Monday, December 7, 2009

New state, new challenges

I just moved to California and am a first grade Dual Immersion teacher here. My new school is amazing. Great leadership and great teachers. I have quite an interesting and definitely challenging group of kids this year. I will start with Mitchell.
Now this student is a biter, but does not bite other students- he just bites anyTHING that he can get his hands on. Throughout the first two weeks of school he gnawed at my table edge that sits near me in the front of the classroom. It looked like an animal with much sharper teeth than a child had gotten to my table. Mitchell sits right in the front of the rug area (which happens to be right next to my poor table) because in addition to his need for um.. oral stimulation... he also cannot sit still. He is a smart student, but has so much trouble focusing on the lessons because he needs a LOT of sensory stimulation.
During a lesson, Mitchell gnaws on my table (we have given him a chew toy so he leaves the table alone), licks the floor, table, and other students, chews on the carpet, rubs his forehead repeatedly against the carpet, eats (yes chews and swallows!) his shoelaces, pieces of paper, and his shirt (buttons included), hits the floor with his palms and feet, whips his head around in circles repeatedly and says it makes him dizzy, but it feels good.
One day, my sink was clogged and the sink became full of dirty water filled with dirt from kids' hands, paint residue, and spit from kids drinking from the water fountain which is also over the sink. At the end of the day, Mark gets up to walk around (he now sits behind the rug on a chair and has a signal that he uses when he cannot sit anymore. He gets up and does a walking lap around the classroom, drinks water if he needs it and sits again). He decides to get a drink and instead of using the water fountain, he sticks his face in the dirty sink water and starts to slurp loudly! I was in the middle of teaching a lesson and had to jump up and yell for him to stop. He looked up at me startled, and then said, "I'm thirsty. It tastes good." He then stuck his head back into the sink water and began to drink again. I had to get up and explain to him (again) how dirty the water was and why it was bad to drink from there.

His mom comes in and sits with him twice during the week during the morning to help him focus. I need some new ideas on how to help this kid! The signal thing works sometimes. Other times, he abuses it and ends up trying to make the students laugh with what he does (i.e. doing pushups while doing his lap around the classroom). He has low self esteem and feels like he needs to be the clown for others to like him. I made him one of my Behavior Monitors so that he has to be the leader in good behavior. He has the power to at the end of the day choose someone in the class who had great behavior. He needs to make sure he sets a good example, otherwise, he loses this job for the day. It has also helped him, but the thing is, he can't control what he does. He's allowed to chew on his chew toy and build, break down, and build again dry-erase erasers while on the rug and while he's supposed to be listening. Yet, he abuses that too and bothers other students still. How else can I help him focus? Any ideas?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brush your teeth!

Ahhh bless their hearts, but some of my kids have the worst smelling breath ever! Don't your parents teach you to brush your teeth?
"Ms. T- um, well, um" Gosh spit it out girl- you're killing me with your breath! Haha just yesterday I was sitting at a table helping one student with their writing, and another student comes and stands right next to me so we're eye level. She starts talking and I have to stop breathing! It's THAT bad. It smells like she woke up in the morning, went straight to school, stuffed her face with some cafeteria breakfast food, spent the morning in my classroom without even wiping her mouth and then came back from lunch with even WORSE smelling garlic/ onion breath.
All I have to say is that I'm dedicating a lesson next week to personal hygiene and how important brushing your teeth is. Unbelievable that the parents don't notice their child's breath smells so putrid.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ahhhh a fresh new year

Ahhh. My closet was clean and organized. My homework sheet and newsletter were copied and ready to go. Carpet was clean. Floor swept. Morning Message written. Calendar changed. The students had a new seating arrangement. New reading partners. New reading baggies. I walked into my classroom this morning feeling renewed and ready. I had a wonderful vacation visiting my family in California. I was sad to leave them, but I felt good walking into my classroom this morning. I had an abundance of patience and happiness all day long. I love being organized and being ahead of the game. One of my New Years Resolutions is to be organized. To keep up my organization as the year goes on. It feels so good! I just get lazy and let the organization slip one day and then another and another.... not this year!
I have this poetry book for the classroom that comes with many poems for each month and then has lesson plans attached to them. The one for this week is called, The Beginning of a New Year Means. It talks about the fresh start that a new year brings. All the fresh starts that can occur. I hope that this poem really helps the students to improve themselves as students for the new year. It's a concept that they haven't been exposed to yet. A new year means you get to start over. You can try harder this year to be a better reader, a better writer. You can work harder to follow the rules, etc. We'll see how it goes and if any behaviors (academic and/or social) change for the better.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A 2nd grader wrote that? (1st year story)

1st year story:

As you may recall from other posts, my first year I had a 2nd grade gifted and talented class. They were violent, disrespectful, and constantly disruptive. They were also not gifted and talented.

I intercept a note between two students. J is the writer of the note. I slip it into my back pocket and continue talking to the class making no further acknowledgement of the note. I forget about it and the day ends. I go home. I empty my pockets out at home and remember the note. This is what it said:

Fucin bich mom fuc
suckt my dic

This was so weird. This boy came into the class in September a very quiet boy. He would not get involved in the fights in class; he pretty much kept to himself. Yet, I found him starting to hang out with the violent kids during lunch. It seemed like he was starting to act up to get accepted by them. I knew his mom pretty well. He was an ELL and I knew Spanish. The mom felt comfortable communicating with me and was always very sweet and respectful. I was pretty baffled by this note, but I felt it was probably some way that J was trying to gain acceptance from most of the class of violent kids (I only had 8 girls in the class and about 16 boys). I still thought I should report it. You never know.

The next day I brought it to the attention of the lead guidance counselor. I verbally told him about it- asking him for advice. He shook me off and said, "You can leave the note in my box if you want. But, he didn't do anything. I'm not really concerned with the what ifs. I don't know what you expect, but I'm not planning on doing anything with it." And that was that. I put the note in his box, but nothing came of it. I didn't know how to handle it myself being a first year teacher. I felt it would have been so weird to bring it to the attention of his mom. I looked like a 16 year old and I coudln't see myself talking to his mom about it. So I left it alone.

Now looking back, I would confront the kid and ask him about it. Reprimand him for passing notes during class, and for writing such vulgar language. He would get punished based on his actions and based on the rules and consequences already stated in the classroom. But, before the discipline, I think I would speak to the boy about the content of the note. Then go from there. If the boy refused to tell me anything, I would then bring it to the attention of the mom and discipline him in class.


I love it when I see glimpses of innocence in my students.
One day, the students were all sitting on the rug waiting for the minilesson. I went to grab something from the closet.
"Oooooooooo!!!" the kids chant. I turn around with a questioning look on my face.
"Jack said the G-word!" I heard that they said the 'D'- word. I bring Jack to me next to the closet, away from the other kids.
"What did you say?" I ask in a firm voice and a stern face. Poor Jack doesn't know what to say. He's an English Learner and is barely acquiring BICS. I have to work a lot with him to use complete sentences. He can't look me in the eye and stares at his feet. He looks surprised as well as scared because of what he did. He doesn't speak.
"Jack. Tell me what you said." Tears are building up in his eyes. I put my hand on his shoulder. "Jack, I need to know if you said a bad word." I usually make the students own up to their mistakes. They need to tell me what they did rather than have others incriminate them (sometimes falsely).
"Gsh." He mumbles.
"Gosh?" I ask. He nods.
"Gosh." He affirms.
"Oh! Jack, that's okay. That's not a bad word! Class, 'gosh' is NOT a bad word. Let's get back to work."
Awww. Poor Jack. That's how innocent my class is. They think "gosh" is bad.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ruby the Copycat

I have a Ruby the Copycat in my class (do you know that book?). It's quite annoying. Besides a copycat she's a compulsive liar. Let me give you some examples.
The other day, I had a student with very chapped lips. He laughed at something and the smiling cut his lip open; it started to bleed. Ewww... okay Juan- go to the nurse.
Not even 5 minutes later, I see Ruby the Copycat peeling skin off of her lip. SELF-MUTILIATING!!! She picks at her lips until they start to bleed. "Ms. T, I'm bleeding. I need to go to the nurse."
"Ruby, I SAW you pick at your lips! I SAW you do that to yourself! Why did you do that?"
"Noooo, it just started bleeding."
"Here's a paper towel. Go sit down." Unbelievable! Are you kidding me? I give her attention- I don't know where this is coming from.

The next day, when the students are at their seats doing independent work, Ruby the Copycat comes to me and shows me her lower lip that has dots of blood on it. Another self-mutilation for attention?? I don't even want to go into it today. I am not going to argue with you.
I sigh. "Just go to the nurse."
About 20 minutes later, Ruby comes back from the nurse. The nurse's note to the parents says:
"Ruby bumped her head on the door. No sign of a bump or redness. If swelling occurs, take to doctor."
"You didn't bump your head, Ruby- I sent you to the nurse for your bleeding lip."
"Oh. I forgot."
Trying to keep my cool... "You forgot? So you lied to the nurse? Why did you make that up?"
She was caught; she had nothing to say to me.
"Uhhh... I didn't though... what happened was..."
"I don't want to hear it. Your mom will though. I'll be talking to her this afternoon. Go sit down please."

You kidding me? Aahhhhh!!!!

One more story for our Ruby the Copycat. Ruby walks into the classroom first thing in the morning- "Ms. T! I have to go to the bathroom!"
This is a common occurance for Ruby. She is always asking to go to the bathroom. I've written about her before in another of my blogs- I just used a different false name. She always asks to go and then takes about 20 minutes in the bathroom. She does not have any bathroom issues. She just wants to get out of doing work.
I always tell my students that they need to go to the bathroom during breakfast in the cafeteria because they will not be allowed to go to the bathroom until after Readers Workshop in the morning (about 1 1/2 hours after they come in).

So, I tell Ruby "No, Ruby. You know the rules." all morning long. We do our Do Now activity and then we do morning meeting. The whole time Ruby's asking me. Trying to wear me down. I know when this child really has to go to the bathroom. I can see it in her face. She did not have to really go.

"Ruby, you have not done your Do Now. You are not following the rules during the morning meeting routine. You have not completed your Weather calendar. How can I let you go to the bathroom when you have not been following the rules?"
So Ruby finishes her Weather calendar and sits nicely for the rest of morning meeting. As soon as morning meeting is over, she asks again. AAHHHHHH! Maybe she does have to go.
"Go quickly please. I need you back before Readers Workshop begins."

She leaves. She's gone for 10 minutes. I teach my minilesson and all the students are already in their reading spots reading. I see Ruby open the door slightly, reach her hand in the room and pull of the bathroom pass from the wall.
"Ruby! Come in please."
Ruby comes in with a smug look on her face.
"What are you doing Ruby?"
"I forgot the pass."
"After 10 minutes you realized you forgot the pass? You should have already gone to the bathroom and been back by now. If it was REALLY an emergency you would have not even worried about the pass, you would have gone really quickly to the bathroom. Isn't that right boys and girls?"
"Yes, Ms. T." the students chant.
I take the pass out of Ruby's hands. "Go sit at your reading spot please. It obviously isn't an emergency for you to go use the bathroom."
"No! But I'll go quickly! I promise!"
"Sit and read."

Again- are you kidding me? Ahhhhh this is the only student in my class the pushes my buttons like that. And it's only 1st grade! I guess there are times where there will be one student in your class that is like that.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

1st year story: Kyle the Killer

They should really tell you in education courses more about the 1st year obstacles you might encounter. There are certain things that I needed to have in order, especially for the first day and I didn't. These are small things that I didn't even consider. A morning routine. How kids enter the classroom and unpack. I thought I could just tell the kids, "Good morning. Come in, unpack, and sit at your seats." First of all, not all kids will unpack at the same time. Kids need something to do at all times. If not, they become troublesome. What do kids need to unpack? Where should they put it? Where do they hang their backpacks and jackets?
So the first day, I did not have all of that thought out. Not that I wasn't prepared, I just didn't realize I had to think it through that far. I think I've written about my first morning in another blog, so I'll skip all that part.

We haven't done anything all morning because I've had to correct students' misbehavior. I give paper to students to do some writing. I tell them to write about something they did over the summer. Typical assignment for the first few weeks. I had already moved Kyle the Killer to sit by himself off to the side away from kids near the backpacks. I had seen after a few weeks that Kyle is a very violent kid and pretty much hates everyone in the class. Today, Kyle starts writing on his own. Yes! Good for him. I'll leave him alone and hopefully we'll have a peaceful afternoon. Again, spoke too soon.

Billy decides to get something from his backpack. On his way, he also decides to antagonize Kyle. Stupid stupid Billy. Have you not seen what this kid is capable of? You deserve whatever is coming to you. Kyle only moves his eyes from his paper and starts huffing and puffing. Oh gosh... I'm across the classroom quickly moving towards Kyle to try to calm him down and talk to the other kid. Billy doesn't say anything more but turns to go back to his desk and on his way bumps Kyle's desk. Kyle had his pencil point on his paper in mid-sentence and it made him make a scribble line across his paper. That was all it took. Kyle breaks his pencil and growls the most menacing growl I have ever heard. His hands grip the bottom of his desk and he THROWS the desk to the front of the room. It flips over and bangs on the floor and the cabinet. It hits one of the girls who starts to cry and hold onto her arm. I go to her briefly to make sure she's okay. Kyle grabs Billy by the collar of his shirt and shoves him to the ground. Billy quickly gets up, cursing at Kyle. I get all the kids up and crowd them to the other side of the room before I go try to calm Kyle down. Kyle winds up and punches Billy in the jaw. Billy falls to the floor, crying, holding his bloody mouth. "Kyle!" I scream. I go straight to him. Kyle is also crying. "He bumped my desk and made me mess up."
Are you serious???? Ahhhhh I can't do this! I can't deal with this!
"Okay, I understand. Let's calm ourselves." I put my arm around him and give him a hug. I walk him to the door. I'm going to call Mr. P (the VP) to take you on a walk to let you breathe a little. We'll give you some space."
Now you understand the pseudonym: Kyle the Killer?

I definitely got to know a lot of my students and saw how they ticked- sometimes. Too bad I wasn't experienced enough to 'fix' them. Or at least to tame them a bit. I grew some thick skin that year. I also cried more than I've ever cried before.