Monday, December 20, 2010

note to self

They missed me. And I missed them - A LOT.
Friday was a personal day - had to attend a funeral but in retrospect I should have taken a day energy today was significantly higher than my co-workers and I couldn't wait to see the kids who were equally enthusiastic at my return.

"When it was Friday, we was singin at a concert and you wasn't here!" - Princess friend

"You Ok Miss Stowe?" - J

"Why You wasn't here? You Ok?" - R

"You wasn't here the other day right? Mrs. Baldino was here" - N

: ) "You gonna be here tomorrow?"

Love them.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

broken for kids

I hurt. I am crying. Not for me. For them.

D's uncle was shot and killed "when it was dark out and mommy won't stop crying." Last night. He rolled in at 9:15am - the earliest he has arrived all year.

K's 11 year old brother tried to kill himself this morning. Single mom of 3 informed me K can't come to school because she has no way to bring her home. Her 9 year old has Down's and is aggressive and defiant, her 11 year old is now hospitalized, and her 4 year old is a sweetheart but academically very low and has little use of the left side of her body. Dad has a restraining order.... Mom is crying - literally for help. If I said I would take K for a few days mom would say yes - I know she would...but it's not legal and I can't But I hurt and I don't know what to do.

T said his foster family is taking him for CHristmas and he is going to a new school. : (

RB's day - not good - made him stand in a box on the floor for 10 minutes until he couldn't anymore. TP couldn't pull it together either - also made him stand in a box until he had to sit.

NT's mom finishes rehab on Friday and gets her back....yikes.

I was THRILLED to move all but ONE CHILD to goal or proficiency in Letter ID and Letter Sound today but CRUSHED by the fact that I can't make them "proficient" emotionally or mentally.

I feel defeated and weighed down today.

I can't be in on Friday and it kills me to leave them-I know they'll be fine, my para is wonderful but I feel like I am consistent they know what to expect....somehow by not being there I am changing the one thing they know.

I am broken for my kids and their broken lives and families.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Amtrak post - from 12/11

Hurridly whirring, humming, jolting gently down the ever trekking track.
Eyes drifting, darting to keep up with the ever changing scene. Mind flitting, matching the speed of the steel wheels which carry the car effortlessly forward. Every detail sparking a thought, the bareness of early December, the sun, low and glinting, the shore, the construction, warehouses standing in stark contrast with small old towns that are nestled along the line. Crisp blue, almost gray that fades to a dusty white on the horizon – though the sun feels warm, it looks cold and ice is beginning to creep along the edges of ponds as we pass.
The voice behind me – not more than 10 years old, questions life, evolution, animals, how he came to be, and why he is a teacher’s pet. I am distracted by his curiousity and by the subtle murmurs of the conversations around me. Lesson plans wait for me but to be able to sit – watch – not do – not speak – just sit is delightful.
Marshes – cat tails still and whispy in the cold air seem to dominate my field of view.
I think train is the best way to travel –easier than air, more relaxing that car, and more personal and independent than taxi or bus.

Driving downtown this morning my heart ached – my 21 kids have probably never been to Boston, they live 3 miles from the train station and I’m sure rarely if ever step aboard a gleaming car headed somewhere exciting. They could see a tree larger than they could ever imagine if they’d ride for just 2 hours to New York, or visit an fantastic aquarium and historic sights if they’d ride for 2.5 hours to Boston….they live in a hub of travel, with access to nearly ANYWHERE and yet they’ve not even been to the museum around the corner – or the library down the street.
I long for Friday and then I get there and I miss them – their eager greetings in the morning, “Miss Stowe you look beautiful today!” or “Miss Stowe look what I got!” Proud of pieces of junk mail they salvaged from the recycling bin or a piece of metal or plastic they discovered under a seat on the bus.

I had to tell a little girl yesterday that she was safe at school….why? Because there was a shooting at her bus stop – a shoot out explained the para nonchalantly over my classroom phone. It rolled off her experienced tongue as if the child had merely forgotten to eat breakfast (well she did) or had perhaps stubbed her toe getting on the bus…Did it have a different meaning? The mere utterance of the words caused my heart to race and panic – what did this mean for our day? 6 kids ride that particular bus – did they see it too? The social worker wasn’t in – what would we do?  Sure enough she walked in – trembling, bundled to the top of her head and velcroed into her coat – unwilling to take it off. Her itchy red eyes, burning with untreated pink eye blinked back tears, “Miss Stowe there were guns at my bus stop today and I’m scared.” Ok so it meant what I thought it meant. I was unprepared for this – I don’t think anywhere in 5 years of school they told me what to say to a 4 year old who saw a shoot out. I knelt in front of her – “M,” I said as softly as possible, “Are you ok? Is mommy ok?” “Yes…” I thought fast, “Ok, that’s good, I’m sorry you saw something scary this morning, but you know that you are safe here at school right? And we don’t need to worry about that while we are here, we’re going to have a good, safe, day here today. Ok?” She nodded and believed me – still scared but seemed to accept my offer of safety. She told my para she would be sleeping at grandma’s house so that she wouldn’t be killed. L I don’t even know what to think. The other bus riders seemed oblivious, only one said he heard popping noises on the bus – but he didn’t know what it was and I didn’t tell him.

R said dad left his car at the police station…hmmm – didn’t push that one.
T said he was going rock climbing with his caseworker – but when I raised my voice at him this week (it was a rough week) he shut down and stormed about the room saying “Oh my freaking God.” Kicking tables, tipping chairs, throwing markers. No where near the outbursts we once saw – but still seems scary. As long as my voice is soft and sweet he listens, even if I’m telling him I don’t like the choice he’s making …. He can’t handle someone being firm with him – it freaks him out. And it breaks my heart to do it, but he was being unsafe and distracting, I had warned him 3 times and finally I said firmly – not shouting, but firmly, “Go Move Your Color T” and he panicked. Later – after he had left my room for his social behavior meeting, he returned ready to listen – and my voice was gentle the rest of the day – he decides when we use a firm voice, that we must be mad at him and that we don’t ever let go – he has to be convinced that we still care. I don’t think I could love him any more than I already do – a picture of our hands together – taken right before Thanksgiving, is taped beneath my computer monitor – his fingers are between my own and only I know whose hand it is – a reminder, in case I start to correct him firmly, that he is a sweet and loving boy who is afraid to not be loved.
Janice decided this week that she was in charge – and that she needed to have EVERYTHING every other child in the class had. And I mean everything – someone got a tissue, she wanted one, someone got a sticker, she needed one, I used a sticker to label reading groups – it meant to her, that she was wonderful, someone didn’t like breakfast, she didn’t either, someone’s chair was bigger – she had to switch – I mentioned that someone was following directions and she had to point out that she was too. It was exhausting. I know she just craves my attention – but I can’t take that for very long!
NT decided to lash out and be disruptive, combative, and refuse to do anything – in fact I would ask her to do something and she would do the opposite. Maddening.

**beautiful shoreline homes interrupt my thoughts – if these families put out 1 less present or had 1 less car or 1 less boat (I just saw 3) or perhaps 1 less balcony – my kids could have a nice dinner or a special present** But it is beautiful here!

This week felt good – despite not great behaviors, I saw 3 reading groups almost every day, my kids Letter Id scores went WAY up, and we had our first real whole group Oral Language Lesson on Friday – it was great! My classroom looks nice, decorated, and lit for the holidays, clean, and there’s a definite system to the madness that happens between 8:20am and 4:30pm every day.  Had some good collaboration this week as well. Figured out ways to use creativity for academic advantage – Friday Fun Day Activities – using scissors and glue to encourage fine motor skills as well as patterning and counting. Also decorated ginger bread men – the foam kind to decorate the room. With a week and half before vacation, I feel pressure to make sure they make some significant gains before leaving…and to be sure that our routines are in tact so that they come back easily and ready to learn again in January.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Independent Math

Today I modeled making 8 with 5 of one color cube and 3 of another - using the words 8 is 3 more than 5....showed them 6, and 7 as well - we compared them. Great Math talk happening!
Then I "set them free" to do their first ever Math Work independently - gave explicit instructions about what it sounded like, looked like, and how to show me they are done - solving the numerous "I'm done Miss Stowe" comments with a simple silent model - which they found hilarious....I walked to the mailboxes, then walked to the library where I chose a book and sat down. They told me exactly what to do...they didn't follow through perfectly but they tried!
It was refreshing to see a little more independence : ).
Also introduced the color behavior chart today - out of necessity because Bobby was out of control. Interesting response - it might work, but it might lose its severity if I am not careful. I want "Move your Color" to be a crushing consequence so that it doesn't happen often. There wasn't that sense of urgency today I will retalk it out tomorrow!
Also did 3 rotations of bookshop groups today and the center changes were fairly smooth....I need to print pictures and redo my task board so kids can just move.
All in All - not bad for a Monday!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

what works

Here are things that I see as successes in my classroom:
- the children know how to come in the room, hang up their belongings, take out their red folder (many of them anyway), move their name to say "I am here" take a breakfast, and sit down.

- counting by 10s is smooth and fluent
- alphabet sounds are really coming along.
- reading groups are coming along
- students are finding sight words EVERYWHERE!
- students are able to sustain for about 10 mins during writers workshop

-students use the words: perseverance craftsmanship respect and unity - WOW
- students take care of their learning and their friends
- students are getting good at coming to circle time - and walking in line!

What's not working?
students tattle A LOT
I am not getting phonics centers in every day - I do a lot of it whole group  because centers take SO much time
I am not using the district curriculum because I am overwhelmed by the binder and lack the books I need for it
I am using my own writing - I don't like the district's .... ugh.
I didn't teach the science kit I had
I am terrified that they're not getting what they need but don't want to tell anyone.
Math only really happens whole group :-/ I know small would be best.
Behavior issues happen every day and don't seem to change.
I am at school late - daily.
I am exhausted - daily.
I have 2 students who know ZERO letters : (