Saturday, September 29, 2012

The First Goodbye of the School Year

So yesterday, the first of my babies bid us farewell.  It was rough, and led to some touching moments.  I was heartbroken, because I had been thinking we had until November with him, and just found out this week that that was not the case.  We just finished up essays about personal heroes, and, despite only knowing me a month, he wrote about me.  It was extremely touching.

This will be brief (but also repeated, as there is a good chance that another of my darlings will be leaving NEXT Friday, which is just about more than I can bear to handle.)

I just wanted to share a few moments I witnessed - one in particular, which really touched me.  Now, here's the thing: you should be aware that most of these fifth graders have been going to school together since Pre-K.  I'm pretty sure the same is true for him. You should also know that I'm a total crier - so I tried to tough it out as long as I could, but lost it when they started eating their ice cream treats in our special eat-in-the-classroom I sponsored for him.

Anyway, one boy had confided in me that his goal was to get another friend to cry over this student's departure.  Lo and behold, at one point I looked over to see him red-faced, with some boys around him comforting him.  The student leaving kept a brave face and had yet to break down.  As the understanding he would be gone started to sink in, the boys around also started crying.  And yet this student, the one saying goodbye to all of his friends, was still straight-faced.  I will never understand this strength, but I respect it so much.  (Because obviously, I was a mess at this point.)

But the one thing that REALLY got to me was... one of my dear math students came in during dismissal for some reason unknown. (To avoid the confusion of two "he"s, let's call him Math.)  I don't think he was coming to say goodbye, because Math was deeply concerned about my tears and asked what was wrong.  I waved him off, trying to focus on something else and left him to his errand.  The next thing I knew, I saw Math and my student sitting at our reading table.  They said nothing, just simply sitting down next to each other, both staring straight ahead in complete silence.  Math's eyes were red, my student's eyes were watery.

Fresh wave of tears here, people!  There is just something about the image of these two boys sitting side-by-side, thinking god only knows what, in mutual understand of each other's sorrow.  And nothing was said the entire time they sat there.  Somehow it's like fate knew to leave them alone.  Usually my student's bus is one of the first ones to arrive. Yesterday, he was the last to leave my room.  Math's bus came unusually late as well.  When they called his bus, his face crumpled a little as he heaved a heavy sigh and got up.  For the first time since I'd observed them, the boys finally spoke.  My student and Math did one of those little bro handshake-hug things.  Goodbyes were exchanged, and Math left.

I just....

Phew, boy.  It was the sweetest thing I'd ever seen.  The good news for these two and the rest of my boys is that this student didn't move far - just far enough to be out of our school bounds - and they will be reunited next year in middle school.

The same will not be true when my girl leaves, whenever that is.  It all depends on her mother's schedule at work.  She will be well and truly separated from her friends

I'm definitely not excited to return to school on Monday and see his empty desk in the corner. Our mood will certainly be a little more somber.  Hopefully at least I won't return to news that the girl will get a reprieve at least for a few months.

It's always so tough for students to leave the school they grew up in when they're SO close to being done. My heart grieves for them.

Somber post, I'm sorry.  Next time, I'll hopefully post about math rotations...I did Guided Math for the first time!  But I just can't bring myself to update on that now.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nostalgia Lane

I haven't really anything new to report, but the theme of this week for me seemed to be all about my old babies.  They were literally everywhere this week!!  It was insane - in a really, really good way.

Don't get me wrong - I love my new babies bunches, and we're already forming some nice bonds if I do say so myself - but there's something about your first class.  (Probably especially when they leave you at the end of the year, never to be seen again unless they take it upon themselves to call or visit.)

So I imagine this post won't be very interesting to you.  For that, I apologize.  But I'm posting this for me, because ... well, it just warms my heart and makes me feel good.  Like I've done something right, for them to be so eager to see me again.  And it's those moments you need to hang onto when things get hard.  So this is going to be a post for me to return to whenever I'm questioning myself.

Wednesday, a boy I posted about earlier came to visit. The one who sat outside my window before school and was the first voice I heard every morning greeting me brightly with that big smile on his face.  My current kids tapped me on the shoulder to tell me he was there and I was so excited! I gave him a big hug, but unfortunately was working with a current baby who took priority.  I told him to give me a few minutes, and he and his friend promised to come back after visiting a few others.  Sadly, they never did. :(  But I think he might be back since he's walking distance to the school.  I was a little sad because I wanted to tell him I missed his greetings.  It's the little things, you know?

That same day, I got a phone call from three girls.  One of them was in the other class, but I had her brother, so we talked enough.  It was so sweet! They told me all about school, the new people they were meeting, their new teachers, and how my other friends seemed to be doing.  They asked to come back to get their community service hours, also.  I now have 4 students who are interested in coming to help.  It means lots of stuff will be getting done! :) lol  We chatted for about a half hour before my battery started dying and I had to get home anyway.

And finally, Thursday was our Back to School Night.  My teammate came in telling me she saw one of my boys outside waiting with the rest of the parents and I swear to god... I did this amazing SpongeBob imitation when I said, "Reeeeally??" and covered my mouth.

Sure enough, I opened my blinds and saw him and his best friend (another of mine).  I tried waving, but neither noticed me.  So I went about my business until they finally did, and they came bounding up to my window.  Cue heartmelt!  I gestured for them to come in, but they screamed that they weren't being allowed in.  So I opened the window to talk to them through the screen.  We caught up a little, I gave them screen-high fives and aside from being really odd because we were talking through a window screen, it was just like last year.  My teammate walked in again and laughed when she saw my chair pulled up next to the window.  She said she figured we would be at the window.

Parents started coming in, so I had to step away for a bit.  My current babies took over for me, sitting in the chair and chatting away.  I gotta say, though, this group of parents is outstanding! They were early, so they all left to let me continue catching up.  Most were amused at the antics.  So my new babies and I tried to figure out how to get them in, but alas...they were rejected each time.  The night began, and I gave my presentations to the parents.

I do so hate that part - I'm just talking so much and I'm overwhelming even myself!  I can't imagine how these parents feel!  But as it usually seems to go, no one had questions, so I kept on chattering.  I had a really great turn out for the first session!  The second session only had one parent, so it was tailored towards her son haha.  By then, my boys had managed to get in, and were relaxing in my library (which they were upset to see had a new chair - "Not fair!!").  It was actually great that they were there, because I got their feedback on some field trips we had planned, which I think the parent appreciated.

Once that was all done, the boys and I talked some more, they explored the changes in my room, marveling at it, and I just.... so miss their ridiculousness.  While most teachers were getting the heck out of dodge, I was in my room just enjoying their presence.  We wandered out to the hallway when one dad popped by to get them.  He's the sweetest, though, because he lingered to let us continue.  Other staff members got their hellos in and hugs and grinned knowingly at me.  I talk about these guys so much, I think they all knew how much it meant to me.  Finally, dad went to go pick up the little ones from the daycare and they opted to stay with me for a little more.  They showed me the new shoes they were getting lol (which is just so typical).

Even after he returned with their younger brothers, he still gave me a little more time.  I tell you, this dad is the best! He's the one I was talking to at the picnic, asking about his son.  I so, so appreciate how thoughtful he was.  He gave me all that extra time when he could've simply left after session 1.

In all, I spent an extra half hour at the end talking to my boys, missing them and reveling in the moment.  It literally made my week.  Those two have a special place in my heart because of the things we went through last year. 

Anyway, that's about it for the nostalgia.  It was a really, really good week for me.

I did, however, find out that it sounds like a new baby, who I already love desperately, will be moving.  Her mother approached me after the first session and we cried a little bit together.  Oh, it's so sad.  It breaks my heart!    But then the girl came up to me the next day and I think her mom managed to find a solution not too long after making me cry haha!  So if it works out, I will be sooo excited.  It would break my heart to see her go.  Hers is a whole saga that I hope ends well.  I'm already upset one of my boys will definitely be leaving us in November.  I can't take her leaving, too. It's just too much.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Currently & New School Year Update

First things first! Farley's latest "Currently"!  I finally figured out why I haven't been getting these in the email...silly GMail marked it as spam! :(  In any case, if you're as behind on the times as me, go ahead and click that picture! It'll lead you straight to it.

Next on the agenda - school updates!

Our school received some big, big news a few weeks ago! I want to wait on the actual reveal until it turns out to be fruitful.  I know, I know - why bring it up then?? Answer: I have no idea why I'm bothering to mention it.  I guess just wanna let anyone reading this know we had something very exciting happen!

I have also gotten the go-ahead from my media specialist via her boss for blogging.  I am super, super excited to bounce ideas around with her.  We need to schedule times to meet up to discuss and get it set up.  My thinking is that we'll probably be fully up and running late October, early November with blogging.  I cannot wait to give you all the update on how I structured it and how it's being received! So, so excited for this green light!! :)

Still working up the nerve to implement my rotations in math & reading.  Any last minute insights or help would be greatly appreciated!!  I'm incredibly nervous about it even though all I hear are great things. I think it's just the overwhelming idea of all the things I'm trying to undertake right now...  It just seems like so much, but I know rotations are rewarding and worth it.

It's crazy to me how it's already starting on week 4 this Tuesday!! So much has happened and yet so much still needs to be done to get this year well and truly underway.  My to-do list is part of the reason why I haven't yet uploaded pictures of my room.  Some things still need to be put up before I'll be satisfied enough to do the reveal.  It is currently lacking - and I really, really need to set up my rotations board!

Let's see... what else...  my school is starting off the school year with a few interesting after-school events to welcome families back into the year.  I've been to both so far, and they've been great! The first was a picnic, where I got to catch up with old students and their parents.  It was wonderful to see two of my girls sound like they're thriving in their middle school environments.  It made me so happy.  I also spoke to the father of one of my boys and while hearing about his adjustments to middle school, I also got to brush up on my Spanish! I'm really rusty, especially since our summer break. :(

The 2nd event was a soccer game... I got roped into it and (not to be stereotypical, but of course...) my boys were REALLY excited to hear I was going.  So... I went.  I played.  More importantly - I HAD FUN! Now, I am not a sporty person by ANY stretch of the imagination, but boy!! It was so much fun reliving my own middle school "glory" days playing defense.  I was a somewhat fierce contender if I do say so myself...! Two of my boys on the opposing team were pretty impressed with me.  Go figure the one actually ON my team thinks I didn't do anything.




Anyway, that's pretty much a wrap!  It's pretty quiet out there - is anyone listening?  Are you there BlogWorld? It's me, Cindy!  Please let me know if you're interested in anything I've posted about in previous... posts lol.  I'd love to share, but don't want to go through the trouble of uploading resources if no one is interested.

Oh, one more thing.  I've failed on reading picture books thus far.  GOTTA get back up on that! But, I did sign my class up for J.K. Rowling's podcasty thing from Scholastic. Debating doing Taylor Swift's.  Decided on reading Sorceror's Stone for my read-aloud.  Half are pleased, half are not thrilled.  I always feel bad about read alouds! I can't imagine they're enjoyable for everyone... that makes me feel bad.  Hmm.  Hoping watching J.K. Rowling will change their minds.  My 6th grade Reading teacher introduced me to HP with a read aloud and changed my life forever.  I hope I can do the same.  That's why I chose it, really.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Few Week 1 Activities

Well, I am pleased to announce that Week 1 went, overall, very smoothly!  What I love about the fresh, new start of every new school year is that you get to learn from your mistakes or the things you didn't like and try to fix them.  I started a few things much earlier this year, I'm employing Whole Brain Teaching, and my new babies are really responding.  I'm so proud of them & their behavior.  To toot my own horn, I have been getting a few compliments from my coworkers as well.  Most excitingly, I am introducing the WBT style to a few coworkers as well and they are very intrigued - especially by how well it seems to be working already.  I tell ya, people, try this out if you're not yet!!

I'm doing baby steps - I introduced the 5 rules (tweaked number 3 at my teammate's very wise suggestion), Hands & Eyes, Class-Yes, and Teacher v. Student scoreboard.  Kids seem to love it all so far - especially the opportunity to be creepy with hands & eyes :)

Now, I've mentioned a few times my desire to take some card games and turn them into math facts games.  I am most pleased to announce that I have already implemented them!!  At the get, my class did not sound as wildly excited as I'd hoped.  However, at the end of the lesson, as they were finishing up....lo and behold!  The decks slowly but surely disappeared off of my table!  I was SO excited that I took some pictures!  Here is one I took without any students.   This pair is playing Trash with 4s.

In hindsight, I would like to fix my cards in a few ways - for convenience & aesthetics.  One, like a real deck of cards, I want to put the facts so that you can read them no matter how it's turned.  Two - and I can't believe I forgot to do this!! - I would print it on scrapbook paper next time so that the backs are cuter.  So mad I didn't.  Look how blah those are! :(  Unbelievable.  Three, I need to write the numbers on the back (2s, 3s, 4s, etc) just so that if, heaven forbid, they ever get mixed up then the kids can sort it with more ease.

If this intrigues anyone, let me know! I am more than happy to share this!  And learn from my mistakes! I was far too eager and printed everything out and made 2 copies on cardstock.  Foolish. :(

The other notable thing we did in math that I'd like to share is about rounding!  In week 1, our goal this year was to review some topics that are important later on in the year.  I focused on rounding, and managed to find on Google this brilliant idea where students would go "grocery shopping" and round out the total - just like one would in real life!!  And as luck would have it, I had in my car an ad for Safeway.  As luck would still have it, it also came with a funny story about how I grabbed it because I was mad I went shopping, saw BOGO chicken, got charged for both, but didn't argue it after pointing it out and getting shut down.  I lamented to my students about how I grabbed it to check, but was chagrined to see it wasn't in the meat I was wrong.

Then wouldn't you know it?! I handed out their copies so they could go shopping, and one of my babies cried out, "It's right here!!" LO. AND. BEHOLD!  There, in black in white: Chicken: BOGO!  I was extremely pleased!  I told him I'd go get my money back haha and thanked him profusely.  Sadly, I left the ad at school, and now it's prooooobably too late, but I'll still try. :)  It was real cute. Anyway, here's two of my cherubs pouring over the ad, trying to decide which 5 to put on their shopping list.

The activity seemed to be a hit!! One of my babies even asked me if I could make it a center!  Why, yes, darling...I most certainly can and will!  I love the love of learning! :)  I can't get over how sweet this group is so far. So eager to learn, so grateful! Bless their wonderful previous teachers and parents for ingraining this in them.

For my homeroom, we did 2 things that I love and want to share with you.  As our "get to know you" activity, I had them anonymously write 3-5 facts they were willing to share with the class.  Once everyone had done that, I told them to crumple the card.  You should've seen their sweet faces! They absolutely dropped.  I must admit it made me laugh.  I assured them we would still share - so please don't go ripping it up or anything!  We got in a circle with our crumpled facts and for 1 minute, had a SNOWBALL FIGHT!!!!  After 1 minute, we each picked one up and went around in a circle, read it, and guessed who the card belonged to.  It went perfectly, which was a relief.  Both times I did it last year we lost a few. :(  And wouldn't you know it - the same kid lost his both times.  I felt just terrible!  I learned my lesson though and told this bunch to throw softly and to feet, not people.  I thought it would be less fun, but my goodness, they were SO excited by it!

Lastly, we read a really sweet picture book, Daft Bat.  It had a really great lesson in it about seeing things from someone else's perspective before rushing to judge them.  It was so, so cute and we LOVED the ending!  I'm going to resolve to read more picture books with lessons this year.  My next planned book is one about how words and actions hurt even if you apologize.  I found this real cute activity last year... if you haven't heard of it, just give me til next week! I'm hoping to do it Thursday.

I'd like to close with two brief anecdotes from my last year's babies.  I was inspired by Mrs. H's post about the effect we have on our students.

  1. One of my current darlings shared with me that he was hanging out with several of my old boys and passed along that they missed 5th grade & having me as their teacher.  Cue heartmelt! :]  I wrote them a note telling them I miss them, I love them, to remember our talks and make me proud, and to come visit me ANYTIME - for fun or for homework help.  Current student handed it to them through the window of his bus and reported back that they were so excited ("REALLY?!") and swore to try and come back soon.  Tsk.  That warmed my heart so, so much.  I offered to this group in particular to come to my classroom after school to work on homework and I remember how excited that idea made them.  They couldn't wait.  Mind you, this was the beginning of the school year, and by the end they just couldn't WAIT to be out my door.  Too cool and all that lol.  It's just so ... wonderful, for lack of better adjectives, to hear that from them.
  2. One of my former math students has been keeping on-and-off contact with me about his summer homework.  Let's just say that the boy lost it and we went back and forth for two months while I was at camp before I finally got my vacation and personally delivered another copy to his home lol.  Well, I sent him another message hoping that middle school was going well and that if he ever needed ANYTHING to let me know and I would be more than happy to help.  He replied back that he couldn't believe he was saying this, but he missed me.

I love my boys.  I miss my boys.  Sigh!  Does it ever get easier to say goodbye to your old students?  I need to know.  My teammate made a comment earlier last week that was soooo true after I shared that I told my class they were my babies and I was like their school mama.  He said he told them, "You know, after a year together, I really grow attached to you.  By the end of that year, I love you.  We really are a family."  (Our school really pushes the idea that we're all family.)

I know I have to let them continue to grow without me and become the strong, independent, successful human beings I began to see flourish last year... but it's hard.  They have such a profound effect on my life it's almost impossible to let them go.  It's surreal for me this year, as it's my first year teaching the same grade in the same room, to not have my old group.  I can still see one of my old students sitting out on the bench outside my room and waving good morning to him.  Then right when that clock strikes 9, hearing him greet me cheerily before I see him and his wide, bright smile.  That's how each of my mornings started, without fail.  It's almost wrong to not start it with him.

Anyway, my point, before I got off track and got all weepily emotional was... they have such a profound effect on my life.  It's always such a... joy... to see it return back to me in the "I miss you"s and the phone calls and emails trickle in slowly with this new school year.  Making a difference is why I got into this career path.  Those little things are the best things my babies could ever do for me.

With that aside, I look forward to this new journey with my new bunch.  I hope you all are having an equally amazing time with your new crews!

Now I'm off to go "shopping"!  Would you believe it?  My school won some money to spend on our classrooms!! First on my list is an iPad or two! :)  I don't know if that's feasible, given the roadblocks I seem to be coming up against left and right with technology....but fingers crossed!

Til next time!