families feed me - and I try to avoid "dinner time" conferences - but something tells me that no matter what time I chose for the conference, they would have fed me.

So, hugs upon entrance. Then a whirlwind tour of the boys' room, parents room, family room, game room, art work on walls, porcelain figurines that have after-factory marker embellishments. And, of course, the bathroom. It takes everything I have to not say "oh, so this is where you poo..." Instead, I replace it with something about the wonderful light fixture or hand made rugs.

I am seated at the dinner table - the head of the table. I am served delicious food - and dessert - with various beverages laid out in front of me. The boys surround me with family pictures and stories that I'm sure the mama wouldn't necessarily want to be shared on my first visit. Tales of when the chairs used to be covered in plastic and the time they were locked out of their house and did I "want to see the window they had to break into?"

This insight is priceless. The hugs from grandma, the cheek kisses from mom, and the hugs and handshakes from the boys.

Learning. I learn about them and where they are from and their history. And really, only then, am I ready to teach them.


An Octopus in Water

I imagine an octopus in water is constantly moving - all 8 arms flailing around as the body floats through the water. Floppy and awkward.

It reminds me of a new student to our school - who landed in my classroom. Just as a reminder to you, the reader, I will tell you that my classroom is outside. I live in a quad that is adjacent to a local wooded park, our windows facing a back field of the school property. Anyone could walk up to my door and knock. Or, in this case, parents.

On the first day of school, Octopus arrived. Both parents in tow. He looked what I thought was timid and unsure at the moment. Now I know that perhaps he was just stuck in his brain and not accessible. I opened the door and welcomed the student to the room. Both parents bombarded the classroom - cracking the working buzz that was happening for those students already hard at work at an opening activity.


Then the parents took the student to his seat. Then they stood there. Then they pointed and dictated what he would write. On his "All About Me" activity page. Then. Mom took the pencil and filled it in herself.

Twenty minutes of my humming and pacing around them didn't phase these 2. They didn't seem to register my subtle pleas to leave their son with me. They didn't mind when I ignored them. Finally, as I started my first lesson of the day - I somehow broke their spell and they left.

Now I see their little man when he struggles with focusing. When he can only be presented with one basic instruction at a time. In writing. His arms and legs are in constant movement, and he seems to be always locked in his own brain.

Slowly I will find a way to pry his brain open - and I will employ many techniques to help him focus his body energy in positive ways that will help him learn.

I'm going to go Google "how to teach an octopus."



Early in the year I read the book Ish by Peter Reynolds. I read this book many times throughout the year, but this first time is always my favorite. At our school, this book is usually introduced to the students long before I get them in fourth grade, but for some reason they are silent and spellbound when we pick it up for that first time.

Last year, I shared that thought with the students, to which one replied, "It's because every teacher has a different voice, and it gives a different feeling to the book."

Right back at them. Every class shares something different, reflects in a new way, or responds to the book in a manner I haven't yet heard. Some take Ish very literal, as if there is an end goal and they haven't yet reached it in the way they perceive it should be reached or completed. Others take a more general stand and see Ish as a "close enough" to succeed or feel successful. I hope I am explaining this clearly, it is sometimes hard to capture the thoughts and reflections of 9/10 year olds.

This past year was no exception. It wasn't uncommon to hear "-ish" added on to day-to-day conversations throughout the year from my students, sometimes making sense and sometimes not. And, in true form, on the last day of school I had this conversation with one student:

Me: How are you feeling about being a 5th grader?

J: It's complicated.

Me: Explain what you mean by "complicated."

J: Well, I feel like I could do my best. I could do what they ask, but it might not be what I want to happen or what I want to show. Like I will do something that I feel isn't perfectly right, but not really know how to change it.

Me: A little confidence goes a long way. Be proud of doing your best.

J: Then I guess I'm ready.

Me: Ready!?

J: Ready. (pause) ISH.


ISTE Presentation: Take 2

Here is a link to one of my co-presenters. She has provided a link to our resources and projects site that we share with our attendees. I still have not had time to process this presentation, and will dedicate a post to this in the near future. For now, I wanted you all to be able to see what we share at ISTE.

Here for pre-presentation post.

Here for a direct link to delicious site with links - what we share with our attendees. These are things actually done in our school that we talk about during our presentation.


Minute to Win It

Part of our end of year fun was a grade-level attempt to recreate the gameshow "Minute to Win It." We have 6 classrooms, so we picked 6 of the show's many activities. My room was the site of the "Junk in the Trunk" contest - where you strap an empty tissue box with 8 ping pong balls on your lower back. Without using your hands, you have to shake and jump those 8 balls out of the box in less than a minute.

Repeat 120 times.

The students were creative in ways you can't imagine - trying to get those balls out of that tissue box in any way possible. Some were a little shy about looking like a fool in front of their peers, but most just shook it out. It was hilarious to watch them - and I had giggles for at least most of the first 50. I tried to keep up my enthusiasm, which was definitely a challenge after watching so many... I also tried to keep my mouth shut about ways that worked so well for people before them - I wanted them to have the chance to figure out the road to success on their own.

I had this one student whose body just didn't seem to get the memo. His head was shaking furiously, but not one part of his body was moving. We were all cheering him on, in hopes that our cheers would ignite movement in the parts of this body that would help complete the task. No luck.

I had another student who didn't want to look silly, so he tried to bend backwards (without using his hands, if you can imagine). I was truly impressed by his flexibility and balance as he bent further and further back. Until he collapsed on the box and all 8 balls inside. Good thing I had extra.

These are the moments that I love to share with them at the end of the year.

The giggling moments.


Walking a Cat

When I was younger I had this cat that I just adored. He was so cool. His name was Marbles because of his appearance, but ever since that "fat cat" phase we called him Bubba. Well, Bubba was an outdoor cat with full freedom to roam the neighborhood. In fact, he'd lay in the middle of the street. I remember hearing the neighbors yell "Bubba get out of the road!" as they would slowly drive around him. Well, it was my bright idea, that even though Bubba could walk outside as he pleased, that I should walk him. Yes. I should get a leash with a full harness, strap it all on him, and prance him up and down the sidewalk. The same sidewalk that he already walked, independently.

Well, I don't know if you've ever tried to put a cat on a leash before - but it was wild. Bubba bucked like a ticked off horse, hissed at the slightest touch of the harness. I carried him outside, all harnessed up, and when I put him on the sidewalk it looked as though all of his legs were broken. If a cat could tiptoe - he was definitely showing me how. He stood still for a moment, and then just went berserk - circling around and whipping his paws at the leash. I was sure that he was going to crawl up the thin red fabric between us. It wasn't natural. He wanted free and unharnessed and able to explore ... without the hinderance of my pesky leash.

This is a lot like the last weeks of school. Kids are free and playful and fun, and they can smell summer break like a bear can smell fear. Students have never been so keen to their surroundings as when they can sense the ripeness of the year fresh on their teachers' skin. They can sniff out the moment when their teacher is daydreaming and completely disrupt the rest of the day. So, I spend the last few weeks walking the cat. I try to harness their freedom that they know is SO CLOSE. They start to lose focus and restraint and good sense. So we strap on the harness and place them on the path.

What they don't know is that we're right there with them. We may be trying to keep them restrained for the little while we have left with them, but inside we are playing outside, daydreaming, and losing our own good sense.

Even with the pain of trying to keep them calm, this is my favorite time with the students. We laugh, have fun, and learn all without the pressure of testing. We can do experiments and we have time to explore things we aren't normally able to, due to curriculum restraints. It's a great way to end a year... seeing the students laughing and learning and having a great time. Definitely better than walking the cat.


Test Test Test

Today marked the first of 3 standardized tests for my students - math, reading, and social studies. And, in true fashion, it wasn't without silliness.

1. This morning I handed each student a Magic Pencil. See, I can't say anything to them as they finish their test - none of my usual "Are you sure?" or "Did you double check your work?" They are on their own. So, I passed each of them a Magic Pencil and told them, that if they held the pencil eraser up to their ear... if they were really, REALLY quiet, that they could hear the pencil say... "Did you check all of your work?"
Some of them scoffed, chuckled, and deemed themselves as non-believers in my Magic Pencil. All I replied was "I believe." I believe in them, I believe in what they can accomplish....

After we started the test - I was walking around the room I noticed one of my students staring at her pencil. Intently. Then, all of the sudden, she starts mouthing words. It looked like she was giving herself, or her pencil, a pep talk. Then, as I was watching from the corner of the room, I saw her even give herself a little fist pumping action. Well, in the direction of her pencil. This happened a few times throughout the testing. I even caught her mouthing comments about the questions - smirking, smiling, and looking at the paper as if to say "Haha, I've got you, you fraction comparison!" (disclaimer: In no way am I saying that there was a fraction comparison problem on the test. Or wasn't. There, legal team.)

2. Some of my students, including Queen Goldfish, are tested outside of the classroom for various reasons. Distracting, distractible, or because of some sort of modification from their IEP. QG was testing with one of her biggest admirers and former teachers. I received an email update mid-test from this teacher, sharing some of QG's comments - which - not shocking - had nothing to do with the test. At one point she emailed to tell me that QG had just "strangled her pencil. A-la Homer Simpson." I imagined that Magic Pencil was talking to her, and she was ticked at what it was saying. Thank goodness I later found out that it wasn't the magic pencil, but just a regular ol' number 2. I would love to know what was going through her head, and at what point she decided that strangling a pencil would resolve the issue. I bet on a multiplication problem.

3. Ants in His Pants - the kid that just can't keep still - the kid who picks his nose and eats it (it's a habit that he's growing out of - I have one month to rid him of it completely) - he was working so diligently on his test. I imagine that he was thinking of my "if we make loud noises and disturb others everyone will have to redo the test." I imagine he was thinking this at the moment he FELL OUT OF HIS CHAIR. Right onto the floor.

I'm not sure how we avoided the giggle outburst, but we did. I bit my lip and had to busy myself immediately, in order to get my mind off of the kid that had just fallen on the floor. He hopped right back up and got right back to work. I guess he was just blown out of his chair.

These kids... these amazing kids - they work so hard all year. We work so hard all year, making progress and then taking a few steps back when we need to in order to get it all together. They look at us with honest eyes, hoping that we are teaching them all they need to know. Giving them all of the tools they will need in order to succeed. This test doesn't measure all of that - but it is measured by our confidence and determination during these few weeks.


Leaving Too Soon

For the first time in a long while, I decided to leave school at a reasonable hour. This means within the hour that school let out. It was 4:05 when I drove away from school. As I was turning the corner, I saw Queen Goldfish and her little sister wandering back towards school.

Since QG has a history of wandering, I rolled down my window to ask where they were going.

"Big Sister didn't show up."

"Why can't you just walk home yourselves? I thought your mom said that was okay?"

"Because then Big Sister will be mad we didn't wait for her. We might go the wrong way."

So, I shouted from my window: "Go back to school and we'll call."

I turned my little going-home-early car around and parked myself in the front of the building. Moments later, they joined me as I got out of the car.

"Wow, nice car," she said.

"Thanks, it's Mr.'s car."

"Well, next time you see him, tell him I said it's nice," QG replied.

Then, her little sister chimed in:

"You have a husband?"

"Yes I do! Didn't QG tell you all about me? I am VERY important, you know."

"Do you have any children?" (This, in the mind of children, is what the purpose of being married is. If you're married, you have children. That's that.

"Yes, I have 18 of them, and I teach them ALL DAY LONG."

Little sister enjoyed this response. Then QG chimed in:

"Which one of them is your second favorite?" she asked.

"They are all my favorites," I replied. Then I realized what she said... second favorite. As I realized, I looked over at her... there was a glimpse and a smirk waiting for my recognition...

"Get it, I said SECOND favorite. You know, besides me."

"Clever, Queen Goldfish."

We continued our conversation as we walked into the main office to make the call home.
As we were sitting there, waiting for someone (please someone, anyone, pick up the phone) to answer - the three of us got into a discussion about hygiene. It is true, that as QG gets older, her hygiene habits are becoming more and more apparent. There is NO reason I should smell you before I see you.

Little sister started the conversation by saying that QG told her about the "kit" I kept for her in the classroom - toothbrush, toothpaste, and a hairbrush.

"I take 2 showers a week," little sister said.

"Well, that's pretty good for a 2nd grader, I suppose. You'll probably need more when you get older." Please.

Little sister continued: "QG only takes one a week."

"Sometimes!" QG chimed in. "Sometimes I go more than a week."

We then discussed what would probably be a better routine and for what reasons. I casually and teacher-appropriately hinted that she should probably increase that amount. Then she told me that she doesn't wash her hair every time. Which means that she's washing her hair less than once every 2 weeks. Remember, this is the girl who had all of her hair cut off over Thanksgiving. It may be shorter than normal, but in need of a wash regardless.

I knew I was treading on thin ice, but felt the eyes of encouragement from several co-workers that were passing by.

QG says, "I just took a shower last night to wash my butt because my butt was dirty."

Uh-oh. I can hear the ice cracking.

"Oh, so you just washed your hair!"

"No, I only washed my butt."

Cue change of conversation.


Goose Geese Duck

One of my lovely ladies - a usual quiet but powerful presence in the classroom - shared some interesting news with us the other day.

We were discussing the plural exceptions - the words that you can't just "add an S" onto. As we were listing some of the words we are familiar with - the word goose came up. We then wrote out the plural form.

Then, suddenly, from the corner of the room I hear a loud "OH!" Following the outburst, the quiet lady slapped one hand across her mouth (apparently shocked she could achieve that voice level), and threw the other hand in the air. I love when they are so excited about sharing a thought that their fingers, while the arm is straight as a stick, will wiggle frantically. I imagine all of the dendrites going berserk in the brain with all of this action.

I call on her, and she tells us all that her family now has a new pet. Two, actually. Ducks.

This is a girl that lives in a relatively confined space. With a small outdoor area. And minimal bathroom space. (For some reason I am imagining that the ducks live in the bathtub. I blame Friends).

But, ducks. City ducks.

I imagine that the stories will really start to become interesting as these ducks become bigger. And louder.

I asked her where they got the ducks, and she simply said: "The store." She made it sound like the local Kmart was having a clearance on ducks, and, well, her family happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Who sells ducks? In the city?


Don't Panic

I have how many days to complete the Developmental Reading Assessments (DRAs)?

Our first Standardized test is in how many days? And I have how much material left to cover?

Did I mention I hate May?

But, I love me some June. It's the most fun month with my students- where we can learn what we want to, without a state test looming over us. We have a 4th grade carnival coming up, ice cream parties, technology projects...

Just have to get over May first.


Purple Barns 101

Yesterday we were doing a lesson on visualizing during reading. Good readers visualize, don't you know?

A lesson I have used for the last 2 years uses a paragraph from the book Charlotte's Web. It involves a barn and a great description of the smell and look of the barn - including some words/items in the text that the students may not have ever seen or experienced. I typically either leave out some of the harder items (harness dressing), but still use it as it creates a great visual.

The one thing that I didn't count on was made clear in our discussion of their drawings of their "mind movie."

One of the students went into great detail about this magnificent barn:
He started with:
"It was huge, I'm imagining the size of our quad (our building), and it has a top that is rounded like this." He showed his image. He was on a roll, but I wanted more. I started asking questions about his barn that he hadn't included.

"Wow - a huge barn with a rounded top! I'm starting to see one in my head now, too! What color is your barn?"


Purple. Suddenly I became very aware at what I was missing. These kids don't know barns. They know fictional barns painted in bright colors in various books. They know underwater barns on SpongeBob or some other show they stare at. However, they probably have not ever seen a real barn. Perhaps some of them remember a field trip way back in Kindergarten. Most not. Most weren't even in our country in Kindergarten.

Shame on me for forgetting my audience.

So, adding to the curriculum (a common occurrence in my classroom) - Barn 101. (Not to include cartoon barns).


Bug Lover

I have not seen my class for 2 weeks. Actually, I haven't even seen my classroom in that time. We have been on Spring break and Intersession during the past couple of weeks. So, most of my students started back last Monday with Intersession (optional) classes - while I have continued to nurse my sanity and mentally prepare for a very long fourth quarter.

Bug Lover, the student I have spent so much time in the office with (for various reasons) - the student I have gotten to know so well - the student I have monitored so closely in social situations because of his impulsive urge for inappropriate behavior...

has moved. Out of our school district. In the midst of a school year. For the 2nd time in his school career.

His parents threatened this when they found out about some of their son's behaviors in school. They told us (admin, counselor, and myself) that his behavior was the result of our Nation's culture. His inappropriate touching and (perfect) use of words FAR out of his age-range was, to his parents, caused by television, peers, and the general environment.

When the behaviors escalated, they (unknowingly to me) told Bug Lover that if he continued, they (his family) would not love him any more. Would not LOVE HIM ANYMORE. So, after another incident, when I was walking & talking on our way to the office and he realized where I was taking him - he began sobbing and had tremors so bad I thought he was seizing or something awful.

If the threat of your parents not loving you, which clearly was significant for him (as it would be for anybody), could not control your impulses - then guess what - maybe your impulses have a deeper root and you can not actually control them.

The parents didn't believe this. We suggested counseling. We gave contact information. We pleaded. Pleaded. I adore this student, and it was breaking my heart that he needed this help and we could not give it to him. We couldn't force his parents to get him the help either.

And then it came out.

The parents next threat. Not only did they tell Bug Lover they would not love him... but they told him that if the behaviors continued that they would send him (alone, by himself, without his family) back to Ethiopia to stay with strangers (family that he has never met).

That was 2 months ago.

Previously the parents had moved Bug Lover out of another school for similar behaviors, which is why he ended up in ours. That was in 3rd grade.

Our admin, counselors, myself, and other teachers have put so much effort into turning this into a success for Bug Lover. Something he can learn from, something he can learn to express in appropriate ways. He is so smart, and his addition to my classroom is imperative for us to function. We are all a team, and he plays a very important part. His classmates were accepting and trying to help (after many class discussions), and were being amazingly supportive - and quite frankly - pretty amazing friends to Bug Lover.

Then, last night, I received an email from one of my students. It was simple, and it said :

Bug Lover moved away on Friday.

They moved him. They pulled him out of a school that was working so hard to make it happen for him, a school that surrounded him with support... and they didn't even get his stuff. There is a full desk waiting for me when I get back.

I'm already plotting how that full desk will result in me finding out where he went - so that, you know, I can return that stuff. Because I'm oh-so-concerned about getting him his math notebook.

Or maybe because I want closure. Or follow up. Or for him not to fall through the cracks and to not get the help he desperately needs.

Moving will not change the behavior or the root of it. I wish the parents would have understood that when we spoke those words in every meeting.

They have moved their son. For the same reason that they moved him last year.

I think I'm just shocked. Sudden movement... so strange.


When in Rome...

No, I'm not in Rome. But I do live within a relative driving distance of the Nation's Capital. So, well, while I have grown up here, I have NEVER really explored DC. I have been to the Capitol Building once, when I was young... and had only ever been to a Smithsonian Museum in my early 20's (besides the Air & Space). So, my DC exploration was very limited.

I have never been inside of the White House. OR the Washington Monument, for that reason.

Well, on Friday I am going to use the last day of my vacation to go on a guided tour of the White House and the Capitol. I am psyched, and have spent a good portion of my day reading up on the history of both locations.

In all of my excitement, there is only one thing I keep thinking....

how starry-eyed my students would be if they were there.

The responsibilities of teaching includes sharing experiences that most of my students have not had or may never have in their lifetime. I can't wait to tell them all about this.


Substitute Survival Mode

I was inspired by this post by a coworker to share in one of my latest experiences.

I have been out of the classroom numerous times this year - both for personal and professional reasons. Last week I was out of the room for a team-planning (eating) day - which means LOTS of substitute teachers in the building - 6 just for our grade - and whoever else is out for whatever reason.

My point? That there are times when your guest teacher will not be, um, the best.

Since I was still on property, I went in to check on my students while they were eating lunch.

Five of them had their heads down on the table, 4 of them with tears.

Apparently the day was not going according to plan - for them. They had recess taken away and a few traumatic interactions with the teacher.

We are a very diverse school community. Even with that experience, the students were struggling with communication with the guest teacher. And my plans... well, it seems as though he didn't understand a word of them. I had some great and fun things planned for the class, to keep them busy and keep them learning on a day when I could not be there with them.

In one of the richest counties in the world, and one of the largest and most well-known school districts - it seems odd to me that we do not have much of a training process for potential guest teachers. Job training is imperative for most jobs - why not teaching? Throwing someone into a room with 20 (0r more) kids seems like a perfect situation for job training. Kids are like dogs. They smell weakness and fear. Or monkeys. There are some days I think they might fling poo. At least my class does. There are some days, when I'm there, that I'm surprised that any of us make it out alive. They can leave the room in tears, with a hug, or muttering words under their breath. There's no telling, and it depends on a variety of factors. And, that's with ME.

And although I'm sure my guest teacher had the best of intentions and did the very best job he could - I was still surprised to see this note when I returned to my room:


Learning Takes a Snow-cation

I have put on my teacher hat ONE day since last Tuesday. LAST Tuesday. Monday was a teacher work day. Tuesday we learned. Wednesday was a snow day for a measly 6 inches. (I only say measly now because of what was to come). I was out on Thursday per Dr.'s orders. Friday we had a snow day to "prepare" for a huge blizzard looming over our regions and making our reporters go batty.

Then, the storm came, dumping between 22 and 30-something inches (depending on which part of the region you were in).

So, logically, we were out Monday.
Then Tuesday.
Now Wednesday.

And wouldn't you guess it. More snow. They're calling for somewhere between 8 and 16 inches in my neck of the woods, more as you head east (where my school is).

So now, my hopes of teaching (read: getting out of the house for something purposeful) is dwindling for this week.

Don't get me wrong, I'm loving the snow and snow days as if I were a kid. In fact, I think that being an adult with a snow day is way cooler. But I worry that now, with all of these days, I will struggle to get through all of the curriculum that I must teach my little wonders before the (duh duh dum) BIG TEST.

So, I'm at home. Coming up with creative, yet totally speedy ways to make up for days lost. The county has so graciously taken away a holiday and at least 2 of our intersession days to make up for days lost. I remember in high school they added on 30 minutes to each school day remaining to make up for the lost hours that year.

If I have 30 more afternoon minutes I will throw a tantrum. Another perk of being an adult on a snow-cation. I can throw my tantrums in my own home. Tell me now, Mr. Superintendent. Break it to me gently.


Let There Be Light!

I arrived at school today an hour plus before I am due to pick up my students. I walked into my quad and immediately noticed that the emergency exit lights were on. "Hmm," I thought.

Then, without giving my 7:15am brain a minute to process, I flipped the light switch up. "Hmm," I thought again.

DownUpDownUpDownUp went the switch.

Off, stayed the lights.


I walked into the main building, thinking that my poor little quad was just malfunctioning. Darkness greeted me, and I saw a huge crowd of teachers in the office. Holding flashlights that the office was providing.

Quick. Think. How can I take my 3 smartboard lesson plans and recreate them as active lessons. In the dark.

I walked around my room for a bit with the flashlight beam, searching for something, anything, to give me an idea of how to make the best of the morning. I had to dark plan for instruction until 10am - the time the power company promised the power would be back on.

Then the flashlight beam fell upon something wonderful. A big brown box delivered a week ago, sitting in the corner of my room waiting for me to pull it out and plan.

The Science Kit.

The Science Kit for Magnets and ELECTRICITY!

Forget that we are in the middle of a plant unit. I have batteries! And bulbs! And wire!

On each desk, I put all of the materials a student would need to... you guessed it... create light.
I told them some camp story of the Life Before Lights and they were hooked. I then challenged them to use each of the items on their desk to create light. They discussed, they squinted, they clipped and cut wire. Then, one by one, I made them declare: "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"

We all read by the light of the wee-bulb. They each had a personal circuit on their desk. I even heard some say "I'm going to save energy and turn my bulb off," as they chose to read by some light coming in (finally) through the window.

Even with this wonderful experience, they all still cheered when the lights flickered back on at 9:50-something. But for a few moments, we were all there. Back in time.


Thinking About Numbers

We just survived a long unit in multiplication. The test showed that while they understand the actual act of multiplying, what it meant, etc... it also showed that they are having a hard time remembering the little facts - the multiplication facts that they have been learning for, oh, a few years now.

So we're doing a little backtracking. In order to prepare for division, we are making what the Investigation series calls "Multiplication Towers." Each pair of students gets a 2 digit number. I gave them a 300 chart to highlight all of the multiples of their given number. For some students, this meant they were only highlighting a few numbers on the chart. So, they were also asked to look for a pattern to help them continue the multiple pattern. Some students, such as the pair that was given the number 60, decided to instead highlight the multiples of 6 - knowing that they could add the "0" and create the multiple of 60.

Once they created a sufficient list, checked it, etc... I gave them a long strip of counting tape - "As tall as you are!" to create their multiplication tower. They start with the original number on the bottom, adding multiples above. My plan is to go over some observations of the towers, including what are multiples of 10 and 20 on their tower (without letting them count up!) Then, we will begin division discussions using the towers (thinking top down instead of bottom up). Here are some shots of my worker bees:


We all remember the rule.

Keep your hands to yourself.

Well, what happens with this rule backfires? When really, you just want to see the kid's hands on the desk. Not touching anything, including themselves.


One of my jobs in the classroom is to keep my students safe. From lots of stuff. Danger, sharp pencils, math books, and each other. I remind them about PE homework (seriously), music tests, to bring their instrument... and, to keep their hands to themselves.

Well, one of my students is having a very difficult time with the hands. In fact, his hands have overpowered his brain and now control comments from the mouth as well. Invasion of the touchy-feelers. It's not just his hands, unfortunately. It's also his body. His movements. You may remember the post about humping a few weeks ago.

Things really started escalating from there, so we called the parent in to meet. School counselor, assistant principal, myself, and the father. It was at this time that I had to explain what his son did, so unaware of consequences, to that bathroom mirror. At this point the AP quoted the witness - "humping" - she said. The dad made it clear he didn't understand what this meant. So, while the counselor and I mentally fled the scene avoiding all eye-contact, our brave AP did her best to describe the term. On the spot.

This may be the single most painful example of "keeping it together" I have experienced in my professional career. After all, it was the dad we were explaining this to. We, no, no.... SHE.

So, my AP, my wonderful AP, went to town. Picture this:

While saying "You know that action a dog does....???" she proceeded to make a pumping action with one hand towards the other hand. This is totally one of those "If only you were there" moments... but I swear... I was both impressed, embarrassed, and totally trying to control myself from spitting out a huge guffaw.

Reason 450 why I'd never make it in administration.

Well, we're back in another meeting with the dad tomorrow. I'm hoping for another vocab lesson, to be honest. We have a few new words to discuss.



Isn't that what is supposed to happen after 3 weeks off? It's 9:30 and I can barely keep my eyes open. AND I only saw my students for a total of 1 hour today. We have early release, I had an IEP meeting, and the students had art (I love art).

I have so much to share. About Queen Goldfish, Bug Lover, and Future President (new to the blog, not the class). Alas, those stories will have to wait until another, more energy-filled day. This, however, is my promise to you that I will return with said stories. I am alive and well and will thrill you with my educator commentary in a jiffy.

Quick observation (more so I don't forget this small thrill): I love seeing my students after a long break. Their hair is different - either shorter or more grown out. I love that the boys that have short hair have just a bit more length and it's all fuzzy. I love the new braids, the new ponytail holders, and the new shoes that they are so protective of. Take that - outdoor recess - no mud on those new foot puppies! They are also taller and, well, they're growing.

And they are still little geniuses.


Vacation Brain

Most of my students are back in school this week for our intersession. I, on the other hand, learned my intersession lesson and instead chose to take the extra week off.

I have found, however, that more and more of my thoughts and conversations are starting to revolve around them. Breakfast conversation involved the trials and tribulations of some of my students, past and present.

I'm not going to lie. I miss them. And I promise to wait at least 2 weeks after going back to verbalize my countdown to our next break.


I have also been reading grown up books during our break. As in books that in no way will tie into my curriculum, books that do not tell me how to be a better teacher, or even books that I want my students to read. Bona fide grown-up books. In one of the books, Glass Castle, there is a section about how a girl shows up at her Grandma's house with a mess of hair and the Grandma simply puts a bowl on the top of her head and cuts anything hanging below the dish clearly off.

I have a connection. Well, truly, one of my students does.

I went back to read that section in the book about five times. The rest of the book shares other similarities with one of my student's family, sadly. The book is great, but it's unfortunate that I connect it with a student.