“New Plan” Tuesday October 11, 2016

First off, my new student is adorable and doesn’t speak English. Her dad walked her to my room because he wanted to meet me. He told me that they just moved from Romania and her English is still developing. He said his wife also doesn’t speak English.

imagesI put her in the lower reading group. And I’ve decided that I’ll be meeting with the lower reading groups four days per week. It sucks that the other students will suffer, but I can’t in good conscience let them sit there in groups and continue to fall behind.

I realize it’s my job to prepare each of my children for third grade, but equal isn’t fair. It’s not a coincidence that my lowest readers are also my biggest mis-behaviors.

The higher readers are going to suffer and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’d rather have all of my students reading at a 2nd grade level when they enter 3rd grade then have them divided between 3rd, 2nd, 1st, and K levels.

I think giving them extra attention was helpful. Tyrese earned all of his baseballs and while the rest of the class was very chatty, I didn’t have to raise my voice at them.

Also, my kids were really sweet to the new girl. I think they were making an effort to behave on her behalf. She smiles a lot and never makes eye contact.

I also typed up a letter and sent it home with my lower reading groups. I told their parents that if they were willing to drop their children off early or pick them up late that we would work on reading skills. I’ll see if they write back. If I could just get them up to the next level then I think it would make a world of difference.

I’m tired of thinking my students are stupid because they can’t read. I’d be more comfortable thinking they’re stupid because they choose not to read.


“Happy Columbus Day!” Monday October 10, 2016

2d5106ebbc581e494fab702329062508I’m so happy to have the day off you have no idea. Which probably means I’ll pay for it tomorrow when I get a new student and my entire class is insane after the long weekend.

I imagine their home lives to be unstructured free-for-alls which makes school a difficult adjustment.

But I took some time for myself today. I worked out by going for a jog. Then I caught up on my social media and TV shows I’ve been denying myself.

How sweet it is to relax. I took this day off seriously. I need this time off to reflect on my teaching as well. I’m realizing that I’m not having fun at work. I’m an elementary teacher, goddamnit! Why can’t we have some fun?

So tomorrow I’m changing my frame of mind.

I’m going to be in a positive mood.

I’m not going to take misbehaviors personally.

I’m going to accept my role as an educator and stop blaming the students for their failures.

I’m going to be better about reinforcing the good students.

I’m going to focus on the good things that happen in my classroom instead of the negative things.

Wish me luck and thank you all for reading!

“Getting a New Student?!” Sunday October 9, 2016

It’s a good thing I started to read my emails. I have a new student starting Tuesday!  The email came in Friday night and I missed it because I honestly didn’t think that it was me that would be getting a new student. The email was addressed to the entire staff about “a new student joining Miss Sinclair’s classroom.”

Also, I didn’t realize that Monday was Columbus Day…

How is this possible? Why would they give the new teacher a new student?

I think Dania and Betty both have 22 students. Now so will I. That’s a little tough. I have to give this student a desk, a name tag, a clip, a cubby, and then put her into a reading group…

new-student-starfish-2I feel sorry for her already. I didn’t have time to at least warn my students and tell them to be nice to her.

Also, it’s really scary to start a new school, let alone after the school year has already started.

I don’t have any information on my new student other than her name and age. And her last name is very unique with a lot of vowels. As if I didn’t have enough stress.

Oh, and for the record, I did not go out last night. I had no plans. Zooey had a date. I was right that the people from her parent’s anniversary party were going to fix her up.

Here’s Zooey’s recount of her date: They met at an average bar/restaurant, he ordered a disgusting appetizer without asking her if she wanted anything, had four beers, tried putting his hand on her thigh several times despite her literally pinching his skin to get him to stop, split the bill with her (even though she only had one drink and a salad), and then “stuck his tongue down her throat” in the parking lot and asked her if he wanted to go back to his place.

She won’t be seeing him again. And, damn! Just when I was thinking that I was missing out by having no time to date.


“Is It Worth It?” Saturday October 8, 2016

I’m one month into teaching. In the last month I have neglected my friends, my family, and myself. I haven’t worked out in a month. Other than Zooey, I don’t hang out with any of my friends. I don’t call or see my family.

I can’t imagine how other teachers do it. I see some of them packing up and leaving right after the students have cleared out. I’m lucky if I make it home before 8pm.

It’s almost a good thing that I don’t have a boyfriend. I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I’ve lost most of my free time. I spent all morning lesson planning and grading math worksheets. I have more work today tonight and I could work tomorrow, too.

Is it worth it? I don’t feel like my students are making much progress. At least, not the progress that would reflect the amount of time I put into my lessons.

I’m stressed out. I’m not sleeping well. I don’t have an appetite so I’ve been living off of mostly popcorn and coffee. My back and shoulders are killing me. I’ve never been this tense.

I thought working morning shifts at the coffee shop were rough. I thought working every Friday and Saturday night until 3am was rough. I would rather do both of those than spend all of my waking time either working or thinking about work.

Did I make a horrible mistake? It’s been my dream to be a teacher since the third grade. And I want to quit after 1 month.

did_you_know_education_052114I want to believe that I’m a good teacher. I want to believe that I’m making a difference. I want to imagine that Tyrese will grow into an adult and say something like, “If it wasn’t for my 2nd grade teacher, I would probably be dead or in jail.” But in actuality, I think it might be too late for him.

The most important year of a person’s life is first grade. That’s when you learn to read. If you leave first grade knowing how to read, anything is possible. If you can’t read, you can’t succeed.

And I have kids that can’t read. I’m told that I have to teach skills that assume my kids already know how to read. This will be the same thing every year for the rest of these kids lives.

It’s not right. These kids have reading disabilities. The special education teacher only has time to pull them once or twice a week and that’s only to test them to confirm they’re still disabled.

I have to do something. I should offer to tutor the lower group before and after school. It’s the only way to catch them up.

“Reading Group Confusion” Friday October 7, 2016

baby-gifconfused-gifidkgood-luck-charlieI’m officially confused about reading groups. I’m supposed to be doing guided reading, shared reading, and independent reading with my different reading groups. There are five reading groups in all because my students are reading at five different levels.

That means that I can meet with each reading group individually once a week. That also means that I have to prep five different reading groups.

Thankfully, Mrs. Halloway’s library is well-stocked and she has plenty of leveled-readers.

My group chooses a skill to work on based on the common core standards. We’ve been working on identifying the central message of fables and folktales.

I’ve been doing a whole-group instruction where we read a fable and I help them to identify the central message. Then I pull a reading group and we do basically the same thing as a small group while the rest of the class reads silently and completes a graphic organizer about the central message based on one of the leveled readers.

This is becoming impossible to keep up with. Some of my students have been complaining that they’ve read all of the books. That’s actually a good problem to have because most of my students don’t do anything during independent work.

And, because I haven’t actually read all of these books I’m not even sure if they’re filling out the graphic organizers correctly. Not that I would have time to check them all anyway.

I think my students are picking up on this and since I haven’t graded any of their work, I’m pretty sure they just write down random words and turn it in to earn their ticket.

I guess this is “student centered” but that’s only because I’m just one person. I feel like I should be meeting more with my lower groups because they can barely read as it is.

The students in my lowest reading group can’t read! They’re not bad at identifying the central message when I read the story to them, but what difference does that make if they can’t read on their own?

I feel like I’m wasting my time and the time of my students. They’re not going to improve if I only have time to teach them how to read once per week.

“Those Who Can’t Do, Teach. Those Who Can’t Teach, Teach Gym” Thursday October 6, 2016


My students love the gym teacher. And what’s not to love. He’s young, he’s black, and he lets them scream, run, and play for 35 minutes three times per week.

Gym class is everything that you don’t have to do in regular class. There’s no reading, no writing, no arithmetic. There’s very little listening, you don’t have to be quiet, and you don’t have to sit still.

In fact, most of the things that you do in gym class would get you in trouble in regular class.

Also, teaching gym requires very little planning, prepping, and grading. And the students love you because there are very little demands.

I get blamed if my kids bomb their MAP tests.

There’s no pressure on gym teachers to improve their students PACER test scores.

Teachers are very much in the spotlight for massive academic underachievement.

I haven’t heard of on person putting the blame on gym teachers for childhood obesity.

I tell my kids to be quiet, respect your neighbor, and keep your hands to yourself.

The gym teacher encourages children to throw rubber balls at each other.

Am I jealous of the gym teacher? Yes.

Is it right for me to pick on their profession? Yes.

Will I consider going back to school to become a gym teacher? I’m looking at online courses right now. Seriously, how hard could it be?

“Line Leaders” Wednesday October 5, 2016

funny-pictures-leader-in-elementary-school-god-complexI don’t have a clear policy when it comes to the responsibility of “line leader.” During student teaching the students had “jobs” and the line leader was assigned and rotated out each week.

I felt like keeping track of jobs was a waste of time. Also, I feel like when I was a kid I didn’t care where I was in line. I just wanted to walk by my friends.

What I do like doing is forcing my students to sit quietly before even allowing them to line up. Then I call them into line one at a time. I never mentioned the words “line leader”. If you were in front that was because you were listening. If you talk in line you can go sit down and try again. And we’ll all wait and make you feel awful for making the entire class late to lunch, recess, or a special.

Because let’s face it. Leaving the classroom is good. It’s motivation to behave. But now a couple of students (the bad ones) have been complaining how even when they sit quietly, they’re never called first to line up. And that’s true. I force them to sit there quietly the longest because they were probably being obnoxious during the previous activity.

So I’ve been ignoring this line leader nonsense, but today I snapped and said that if they mention the words “line leader” or complain about it, I’ll be sure to call them up last.

I don’t understand the entitlement some of the students feel. What difference does it make who walks in the front? Ironically, the kids I repeatedly put in the front of the line probably don’t care and certainly wouldn’t complain about it.

I feel like these kids are never told “no” at home. I like telling them no. It prepares them for real life.


“Fair Isn’t Equal” Tuesday October 4, 2016

My school is a believer in this “fair doesn’t mean equal” stuff. Which apparently means that we’re not allowed to shame our students. I completely disagree with this policy.

362f9bbd50e9b6c84fc1b40e11ebd9f6Today I caught a girl stealing from somebody’s desk. I feel like this girl is my klepto. I’m missing board erasers, markers, dice, toys, books. We were all working in our groups and out of the corner of my eye I catch her take something out of another girl’s desk.

I call her out in front of everyone immediately. I don’t let her put it away or hide it. I call across the room.

“What do you have in your hand?”

“Show me. Now.”
“I was just borrowing an eraser.”

“I’m sorry, but did you ask if you could borrow that eraser?!”

“Then what makes you think that it’s okay to take something out of somebody else’s desk?!”
“I was going to put it back.”

“I don’t ever want to see you going into another person’s things! And that goes for everybody.”

I made her cry and I don’t feel bad about it. But apparently, the “proper” way would’ve been to take her aside and talk to her, and everybody else, about behaviors privately.

I disagree. I think if it had been one of my better students that was stealing, then I would pull that student aside. But this girl is a thief and I caught her. Don’t underestimate the power of public ridicule to shape behavior.

All day the kids bitch about things not being “fair.”

“Why does she get to go to the bathroom. That’s not fair!”

“How come I’m never line leader. That’s not fair!”

“I never get called on. That’s not fair.”

“How come Tyrese gets to leave early. That’s not fair!”

Guess what, kids? Life isn’t fair.

“So Much Positive Reinforcement” Monday October 3, 2016

I tried to stay in a good mood today, I really did. I was feeling much better and I was fresh off of a good, long weekend. I went into work super early to make copies and read the sub report.

The substitute didn’t do half of the things I left for her. Her report:

“It was a pleasure subbing for your class! We got through most of the material. I left their work in your bin. We did play some games and I read them some Scaredy Squirrel books. They loved them! There were 2 absences: Tyrese and Ani”

Tyrese was absent? God damn it. And she played games and read books?! No wonder it “was a pleasure”!

That set me off, but also made me optimistic that maybe Tyrese would be absent today, too. He was not. He showed up and he was sick. He was sneezing on everyone. Not even an attempt to cover his mouth.

positive reinforcementI worked really hard today to make this positive reinforcement bullshit work. I’m reinforced individuals with tickets, I’m reinforcing the class with marbles, and I’m reinforcing with the clip chart. All these kids have to do is sit there and not speak and I’m showering them with praise.

For most of my students it works great. They want to finish the day on green, they want tickets, they get excited about marbles. For about five of the students, they just want attention and they don’t care how they get it.

Oh, and there’s another kid who wants to do the “three strike thing” that Tyrese does. He’s jealous that Tyrese gets to go out and play basketball. And why wouldn’t he be? All he has to do is start misbehaving a lot and then he’ll get special treatment.

At least it’s October. One month down. 8 more months to go.

P.S. I met with my mentor today. She’s really nice and told me to email or call her anytime. She teaches 4th grade so she can’t give me a whole lot of materials, but she offered to work on my lesson plan for my formal observation. So that’s good.

“Party Like It’s 1991!” Sunday October 2, 2016

I have to write about that party last night. It had a theme. It was Funniest_Memes_first-rule-about-being-born-in-the-90s_12464basically a 1991 reunion party. Fran and Roger were married 25 years ago so their friends that attended the wedding tried to recreate their wedding. People came dressed in baggy, bright colors, dressed as icons from the 90’s, they were playing Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Paula Abdul, Boyz II Men, Madonna, it was a blast, really.

And my parents were feeling the 90’s vibe. They were drinking. Heavily. My guess was that Fran and Roger’s wedding was something of an epic event.

My grandmother showed up, some great aunts and uncles, lots of second cousins. The party was at the American Legion hall, which I thought was very nice.

But, I did get cornered by many relatives and had to tell my recent life history a dozen times.

“Are you still dating the same guy?”
“No, we broke up.”

“Aww, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It’s okay, it was for the best.”

“Are you still in school?”
“No, I graduated. I’m teaching now.”

“Oh, congratulations! Where at?”
“A school downtown. 2nd grade.”

“And do you like it?”
“I love it, it’s great.”

I don’t love it. It’s not great. And I never know what to ask these people that talk to me. Do I ask them how their jobs are going? Is that weird? I don’t care how their jobs are going. Wouldn’t it be rude to pretend? I barely know these people.

Anyway, thankfully there was A LOT of alcohol. I slept at my parent’s place last night (that’s weird to say, too!)

My mom and I had a good talk this morning. She reassured me that every career starts out shaky and that it’ll probably be a couple of years before I can handle the stresses.

She also talked about how she wants me to keep in touch with Daryl, my step-brother. She says that he won’t listen to her and Lou about things and that maybe I can talk to him. Apparently Daryl has fallen in with “the wrong crowd” and was caught with marijuana at school. I told you he was a fucking idiot. But I couldn’t refuse the good gossip.

indexThis is how stupid he is. A teacher asks him for his pass for being late to class and he when he takes all the crap out of his pocket to find the pass he pulls out a joint. Right in front of the teacher.

I gave him my step-sisterly advice and told him that if he doesn’t get his shit together he’ll never get a job and be able to live on his own. His reply was something like, “Fuck that. Jobs are stupid.”

Meh. He has a point.