Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Prepare Yourself

Black Friday is coming!  

I've got deals for {Jamberry} and {Younique}, but we can't forget about my first passion project of Teachers Pay Teachers!

In honor of Cyber Monday, my whole store will be 20% off on Monday, November 30th and Tuesday, December 1st.  That's right, the whole store!

Including...the brand new novel guide I posted about ten minutes ago for Ava and Pip!

Start your shopping lists now, I know I've scoped out other sellers!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thankful November, day 21: Small Business Saturday

I posted this message on my facebook wall, but felt it warranted appearing here too.

I wanted to say thank you to those who have supported one of my small businesses ({Jamberry}, {TeacherspayTeachers}, and/or {Younique Products}).

Your support helps pay for books and supplies for my students.  (Specifically glue sticks, thousands of post its, and everything Rick Riordan writes in mass quantities.  You'd figure nine copies of the same book would be enough, but it's not enough.) You helped pay for Waffles's pet adoption fees, shots, obedience school, and toys.  (So many toys).  You're helping us pay for our wedding, because we're trying not to go in debt for this fabulous dinner party we're hosting.  Your support helped us afford the new computer B needed for college (because his laptop was eight years old).  Your support helps cover expenses because teachers took a pay cut this year and well, that sucked.  I need to double check my courses, but I'm pretty sure I just finished Masters +32, that I may or may not receive a pay raise for...so small businesses help cover the difference. 

Thank you for supporting me.

Progress Reports

I send home progress reports at least once a month.  I teach in an inclusion classroom, which means there is usually a special education teacher in the room with me during core subjects of reading, writing, and math. 

Students get lots of time to ask questions and work with each other.

Students are allowed to retake any summative assessment before or after school.  Summatives are end of unit summaries that make up 90% of their grades.  The other 10% comes from formative quizzes throughout the unit.  I use these quick checks, exit tickets, and quizzes to pull small groups and reteach.

Progress reports are meant to serve as a check in point to show parents where their students are at.

But...then there are the replies, the emails, and the phone calls.

Some responses say "I'm worried, how can I help at home?"  which are wonderful! I post review videos and stay after to work with students.  Those families acknowledge that it's a partnership between home and school.  

But then...there are other types of responses.

"Please help ___". 
"Can you explain what ___ is doing wrong?" 
"Why don't you work with ___ in class?"
"What extra credit can ___ do?"
"Why is ____ getting a C in ____? The last test was an A. Are you grading right?" (The first two tests were Fs, so the A brought the overall grade up to a C.  That wasn't a sufficient response.)

One, I do my best to help every student. Every day. I do my best to work with them in small groups and individually, every day. I pull small groups.  Other teachers pull small groups. They have extra review opportunities online available at any point.

It's frustrating (and a bit insulting) when parents don't realize I'm doing everything possible to help their students.

But when students don't read or follow directions? When they don't ask questions? When they skip entire pages on the test? When they zone out during an entire lesson, draw pictures, talk to their neighbor, then complain they don't get it...it's frustrating.  

At what point do students start owning their grades?  At what point do I stop becoming the bad guy?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Biting my tongue only works for so long

Quite frankly, the school district is a bit of a hot mess right now.  The most frustrating part is I don't know who to direct my anger towards.  Is it the superintendent and his cabinet for mismanaging funds? Is it the board of trustees? (One is an incompetent ignoramus who had the audacity to enter our school and tell fifth graders that the goal in life was to be rich and have lots of friends.  Petitions are circling to get this person recalled.)  Or should I be mad at teachers health trust? The union?

I know the one group I'm not upset about is my fellow teachers.  While I can't speak for all educators, but the ones I'm blessed to work with are some of the most passionate and dedicated educators.  They are there early, stay late, and reach into their own hearts (and wallets) to provide what their students need the most.

In one of the teacher support groups I'm in, I found this rather frustrating post.

I do not know the author in person and for that, I am grateful.  She's been rather hostile and aggressive towards other teachers, which serves no purpose other than fanning the flames of anger.

Her post:

"I ran into a nice kid yesterday who told me he hoped to get his degree and then apply to be a TFA. TFA is a scam. Please warn your friends and neighbors about this trap. It would be much easier for aspiring teachers and better for kids if the leader in the at-risk classroom was prepared.  Please forward to anyone who is considering this move and warn them."  

Below it, she attached a rather biased and negative opinion piece.  

Normally, I move on from these sorts of things. I try to take the high ground. I try not to engage with the irrational.

However, I've had enough.  Biting my tongue only works for so long.

Here was my response: 

"Don't paint all TFA teachers, or ARL teachers, with the same brush. As a TFA alum who's on year seven in the classroom, I take offense to my non-traditional career path being called a trap and a scam. Teaching isn't easy, period. Name calling and pitting teachers against one another doesn't make the situation better. Why not band together and inspire one another? Not all students have the same background, so why not embrace that teachers have diverse backgrounds too?"

So far, I've only received positive replies and other teachers mentioning the great work that the TFA teachers have done in their buildings.  Turns out, spreading positive vibes and emphasizing diversity as a positive attribute is more well received by the public then rage-filled vents that seek only to hurt others' feelings.

Yes, teaching is quite frustrating at times.  Low pay and a lack of respect don't help.  But when teachers start bashing other teachers, how does that make the situation any better?

Instead, I choose to spread good vibes.  I hope this rather angry teacher finds something positive to share with others.  Being irate all the time isn't the way to live.


Lots of items come in sets of dozens.  

Roses. Eggs. Muffins. Donuts. Soda (and beer). Pencils.

As of tomorrow, my students will fall into this category.  

Number thirty six comes tomorrow. It's easiest to say I've got three dozen students.

It's getting a bit crowded in room 71.

How big are your class sizes?

Thankful November, day 18: time

Today, I'm thankful for time.

I'm thankful for the time I get with my students. It's not enough time to get all the learning done, but I'm thankful that seven hours of each day is spent with relatively good munchkins who are eager to learn.

I'm thankful for the time I spend in the car to and from work.  I have about a ten minute commute and that's enough time to jam out to some music, make a (hands free) phone call, or vent my feelings to the universe before arriving home.  There are three stop signs and two stop lights between my school parking lot and drive way.  For this, I'm thankful.  I do not miss a seventeen mile freeway commute each way, which would often result in an hour-long drive home.  I have more time for me because it's not spent in the car.

I'm thankful for the time me and B have to plan the wedding.  I'm in no way rushed to make any decisions and have the time to shop around, look for sales, and slowly check things off my list. Last weekend, I picked up our champagne flutes at TJ Maxx.  They've got gold polka dots and were significantly less than the ones online.  Score!

I'm thankful for couple time in the evenings.  Monday we watched football.  Last night, we watched Inside Out (my choice).  Tonight he has class, tomorrow I have class, Friday he has softball, and Saturday we've got a double date with some friends to have dinner and watch Mockingjay Part Two.

I'm thankful for me time.  B has class once a week, leaving me free to binge watch Once Upon a Time or read in a blanket fort without guilt.  I'm thankful that we're both mature enough to give each other alone time and not feel bad about spending time apart.  Sometimes, he just wants some video game time and I just want to nap.  We're a couple, not the same person.

What I'm not thankful for? It's time to leave the comforts of my polka dotted bathrobe and pajamas to get ready for work.  It's very, very hard to be motivated when it's so cold outside.

(I'm a child of the desert. It's in the forties. It's cold.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Where was admin?

I had a beautiful conversation erupt during math time today.

Here was the problem:

They were solving with a partial products array (they're not quite ready for traditional or standard algorithms for multiplication) and a very loud, very passionate conversation erupted.  One student argued that having the "zero tens" row in the second factor (409) wasn't necessary.  Another passionately disagreed.  

Soon, I lost the whole class to this beautiful, loud conversation about if zero is a value or simply a place holder.  

Did it need to be represented? 

Could it be skipped? Always?

I reeled them back in after about five minutes of debate, much to the horror of the original instigators who hadn't successfully defended their perspectives.

What a beautiful, natural example of the math practices coming to life.

Now, where was admin?! That would have been a lovely example of math discourse in the classroom for my end of year evaluation.