Reflections of a New Teacher

These are my reflections beginning from my first few days as a student teacher and on...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ralph S. Mouse

It all started about a week ago when I was in the classroom next door and the 1st grade teacher and I saw something little and dark brown skitter across the floor in a flash. It disappeared somewhere around her couches. She really doesn't like mice, so she gave a little "eek!" and ran around trying to figure out what to do. I tried not to laugh and to be more sympathetic... for some reason mice don't scare me. They only annoy me sometimes when they chew things up, make a mess and leave droppings where they made the mess. I figure they're a lot more afraid of me than I am of them anyway.

After we searched for the mouse for quite some time, the 1st grade teacher left a note to the custodian that went something like this:

"Eeeeeeek! A mouse is in my classroom! Let's set traps!"

I thought it was cute. By this time she was laughing a lot too and we had been there pretty late so we were both pretty hysterical.

We decided that it must have been fate that it was only that day that I had started reading "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" to our second grade class for read aloud. I've secretly named our mouse Ralph, but the other teachers don't want to name it because they're afraid we'll become attached to it. Did we call on Ralph to come visit us?

We've had Ralph sightings almost every afternoon since. Usually, for some reason, I'm the one who sees him. They set the spring traps with peanut butter, but they weren't working. The custodian thinks ants are eating the peanut butter... we think it's a smart mouse licking it off.

New traps are on order, but I still say that we should just make a 2-liter bottle trap. We used to do it all the time when I was a kid... take an empty 2-liter bottle, put some food at the bottom of it, set it up on its side and make sure it's easy to get into. Voila... the mouse crawls in to get the food, but then he can't get out because the sides are too slick. Then... you can either be humane and take it outside and let him out... or put the cap on and put it in the trash. It usually works really well. Oh well.

Yesterday after snack there were a lot of crumbs on the floor. My cooperating teacher asked them to clean up the crumbs "So we don't get mice or ants or anything". Since we're reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle, of course half of the kids made remarks like, "That would be soooo cool!" Little do they know... we haven't told them yet.

It turns out my cooperating teacher doesn't like the mouse at all either. Yesterday I saw him but managed not to let her know until a student who was helping us after school was gone because I didn't want her to have to get upset in front of the student. He's getting braver every afternoon... this afternoon I saw him run across the room from the bookshelf behind my desk (which is by the partition that separates our classroom from 1st grade) to the sink, then back again, then back again... needless to say this did not make my cooperating teacher happy. For the remainder of the evening she stomped and clapped to hopefully deter him from making an appearance.

I'll keep you updated on Ralph. Sorry to say that the next update will probably be a little mouse obituary if the new traps come in.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

You Have Chicken On Your Face

There are so many things I could say about today and yesterday, but I'm just too tired to do it right now. SO, let me share with you what is sure to be one of my funny teaching stories.

As some of you may know, I'm not big into wearing a lot of makeup if I bother to wear any at all (especially because it makes me break out). I did wear it for the first couple of weeks, but then of course I started breaking out and decided to go sans makeup for this week. I have a few blemishes on my face... but that's kind of usual for me. I've never had terrible skin, but it's never been great, either.

We were sitting down to read aloud and snack this morning. We were starting a new book, so I was introducing it and answering any questions that the kids had. One girl raised her hand emphatically just as I was about to start reading, so I called on her.

"Um, Miss? You have chicken or something on your face." (she points to her cheek)

"Oh, thanks... but that's a sore. That won't come off."


And I'm thinking... thanks for pointing out my blemishes ;o)

So, yeah. Apparently a zit looks like chicken on my face? Interesting word choice :o) I won't forget it though, that's for sure...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tattling vs. Telling

-teaching the lesson
-read aloud
-author's club
-ice cream chart

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Author's Club

My cooperating teacher came up with a really cute idea: Rather than calling it "journaling", we are going to call it "Author's Club". We spent the morning creating posters with ideas for writing (the students can write about whatever they wish) and also the "rules" for the "club".

When she introduced the idea to the students, each child opened their composition notebooks to find an envelope glued to the inside front cover, each with an invitation inside. They opened their invitations to see that they were each invited to join the "Author's Club", every day after lunch in the second grade classroom for the rest of the year. We started brainstorming ideas for what the kids might do in this "club", and they were all genuinely excited... even the students that tend to let their minds wander away. They were so excited, in fact, that when we ran over in time from the introduction we cut into math time a bit so that they could actually start "Author's Club". Having the main lights off and the reading lamps on was key.

Though there won't usually be an assignment for the author's club, as this is their time to practice their writing skills as authors in whatever they choose to do (there is also structured writing time, don't worry traditionalists), we started out with their "Authority" page as the first thing they'll see when they open their books. The teacher next door got the idea from her master's class. Since they're all authors, of course they will be an authority on several things. This is a place for them to brainstorm ideas of what they are an authority on, or what they can write a lot about if they experience writer's block.

Author's Club Rules:

  • You are NEVER done! (once you're done, you've just begun)
  • Respect other author's writing time, no talking
  • Write about things you love and know a lot about
  • Every page must have writing on it (no pictures only) (there can still be pictures)
  • Respect yourself as an author and ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST!

Types of Writing that YOU Can Do:

  • talk about your day
  • letter
  • poem
  • story
  • play
  • report
  • list
  • comic
  • newspaper
  • magazine
  • who am I?

The kids are all super psyched. It's great to see.

On another note, today was picture day so that was a lot of fun... everyone looked their best and did a great job of waiting patiently in line! I must admit that I stole a peek into the room to see how they were set up, but I couldn't tell what camera they were using from a distance.

After school, we met as a team (all of the primary teachers) to plan back to school night. It was great to see what everyone has planned and it gave me a lot of good ideas. Basically, back to school night is an opportunity for the parents to visit their child's classroom and the teacher (that's us) gives them an overview of what their child's schedule is (roughly) like each day, what their child will be learning, how they can help at home, what to expect, etc. It should be good, but we also prepped each other (well, mostly new teachers :o) ) on what kinds of questions to expect from the parents.


Q: "My child is a genius, way above the rest of the class. What are you going to do to challenge him/her?"
A: "All teachers differentiate their lessons to be sure that they are appropriate for all learners."

Q: "All of your volunteer slots are full. When can I come in?"
A: "I can add your name to a contact list and contact you as we need more help with classroom activities."

Q: "What is a typical day like?"
A: Avoid this question by introducing this first, save yourself the repetition

Q: "What is this new intervention-block thing?"
A: "An opportunity to get extra help for struggling students in reading and math, which gives a smaller teacher to student ratio."

Q: "Yeah, but what is my genius going to do while all the needy kids go away?"
A: "Every student will benefit from extra reinforcement. This time will be devoted to making sure that every student is getting the instruction that he/she needs and making sure that they are each challenged to do their best." (I helped with that one ;o) )

We're excited for the parents ;o)

The only thing I've found is that sometimes with this group it's hard for me to get a word in edgewise without interrupting anyone. I feel like I need to raise my hand ;o) Oh well. Maybe I should and make them laugh.

I decided to stay after school for quite a while today, I was there an hour after my cooperating teacher left (my choice) because I can concentrate much better on lesson plans here at school than I can at home. I've been working on planning my Teacher Work Sample, which is basically a complete unit that we plan and teach on our own... with a ridiculous amount of write-up involved. Even then we don't have to do as much for ours now as they used to have to at CU. I can't imaging.

At any rate, my unit will be on patterns in math. I'm actually pretty excited for it. Aside from the district/NCTM standards there isn't a regimented plan to go off of, so it will be a good experience. My unit will last about three weeks, and it's coming up soon: September 18th! I've been searching through books, teacher's files, and the internet to find ideas. I've been working on a rough timeline and brainstorming ideas for lessons. Yesterday I went through my cooperating teacher's math books and found a few story books that deal with odds, evens, squares, counting by fives and math puzzles to introduce lessons with. It should be fun. I'm hoping to get most of my teacher work sample done while I still have the energy.

Idea of the Day: I decided that in my future classroom for quiet writing time that rather than christmas lights or reading lamps... I want Chinese lanterns! Strings of small ones to line the outside of the classroom, and maybe bigger ones above each table. Let me know if you see any on sale anywhere.

Why is it Always in Pairs?

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Tuesday is playground duty day. The teacher next door and I have duty time together (student teachers can't have sole responsibility).

9:45am (morning recess): as one boy walks up to me with a bloody hand from falling down, I witness a girl trip and skin her hand (extremely) on the rough chip-sealed blacktop. All within about 30 seconds. We send them both to the nurse through the tears and hope she doesn't think we're abusing the kids.

1:45pm (afternoon recess): As a few kids get my attention to one boy who was stung by a bee and is sitting on the ground holding his leg, another boy is simultaneously knocked in the head with a tether ball and proceeds to lie on the ground. As we send them both to the nurse I have to ask the mob surrounding them (the "helpers") to stay on the playground and ask each "victim" to choose one escort. I heard that another girl snuck through with them anyway. Tricky tricky. Now we're pretty sure the nurse is up to her ears busy.

My sinus problems weren't any better today, and we've still got a classroom full of "ailing" children. Seems it's going around, but we had to have a discussion (or at least my cooperating teacher did) about only going to the nurse if you REALLY need it. She read "The Little Wolf who cried Boy" to get the point across (that's a cute book, by the way). We'll see if it helps.

At either rate, I must have used hand sanitizer at least a million times today, every time after I blew my nose... I probably used it to the point that it wasn't effective anymore. As the kids were getting ready to go home for the day, one of our young "know it all" or "gift to the world" students says to me, "You know you should really use some hand sanitizer." Yeah, thanks for that, I'll log that away. (I didn't say that to her... just smile and nod... but sheesh give me some credit here.)

Rock Stars

Friday, September 1, 2006

It's days like today that help me to remember why it is that teaching will be a rewarding career. It may seem silly, but it's always the little things that count.

Friday is our Bus Duty day. Our bus duty has nothing to do with the bus. Go figure. It's kind of like crossing guard, but not really... it's more like "make sure kids don't get hit by parents coming out of the parking lot" duty. It's actually kind of nice to get to stand out there and just take it all in... to see how each of "my" students gets to school, when they do... but be it by scooter, bus, car, bike or foot, they each arrive with a smile.

But I'll tell you what made me smile most, the tiniest little thing: the father of one of our students shouted, "My daughter loves you guys!" and waved through his car window as he pulled out of the lot. Like I said, it's small and rather silly (I'm sure it was mostly aimed at my cooperating teacher anyway) but it's just things like that that really make you feel appreciated. We both blushed a little, smiled and waved... kind of brushed it aside... but I can't say that it didn't make my day. Little does anyone know that teachers are actually rock stars. Or at least, that's when I feel like when you can't walk through the playground without kids shouting your name and wanting to say hi or talk to you :o)

I love the community around this school. Gossip aside, I haven't met anybody that hasn't been very welcoming... I already feel like I'm "part of the family"... and I realize that you don't find this everywhere, and it's not usually this easy. For that I'm thankful.

It was my cooperating teacher's birthday today, and some of the parents had tried earlier in the week to coordinate with me to have a little celebration for her (which she said she didn't want) during Friday Free Time at the end of the day. Well... when I found out a few days before hand that she was going to take the afternoon off for her birthday, we had to switch it to a morning celebration. Hurray for a lax Friday morning full of cards, presents, sharing, doughnuts, muffins, juice and fun! The only bummer is that we really didn't get a whole lot done ;o) My cooperating teacher *might* have anticipated that though (or she just asked me if they were doing anything and you know that I can't tell a lie when asked directly so I might have told her) so there wasn't much planned for the morning anyway.

Since my cooperating teacher was gone for the afternoon, we had a substitute. She was the nicest, sweetest lady ever. It seems to be the trend that retired classroom teachers come back to substitute... though I don't blame them, it's still some cash but they can also still be around kids without the day to day commitment. When they walk out of the door, they can leave it all "at the office". They also can take more vacations and pretty much work when they want to... so that part is nice for them. They aren't as desperate for the money to pay the bills.

Since I'm more familiar with the classroom and the students, I pretty much ran everything while the substitute played the role of the "helper". Now, before you give me too much credit here, realize that it was a fairly easy afternoon: I did the read aloud, sent the kids to music and p.e., helped them brainstorm C word and D words for their ABC books, monitored their progress, monitored them during their Friday afternoon movie (in place of Friday Free Time, from now on referred to as FFT), handed out their Friday Folders, read them another story, then sent them on their way home (followed by bus duty again). Really an easy day. Nonetheless, the teacher next door told me that she overheard me and said I sounded like I was "born to do it". I think she's exaggerating, but very nice of her all the same ;o) (Okay, fine, it secretly made me happy but don't tell anyone because I'm trying to be modest...)

After school I got to have a nice chat with the substitute, and she was great. She gave me all kinds of ideas and hints for when I'll be (hopefully) substituting next semester (since it's unlikely I'll have the chance to get my own classroom until the Fall). I also found out that she knows a few kids who are on or will be going on Semester at Sea, so of course I couldn't help but to talk about that for a while... any chance I get! She was even kind enough to send me a follow-up e-mail for a question I'd asked her and she wasn't sure about... without me asking or her even saying she was going to do it. So sweet.

Overall it was a great day. Follow it up with a trip to Target that proved the teacher supplies that were in the dollar section to be on sale for 25 cents each and yielded 5 dollars and a full bag's worth of supplies ready for next year, and you get one tired but happy pup. (Hurray for calendar supplies, pencil holders, magnets, stamps and containers!)

Irony of the day: The one day I can't shower because there isn't any water, I have five people tell me that I look nice. Must be the jacket?