Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Information Overload

I only have one more day of school until I can officially say that I survived a half year of teaching!  Hooray!  J  As my wonderful teammate put it (or sang it, rather), “It’s the final countdown…”  Can you tell that I’m ready for break?!? 
I’m sorry that it’s been so long since my last post.  Life has been stress-FULL (and that’s the understatement of the year – ha)!!!!  Here are some statistics for you:  In the past two weeks, I’ve spent 7 days Dibels benchmark testing all the students in our school.  If you take roughly 600 kids and divide that by 4 (how many people that were available to help with testing), you get the number of students that I tested (about 150 or more).  Multiply that number by 3 (because you have to give each test 3 or 4 times) and you get 450.  450+ tests.  That’s reading the standardized test directions 450 times, listening to the same stories being read 30 times each (5 grade levels (1st-5th), 150 students, 3 stories per test), and having to score and input all that data into the computer.  Not only did I memorize the test directions this time around, but the first three sentences on each passage as well.  Can you say brain-fryage?!?   See- I don’t even know what kind of word that is?  Noun?  Verb?  Adjective?  Adverb?  Point made. 
Besides testing, I have been adjusting to my new first grade reading group (and they have been adjusting to me).  I was lucky enough to still get to teach them during my crazy week of testing, but it made for even more of an interesting week.  I have a wide variety of behaviors in this new group and am finding ways to best handle them so that the maximum amount of learning can take place.  After spending a few days with this group, I quickly realized that I was going to need to come up with a new management system – one with instant gratification.  So… here’s what I came up with: 
I spent two hours after school this week making die-cut shapes for this new behavior management system.  What I decided is that students can earn a sticker every time I catch them doing an exceptional job being on-task, engaged, and ready to learn.  Once they earn 10 stickers, they get to trade their die-cut shape for a HOWL ticket (our school’s positive behavior support (PBS) model).  These HOWL tickets are saved and can be spent on cool prize items.  The students in my class were thrilled when they earned their 10 stickers and were proud to flaunt their completed, sticker-filled die-cut shape.  However, what I quickly realized is that I was going to need a lot of stickers!  And this sparked my need for a trip to the Dollar Store!
Let me just say one thing:  I LOVE the Dollar Store!  You can buy so many neat things for the low, low price of $1!  Amazing- I know!  J  The Dollar Store closest to my apartment has a fabulous selection of teacher supplies (all of which I think I need), so I tend to go a little crazy when I walk down that aisle in the store.  Not to mention the super-duper sticker section!  I ended up spending a total of $42 in my wonderful little trip to buy stickers.  How do you even do that?!?  $42!!!  I feel like that might be a little ridiculous, but I guess that I can justify it and say that I got 42 items for $42.  J  I always end up buying way more than I need.  Next time, I know what aisle I’m going to avoid going down.  Haha. 
Lately I’ve been a bit impulsive… buying things that I don’t need, such as blue and silver crackle nail polish (and yes, I painted my toe nails blue and put the silver crackle over them – and even bought some deep magenta for my fingernails! – I almost never paint my nails, so this is a very rare occasion!!!!), 3 bags of candy for the new candy dish that I bought to put inside my desk drawer (another impulse buy from the Dollar Store – I’ll probably regret this later), and an entire large cheese pizza just for myself (I ate it as I drove home from the Dollar Store – Little Caesars was right next door).  I even styled my hair 10 different ways in the past 10 days, which if you know me at all, I style my hair pretty much the same exact way every single day (I just got a haircut and can’t decide what to do with my hair… I’m trying to figure out a style that works best).  I guess I was just trying to spice things up a bit… Maybe it’s all the stress that I’ve been under. 
On the upside of things, I found my grade book that I thought I misplaced, finished report cards, re-organized my room (both at home and at school), created 4 different binders to help organize the paper catastrophe that kept coming home with me in my teacher bag, and got the vast majority of my Christmas shopping done.  Yeah!  And the best news of all… break is only one day away!!!!  I’m going to miss my kiddos, but I think the break will be refreshing for everyone.  J 
So… on that happy note, I’m going to get ready for my last day of school for the year and get some sleep.  I might even try going to bed before midnight tonight!  Good night!!!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

To Infinity and Beyond...

It was frigid out today… a high of 12 degrees (and I’m not even sure it made it to that!).  Right now, I’m sitting in bed, wrapped in all the blankets I can find.  My hands are still thawing out as I type this.  Can you say BRRRRR?!?!?  Anyways… that’s beside the point.  As some of you know, this past week was the first week with my new first grade reading group.  I spent many, many hours at school (and at home, plus the past two weekends (eek!)) preparing for this group, but let me just tell you, things definitely did not go according to plan!  But first, let me catch you up on the big events up until that day last week…
I wanted the last day with my “old” reading group to be special.  They had worked so hard and I was distraught that I would no longer be their teacher anymore.  L  We had grown so close after spending so much time together!  So, I decided to surprise them with a class “party.”  J  I usually have cafeteria duty during the time my kids are at lunch, but I got it covered and brought my kids to the classroom for lunch.  And they loved it!  But that wasn’t the only surprise I had up my sleeve…
For weeks, my kids had been begging me to bring them Takis (a type of spicy chip, like Hot Cheetos, but “better” – ha).  I couldn’t find Takis the last time that the class earned their party, so I went on a mission to find them.  Sure enough, I found the shiny purple bag staring at me down the chip isle in the Walmart right by school.  I bought two big bags and concealed them in a large canvas bag.  I told the kids I had a little magic trick and VOILA – 2 bags of Takis mysteriously appeared!  The group went wild!  It was like they were seeing snow for the very first time.  J 
Lunch was coming to an end, so I sent everyone back to the cafeteria to dump their trays.  Little did I know what a mess it would leave behind!  There were little red fingerprints everywhere (even after I gave them hand wipes!).  I guess I learned that lesson the hard way.  Lol.  Even with all the mess, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world!  The look on each of my student’s faces was that of pure joy!  It made everything worth it! 
We finished up the day with a class picture (or I guess I should say pictures).  We did a few normal ones and then saved the funny ones for last.  And, let me tell you, the “funny” ones were hysterical!  So many different facial expressions and poses (but so characteristic to each one of my students)!  Love it!  I gave each of my kids a hug goodbye.  One of my first graders put it perfectly...  She gave me a huge hug and said, “I’m going to miss you to infinity and beyond!”  How precious is that?!?  I will miss that group “to infinity and beyond” but I know that they will go on to do amazing things!
After school, it was time to get down to business.  If I were to rate my stress level on a scale of 1 to 10, it would’ve been a 31.  Haha – not really, but it would’ve been right around an 8.7.  I was feeling a wee bit overwhelmed with all that I had to have done before the arrival of my new group.  I spent about 10.5 hours at school that day, plus another 12 hours at school the next day preparing.  I felt like I was repeating the first day of school!  *Rewind!*
Definitely an interesting day!  Let’s see… it started with the kids not knowing where to meet me in the hallway, plus only half the group being there at our meeting time, so we had to go on a little scavenger hunt to find the other kiddos that were going to be in my group – there was definitely no way that they would’ve found my room on their own (you have to go through the office and through the workroom to get to the conference room – A.K.A. my classroom!).  Once we arrived, I had the kids sit on the carpet, while I learned their names, shared a little bit about myself, and started discussing rules/expectations.  In the middle of my class read-aloud, a student raised his hand and said that he had to go to the bathroom.  I dismissed him from the group and reminded him to take the pass before he left.  No more than 10 seconds after leaving the room, he came sprinting back in the room panting, “I don’t know how to get to the bathroom from here!”  Hoping that someone could show him, I asked someone to be his buddy, but, as it turned out, no one knew how to get there!  Class Field Trip!
We finally made it back to the classroom after a class bathroom break.  My students thought it was the coolest thing that they got to use the 2nd and 3rd grade bathrooms (the 1st grade bathrooms are too far of a walk from my room), which meant that students were “needing” to use the bathroom as much as possible.  I can’t tell you how many kiddos wanted to go use the bathroom after our class field trip/bathroom break just because it was down a different hallway!  Haha.  Only in first grade!
That afternoon continued to be filled with fascinating endeavors.  I had a student who kept forgetting my name, so every time he wanted to get my attention, he would yell, “Miss I-don’t-remember-your-name, I have a question!”  So funny!  Then in the middle of one of his questions, he lost his tooth.  It just came right out!  The entire class was astonished by how this could’ve even happened, so they all decided to investigate the situation further.  I can tell who is going to be a future dentist in my class!  J  I sent the student to the office to get a container for his tooth.  You can only imagine the uproar and excitement when he came prancing back into class sporting a brand new tooth necklace! 
After we finally regained our focus, 2 students waved their hands with their fingers crossed (meaning they had to go to the bathroom).  When I told them that only one person could go at a time, they both exclaimed that it was an emergency and if they didn’t go right then, they would have an accident in their pants (and it did look like they really needed to go…)!  Reluctantly, I let them both go use the bathroom, hoping that they could help each other find their way back to class and told them they had to come back within 4 minutes.  What was I thinking?!?  They ended up being gone for over 10 minutes when I finally called someone from the office to go search for them.  And guess where they found them?  Dancing, twirling, and spinning down the 2nd and 3rd grade hallway!  Seriously?!?  I just had to laugh.  It was that kind of day.
Even though we got off to a kinda-sorta chaotic start, I realized what a truly wonderful group I have.  They say and do some of the funniest things and always give me a reason to smile.  I’m so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with this new group and help them become readers!  I have lots of learning to do, but isn’t that what teaching is about?!?  Lifelong learning!?!  I think so!  I’m so glad that I get the opportunity to learn and grow right alongside my students.  It’s going to be a fantastic year! J “To infinity and beyond!!!!”