Writing my way through the school year!

Posts tagged ‘Classroom’

A Classroom’s Simple Pleasures! Smiling/Laughing Allowed!

After reading Angela Maier’s 12 Things Kids Want from Their Teachers, I thought about the things in my classroom that really make my kids happy. I mean, besides the normal stuff, like getting an education, becoming global learners, using technology, etc… I mean the simple things that help you remember that they are just kids after all.

1. When I Laugh: I don’t mean a smile, a grin, or even a chuckle. I mean laugh until I cry. Now this doesn’t happen too often, so when it does, it really cracks them up!

2. A High-Five or Bumping Elbow at the End of the Day: Each child gets one. Every day. Even the students who are upset with me (or me with them) for whatever reason, cannot leave without giving me my high-five or elbow. For some reason, they get a real tickle out of the bumping elbow version.

3.  They Sit in “My” Chair:  There’s a chair at my kidney table in the back of the room,that I sit in when I conduct small groups. They love that chair.  Sometimes I choose a student to lead small group, someone sits in that chair.  Or when they collaborate, someone sits in that chair. Or they feel like working alone, someone sits  in that chair. Sitting in that chair provides great pleasure.

4.  They Get Chosen: Chosen to come up to the board,to be the Line Leader, share their stories, turn off the projector(I still don’t have a remote and it is on the ceiling) turn off the lights to watch a video. They don’t care, as long as they are given a chance to participate in some way, shape, or form.

5. When I Lose(Or When They Beat Me):  I played a game of Decimal Math Basketball the other day at the Smartboard. One of my boys represented the class versus me. I didn’t read one of the choices carefully(teachable moment) AND I was missing my shots! They were making theirs though. (Darn those video games!LOL) I think they really enjoyed my enthusiasm when I did manage to get one shot in! 🙂 I demonstrated good sportsmanship, and double  high-fived my opponent at the end of the game, amidst the cheering  in response to his skills at beating the teacher.

6.  Eating Lunch in the Classroom:  Always makes them feel special. When they can bring a friend from any 5th grade class, it makes it even better.:) Especially, if they get to shoot hoops in the classroom when they are finished eating.

7. When I Dance: I can dance. Of course, it is the “over the age of 30” moves. One foot steps, the other comes out, you know what I’m talking about. But, I do have rhythm, so that couldn’t possibly be what is making them laugh. Could it?:) I end my day with music. Instead of calling groups, I choose music from my Ipad and play it. The music comes on and they get ready for home. The last two weeks I used Shakira’s “Waka, Waka”, you can’t help but dance to it. They pack up their stuff, singing and swaying to the music, even the “cool” ones. Next week, I’m using Michael Jackson’s “ABC”.   In the event that our day didn’t go so well, a little music does wonders for the soul.

A classroom should be the place they come to learn, but shouldn’t it also be a  place where they get to enjoy the simple pleasures school offers?


“Today Was One of Those Days!” Woosah!

Today was one of those days!  I had to take a deep breath, and  exhale, “Woosah.” (For those who don’t know, I got that from the movie  “Bad Boys” with Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.)  It works for me, because it stops me from saying something I have no business saying to someone else’s child!  My students were so crazy today with the level of “it’s all about me”.   All the “this is what I want to do, and who cares  what you say!” No, they didn’t actually say those words, but the body language, attitude, lips poked out, made me stop during Math.

I said,” I have to stop for a Public Service announcement.”  This is not meant for all of you, as a matter of fact, it’s not meant for most of you.” Seriously.  And yes, I know, I was not using my class time wisely, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.  I proceeded to explain to them that when they get home, they can Tweet, Facebook, text, or call each other and vent about me all they want, but while they were sitting  in our classroom, they would keep their negative  attitudes to themselves, especially since it was intefering with me teaching and them learning!”  Yes, they took me there!  I didn’t have any other problems for the remainder of the day, thank goodness!

Sometimes, they do that to you. I love them all, but sometimes I just want to shake them, and let them know, that I  have too many bodies in the room to cater to each and every one of their idiosyncrasies. Especially when it’s more than two or three of them at a time. Well, they’re 5th graders, and I know puberty is rearing its ugly head, and the hormones are beating each other up inside those little bodies.  So, I’ll just continue to take a deep breath, inhale, extend my arms to the sky, arm down, and exhale, “Woosah!”:)

Professional(?) Development

I attended a professional development workshop today.  I spent  three hours with  a roomful of 4th and 5th grade teachers who were being taught strategies from people who work with math, not with  students, math.  They are not teachers.  Yes, they go into classrooms and try out their ideas, but they do not teach.  I and my colleagues sat for three hours in a room, listening to  something we  could have been told  in an half-hour.  And let’s not  forget, the forced collaborative activities, just to liven things up!   They lost us in the first half hour. Have you ever been to a workshop in which teachers have no interest? Hushed, some not so hushed, conversations, doodlings scrawled all over agendas, eye rolling, and blank stares are witnessed all over  the room. Rude? Yes, I agree, but having been stuck in countless situations like these, I empathize.

Why not let teachers choose what they would like as professional development?  I would think that we would know what we need.  I am fortunate to be in a school where my principal values our opinion, however, that is not always true of the district. Not only is attendance mandatory, but then, you are forced to use what you are taught, good or bad.

I have to admit, the first half-hour of the workshop was beneficial,  but the entire workshop would have been even more beneficial and effective  if  the teachers in attendance from various  schools were able to  sit together and share ideas.  Who better to learn from, then another teacher who is successful?  Here’s another idea, why not let us work in our classrooms?  Three hours of classroom time in the middle of the school year?  Manna from heaven, seriously! Why are these options not available to us?  My colleagues and I have come to the conclusion that ” they” are afraid we are going to goof off.  So  like children, our time is monitored.

I’m not saying all district professional development workshops are horrible.  There have been some really good ones, where, I not only learned a lot, but I used what I learned in my classroom.  I would just like to see teachers treated professionally more often, and have our opinion count in the developing of our professionalism.


A bout twenty years ago, when I was teaching in New York,  I was observed by an “administrator.”  I had about 4 years of teaching under my belt. I was asked how I think I had done, and I replied, “I think it went well.”  He smirked,  “Well, you must think very highly of yourself.”  I won’t go into how I handled that situation, but no violence or profanity were involved. 🙂

Fast forward to 2011.  You would think that after 26 years of teaching, observations would be easy. But no, I still get butterflies in my stomach.  I still feel this need to “perform”. I still feel the need to warn my children to behave because “they” are being observed.(You know they know better) My observation went well, integrating technology wows them every time, but it still made me think.

How can someone possibly know what kind of teacher I am by observing me, once a year, for about an hour? Administrators have so much on their plate, it’s rare that  they enter your classroom, unless you have problems. Many decisions about a teacher are based on these observations, and even if it’s twice a year, it’s still harsh.  I realize that if a teacher is really horrible, there will be  other indicators.  On your observation day there are factors that affect your performance. You might  have a “bad” class, or that day Sammy decided he was going to fight Jason, or the kids just didn’t get it, no matter what you tried.  And we know, there are inept, incompetent, teachers who know how to put on the dog and pony show.  I’ve known teachers who sit at their desk, all day, every day, but the day of their observation, watch out! I have been fortunate to have administrators who use observations for what they are, observations, a chance for compliments and constructive criticism. Unfortunately, many teachers are not that lucky.   I’ve come a long way since that observation in New York, but I guess I still have a little of that young teacher who heard, “You must think very highly of yourself,” lurking inside.


What a great idea! I discovered them earlier this year and I love this organization. Someone said to themselves(or a group of people, who knows?), what can I do to make it easier for teachers to get money for all the wonderful things they do?  How can I provide them with the funds they need without any out-of pocket expense? How can I help those, who want to help teachers, find teachers in need? I know, I’ll create a site where donors can choose what project they want to fund!  At least, that’s my version of what happened. 🙂 But, this is what they do.  All you have to do is have a project in mind, go to their website, put in the asked for information, and ” Voila!”  Okay, not everyone gets funded, but at least you stand a fighting chance.  I needed 30 headphones and mouse pads for the wireless laptops my school received. I posted on DonorsChoose.org and, no kidding, within a month I had funding for 30 mouse pads and 30 headphones. One of our donors was students who wanted to give to others! Also, I almost didn’t get my headphones because of a mix-up. I wrote to Donors, they stepped in, and I received 30 headphones. Edmodo, in correlation with Discovery Education has stepped in and have a page that publishes teachers’ projects, all you have to do is email them your project information.  I have another project on Donors, I want wireless mice to use with the Office Mouse Mischief program, which I hope gets funded.  But even if it isn’t, Donors has given me a  chance to get what I need for my classroom, with no out-of-pocket expense!

Managing the Unmanageable!

She walked in the classroom yesterday and proceeded to walk from her desk, to her locker, to the recycling box by my desk with her coat on and her book bag on her back. sneaking glances at me now and then.  Flashback to the day before, when she proceeded to take everything out and pile it on her desk.  When I asked her what she was doing she said, “I’m leaving!”  I said, “Where are you going?”  She said, “I don’t know, but I’m getting out of here!” I walked away, I have learned not to have battles with this child. As she left the room, I called the office, and the guidance counselor intercepted her in the hallway. She bullies and harasses students in the room, and when she is disciplined, she becomes extremely defensive.  The head starts swinging on the neck, the eyes start rolling, and the yelling begins, “You are always picking on me!”   I don’t have many  discipline problems in my classroom.  The ones I do have, I handle, they take a little timeout, or we have a quiet talk in the hallway, and all is well again.  But this child!  Yesterday’s episode began when I found out that she had written “bich”(sic) on the desktop of one of the laptops and I told her that she lost her laptop privileges. And yes, she has seen the counselor, I have spoken to her parents, I have done the “pull her out away from the other students and talk to her alone” thing,  given her my expectations, written her up, what else is there? I can not allow her to behave any way she wants, there are boundaries and she has to adhere to them. Back to the morning, we started Morning Meeting, at that point,  I asked her to remove her coat and bag.  She stopped,  looked at me. raised her hand(you know, the “talk to the hand” move), and said, “I’m done with you!”  and stormed out.  There was a collective gasp from the circle, what a way to start Morning Meeting, huh?  I  called the office,and she was not allowed back in my room the remainder of the day.  The sad part is, this is a student who needs to be in my room, every hour of the day!  When you send her to another room, she is a model student.  I’m stumped, the only way this child will behave is if I let her do what she wants, little or no work, talk, and bully other students, that’s just not the way my classroom rolls, there has to be another way to manage the unmanageable.

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