Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Scoop for March 29th

Well, it's Sunday night and I have one more week until Spring Break. Hooray!
We have Field Day tomorrow and International Fair on Thursday.  It's going to be a very busy week. Thankfully, we have a teacher workday on Friday, so I only have to make it through four days. I can do this!

With that said, I'm linking up with Teaching Trio for this week's Sunday Scoop.

Have to do:
Just one week.  Four little days plus a much needed workday.  I can do this.

On Thursday night, we'll be having our International Fair.  It kind of snuck up on me, so I haven't left us much time to get our presentation and hallway display ready.  Last week, my kids picked their topics and broke into teams to complete their research.  Now to get all of their facts typed up on our Google Docs presentation. They will also be choosing the pictures to accompany their facts. We will also be putting together a bulletin board with some student crafts/writing.   In three days. Keep your fingers crossed that we get it all done in time. I'll share some pictures once we get it done.

On top of all of the other things going on, our report cards need to be completed by April 1st - NO exceptions, according the email we received last week.  Sigh.  I wish I were one of those people who get things done well ahead of time.  I'm sad to say that I'm a hopeless procrastinator.  If I don't like doing something (and there are few things I hate more than doing report cards), I put it off as long as possible.  That means I have to battle a very busy, and very slow, computer system to get all of my student grades recorded on time. Sigh. 

Hope to do:
I need to get organized - or rather, reorganized.  I'm terrible at keeping up with organization. I do have a place for most things.  I'm just really bad at making sure the things get put there. I tend to be a piler.  Lots of papers needing to be filed.  Lots of markers, pens, pencils, and erasers to put away. Lots of books to be repaired and returned to the classroom library.  Lots of stuff that I needed two weeks ago that I will find buried on my desk.  I'm one of those teachers who loves teacher workdays.  They give me a chance to catch up!

I'm trying to exercise more.  Now that the weather is getting nicer, I want to start walking more.  I'm going to start with two nights this week.  Now whether or not I will follow through after getting home at the end of my 10 hour day... we'll see.  I'll keep you posted.

Happy to do:

After leading a 5-mile hike today, my friend Meg and I made plans for next Saturday. We're going to invite some other friends to explore some new trails about an hour and a half away. It will be a great start to my Spring Break week.  Hopefully, the weather will be as nice as it was today. 

Well, that's all for now.  Make sure you check out the other great bloggers and their Sunday Scoops.

Until next time,

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Scoop

I'm enjoying some beautiful weather for our first spring weekend in North Carolina.  After all the rain and cold, I'm definitely ready for some warm weather.

Today, I'm linking up with Teaching Trio for my first Sunday Scoop. 

Have to do:

Why, oh why, do I always let my grading stack up? It's getting close to report card time and I have about six assignments that I haven't graded yet.  That means some late nights are coming up if I don't get myself busy. 

Even though my New Year's Resolution was to make sure lesson planning was done by Thursday so that I could enjoy my Sundays, I am still spending Sunday evenings finalizing my plans.  Sigh. There's just too much to do during the week and I can't seem to get it all done.  Maybe one day I'll get everything organized and be able to stick to a schedule.  A girl can dream, right?

Weekends mean laundry for me. Usually I am able to get it all done on Saturdays, but I spent yesterday doing my taxes.  Yay, at least that's done!  But it means that today is also laundry day.  I just heard the dryer buzzer as I was typing this.  Be right back.

Hope to do:

I love writing poetry for children (as you've probably guessed if you've purchased any of my products). My newest product will be a Poem of the Week pack.  I'm writing 40 new poems and putting them together with directions and forms for a complete Poem of the Week program.  If you have any ideas for poetry topics you'd like me to include, I'm open to suggestions. :)

As I mentioned in my opening, we are enjoying some beautiful weather this weekend. I'm hoping to get outside for a walk and then work on preparing my garden for some planting over spring break in a couple of weeks.  I'm glad we have extra daylight time.  Otherwise, there's no way I'd be able to do either one of these.

Happy to do:

I'm so glad to have an outlet mall near my house.  There's a Christopher & Banks store there that I just love. Did you know they offer a teacher discount?  Anyway, I'll be leaving the house soon to go on a short shopping trip with my mom.  It's time to freshen up my spring wardrobe!

It's just another busy Sunday!  I'm so glad our Spring Break is only a couple of weeks away.  9 more school days and a teacher workday to go.  Not that I'm counting. :)

Make sure you visit all the other great blogs in the link-up to see what other teachers are up to.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How To Survive a Difficult Class

I was talking with some colleagues in the hall about some of our more challenging classes. One of the teachers brought up the class I had last year. She told me she didn't know how I survived it and continued teaching. I thought I'd share some of the lessons I learned during and since that difficult year.

Let me tell you a bit about that class. First Grade.  A VERY young first grade.  Lots of... well, let's just say they were a very energetic group with many behavioral challenges. We had difficulties with getting along. There were some aggressive incidents, but there was also bickering, tattling, name-calling, etc.on a fairly regular basis.  We had problems with stealing.  Classroom items, student snacks, and money went missing on multiple occasions. On top of that, the students as a group were academically low.  Some were not classified as ESL, but it was quite obvious that Spanish was the only language spoken at home.  All of this was complicated by the fact that I had just started at the school in a new district and new grade level.  I had my own learning curve to negotiate. In my 17 years of teaching, I had had only one other year as challenging as this.

Mind you, I consider myself to have pretty strong classroom management skills.  I tend towards a positive discipline philosophy. I've studied Harry Wong's First Days of School. I've attended CHAMPS and Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) training. I've implemented the strategies I learned in my classrooms for years.  I pulled out every strategy I had in my bag of tricks. We had class meetings. Lots of class meetings.  We role-played. I read aloud books that teach social skills. We practiced procedures. I taught and retaught problem-solving strategies. I implemented rewards and consequences.  I made changes to the classroom environment. We had more class meetings. And on, and on, and on.  It was absolutely exhausting. And disheartening.

So, how did I survive with my love of teaching intact? Here are a few things that helped me.

The class may be driving you crazy, but you cannot take your frustration out on the children.  If you do,it usually backfires anyway, as the behaviors then get worse. You can't let the group problems affect your relationships with individual children.  Build those the best you can.  Get to know each child the best you can. Greet each child with a smile every day.  If you're working with a child, try your best to reach and teach that one child.  You can empathize with the child's problems, but you don't let the problems become an excuse for bad behavior or low achievement.  You try your best to help the child in front of you. You may not reach that child today, but there is always tomorrow.

Complaining doesn't help. It offers no insight or solutions. So don't. Stay away from the teacher's lounge. It's the place where complaining lives. Don't hang out with the teachers who are constantly upset with something about their class, the school, the parents. Seek out positive people. Try to focus on what is working. Small things mean even more in a tough year.  Celebrate when a child moves a reading level or gets a math concept. Make sure you notice (and praise) when the child with poor impulse control actually does the right thing.  Read and reread the "happy notes" you get from the kids. Smile. Even when you feel like crying... smile.

You don't have to do it alone. Ask your administration to help you with a behavior plan for the most high-need children.  Sometimes, you may need to have a child removed from the classroom. If that happens, it's best to have a plan in place and the lines of communication open. If you don't have a supportive administration, find a fellow teacher who can partner with you for those difficult situations. Sometimes, it's better for the child if he/she can have a safe place to go away from the classroom.  Sometimes, it's better for your sanity if you can send the child someplace so you can have a break. Ask trusted colleagues for their classroom management advice. Find out what tricks they use for smooth transitions.  Ask for new ideas for attention signals.  If you need classroom management help, ask to observe a colleague or two.  Write down any ideas that might help.

Use email, phone calls, and notes to keep parents up to date on class information.  Communicate as much as possible. Make it clear that you are concerned about and care for every child in your classroom. Make more positive calls than negative ones.  That will help make parents your ally in their child's education. When you only call or write for bad behavior, parents begin to resent you. They are more likely to accuse you of picking on their child or treating him/her unfairly. If you also call or email with good news, they are more likely to help when there is a concern. Listen to parents' concerns.  Do what you can to accommodate requests (such as conference appointments, extra homework, or weekly reports). Enlist and welcome parent volunteers. Believe me, you will need the extra help.

Because your class is a difficult one, it's going to intensify the feelings that you are never caught up, that there is always more to do, that there is never enough time.  In a year like this, more than any other, you have to set limits.  Whether you choose to work late only three nights a week instead of all five; or you decide to leave when the kids leave on Fridays; or you leave the bagful of work at school over the weekend;  you need to make time for yourself. You cannot work 24/7.  If you try, you'll be exhausted, you'll ruin your health,... and you still won't be caught up.  So, get enough sleep.  Eat healthy foods.  Take your vitamins. Take a mental health day, if you need to. And above all, take some time for yourself to rest and recover and get ready for the next day, the next week, the rest of the year.

Trust yourself. Trust what you know. Trust your colleagues.  Try something new. Try something again. Have another class meeting. Try another attention signal. Try another approach. Practice coming to the carpet for the 50th time this year. Remember, they are children. Today may have been a bad day, but tomorrow is not here yet. You are making a difference.

If all else fails, remember you will get a new class next year.  You'll make better decisions as a result of what you learned from this class.  Last year's class was my inspiration for my Kind and Caring Classroom poems.  I've used them this year and they've helped me to build a much better classroom community with my current class.  If you think they might help you, they are available in my TPT store.

I hope this helps. Please share any thoughts or advice you might have in the comments.

Until next time,