Monday, February 26, 2007

Hard work...

His is learned helplessness of the most debilitating kind...

He hims and haws, shakes his head, throws over his chair, and pleads loudly.

"I can't do it! I don't know it. I can't!"

If you just came upon us as I worked with him on his phonics lesson, you'd think I was a real witch of a teacher. I ignore his tears, demand more of him, make him start over when he balks.

I question myself as I push, push, push. I feel so evil. I want to hold him in my lap and assure him that everything is okay. Gently wipe away his tears. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.

Somehow, I keep pushing. I can feel it deep down that this is the right thing to do after all these months of carefully moving him down the path to learning.

Do it again, Mike.
Try it again.
No, start over.
Look again.

He takes a bathroom break, and so do I. As I walk out into the hall, another teacher and her student are reading together. The teacher, new to our school, looks at me differently. I feel judged.

Mike takes his seat again. I put the word and sound cards out again. He starts, fumbles just a bit, then starts again. He does it.

I am too exhausted to rejoice. For now, we smile at each other, and breathe.


Tuesday morning, I put Mike's phonics cards out for him to do. He said something alittle whiney, then sighed and instantly put them in order. Task done. Lesson learned. For both of us.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bring em on!

6 days off-- thanks to the ice and snow storm-- and I feel rested, rejuevenated, and ready for tomorrow.

I am really looking forward to seeing my kiddos, and I am excited about getting back to my lessons. Really excited!

I think this is anectdotal evidence that I would do well on a year round schedule where periodic breaks come in small doses throughout the year.

Until tomorrow.....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Update: The Kindergarten Lincolnphiles

According to kinder teacher Kathy, her students seemed to "know" alot about Honest Abe even before they started the unit. With a smile on her face and a light in her heart she reports:

- "Lincoln was George Washington's brother.
- He saw slaves and had a dream. (Do we get credit for making a connection?)
- He died when he went to the movies."

Again, these are the moments that keep us coming back, right?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Father Abraham"

I use discussion of Abraham Lincoln's life as a springboard for comparing the past with the present. It's almost a universal truth these last 18 like learning about our 16th president. His story resonates with kids, rich and poor, black and white, tall and short,etc. His likeable geekiness shines through all of the children's biographies I read to my classes. In one activity today, we compared elements of Abe's life with our own, including the famous one room log house, his non-traditional family (stepmother and stepsiblings), his tendency to sneak away from his chores to read, and the hard, physical labor he did to help his family (chop down trees, plow the fields, etc.).

When they see his likeness on the penny and the five dollar bill, they really understand his historical importance!! A few years ago, one of my boys said "What money has George Bush on it? THAT'S how you know he's a big deal."

Attention, Karl Rove....

Lastly, one of my big hearted boys today swore that if he lived in Lincoln's time, he would have been a bodyguard to protect Abe from the bad guy.

You have to love 'em.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Parent Connection.....

It's inevitable; "teacher talk" will turn to parent responsibility and participation, and how too much or too little affects the quality of our teaching lives. Studies reveal the value of positive parental participation, especially with regard to student achievement. However, we all know that when parents come to us with distrust and a dislike for school as an institution, our communications are generally unpleasant. Such unpleasantness can be burdonsome.... and goodness knows we teachers don't need anything to make our job harder.

So with this in mind, I share the following:

1. I invite parents to class and school functions with genuine hopefulness and an open heart.

2. I send reminders because I know it’s so easy to forget. I’m a parent, too, so I know how kooky schedules can be.

3. I phone, leave messages, email and otherwise keep open the lines of communication.

4. I try not to call only for the negative stuff.

5. I do not hold my breath when parents are meant to call back, send papers back, email back or otherwise respond to communication from the school.

6. I never hold kids accountable for their parents lack of participation in school functions. I try, as much as possible, never to say anything about their folks not participating. This can be a very humiliating thing for kids. They know when their parents can’t or won’t make connections with school. No need to give the kids a reason to build defensiveness. After all, the real relationship that needs to be maintained is that between me and the child.

Not only does this save face with the child, it saves time, AND prevents a lot of hand wringing and useless declarations about the sad state of parenthood in this country!

Over the years, I have learned the importance of focusing on what it is I CAN control. I control my decision to continue to keep open the door to my kids’ parents. I hope for the best, but prepare for non-participation. That’s my reality, and to accept it leaves me the energy to really work with my students. Them, I have for 6 hours a day. I choose to concentrate on that.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Point of No Return

At about 10:00 this morning, on a day when 3 of my bi-polar students are cycling, when the little boy who has been such a terrible challenge these last months is banging doors and tearing up the timer and throwing legos at the windows, at this very point in time, the crisis counselor leaves for a meeting.

The crisis room is closed. For a full hour in our day, that critical support is unavailable.

Thus began a succession of mini tantrums escalating to large-scale crises, and we are a full staff member short, and even if we were fully staffed at that moment, it wouldn't have been enough, because these kids are in a spiral, feeding off each other, and their insatiable need for stimulation and attention goes unchecked and untethered.

To be fair, the purpose of the meeting was very important and child-oriented. Clearly, the folks involved needed to meet.

My gripe is the decision to make convenient their meeting time at the expense of what the other children and staff need.

Striking the kind of balance needed in the management of a school like ours is very, very difficult.

And today was way more difficult than it had to be. For me, my intern, and our kids.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

That's Entertainment

Poor little guy.

Without his ADHD meds, he was absolutely, unequivocally, unable to settle his brain on any single thought. He struggled to comply with routine directions; he genuinely apologized when redirected. He talked to himself and rolled across the floor and ate voraciously.

He giggled at his own jokes and growled at children who were bugging him.

Imagine having to concentrate on word families, number lines, or retelling strategies with so little control over your own thinking....

Today, we kept marveling at how cute he was. We shook our head and tried to imagine how this kid even got through a day in a full-sized, general ed classroom.

If he shows up tomorrow like this, ummm, it won't seem so cute.