Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Well today was better. We had some fun and didn't have the pressure of yesterday. I ended a crummy day yesterday by figuring up the results of our big test to determine if the kids are learning the English and realizing that they did almost as bad on that as they did on the big social studies test. However, there was a little relief today when I found out that one of the other teacher's (who's pretty well respected) classes did about as bad as mine. So as long as I'm not in the boat by myself it makes things a little better.

I was looking through the kids made-up Native American names again today. There was one girl who named herself "She-who-is-really-talented-in-gymnastics." Her reasons were "Because I do really awesome flips and get lots of compliments." Sweet.

Today we had a fire drill. As we were coming out of the building some kids were running and I told them not to run. Afterwards we were back in the classroom and a kid raised her hand and said, "If there was a real fire we would run though right?" I said, "No, we would walk." She gave me this total "You're crazy" look. I think she understood why that is after I explained it but I'm not sure.

I have this kid who goes to the bathroom after lunch and sits on the pot for a good 15 minutes. Half the time I don't even realize he's not there and I start a lesson only to realize when he comes strolling in later that he wasn't there. What could take a 4th grader that long when there's not even any magazines to read?!


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Today sucked.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Had a great Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you did too.

Today was probably kind of a typical day after a holiday kind of day. The kids seemed kind of drowsy this morning and they seemed to have forgotten basic classroom procedures.

This morning I read them a book that was the story of the bluebonnet from native american legend. The girl in the story is named "She-who-is-alone" and is later renamed "One-who-loves-her-people." Afterwards I had the kids come up with their own similar names for themselves based on their accomplishments or interests. I had some kinda funny ones. One was "She-who-is-smart," because "I always make good grades and I'm smart." Another was "He-who-loves-wrestling," because "I like wrestling and I watch it too much." We're talking WWE professional wrestling here. There were some others that made me chuckle but now I can't recall them unfortunately. There were lots of "He-who-likes-football" and "She-who-likes-soccer" types.

Today we continued writing in our weekly writing journal. We're going through topics and each one starts with a different letter of the alphabet. This week's letter is 'J'. After they write at least one page about the assigned topic they can think of some good character trait that also starts with that letter and write about. Today one of my students wrote his one page and then came up to me and asked "On the second page can I write about 'Jet packs are really awesome!'?" Huh? I asked him if "Jet packs are really awesome!" is a good character trait.

Today wasn't so good at the end. My students did horrible on their test that measures whether or not they've learned the social studies that we're supposed to teach them. The principal talked to me about it this afternoon. That's never a good feeling. I'm sure they'll do better on all the next ones though. I'm a better teacher now for sure...still have a long way to go but I'm definitely better than I was 2 and a half months ago. It's kind of embarrassing though.

Well, dinner's ready. Gotta go. Later!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Well, I'm sold on this English teaching method. It's incredible. It just teaches itself. I'm just following the book pretty much. If you wanted to actually follow it verbatim there's even a "script" for each lesson. I'm not really doing that though. Now if I only had a decent amount of time to teach English.

It's pretty amazing that I only have about an hour to teach English, writing and spelling. How they expect me to really teach them all they need to know in that amount of time is beyond me.

Today I read another Chris Van Allsburg book the class. This one is called The Wretched Stone.
It's really a good metaphor for the television. Basically it's about this crew of men on a ship who come to a mysterious island with lush vegetation but no fruit growing, a sweet smell that soon begins to stink and water that is too bitter to drink. They find a big rock there that has one part that is "As smooth as glass" and has a light emitting from it. The crew takes it aboard ship and becomes obsessed with it. They sit around staring at it all day (They'd previously spent their time reading, telling stories and playing music) and become so obsessed that they don't man the ship anymore. goes on and they turn into dumb apes. At the very end I asked some leading questions that got the kids to realize that the rock is a metaphor for television and they spent a lot of time trying to argue the benefits of sitting around for hours watching TV or playing video games. I didn't tell them how much time I spend writing this blog, surfing the net and playing video games. That's right, I'm a "damned, dirty" hypocrite. I haven't turned into an ape yet though.

I had the vice principal pop in for a surprise observation today. It went ok I think.

I was running a "zero tolerance for excessive talking during teaching time" day today. We had a lot of names on the board at the end of the day but I think if I stick with it those will decline. I need to stick strictly with it so hopefully they'll grow accustomed to it. That's one thing abou this new English's good but it has some chants/songs and the kids will go berserk if you don't keep a lid on it before and after they say them.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wow, I'm really bad at getting these Friday posts up aren't I? Either I just don't have time or (as was the case yesterday) I just forget.

Friday was good. We started this new method of learning english and grammar. It involves a lot of songs that teach rules. The kids love those and it went well. The only thing is that when we do these kinds of things that are a little more fun the kids just kind of lose it and go crazy. I think I'm going to just have to institute zero tolerance for talking during this time. Maybe they'll learn to not go crazy if we do that. I'm also thinking about breaking up the desk groupings and arranging them so that there are only 4 desks/students to a group. That might help too.

Two day week next week! Woohoo! That makes lesson-planning easy, although I've already started lesson-planning for the following week so hopefully I won't have to do any of that over the holiday.

On Friday as I was pulling into the school I saw a 4th grader walking in wearing a boot on one foot and high heel on the other. My first thought was "aww, poor girl can't even afford two of the same shoe." I got into the morning assembly though and started seeing all these kids with similar getups...weird hair-dos, mixed up shoes and clothes on backwards, etc.. There was no scheduled school "wacky day" but apparently the 4th graders go together (lead by one girl) and decided on their own, without telling any teachers or admins, that they were going to have a "Wacky day." So they did. We just rolled with it. When we got to my classroom more of my students than usual went to the bathroom. Many of them hadn't heard about wacky day and when they returned they were quite wacky as well. rolled-up pants leg?! That is too crazy. It's just verging on dangerous. Have you heard of anything so wacky?

That's all for me. later..

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Today was a good day. I was in a pretty good mood this morning and my kids were behaving pretty well.

This morning I did some benchmark testing for social studies. So far they did really bad. I have all kinds of good excuses though so don't worry.

Today in the cafeteria they had a big Thanksgiving dinner with all the traditional dishes. A lot of the kids families and parents showed up to eat with them. I guess it's a tradition here to do that on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. After lunch one of my girls was crying. I took her out in the hallway and asked her why and she said she misses her real mom, who lives in another state. She said she saw all the other kids moms there eating lunch with them and it made her miss her mom. How sad.

Today we had a scheduled session with the counselor. She does these lessons on character and stuff and today it was a puppet show. I had to control the puppet from behind a curtain while she read a story. The kids were being pretty bad when we were setting up and I think the counselor got kinda mad. It was partially my fault because, unbeknownst to her, I was making the puppet look out at the kids from around the corner and scratch his head and stuff and they were laughing. Oops.

One of my kids took benadryl this morning and couldn't stay awake. I had her splash water on her face and get a drink but she was still falling asleep. I had her do jumping jacks after that and she was still falling asleep. Let's try non-drowsy meds next time, mkay?


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Today was ok despite my nose running like a faucet all day. I assume it's allergies. I don't feel bad in any other way except a mild headache. I hate this though.. Maybe I need some different allergy medicine.

Did you know that Aristotle was the first sexist to classify animals? At least that's what it looked like one of my kids wrote on his worksheet that I graded today. I didn't even realize he was a sexist at all, much less the first one to classify animals. Things were probably different back in those days though. Aristotle could hang out in the game room with Socrates while the wife, Martha Totle, waited on them hand and foot. Anyway...

Two of my kids got these Star Wars digital watches from McDonald's and they're absolutely obsessed with them. They constantly stare at them and play with them. I had to take one up today because it was so distracting. I guess Douglas Adams was right when he classified us as "life amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."

I can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving! Only two days of school next week!

I just found out today that I was supposed to have been doing "Celebrate Freedom" lessons all this week. I think it's some kind of state law or something. Oops! I guess it will just have to be "Celebrate Friday" because tomorrow we're doing some benchmark testing during the normal social studies time. This is just another one of those things that I'm finding out as I go along.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

So tomorrow and the next day we have all these "benchmark tests" to see how the kids are doing. I don't think mine will do all that well. We'll see. I just haven't yet gotten to some of the things that they're being tested on. Oh well, I reviewed some today but I'm not going to stress myself out over it.

We had inside recess today because of bad weather. That's fine with me because it was my day to be outside on duty anyway. I'd rather just be inside with my class than outside watching over six classes.

I had another computer training session after school today. We have to attend training sessions for various basic Microsoft programs whether we know how to use them or not. I was so sleepy today...I stayed up too late watching Monday Night Football. The instructor said "Sorry for keeping you awake." Oops...

Nothing really noteworthy happened today. 4 of my students checked out the same book from the library with the notion that if they checked out the same book I was going to let them get together and read as a group every day in class. They seemed pretty disappointed when I didn't allow them to do that. Maybe I should...I know these girls though and they most certainly would have talked more than they read.

I had so many kids that didn't do homework again today. That's annoying. I've pretty much resolved that there's not much I can do to change that aside from what I'm already doing. Oh well...

Sorry this is so boring today. I'm out.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sorry about no post on Friday. I came home from work and we left almost immediately to go out of town for the weekend.

We started off this morning in morning assembly with the third graders performing part of some show they're doing. Apparently it's patriotic. They did an interpretive performance to Lee Greenwood's "I'm Proud to be an American." Now don't get me wrong, I'm a pretty patriotic guy and I love America and all, but the cynic in me just can't help cringe when that song starts up and there's a performance involved because,'s just a cheesy song and any performances accompanying it are sure to be cheesy as well...and it was. There was lots of holding and waving of flags.

Today in science one of my groups was making a poster about arthropods that informed the viewer that "Insests have 6 legs." No comment.

Today was a really good day. Only two names on the board and we had fun I think. Today during our group project time one of my kids just turns to the other and kind of punches him under his chin for no reason. The other kid got a bloody lip outta the deal. I don't know what it is with these kids but occasionally they just decide to do something totally out there like that. Like the time a couple of weeks back when one of my kids turned to the other and just kneed him in the crotch for no reason.

I have this big pimple thing on my nose and kids from both classes asked me today "What happened to your nose?" Ya gotta love tact but plenty of honesty. I told them a chipmunk bit me.

We finished reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe today. They loved it and are now all psyched to see the movie. They also want to read the rest of those books but it's just too high of a level for most of them to read independently.

That's about all I've got. Back to MNF.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Today was good. Another student gave me an apple. I finally got my portfolio edition of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick in the mail yesterday so today I had them do a writing assignment on the pictures. It's pretty cool because it has all the pics from the book but they're bigger and on loose paper so you can take each one out. I hung them up on the board today and had them choose one and write a story about it. I also decided I would write a story about one too. That seemed to spur their curiosity at the very least. I chose the one called "Under the Rug." Actually I didn't tell them to write a story, I told them to "Write something about it...whatever you want." Some kids thought they would get away with just writing a few sentences and then they'd be done. When they brought those to me I would just say "Great! Now choose another one and write about it," and so on.

I also had them do the Weekly Reader exercise again today where they read an article and then report on it as if they're the evening news. Even after emphasizing how everyone in the group needs to participate equally in the presentation I still had things like one kid just laying there under some pillows doing nothing at all during the presentation about Mt. Everest. Afterwards I said "Wait, wait...what did Gordo do?" They said "He was the mountain." Good job, Gordo. Best mountain ever. I think you have a promising career doing anything that involves laying motionless.

I don't know what to do about these kids weekly writing assignment. They have this writing journal where they write about a different positive character trait every week. Many of them just write the same, repetitive, unimaginative stuff every week and I know they have more ability than that. They're just being lazy. I wish I knew a good way to get them excited about writing in that thing.

Well, I'm out. Later.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Fear not, I'm alive! I've just had a very busy week and wasn't able to post yesterday. I was up at school until past 4:30 and I had a continuing education type class that I had to go to at 5pm and I got home around 9pm. That was just real bad timing for that class. Not only did I not get to vote, I also didn't get to spend any time working on my progress reports that had to go out today. I was scrambling to get them out but it ended up ok.

Kids were kinda strange today... acting sorta sneaky and weird to each other.

This one girl today told me that her stomach hurt. I told her she should try and go to the bathroom. Then we went to the computer lab. She said she felt like she was going to throw up so I told her to go to the bathroom. She went and came back really quick and just continued her typing. Then I look around about 15 minutes later and she was gone again. I went and asked her if she was ok and she told me that she'd thrown up three times that afternoon. Why the heck did she not tell me this?! That's not really the sneakiness that I was talking about...that's just weird.

There was just kind of an air of enmity today I guess you could say. I don't know..I saw one kid who had his hands around another kids neck in a choking position. He claimed to be playing but that kind of stuff was happening all day. Then one girl made another one cry by saying that she's failing in front of the whole class. Etc.. etc...

These kids are obsessed with this book sale we're having this week. They're constantly asking me "Can I go to the book sale? Can I go to the book sale?!" I've never wanted more for my class to be illiterate.

The good thing about it though is that two of the kids gave me gift certificates to spend there for whatever reason. That's nice...about 15 bucks total.

We read two very dramatic chapters of our book today. I think some of the kids were crying and then in the second chapter many of them were laughing. It's kind of fun to see them so engrossed in the book.

Yesterday I went and observed another teacher doing a specific method of teaching english. It's a really great method. I'd like to do it myself...I don't know if I'll be able to effectively implement it without proper training but I might try. This thing basically teaches's pretty amazing.

Ok, dudes, later...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Today was...meh.. I don't know. I had a sit-down with the principal and we went over the observation that she did of me a couple of weeks back. It wasn't exactly glowing. There were circumstances surrounding it though. I had a crappy lesson that day and I knew it. Also, I had some inaccurate expectations of the observation and what it entailed too. We're going to do it over.

Today was just a busy day. I asked the principal last week if she could get someone to fill in for me during one of my classes tomorrow so I can observe another teacher using a particular method of teaching English. Well, she told me this afternoon (after school and after our faculty meeting) that she would personally be standing in for me during that time. Well, after the somewhat negative discussion about her observation I was thinking I need to have some kind of really good lesson plan for her so I spent too long after school completing my lesson plan when I had other things to do this evening.

I brought home the teacher appreciation cards that the students made for me on Friday. Here are some of the other sentiments that were expressed in addition to those I mentioned Friday:

"You are the teacher in the world." (whoa! I'm THE teacher?! That's quite a burden!)

"Hope you get better!" (You hope I get better at teaching or what?!)

"Everyone misses you!" (I'd been gone for an hour and a half)

"Good Lucky!"

"Get well soon!" (Guess this kid was a little confused about what kind of cards they were making...either that or he's talking to my doctor and knows something I don't)

This one was written down the page:
(I think it's one of those wacky word puzzles)

"I hope your lunch was fantactic." (Oddly enough I did use some fan tactics when I got a bit warm at the restaurant)

Best for last - this one said "Your the best teacher in the galaxy" but that wasn't the best part. Below that it had a bunch of random pictures and each picture was labeled. Here is how the pictures were labeled from left to right: black hole, doggy, ogre, guy on fire (the guy has his hands in the air, is smiling and appears to have flames shooting out of his anus), flying pig, darth vader. Then down below that is a man driving what appears to be some kind of red, convertible fire engine and there's a label that says my name. As much as I like Theach's proclamation about me that I mentioned yesterday this card is probably my favorite. It wins out of sheer randomness.

Today was the first day of the school book fair. I took my class for about 15 minutes. I wish they would just have books at these book fairs because the kids all came back with all kinds of random junk and few books. One kid spent who knows how much on some plastic skeleton hand that opens and closes when you squeeze a button. That should really improve his reading skills. They came back with video games, Spongebob posters and book covers, posters of basketball stars, little plastic toys. I seriously don't recall seeing one kid bringing back and actual book.

It kind of reminds me of when I was a kid in elementary school and we had this thing around Christmas called "Santa's Secret Shop." The idea was you could bring some money and shop for your family for Christmas. Basically it was 10 tables full of the worst kind of Chinese-made plastic crap. One year my dad's Christmas present from me was a shoehorn. It came from Santa's Secret Shop, of course. To his credit he kept that shoehorn for many years. I'm surprised it didn't go straight in the trash. Another year I think I bought him some fingernail clippers. Not just any fingernail clippers though...they came in a faux-leather zippered case. Zippered case? What's up with that? Do I really need to add another step in the fingernail clipping process? Is it truly necessary to introduce unzipping and zipping into the equation? I think I got my mom one of those oven pads one year. I'm sure that left her breathless. I wonder if they'll do something similar to that at my school this year. For the sake of mothers and fathers throughout the area I sure hope not.

I'm out. G'night.

Friday, November 04, 2005

This morning I woke up not sure whether I was going to hock a lugie or throw up. I'm just having all this drainage and junk. That's a nice way to start off today's entry isn't it? I know you were interested.

I finally broke down and wore the embroidered denim shirt today. On Fridays we can wear jeans and we're supposed to wear a shirt representing our school district. My usual t-shirt was dirty so I busted out the button-down, short sleeve embroidered denim shirt with the school logo on it. Man, that thing is not pretty. Oh well.

Today was "teacher appreciation day" so we got to take an hour and a half for lunch together while our PTA moms took our classes for us. So we went out to roadhouse type place for lunch. When I came back my class had all made cards for me. One of the cards ended with "I hope you know that you're not perfect." I couldn't quite make out another but it seemed to say "You're a god." Upon further inspection there's another word written smaller down below "You're a god." The word appears to be "theach." I believe they were trying to write "You're a good teacher." However, now it looks like a letter from a kid named Theach:

Dear _______,

You're a god


There's all kinds of blasphemy going on in my class.

Another one of the cards called me a genius and had a cartoon portraying some sort of distorted character (which I believe is supposed to represent me) discovering a cure for the common cold. That's right...I'm a teacher by day, and a medical genius by night.

I have this one kid who always holds his book up in front of his face while he picks his nose. What does he think that we think he's doing behind that book that's 3 inches from his face with his other hand up there?! This is a daily event. The other day I saw another kid insert his finger into his nose, retrieve a booger and then insert his finger into his mouth. He was pretty stealth about it but I see all...I am a god you know...even if I'm not perfect. Theach says so.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Struggled through another day with half a voice today. I actually had a little more voice than yesterday but it's still kinda hard.

Today I had them try this activity again where they read the weekly reader and then pretend to be TV news reporters and do a report on the story as a group. Last time they just basically all ended up standing at the front of the classroom, heads buried in the magazine, just reading the article to the class. This time I overemphasized that I really wanted them to try to imagine what the news is like on TV and do something like that. I even let them watch about 5 minutes of CNN headline news so they could see the styles of reporting. They did a little better this time. However, one group's story was about the snakehead fish in America (it's a toothy chinese invasive fish species that was released in some american waters and basically eats all the other fish). Well they talked about the fish for a few minutes and then went straight to a news report about a woman who'd been attacked by a snakehead fish and had an arm covered in red-pen simulated blood and everything. The rest of the report was completely unrelated to the article and was all about this woman and how she got attacked by this fish. No idea where that came from.

Last week I had the kids fill out this form that told about what the world in their closet is like (We're reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe so I had them imagine another world in their own closet). Today I had them finish writing a letter to anyone telling them about what that world is like. I had this one kid who wrote to his friend and the whole letter was filled with a description about how he's the god of his world and everyone else will bow down to him. It went on and on in great detail about his "minions" and whatnot. There was another kid that said his world was inhabited by demons and the devil. Sometimes I wonder if I should be alarmed or something by that kind of stuff. Is it a reflection of something going on in their lives or are is it just harmless imagination? I hope it's the latter.

I have this one kid who takes 3 to 4 times as long as the rest of the class to do anything. Anything at all..pick something...I guaranty he can take twice as long as the average 4th grader to do it. Every day I start telling him to get ready to leave at 3:10. By the time the bell rings at 3:20 he's never ready. Today I told him to get ready. 30 seconds later he's standing at someone's desk talking. I told him to get ready, another 30 seconds later he's staring at the cover of his library book. So then I went over there and stood next to him. Even with me standing right there I had to tell him to get ready and stop doing something else 3 or 4 more times. He just gets distracted so easily. This is a kid who last week was sitting in the middle of the gym at morning assembly and noticed he had a scratch on his leg that needed cleaning immediately. So right in the middle of the gym he pours his bottle of water all over his leg. Even after water is all over the floor he has no concept of the mess he's made. That's pretty typical. His desk is a disaster area. He's a very creative kid...if only I could get him to do his work. This is a different kid from my space cadet...this kid does take part in class.

Well, that's about all I've got today. Later.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I was sick yesterday and stayed home. My voice was close to nonexistant. Today wasn't much better as far as my voice goes but I went in anyway. It went ok.

This morning when I walked into the gym where the kids wait the first thing one of my kids said to me after excitedly calling me over was "I had eggs for breakfast." It's not like this kid is poor and rarely has food for breakfast. I'm not sure why he so exuberantly shared this information with me. I had cereal for breakfast in case you're wondering.

It was kind of hard doing class with no voice today but it wasn't too bad. I used a lot of gestures. Today we learned about ecosystems in science and I had them do an activity where everyone gets in a circle head-behind-head and then they all sit down. If it works correctly then when they sit down they should each be supported by the knees/legs of the person behind them. It took a few tries to get it but they finally did and they had a lot of fun. When they finally did it successfully I then pulled one student out of the circle and they all fell. This wasn't just to be cruel. The whole point was that it's an example of how all the parts of an ecosystem work together. I think it really clicked for them.

It's a good feeling to give a writing assignment and then watch a kid get really excited about his writing ideas. Today I had them write a letter to anyone in the world about the fantasy world inside of their closet (an idea we came up with last week). One kid wrote it to a fictional person and I had to wonder if this kid is dealing with anger because most of the letter was composed of insults towards this imaginary person ("You fat slob!" etc..) and it ended with "I hate you!!" Wow...I had him rewrite it and focus on the content of the assignment and leave out the insults. It was kind of weird.

Another thing that happened today is that one of my students (a girl) was reading a Judy Blume book when she called me over to help her with a word. She said "What does this word mean?" and pointed to it. The word was "tits." Sheesh...whaddya say?! I just said "Just don't worry about that word right now." Later on she came across it again and asked me again. Then she said "Should I ask my mom what this word means?" Again I didn't really know what to say to a 4th grader asking me about "tits." I guess she'll ask her mom.

Well, that's about all I've got. Adios.